Art galleries, concert venues and more exciting places to visit pepper The Loop in St. Louis. (©D. Lancaster)
Every city is composed of a patchwork of neighborhoods, and in St. Louis, some have evolved to be especially visitor-friendly. The best offer a variety of locally owned businesses, plenty of retail and a plethora of dining options outside the usual national chains, and the very best might throw in a major attraction or two. It goes without saying that they are walkable and almost always charming. Explore the following distinctive districts (arranged alphabetically) for an authentic and entertaining St. Louis experience.
Benton Park is worth a visit for Cherokee Antique Row, east of Jefferson Avenue on Cherokee Street and for a solid collection of distinctive restaurants like The Mud House, Blues City Deli, Hodak’s, Venice Cafe and the highly esteemed Sidney Street Café (recipient of a James Beard Nomination). The historic Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion is located at the east end of Cherokee. West of Jefferson on Cherokee, a thriving Hispanic community has developed a colorful “Little Mexico” district.
Central West End
These grand residential neighborhoods near the northeast corner of Forest Park, built around the turn of the 19th century, are the most extravagant in the city—pay attention to “no trespassing” signs...they’re not kidding. The commercial hub along Euclid Ave. includes art galleries, antique shops, boutiques and cafés within easy walking distance of the neighborhood’s hotels. Do stop in at Central Table, The Cup, Pickles Deli and The Silver Lady. Sightseeing musts include the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis and World Chess Hall of Fame.
The eminently walkable business district in this regional commercial center pairs high-rise office towers and street-level retailers offering excellent shopping, art galleries, boutiques, antique stores, and restaurants like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, The Crossing, Sardella, and Bar Celona.
Downtown St. Louis is the place to be. Shopping, dining, historic homes, sports, concerts, nightlife, convention center, gambling, attractions and riverboats are all located within walking distance of the Gateway Arch, which is nearing completion of a massive renovation project to better connect the Arch with the rest of downtown. Attractions include National Blues Museum, Inside the Economy Museum, Old Courthouse, Old Cathedral, Campbell House Museum, Busch Stadium (Cardinals baseball), Field House Museum, Scottrade Center, St. Louis Union Station and the Peabody Opera House. The Downtown Trolley connects downtown destinations for a one-day ticket of just $2. Too many restaurants to name, but we recommend Schlafly Tap Room, Kemoll’s, Sen Thai, Robust Wine Bar, Lucas Park Grille, Cardinals Nation and Hiro. For the kids: City Museum. Not for the kids: The Boom Boom Room.
Older St. Louis suburb—famous for unfortunate events in 2014, but well worth a visit—is reclaiming its pedestrian-friendly business district along Florissant Road where a growing collection of restaurants, including Ferguson Brewing Company, caters to the patrons of the nearby Touhill Performing Arts Center, and a terrific farmer’s market gets going Saturday mornings.
This ten-block arts district, located at Grand Blvd. and Lindell, offers a formidable collection of museums and performance venues, including the Fox Theatre, The Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries, Powell Hall, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Samuel Cupples House, Saint Louis University Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, Jazz at the Bistro, Kranzberg Arts Center, Marcelle Theater and the Zack Performing Arts Incubator. Restaurants abound, including The Fountain on Locust, Southern, Pappy’s Smokehouse and The Dark Room at The Grandel.
This up-and-coming neighborhood along Manchester Ave. just southeast of Forest Park has spawned some of the city’s most popular nightclubs, like Atomic Cowboy and Just John’s. Eat at Everest Café & Bar, Confluence Kombucha, Layla Lebanese Restaurant, Sameem Afghan Restaurant, Sactuaria Wild Tapas, Urban Chestnut Brewing Company and Sauce on the Side. Get your shop on at Bag Lady Handbag Boutique, City Boutique, Curve Junkie, Intoxicology and Lemon Gem kitchen goods. The neighborhood is worth a visit just for the murals.
Blue-collar, Italian neighborhood southeast of Forest Park that spawned Joe Garagiola and Yogi Berra offers the best collection of Italian restaurants in the Midwest, like Mama’s on the Hill, Charlie Gitto’s on The Hill, Guido’s Pizzeria & Tapas, Anthonino’s Taverna, Gelato di Riso, Gioia’s Deli, Lo Russo’s Cucina, Rigazzi’s, Favazza’s, Lorenzo’s Trattoria and Dominic’s plus a handful of popular non-Italian eateries including Five Bistro, Chris’ Pancake & Dining, Shaw’s Coffee and Steve’s Hot Dogs on the Hill. Specialty Italian grocery stores and retailers, like DiGregorio’s Market, Viviano & Sons, Volpi, Bertarelli's Cutlery, Girasole Gifts & Imports, Herbaria, Skif Boutique, Urzi’s Italian Market and Vitale’s Bakery make The Hill well worth a daytime visit.
St. Louis’ first true suburb saw its growth fed in the 1850s by the railroad that now serves as the focal point for a charming shopping district along Kirkwood Road (Lindbergh Blvd.) between Adams and Monroe. A farmers market close by the railroad tracks east of Kirkwood Road offers seasonal produce, while many independent shops, restaurants, cafes, and bakeries line the blocks, like The Bug Store, Chocolate, Chocolate Chocolate, Christopher’s, Cornucopia, Down by the Station, Grapevine Wine and Spirits, Plowsharing, OA Gallery, Paperdolls, Amigo’s Cantina, Citizen Kane’s Steakhouse, Dewey’s Pizza, Strange Donuts, Kirkwood Station Brewing Company and One 19 North. If your kids are with you, don’t miss The Magic House: St. Louis Children’s Museum, a rambling collection of fun and educational experiences your kids will love.
Nine square blocks of renovated 100-year-old buildings just north of the Gateway Arch offer sightseeing during the day with dining, nightlife and casinos after dark at establishments like Morgan Street Brewery, Joey B’s and Big Daddy’s. The Landing sits within shouting distance of the Gateway Arch, casinos, biking path and America’s Center.
The oldest publicly owned park west of the Mississippi (Lafayette Park) is surrounded by magnificent, restored, Victorian-era mansions that you can actually peek inside during their bi-annual home tours. Walk, gawk, eat/drink and shop at a growing commercial district. Recommended restaurants include SqWires and Square One Brewery, where they also make their own distinguished line of whiskeys and spirits.
Located along Delmar Blvd. east and west of Skinker Blvd., The Loop is perhaps the most engaging neighborhood in the St. Louis area, with art galleries, cinema, nightclubs, concert venues, iconoclastic shops, bowling lanes, St. Louis Walk of Fame and multi-cultural collection of restaurants. Don’t miss Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design, Serendipity Gallery and Blueberry Hill. You’ll see the tracks of a streetcar line that will soon take passengers from The Loop to Forest Park.
The pedestrian-friendly business district along Manchester Road and Sutton just east of Big Bend Blvd. offers fun shopping in locally owned boutiques and lots of dining choices and gourmet stores. You can’t go wrong at Acero, Reed’s American Table, Kakao Chocolate, Schlafly Bottleworks, and Foundation Grounds. There’s late night fun at The Live Juke Joint Piano Bar.
Old Town Florissant
French farmers first settled here in 1767, and the street names in the historic district (rue St. Denis, rue St. Pierre, rue St. Ferninand) reflect that Gallic heritage. Old St. Ferdinand Shrine, built in 1819-1820, is the oldest Catholic Church building between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. The commercial district along rue St. Francois includes gift stores and restaurants.
This delightful, old, working-class neighborhood boasts Soulard Farmer's Market, the oldest continuous farmers market west of the Mississippi at Lafayette and 7th streets, at its best on Saturday mornings. Soulard features lots of blues and jazz in cozy little clubs at night like Hammerstone's, John D. McGurk’s Irish Pub and 1860's Saloon & Hardshell Café. Start the day right at Soulard Coffee Garden Café.
Good, inexpensive restaurants like The King & I, Pho Grand and The Vine Mediterranean Café & Market and an interesting blend of shops line Grand Blvd pepper South Grand and just south of Tower Grove Park is one of the city’s best green spaces. Nearby is the must-see Missouri Botanical Garden and the Compton Heights neighborhood, a bastion of extravagant residences.
This one hundred-year-old suburb weaves its spell with grand homes, quiet neighborhoods and two quaint commercial districts along Lockwood Ave. Eateries like Olive & Oak, Big Sky Café, Robust Wine Bar and Webster Garden Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant cater to the theater-going crowds who flock to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.