The “Painted Ladies” in Lafayette Square are meticulously restored 150-year-old Victorian mansions.

Little Bits of St. Louis

St. Louis is a city made up of hundreds of diverse, delightful neighborhoods. Each has its own distinct flavor, architectural style and vibe. Highlighted here are a few great neighborhoods for walking, shopping, dining and exploring.

1. Lafayette Square

The Marquis de Lafayette, France’s leadership contribution to the American Revolutionary War effort, visited St. Louis in 1825. He made such an impression on the citizens that they named the city’s first designated park in his honor. Lafayette Park in St. Louis, founded in 1836, is the oldest public park west of the Mississippi. The elegant neighborhood surrounding the “squared park” is known as Lafayette Square. The area’s circa 1870 –1880 “painted ladies” have been called the finest and largest collection of Victorian-era architecture in the country. Be sure to check out Park Avenue Coffee or Baileys’ Chocolate Bar while you’re in the area.

The “Painted Ladies” in Lafayette Square are meticulously restored 150-year-old Victorian mansions.

2. Park Avenue Coffee

Take a coffee break and bite into one of St. Louis’ iconic foods – gooey butter coffee cake – at Park Avenue Coffee Company. This friendly neighborhood café air roasts its many coffee offerings and serves up delectable baked goods and other flavorful drinks.

St. Louis Signature Dish Gooey Butter Cake

3. South Grand

The South Grand neighborhood’s slogan says it all: “The Best Food from Around the World in Just Six Blocks.” The neighborhood has a flavor of its own with international restaurants and bakeries, vintage clothing and decor shops, fair trade boutiques, coffee houses and martini bars. South Grand’s most notable attractions are Tower Grove Park and the Missouri Botanical Garden.

4. Tower Grove Park

Tower Grove Park, the finest example of a Victorian park design remaining in the United States, is one of only four municipal parks designated a National Historic Landmark. It also is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Tower Grove has the most diverse forest of any urban park in the country, with more than 8,000 trees and woody shrubs of more than 350 varieties. The park was a gift to the people of St. Louis by Missouri Botanical Garden founder Henry Shaw.

This lovely park features a bandstand, goldfish ponds complete with faux ancient ruins, and 10 unique pavilions each of a different architectural style. The park’s “ancient ruins” were recycled blocks from the old Lindell Hotel that burned to the ground in 1867; the balustrades surrounding the sailboat pond came from the U.S. Customs House, designed by George I. Barnett, that was razed in 1899 and entry way columns along Magnolia Avenue were reclaimed from a renovation project at St. Louis’ historic Old Courthouse.

Beautiful flowers and fountains in Tower Grove Park.

5. Missouri Botanical Garden

Time for a beauty stop at the amazing Missouri Botanical Garden. Founded in 1859 by English immigrant Henry Shaw, this is the oldest public garden in the United States and is considered one of the top three public gardens in the world (along with Kew Gardens in London and the New York Botanic Garden). The Garden is renowned for its beauty and its world-wide research aimed at plant conservation. Highlights of the 79-acre-Eden include: a tropical rainforest inside the Climatron geodesic dome that features endangered plant species; Seiwa-En, the largest authentic Japanese garden in North America; a Victorian garden; Boxwood garden; Chinese garden; two rose gardens; reflecting pools; garden architecture, sculpture and an elaborate Missouri Adventure-themed Children’s Garden.

6. Soulard

A driving tour of Soulard, St. Louis’ oldest neighborhood, showcases brick row houses, blues music clubs, corner taverns and the oldest operating farmers market in America. Soulard celebrates its French heritage each year by hosting one of the nation’s biggest Mardi Gras celebrations. There’s always a “bon temps” vibe in this lively, friendly neighborhood. Check out the Soulard Farmers Market to do some shopping or visit Anheuser-Busch for a tour of the world-famous brewery.

Soulard is St. Louis city’s oldest neighborhood.

7. Soulard Farmers Market

See the spot (and shop any Wednesday – Saturday) where St. Louisans have shopped since 1779 – Soulard Farmers Market.   Owned and operated by the City of St. Louis, it is the oldest farmers market in the country. Fresh produce, flowers, bakery goods, meat and spices are available. There’s even a pet shop on the premises. People come from all over the St. Louis area to take advantage of the Market’s low prices and fresh produce.

Shoppers browse the aisles at Soulard Farmers Market.

8. Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour

The Soulard neighborhood’s biggest residence is home of the original Anheuser-Busch Brewery. Complimentary tours of the fabled American brewery complex – including the popular, historic stables of the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales and free tasting room – operate daily.

The original Anheuser-Busch Brewery is in the Soulard neighborhood of St. Louis.

9. The Hill

The Hill is known throughout the food-loving world as one of the most tasteful “Little Italy” neighborhoods in America. Settled in the early 1900s by Italian immigrants, residents still carry on their traditions in this lively spot near downtown and Forest Park. Green, white and red Italian flag-painted fireplugs mark the boundaries of the Hill where the neat shotgun-style houses are almost as interesting as the creative pasta dishes served in the corner restaurants. The neighborhood’s dining establishments range from mom and pop sandwich shops and casual trattorias to elegant Mobil and Zagat-rated restaurants. Stop for a game of bocce – Italian lawn bowling – and pick up Italian essentials in the aromatic specialty shops. Baseball-loving visitors will want to see the neighborhood where Yogi Berra, Joe Garagiola grew up and famed broadcaster Jack Buck resided on Elizabeth Avenue – now called “Hall of Fame Place” in their honor. A notable feature in this neighborhood is Herbaria, a gift shop featuring all-natural products.

10. Herbaria

Started in 2002, Herbaria prides itself in providing customers with all-natural products. Be wowed by the tantalizing aromas of the pure essential oils used to make Herbaria soaps and other products, such as wholesome deodorants, bath bombs, bath salts, moisturizers, even insect repellents, aftershave, and more.

11. Central West End

Stroll and shop along the tree-and-sidewalk café-lined streets of the Central West End neighborhood. Antique shops, eclectic boutiques and even a store named Left Bank Books add a Parisian flare to the streetscape. Note the beautiful cast iron streetlamps, from the early 1900s, that illuminate major intersections. Pay a visit to the World Chess Hall of Fame and Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis while in the area.

Things To Do In Central West End St Louis

12. World Chess Hall of Fame

Steps away from Bissingers, a sculpture of the world’s largest chess piece marks the location of the World Chess Hall of Fame and the Saint Louis Chess Club. During a tour of the Hall of Fame, visitors see displays of chess-related artifacts from the permanent collection, and temporary exhibitions highlighting the great players, historic games, and rich cultural history of chess.

World Chess Hall of Fame - stlfromabove

13. Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis hosts one of the largest mosaic collections in the world. While the cathedral was completed in 1914, the mosaics were not done being placed until 1988. In total, there are 41.5 million pieces on the ceilings and columns of the cathedral. You can visit this beautiful building anytime mass is not taking place. Please be sure to check the website for mass times before visiting. Self-guided tours do not require appointments. Group tours are available Monday – Saturday by appointment only.

The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis is a distinguished work of art.