In the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains just west of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville is the largest city in Western North Carolina. And its compact size makes it easy to explore.

Downtown and the adjacent South Slope District are the convivial core of the city and easy to explore by foot. Escape the city-center crowds with a short drive to the creative River Arts District or edgy West Asheville. The Biltmore Estate and the adjacent Biltmore Village are ten minutes south of downtown but feel worlds apart with their embrace of old-school glamour and a slower pace of life.

These are the five neighborhoods in Asheville you can't miss. 

Pack Square at night, Downtown Asheville
Pack Square is the central focal point of downtown Asheville, North Carolina © Getty Images / iStockphoto

Go sightseeing Downtown

On Friday nights, downtown Asheville throws the best party in Western North Carolina. Sidewalk buskers play familiar tunes, alfresco diners dig into globally-inspired dishes and shoppers pop into bookstores and chocolate shops open late for the crowds. The beat of the Pritchard Park drum circle is the thrumming center of it all. Historic art-deco buildings and the hazy Blue Ridge Mountains frame the scene.

Downtown is equally inviting during the day, with locals and visitors stepping into the many boutiques and galleries. Others learn about the history of the city and its public art on the 30-stop Urban Trail. Everyone visits Mast General Store at some point for, well, a little bit of everything – including old-school candy and outdoor gear. Museums spotlight art, pinball and the wonders of electronic sound – we’re looking at you Moogseum.

Hotels used to be scarce, but no longer. Since 2016 at least seven have opened downtown, bringing up-to-the-minute style, rooftop bars and pet-friendly rooms. For inns and B&Bs in Victorian and arts-and-crafts homes, consider the Historic Montford District just north of downtown.

Essential tips for getting around Asheville

A line forms at The Wicked Weed Brewing Co. on Biltmore Ave
Wicked Weed Brewing Co. is one of South Slope's most popular breweries © Nolichuckyjake / Shutterstock

Sip suds in South Slope

Formerly a warehouse and industrial district, this compact and pedestrian-friendly hotspot – technically an extension of downtown –  is now the city’s craft beer epicenter, home to ten micro-breweries. With beer gardens, open-air taprooms, live music and rooftop bars filling the neighborhood, South Slope feels like one big street party, especially on weekends. 

Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium and circus-themed Hi-Wire serve sour beers while innovative Belgian-style brews flow at ever-hip Burial. Step inside the multi-story Green Mansion at long-running Green Man for English-style ales. You’ll also find a distillery, cidery, sake garden and artisan cocktails in the neighborhood, which is tucked between Asheland Ave, Biltmore Ave, Southside Ave and Hilliard Ave. James Beard-nominated chefs serve barbecue and pastries at Buxton Hall, with fancy donuts, gourmet sandwiches and food trucks rounding out the culinary action in the neighborhood. 

Crowds queue for big-name indie, folk and punk bands at the Orange Peel while murals bring whimsy and a touch of artsy attitude. What you won't find? Hotels, although there are a half dozen or so within a few blocks of South Slope. The Aloft Asheville Downtown on Biltmore Ave is the closest. 

A colorful mural outside a glass studio in the River Arts District of Asheville, North Carolina
One of River Arts District's many colorful murals, outside a glass studio © Meghan O'Dea / Lonely Planet

Go gallery hopping in River Arts District

Hikers, hipsters and brewmasters might be the Asheville stereotype, but it's artists who bring the romantic soul to the city, tying the various groups together with public art and community events. Fortunately for visitors, more than 200 artists share their knowledge, workspaces and artworks in the River Arts District (RAD), which stretches one mile along the east bank of the French Broad River southwest of downtown.

Former warehouses, a mill and a tannery now house studios and galleries where sculptors, painters, photographers, folk artists, glassblowers and other creators display and sell their work. The district is divided into several clusters so it's best to explore by car unless you’re ready to do some walking or cycling – which has become easier with the opening of a new riverside greenway. Restaurants, coffee shops and Wedge Brewing – in two locations – have also opened their doors, which keeps the district vibrant all day long. 

For a full artistic immersion, visit on the Second Saturday of the month, when the neighborhood hosts art walks, demonstrations, wine tastings and live music. For a list of artists, classes and events, as well as a map, visit the River Arts District website. The closest hotels are downtown.

A whale skeleton hangs in the interior of Whale Bar, a craft beer bar in West Asheville
Whale Bar, one of the trendy craft beer bars of West Asheville © Meghan O'Dea / Lonely Planet

Live like a local in West Asheville

Some call it "bohemian," but "resourceful" might be the better word for West Asheville, an emerging neighborhood just west of the River Arts District and the French Broad River. Here, a slew of modern restaurants, breezy cafes, vintage shops, record stores, coffee houses, craft breweries and bright murals are breathing new life into old buildings. These newcomers coexist with auto repair joints, hair salons and a diner or two. It’s an appealing mix of old and new, hip and traditional, with most of the action centered along Haywood Rd. Come here to escape the heavy downtown crowds and settle in like a local for a few hours. 

Breakfast on the patio at Sunny Point Café is a recommended start to the day. Down the road, national powerhouse New Belgium Brewing Company has muscled onto the craft brewers’ turf with a popular taproom and production facility beside the river, but so far there seems to be room for all the beer makers. Lodging options are scarce, but you will find a handful of hotels, a bed and breakfast, Airbnb rentals and a good hostel close to the bars and restaurants.

The stately Biltmore House on the Biltmore Estate grounds, Asheville, North Carolina
Plan to spend the better part of a day exploring the Biltmore Estate and its sprawling, well-manicured grounds © ZakZeinert / Shutterstock

Step into history in South Asheville & Biltmore Village

Modeled after three French chateaux and completed in 1895, the Biltmore House in South Asheville is the largest privately-owned home in the country. The estate and its grounds are the city’s premier tourist attraction, visited by more than 1.7 million guests annually. Plan to spend at least a half-day exploring the house, gardens and winery. To dig into the outdoor offerings across its 8000 acres, stop by the Outdoor Adventure Center where options include a falconry class or horseback and carriage rides. Miles of hiking and biking trails crisscross the property. The estate is two miles south of downtown. 

Employees of George W. Vanderbilt – the shipping and railroad heir who built the estate – once lived in Biltmore Village. Built to resemble an English village, the neighborhood sits outside the Biltmore gates. Today, this pedestrian-friendly spot features a mix of high-end stores, antique shops, galleries and restaurants. Several craft breweries are also here. South Asheville is a short drive from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Upscale lodging options on the Biltmore grounds include a hotel, an inn and cottages. Boutique inns and chain hotels are available in and around Biltmore Village.

You might also like: 
The best day trips from Asheville
A fall road trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains of the USA
Visit real-life locations of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” in North Carolina

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