The Motor City never takes its foot off the gas. Once blighted by the collapse of its reputation-building auto industry, Detroit has rebuilt itself in impressive style, breathing new life into Motown's famous mantra: “Nothing Stops Detroit.”
This means Detroit’s neighborhoods are fast-changing and filled with new energy. Downtown has been revamped with cool indie boutiques, chef-driven restaurants and design-led hotels, and striking out from the center, you’ll find districts full of bohemian spirit and cultural heart, crammed full of galleries, cool music venues and yet more places for a bite.
Wondering where to bed down, or which hip district to make a beeline for first? Here are five of our favorite Detroit neighborhoods.
Best for buzzing nightlife and urban parks
Downtown Detroit is a district in perpetual motion. Completely unrecognizable from the way it looked even five years ago, this is the Motor City’s revving heartland, bursting with slick concept restaurants, fashion stores and independent hotels.
On Woodward Avenue, you can browse the rails of hip clothing boutiques such as Détroit is the New Black, which doubles as an edgy art space, or feast on frozen treats at the Detroit Water Ice Factory, feted for its Italian-style ice desserts. The boutique Shinola Hotel, brainchild of Detroit-based watchmaker Shinola, was a landmark opening in 2019, and it makes for a super-stylish base right in the thick of things.
The Downtown section of Woodward Avenue is bookended by two lovely parks: Grand Circus Park and Campus Martius Park. The latter is a much-loved urban escape for Detroiters – in summer, you can hang out at the urban beach that pops up for the season and dig into some serious street food.
After hours, shoot off the main road to sink artisan cocktails at loungey Bad Luck Bar – their heady concoctions are tipped as the best in the city. Nearby, The BELT is a snug alleyway that’s filled with bold murals and offbeat bars.
Best for world food, vintage threads and curios
Just west of Downtown, this neighborhood garners lots of superlatives. It’s Motor City’s oldest district (the name pays homage to early Irish settlers, who moved here during the 19th-century Great Famine) and also its hippest.
The neighborhood’s bon viveur credentials keep visitors pouring in today. The place is awash with breweries and restaurants doling out everything from stone-baked pizzas to udon noodles (best sampled at industrial-chic ima). By day, enjoy a belly-busting old-school America lunch at Slows BBQ before browsing shops filled with used books, vintage clothing, crystals and boho jewelry – make time for the trinket-stuffed Eldorado General Store.
Like most Motown neighborhoods, Corktown is in an state of flux. The district’s biggest landmark is the Beaux-Arts Michigan Central Station. Shuttered in 1988 and left to crumble, the station building is now being restored by the Detroit-founded Ford Motor Company. There are fewer hotels in Corktown than in the Downtown area, but if you’re keen to stop over, artsy Trumbull & Porter is a solid bet.
Best for art galleries and music venues
Anchored by Cass Avenue, Midtown is the favorite stomping ground of students from Wayne State University, who lend the area a hip, buzzy vibe. It’s also the favored Detroit destination for culture vultures and coffee connoisseurs.
Avalon Breads, known for its artisan bakes and top-notch coffee, has been a fixture on Midtown’s Cass Corridor since the 1990s. It's joined today by new kids on the block such as -320° Coffee & Creamery, which sells liquid nitrogen ice cream and carefully sourced brews in the Detriot Shipping Company food court – made, appropriately, from old shipping containers.
Music fans will feel right at home here too. The neighborhood plays host to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at ornate Orchestra Hall, and veteran dive bar The Old Miami has welcomed such big names as Patti Smith and The White Stripes. Then there are the art galleries, from heavyweights such as the Detroit Institute of Arts, with its famous murals by Diego Rivera, to cool contemporary spaces such as the Simone DeSousa Gallery.
You can easily base yourself in this vibrant cultural hub; lodgings range from historic inns to boutique hotels. Small, sustainably-minded El Moore Lodge is a top choice.
Best for a chilled vibe and top-notch food
You’re guaranteed a good dinner and a relaxing evening in Greektown. The district is right next to Downtown, but it moves at a slower pace, with Detroiters dining al-fresco under fairy lights at sidewalk tables, or grazing sharing plates at breezy rooftop bars. Come at sunset to look out over Motor City from lively DELMAR, a well-loved rooftop hangout.
The name gives away the area’s cultural heritage, too. The district was first settled by German immigrants in the 19th century, but it’s the Greek residents who moved here in the early 1900s who left a lasting mark. Sample the area's Mediterranean flavors at deliciously old-school venues such as the Golden Fleece Restaurant, which serves a traditional menu of gyros, moussaka and baklava, or charming, greenery-filled Pegasus Taverna.
Best for market treats and tipples
As its name suggests, this lively district is centered on Detroit’s Eastern Market. The multi-block marketplace is formed of huge sheds which are filled every Saturday by hundreds of vendors, hawking everything from farm-fresh veg to global food treats such as tandoori chicken and pierogi. Swing by on Sundays when Detroit artisans descend on the place, showcasing wares like Michigan-themed prints, jewelry and vintage clothes.
Spilling out from the market halls, a slew of modern delis, pizzerias and American comfort-food spots make this a gourmet paradise – cute Asian-fusion cafe Bunny Bunny is not to be missed. After dark, it’s the unique drinking dens that really make Eastern Market shine. Book in for a tasting at Detroit Vineyards and sample a selection of wines made in the city, or stop in at the Detroit City Distillery for small-batch spirits shaken or stirred into imaginative cocktails.
The neighborhood is best as a day-trip destination rather than an overnight base but it’s easily reached from Downtown by whizzing along the Dequindre Cut, a popular cycling route and greenway that cuts right through the area (the MoGo bikeshare scheme has hubs dotted around the city).
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