24 Hours in Downtown St. Paul

Downtown St. Paul gives visitors a glimpse into its past without skimping on the modern flair

Dotted with beautifully historic sites including the Cathedral of Saint Paul, Landmark Center, Minnesota State Capitol, Fitzgerald Theater, Rice Park and Minnesota History Center, downtown St. Paul offers a glimpse into the past, while newer hot spots like the Xcel Energy Center, Science Museum of Minnesota and Ordway Center for the Performing Arts intertwine modern flares with the history of the city.

Housed in a historic building on Cathedral Hill, Nina’s Coffee Café is a cozy neighborhood shop overflowing with rich character and flavors of warm baked goods and fresh coffee. Needing more than a cup of Joe and something to dunk? M. St. Café’s fried egg sandwich is stuffed with cheese, applewood smoked bacon and fresh tomato. Then wander through the Science Museum of Minnesota, uncovering the ancient history of the Mayan civilization in the current touring exhibition. After, step into Mississippi River Gallery for a panoramic view of the mighty river. Next head down to the Mississippi River Visitor Center, located near the museum’s lobby, to plunge into all of the wonders of the river, including a variety of programming and opportunities to experience it up close.


Mickey's (©Todd Buchanan)

Serving burgers so juicy you’ll be drooling and malts so creamy they put all others to shame, Mickey’s is designed to resemble the railroad dining cars of the time. Or choose to dine atop the warm Irish pub of The Liffey, with an award-winning outdoor patio and fantastic view of the Cathedral. Early lunch on a weekend? Tackle the Titanic cinnamon roll. Lunch after 2 p.m.? You’re just in time for some Liffey happy hour deals. After some noon grub, it’s time to pop a top on Summit brews or hop aboard a Padelford Riverboats cruise. Departing from Harriet Island, the cruise weaves you through St. Paul’s treasures. If touring local brews appeals more than local views, check out Summit Brewery, where on tours the brews are fresh, free and local. 

WA Frost
WA Frost (©Todd Buchanan)

Indulge in dessert before dinner at Dr. Chocolate’s Chateau, a four-story mansion serving up all things delicately chocolate, cleansing your pallet for dinner down the road. The combination of a cozy basement, endless wine list, award-winning patio and American cuisine at WA Frost makes for a perfect evening. Then mosey over to the spot Cossetta Alimentari is claiming to be the place to raise a glass, celebrate or just mingle and be—and it’s hard to disagree, the outdoor patio at Louis Ristorante & Bar is the largest rooftop bar in St. Paul. Jonesing for something greasier and more casual, Black Sheep Pizza is home to award-winning coal-fired pies, tasty enough to savor, but too delicious not to devour. Wrap up the night with a show of some sorts. Head to Fitzgerald Theater, home of A Prairie Home Companion, or to Park Square Theatre for a live theatrical production.

Heartland (©Todd Buchanan)

Also consider: Lowertown
Lowertown is just a hop, skip and a jump away from downtown St. Paul. Here you can pick fresh produce at the St. Paul Farmers’ Market, snag good grub at Barrio or Bulldog, have a locally-sourced meal at Heartland, or take a stroll or a seat in Mears Park.