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Posted by on May 25, 2012 | 2 comments

Old Town Pasadena

I guess it is proper to say Pasadena is world famous.  And a lot of that fame is related to roses.  The city has hosted the Tournament of Roses Parade since 1890 and the annual Rose Bowl football fame since 1902.

But, do you know Pasadena has a charming and well preserved, old town?

After the city was incorporated in 1886, it became a winter resort for wealthy Easterners.   An economic boom led to the opening of opulent hotels, business districts and transit connections.

After the Great Depression, the central part of the city started a period of decline.  Around 1980, the once glamorous area was revived as “Old Pasadena” or “Old Town”.  It has become one of Southern California’s most popular shopping, dining and entertainment destinations.

Recently, I visited this area and have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  The buildings are full of old world details, there are parks where you can escape the bustle of the main streets and the place is a paradise for food lovers.  The eating options go beyond reasonable.  It is very difficult to choose what you want to eat.  Or you want to have three stomachs to eat at more than one restaurant.

Let’s start talking about the buildings.  Old Town consists of several blocks of well preserved buildings, some erected more than 100 years ago.   Everything looks really polished in here.  I didn’t see signs of decay.  Most of the buildings are stores or restaurants nowadays.

Intersection at Old Town Pasadena


Building facade


I have to admit the facades are gorgeous.  However, the real show stealers are the details.  Pay close attention to all the little things sculpted in the buildings.  I am not sure how some ended there.

Lion detail


Interesting Detail


Details on building


Granted.  The place is full of cute buildings but there are other sorts of structures that seem out of place.  Well, maybe the founders and investors had big dreams for their city.

There is a castle (Castle Green, originally a hotel).

Castle Green


A church with a high bell tower (a la Europe).

Church bell tower


Plus, there is a structure that defies all sense of reason.  The City Hall.  I don’t think I have seen such a gorgeous government building in my life.

City Hall


And course, like in many parts of the work, old charm is associated with romance.  It looks like the city hall is the perfect place for wedding photo shoots.  We saw more than 10 recently married couples being followed by professional photographers.  Add to that the dozens of students having their photos taken before going to prom.  We sat and observed the action for about half an hour.

Inside of City Hall


From romance, let’s move to something more practical like, I don’t know, food.  In Old Town Pasadena, your head revolves and revolves because it is difficult to pick where you want to eat.  The options are wide and varied. What I really enjoyed was the lack of the usual fast food joints in the area.  Most of the restaurants are inventive and unique.  For example, you can try Ukrainian or Russian food.

Russian / Ukrainian Cuisine


Or Himalayan cuisine.

Himalayan Cuisine


We decided to have gumbo and jambalaya for lunch.



And then noodles for dinner (since we were still full from lunch plus we had coffee at a small shop).

Pork and dumplings soup


Seriously, I can’t wait to go back to this place.  Oh, and I am really enthusiastic about doing a food tour in here (many are available).

Well, there were some symbols I wasn’t able to understand.

Unusual sign


And some weird statues.

Me with a wolf statue

But Old Town Pasadena, you were able to enchant me.

Have you visited Old Town Pasadena?  Any recommendations?  Let me know in the comments area below?


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