Top Neighborhoods to Check Out While In St. Louis
We often think of a city as being a single, homogeneous unit. It is, in reality, a mosaic made up of myriad interlocking pieces – some moving, some stationary, some old, some new – creating a unique urban quilt that is much more than just the sum of its parts.
Just as New York has Soho and Greenwich Village and Paris has Montmartre and the Latin Quarter, the city of St. Louis is comprised of different and eclectic neighborhoods that have evolved and grown up together, like siblings, each with its own interests, tastes, and personality. They are part of St. Louis, and at the same time, they are St. Louis.
So along with visiting the Gateway City’s main attractions – Forest Park, the mighty Mississippi River, that famous arch – take some time to stroll the different neighborhoods of this two-and-a-half-century old city. Whatever your unique interests may be – whatever absorbs, intrigues, and fascinates you – St. Louis is sure to have something for you.
This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the entire city, and it surrounds the city’s oldest public park, founded in 1836. The area was once a pasture where criminals hid and robbed passing travelers. In order to rid the area of this negative element, a 30-acre piece of land was set aside as a community park. The neighborhood eventually evolved into one of the most fashionable places in St. Louis. Visitors today come to see the gorgeous “Painted Ladies” – Victorian homes that surround the park. The area’s bars, restaurants, and bed-and-breakfasts attract a hip, urban crowd.
Central West End
On the eastern side of Forest Park, Central West End is a chic and trendy neighborhood with great galleries, antique shops, sidewalk cafés, boutiques, and pubs lining the streets. It’s one of the most walkable neighborhoods in St. Louis and home to stately, turn-of-the-century homes. The neighborhood’s most iconic landmark is the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, completed in 1914. The sumptuous church contains the largest collection of mosaics in the world outside of Russia.
On the west side of Forest Park is Clayton, often called “the second downtown of St. Louis.” A number of boutiques, specialty stores, galleries, bars, cafés, and high-quality restaurants create an upscale-casual vibe, and it’s pedestrian friendly. The small shops and cafés blend easily with skyscrapers and the St. Louis County office buildings. Clayton hosts several events throughout the year including a food festival, farmers market, art fair, literary festival, and cocktail gatherings.
The village of Carondelet (pronounced ca·RON·del·et), in the very southeastern extremity of the city, was founded in 1767 on the banks of the Mississippi River and annexed to St. Louis in 1870. Homes made from local red bricks are some of the oldest in St. Louis. The neighborhood boasts five parks including one of the city’s largest, the 180-acre Carondelet Park. This popular destination features picnic areas, a bike path, a monarch butterfly garden, a pavilion where live music is performed, picturesque views of the Mississippi, and two lakes stocked with fish. Another favorite spot is the quaint Ivory Triangle at Ivory and Michigan Avenues, with its pleasant parks, fountains, and charming places to eat.
The area near Washington University called The Loop got its name from an old streetcar turnaround. The streetcars have disappeared, but today’s Loop is a vibrant, eclectic neighborhood that combines stately homes with boutiques, bookstores, tattoo and piercing parlors, music clubs, contemporary cafés, restaurants, and vintage clothing stores. The main drag is Delmar Boulevard, home to St. Louis’ Walk of Fame. Along this stretch you’ll see brass plates in the sidewalk commemorating more than 100 famous St. Louisans – Stan Musial, Tennessee Williams, Robert Duvall, and Josephine Baker, among others. Snap a selfie with the statue of Chuck Berry – another local native – at the corner of Melville Avenue and Delmar Boulevard.
The enclave called Webster Groves is dripping with both the history and cultural diversity of the city of St. Louis. More than 300 homes in this area are on the National Register of Historic Places. Admire the diverse mixture of architectural styles and wander through the shops, boutiques, and home décor stores. A wide variety of cuisine can be found in Webster Groves’ many restaurants. Historic U.S. Route 66 forms the southern boundary of the neighborhood.
An important commercial center in the late 19th century, today’s Cherokee Street incorporates a dozen blocks of specialty shops, art studios and galleries, restaurants, and cafés. Latino-owned bakeries, grocery stores, restaurants, and taquerías bring a definite ambiance – not to mention a tantalizing aroma – to the lively neighborhood. If you yearn for Mexican food in St. Louis, this is where to get it.
The downtown area of any city is integral to the urban landscape, and St. Louis is no different. Once a place of deterioration and urban decay, downtown St. Louis has experienced a definite resurgence and it’s now a vibrant business sector with residential lofts, galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and great nightlife.
Waves of Italian immigrants in search of work came to this part of St. Louis in the late 19th century. Today, that heritage is still quite evident – about three-quarters of the population is Italian-American, and even the fire hydrants are painted red, white, and green. Great Italian food is everywhere in St. Louis’ “Little Italy.” Mom-and-pop bakeries and grocery shops share the neighborhood with modern cafés and retail stores. The Hill is located south of Forest Park, bordered by Manchester Avenue, Columbia and Southwest Avenues, South Kingshighway Boulevard, and Hampton Avenue.
Grand Center Arts District
This fun neighborhood just north of midtown is bursting with art, music, and theater. Galleries, theaters, and live music venues line the streets and sidewalks to showcase famous and yet-to-be-discovered talent. Parks and museums are scattered throughout the area, and the many cozy restaurants offer something to please every mood and palate. An artsy, lively vibe permeates the air; regardless of where your tastes fall on the art and music spectrum, you just might run across a surprise or new discovery.