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0 Layers
3.5
22 votes

Shanghai Tunnel Tours

120 NW Third Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97209 USA

$$
$$$$
Reasonable
Open Now
Fri 9a-11p
  • Independent
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • Not Wheelchair Accessible
  • No Public Restrooms
  • No Wifi
Add to Trip

“Welcome to the Portland underground”

Portland was once described as the “Shanghai Capital of the World.” Today the underground tunnels that were once used to move slaves, prostitutes, and victims, have become one of Portland’s most infamous tours. 

From 1850 to around 1941 “Shanghaiing” was a common practice on the coast, particularly in Portland. The idea behind Shanghaiing was the act of using slaves to work on ships, many of which were headed to Shanghai, China. More often than not, the men and women would be drugged and led through the tunnels to a ship, but by the time they woke from their stupor, it was too late, they were already half-way across the ocean. 

Many of Portland’s Shanghai tunnels lead from basement to basement, and it’s believed over 2 thousand men, women, and children may have been “shanghaied” during the years that the tunnels were in use. 

For obvious reasons, people have spent years telling stories about the dark tunnels that run under a majority of the city. One of the most famous stories is about the ghost of a prostitute named, Nina. According to the legend, Nina was drugged and dropped down an elevator shaft, the fall killing her. Today people still smell her perfume, or catch glimpses of her wandering the darkened halls alone. 

If you’re interesting in descending down into the tunnels, you can take the Shanghai Tunnels guided tour to experience a piece of Portland's history for yourself! -Roadtrippers


The "Portland Underground" tunnels, more popularly known as the "Shanghai Tunnels", were basements of buildings that connected to other buildings through brick and stone archways that were intersected with tunnels that connected under the streets, linking block to block. These "catacombs" or "tombs", as they were sometimes called, created a unique network of passages and thoroughfares that were used by unscrupulous individuals called "shanghaiiers" or "crimps", in addition to "white slavers" who grabbed women and sold them into prostitution.

These are educational tours of the infamous "Portland Underground" that focuses on the shanghai trade in the City of Portland that survived from 1850-1941, as well as "white slavery", prohibition, and even the turn-of-the-century history of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) labor movement in the Northwest. In addition, the early history of the Chinese is covered, along with the Japanese and the Gypsies. These tours are operated by the Cascade Geographic Society (CGS) and provide a unique glimpse back into the hidden (or buried) past of the "City of Roses".

The tour takes approximately an hour and a half, and participants are with a guide at all times. The tour-goers receive an above-ground orientation, and then the guide will lead participants into the "Portland Underground", where they will receive the majority of the historical and oral history about this infamous maritime practice that gave Portland a notorious reputation throughout the world. Tour participants must be able to handle stairs that lead to and from this hidden world. In addition, there will be dust, dirt, musty smells, and anything else that would be associated with this type of environment, so if you need a dust mask, please bring one. Also, at each station people will be required to stand for at least 15 minutes at a time in order to receive the necessary information. Also, the "Portland Underground" is constantly in transition as more and more sections are opened or restored, which is why some people have taken this tour several times.

These tunnels, once used to smuggle alcohol during prohibition and even people in an illicit slave trade, are part of an underground city beneath Old Chinatown. Because of their rich history in illegal activity, these tunnels are said to be active with spirits of all kinds.

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Reviewed by
KellieKearnes

  • 9 Reviews
  • 2 Helpful
July 26, 2015
Rated 5.0

Had a great time with my kids and loved the tour. The history of the place is very interesting. What people will do for a buck...go if you want to find out! Great tour guides and I had no problems with customer service. Also there was nothing offensive about this tour as it is of historical nature.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Travel Oregon

  • Expert
  • 5,387 Reviews
  • 2,137 Helpful
June 17, 2015

The `Portland Underground` tunnels, more popularly known as the `Shanghai Tunnels`, were basements of buildings that connected to other buildings through brick and stone archways that were intersected with tunnels that connected under the streets, linking block to block. These `catacombs` or `tombs`, as they were sometimes called, created a unique network of passages and thoroughfares that were used by unscrupulous individuals called `shanghaiiers` or `crimps`, in addition to `white slavers` who grabbed women and sold them into prostitution.

Venture into the `Portland Underground` to see remnants of this shocking maritime history --- unique architecture, underground holding cells, a `deadfall` trapdoor, unearthed artifacts of this terrible, misguided labor practice, and more. This is a unique opportunity to learn about the secret history of shanghaiing.

For more information, visit the website below or contact the Cascade Geographic Society.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Mousserr

  • 1 Review
  • 1 Helpful
October 28, 2014
Rated 5.0

This is an awesome place with lots of history. You see things underground that you will probably not see anywhere else. The history is a lot scarier than any ghost. I highly recommend the tour for people interested in history.... especially the dark history of Portland, Oregon.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Dragyn

  • 1 Review
  • 1 Helpful
October 22, 2014
Rated 5.0

Michael Jones is a fantastic tour guide. Portland is LOADED with haunted places, particularly Old Town.. As a resident, I suggest spring, March, to September, to visit, May and early June are touristy trappings, and bring a rain jacket, not an umbrella.. That's a tourist sign here! 😊Welcome to Portland!!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
rickhamell

  • 8 Reviews
  • 4 Helpful
April 22, 2014

The stories are interesting, but they're just that - stories. While "Crimping" (sailors kidnapped for ships,) actually went on, it was much more open or took place in boarding houses. There is no historical evidence that the Shanghai Tunnels ever existed.

The "tunnels" that did exist - mostly secret passages and hidden rooms in buildings are a decade plus after the crimping business stopped in the 1890's due to the increase in usage of steam ships. Those secret passages led to opium dens and brothels, many of which catered to Chinese people who were hiding away.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
ByteMe6958

  • 1 Review
  • 1 Helpful
February 1, 2014

this is to Kailin1205 Get Over yourself if it were up to idiots like you we wouldnt have any history atall oh my we have to be policticaly correct here dont we now Get Reall and do something else with your life rather than picking apart everyone else's life you must have a very boring life or no life atall if youre doing this just complaining

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
brooker.smith1

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
January 28, 2014

To;kailin1205 why would say that, it has a history with china, so what is the issue? There are lots of things like this all over the world with connections of name and trade. I for one would think it would be very fun and interesting to see it.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
kiarapb21

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
May 31, 2016
Rated 2.0

I found the tunnels kinda creepy and I scare really easily so this just wasn't my thing. They definitely aren't haunted and I'm sure a lot of the stories are made up. Would not recommend going. Everyone in my group hated it. It was cool to listen to the stories and see the tunnels whether it was fake or not.

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Reviewed by
okn0tok

  • 32 Reviews
  • 5 Helpful
January 31, 2015
Rated 5.0

I took the tour. Of course there wasn't a lot of tunnel left to see because a majority had been sealed up over the years but the stories and historical information was fun and it was well presented and a good way to spend a little time with strangers in the dark under the city! I had a great experience and while you have to take some of it with a grain of salt it was certainly something I would take another visiting friend to see.

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Reviewed by
deanncoppenger

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
October 16, 2014
Rated 1.0

HORRIBLE CUSTOMER SERVICE. Do not waste your time or money on these people. I purchased the tickets for 4 adults late Friday night, called Saturday morning to see if we could change dates due to an illness, the person told me that wouldn't be a problem at all but needed me to call back when their system was updated. LONG story short I have called and emailed many many times to try and lock in a new date, every time I actually get someone they promise me they will refund since they were unable to find new dates. A MONTH LATER... I still can't get anyone to refund the money. It was only $57.96 but still that's a lot of money for being treated terrible and not getting to actually take the tour. WTHECK!?

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Shanghai Tunnel Tours

120 NW Third Avenue
Portland, Oregon
97209 USA

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Hours

Open now until 11:00 pm
  • Sun - Sat: 9:00 am - 11:00 pm

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  • Independent
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • Not Wheelchair Accessible
  • No Public Restrooms
  • No Wifi
  • Street Parking
  • Haunted

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