Downtown St. Louis: What to See & Do + Where to Eat, Drink & Stay

Looking for a Missouri destination that blends modern urban energy with a captivating window into the past? Then carve out time to explore Downtown St. Louis, the hub of the charismatic city known as the “Gateway to the West.”

Set on the Western bank of the Mississippi River, what’s now Downtown St. Louis began life as a fur trading post – and went on to play a vital role in the opening up of the American West. Today, the vibrant downtown district is jam-packed with goodies to satisfy the appetites of history buffs, music enthusiasts, sports lovers, and family-fun fans alike.

Take in spectacular views atop the iconic Gateway Arch. Dig into the city’s rich past at the Museum of Westward Expansion. Sip on a Bud and watch fireworks light up the sky as the Cardinals score a home run at Busch Stadium. Soak up the sounds of the blues as you meander along historic Washington Avenue. And – of course – unleash yourself on a plateful of fabled St. Louis BBQ!

Ready to cut loose in “The Lou”? Get pumped with this complete guide, including what to see & do, where to eat & drink, and where to stay in Downtown St. Louis.

Why Treksplorer? Founded in 2011 by Ryan O’Rourke, Treksplorer provides travel recommendations and advice to millions of readers every year. Our content is rooted in our writers’ firsthand experiences, in-depth research, and/or collaborations with other experts and locals. Read more about our editorial policy.

What to see & do

Gateway Arch National Park

If you’re looking for a place that beautifully celebrates the storied past of St. Louis, you’ll find it in Gateway Arch National Park.

At just 90 acres, Gateway National Park is the smallest national park in the country – but it packs a big historical punch. Stretching along the west bank of the Mississippi River, this National Historic Landmark was the starting point of the 1804 Lewis and Clark Expedition that sparked the American expansion into the West.

The park’s vibrant flora and foliage make it an urban oasis for St. Louis residents and tourists alike. Take yourself for a ramble over a mile-long green space that starts at the Gateway Arch National Park next to the river and heads west along Market Street to Union Station. Savor the beauty of a vibrant landscape that features ornamental grasses, tree-lined pathways, and Zen gardens.

Gateway Arch National Park

History buffs will want to make a beeline for the Old Courthouse building here. Built in 1839, this was the site of hundreds of suits for freedom brought before the court by enslaved African Americans. Take a tour of this historic structure, and visit the restored courtrooms to learn more about the American 19th-century judicial system.

The park’s jewel in the crown is the iconic Gateway Arch, one of the must-see tourist attractions in St. Louis. This 630-foot-tall architectural wonder was built in the 1960s as a tribute to the West’s early explorers. Today, you can take a spectacular tram ride to the summit of the Arch, where you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of this history-packed city and its surroundings.

National Blues Museum

St. Louis and the Blues have a long and legendary relationship – and the National Blues Museum is the perfect place to check out their fascinating backstory.

Set on Highway 61 – the “Blues Highway” – St. Louis was a popular midway point for musical migrants traveling from Memphis to the big recording studios of Chicago. The Lou was a musical inspiration for many artists, including none other than W.C. Handy, the Father of the Blues. St. Louis remains a Blues bedrock, so it makes the perfect setting for the National Blues Museum.

National Blues Museum

Dig deep into the only institution in the world dedicated to honoring the legacy of Blues music and its impact on world culture. The museum’s expansive 23,000-foot-square space explores the history and cultural impact of this treasured genre – the cornerstone of American music.

Steep yourself in Blues magic as you browse fascinating early-era artifacts, including a rare player piano. Stroll through the site’s art gallery, and explore interactive exhibits. Check out the museum’s schedule for live performances and educational events in its state-of-the-art theater.

Citygarden Sculpture Park

When you’re ready to rewind and refresh, take a time-out in Citygarden Sculpture Park. In the heart of Downtown St. Louis, this unique urban oasis is where art meets and mingles with nature – and the combination makes it one of the most popular places in St. Louis to lay low and chill out.

Ranging over two city blocks, Citygarden Sculpture Park is a sculpture exhibit, botanical garden, and a city park rolled into one glorious treat for the senses. The site features over two dozen sculptural works set against a gorgeous backdrop of vivid plant life – giving you a double dose of beauty.

CityGarden Sculpture Park

Take a stroll and feast your eyes on whimsical, large-scale works by famous names like Keith Haring. Make musical art with the interactive “Dance Chimes” exhibit: walk across its bronze tiles to activate beautiful bell-like sounds.

The park itself is a work of art. Weave your way through a gorgeous tapestry of fountains, rain gardens, native Missouri trees, plants, and wildflowers. Let the kiddos cool off in the splash pad. Wrap up your visit with breakfast or lunch at Kaldi’s Coffee House, an airy café that lets you soak in the beautiful green space around you.

Busch Stadium

For baseball fans, a visit to Busch Stadium on bustling Market Street is a no-brainer. As the home of the St. Louis Cardinals – one of the oldest baseball franchises in the world – this place is steeped in history.

After being born in 1882 as the unfortunately-named St. Louis Brown Stockings, the team took on the flashier Cardinals moniker in 1900. Today, the team enjoys fierce fan loyalty as one of the baseball world’s most successful franchises – the winner of 11 World Series championships.

Busch Stadium

Explore the colorful legacy of the Cards in the Busch Stadium’s Cardinals Museum. Check out an amazing historic collection of artifacts and memorabilia. Trace the Cards’ history as you walk through seven galleries that chronicle the team’s early days. Relive unforgettable moments as you call the play-by-play action in the Broadcast Booth. Grip a bat once used by a Cardinals star in the Holding History exhibit.

Up for a real-life game? Snag a Bud, a dog, and a seat – or head up to the Budweiser Terrace for great BBQ, brews, and ballpark views.

The Dome at America’s Center

If you’re looking for a St. Louis sports and entertainment hotspot, check out The Dome at America’s Center. Part of the America’s Center convention center, this downtown hub is a multipurpose stadium that hosts a multitude of concerts, sports events, and major conventions.

With a seating capacity of over 82,000, The Dome at America’s Center was known as “The Greatest Show on Turf” when it opened in 1995. Those were The Dome’s glory days when this former NFL stadium was home to the St. Louis Rams.

The Dome at America's Center

The Rams departed in 2016, but The Dome is still the place to be for edge-of-your-seat action as the home base for the St. Louis Battle Hawks, the city’s football minor league.

Football not your thing? Check out the site’s live entertainment roster to snag a seat for world-class performers like Queen B herself.

Kiener Plaza Park

Want to savor a splash of green in the middle of downtown St. Louis? Then head over to Kiener Plaza Park, a welcome oasis in the city center.

Just under two acres, the park was originally dedicated in 1962 and named in honor of Harry Kiener. A native of St. Louis, Kiener was an amateur wrestler, boxer, and swimmer. But his greatest claim to fame was as a member of the US track team at the Olympics held in St. Louis during the 1904 World’s Fair.

Today, Kiener’s namesake park is something of an outdoor town square. Get a close-up look at “The Olympic Runner,” the striking statue that honors the former Olympian.

Kiener Plaza Park

Stake out a bench and take in fabulous views of the majestic Old Courthouse and the iconic Gateway Arch. Meander the park’s pathways on foot or by bike, then unpack a picnic and stretch out on the lawn.

Got youngsters in tow? Let them burn off energy in the children’s play garden or chill out in the splash pad.

Museum of Westward Expansion

If you’re a history buff, give yourself a nice treat and dig in deep at the Museum of Westward Expansion. Really deep because this site sits underground beneath the Gateway Arch.

The Museum of Westward Expansion offers a treasure trove of insights into one of the most dynamic and debated periods of American history: the opening up of the West.

Trace this rich and complex past, starting in the 1700s with the fur trade, and follow the trails carved out by the earliest American and European explorers. You can track over 200 years of America’s expansion westward by river, trail, railroad, and Pony Express on a massive map built into the terrazzo floor.

View fascinating documentaries about the settlement of the West through the 19th century and the building of the Arch. Browse a diverse array of historic artifacts, interactive exhibits, miniature recreations, and artistic displays recounting the history of St. Louis and its role as a gateway to Western expansion.

Get a compelling big-picture view of the past with the stories of the diverse populations that were a part of the area’s history. Learn about the groundbreaking Lewis & Clark expedition, the political forces that shaped the drive to push westward, and the long-lasting impact of expansion on the territory’s Native American cultures and native wildlife.

City Museum

For kids and kids at heart, the weird and wonderfully interactive City Museum is a can’t-miss destination. Housed in a century-old shoe warehouse in the Washington Avenue Historic District in Downtown West St. Louis, this internationally-acclaimed playground is guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping.

With a rooftop play area and four floors packed with interactive attractions, this constantly changing artist-built space invites exploration.

What can you do at the City Museum? Climb up, slide down, crawl under, swing across, jump over, swing around … phew! Lose yourself in twists, turns, and secret passages. Wend your way through mysterious chambers past giant tree trunks, sculptures of mythical creatures, and a 1925 Wurlitzer organ.

City Museum

Take your pick of dozens of diverse slides and go for a ride. Hit the rooftop and discover fountains, a Ferris wheel, a precariously-perched bus, and a giant praying mantis.

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Dive into a class in acrobatics or magic, or catch a free show at City Circus. Hop aboard the City Express mini passenger train, and take a tour around the world’s biggest pencil. Sculpt a dragon, paint a house, or make a mosaic in Art City.

Get your game face on and get lost!

Where to eat & drink

Ready to explore The Lou’s culinary scene? The downtown district is home to some of the tastiest restaurants in St. Louis, offering loads of excellent food options ranging from mouthwatering BBQ to zesty South American dishes. Dive in!

The perfect way to polish off your visit to the National Blues Museum? Slide next door and get your Que on at Sugarfire Smoke House. This award-winning St. Louis icon is renowned as the place for the city’s most mouthwatering BBQ. Belly up for unbeatable baby back ribs, juicy pulled pork, and the best beef brisket in town.

Up for some Italian zest? Dig in at Sauce on the Side. This neighborhood favorite makes everything from scratch, including their star player: calzones. Check out their amazing selection of mouthwatering turnovers stuffed with everything from roasted chicken to mac ‘n cheese. With names like Fatty B and Figgy Piggy, how can you resist?

Ballpark Village in Downtown

Fans of Asian cuisine will want to check out Sen Thai Asian Bistro on Washington Ave. Beautifully finished with traditional wood flooring and paneling, this spot offers a fantastic range of freshly made Japanese- and Thai-inspired dishes like Pad Thai and Shrimp Tempura. Or dig into a multitude of savory handcrafted delights at the Sushi Bar.

If you favor bold flavors and awesome views, press the “up” button to the Cinder House and Bar. Set on the eighth floor of the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, this exuberant eatery offers some of the city’s finest views of the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River. Savor the lively flavors of contemporary South American cuisine, highlighted by live-fire cooking. Relax in the lounge or dining room, or dine al fresco on the terrace.

When it comes to food and drink, Ballpark Village covers all the bases. Set next to Busch Stadium, this lively, sports-themed district is packed with restaurants, bars & nightlife venues. Check out a selection ranging from boisterous sports bars like Budweiser Brew House and Beer Garden to retro dance venues like the Shark Club.

Bar in Downtown

If your preference is for the sleek and laid-back, settle in at the Bridge Tap House and Wine Bar. This brick-walled gastropub features impressive beer & wine lists. Nibble on a great selection of bar snacks, or linger over tasty charcuterie.

For a retro vibe and a taste of the forbidden, slide over to the Thaxton Speakeasy. This slick cellar haunt is set on the lower level of a historic 1920s Art Deco building. Soak in the ambiance – then soak up one of their mind-boggling handcrafted cocktails. (Password required!)

If you’re up for an elevated imbibing experience, scope out Three Sixty. Set atop the Hilton St. Louis at the Ball Park, this spot features a great selection of cocktails, wine, and beer – along with what may be the best rooftop lounge in the city. Savor 400-foot-high panoramic views of St. Louis as you sip your beverage of choice.

Where to stay

As the city’s historical and cultural hub, the downtown area is home to some of the most popular places to stay in St. Louis. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, solo or with the family, you’ll find a great selection of hotels to choose from here. If you’d rather stay in some quieter digs, other neighborhoods within a short driving distance of the city center like Soulard, Midtown, and Central West End, are great choices, too.

Courtyard

Courtyard St. Louis Downtown/Convention Center

Set in a beautiful building dating back to 1929, this family-friendly hotel offers a taste of the past along with top-end modern amenities. Relax in airy, contemporary rooms offering city or courtyard views, as well as free Wi-Fi access, flat-screen TVs, and minifridges. Grab a workout in the fitness center, hit the tennis court, or rent a bike to explore the neighborhood. Relax and refuel over breakfast or dinner at The Bistro.

Drury Plaza St. Louis at the Arch

Drury Plaza St. Louis at the Arch

If you want accommodations with a historic vibe, you’ll find it here. Originally three separate buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, this beautiful renovation has preserved many of the exquisite original features like Italian marble and Waterford crystal chandeliers. But the amenities are thoroughly modern, including a fitness center, indoor pool, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi access. Get your day going with a complimentary hot breakfast or a few laps in the pool. Unwind in the evening and enjoy a cocktail and stunning views on the eighth-floor terrace.

Live! by Loews - St. Louis

Live! by Loews – St. Louis

If you want to be where the action is, this is the place. Relax in laid-back luxury in a guest room or suite at this 4-star hotel featuring private parking and 24-hour front desk service. Set in the city’s Ballpark Village entertainment district, this hotel is within easy walking distance of the city’s hub of downtown restaurants, entertainment, and shopping venues. Unwind with a workout in the fitness center, chill out in front of your flat-screen TV, or kick back with a cocktail on the Great Room Lounge patio.

Hotel Saint Louis, Autograph Collection

Hotel Saint Louis, Autograph Collection

For cool accommodations with a nod to the past, check into this hip, historic 4-star hotel. Set in a revitalized 1893 historic landmark building, this luxury boutique hotel is an architectural gem. Enjoy a range of upscale amenities, including flat-screen TVs, WiFi access, walkout balconies, a rooftop pool, and a fitness center. After a day of sightseeing or business meetings, pamper yourself with a relaxing spa session – then head to the rooftop bar for sweeping city views.

Four Seasons St. Louis

Four Seasons St. Louis

Prepare for some serious pampering at this modernist resort-style hotel. Set in the heart of the downtown entertainment district, this family-friendly luxury destination features bright, airy rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and 24-hour room service.

Catch a workout in the 24-hour gym. Unwind with a relaxing spa experience, then sink into the rooftop splendor of the Sky Terrace. Enjoy a private cabana, outdoor pool, splash pad, and fabulous al fresco dining—and bask in stunning views of the sun glinting off the nearby Gateway Arch.

Treksplorer

Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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