Visiting a city like Houston can feel overwhelming. Like many places in Texas, Houston is spread out, and attractions aren’t centered in just one area. While we are big fans of neighborhoods like Downtown Houston and the Museum District, they are only two of many rich local communities with their own personality and attractions.

Use our list of the best Houston neighborhoods to curate a travel itinerary that perfectly aligns with your tastes and interests. Move between each neighborhood over the course of your trip and see Houston like a local.

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The gleaming skyline of downtown Houston at sunset
The gleaming skyline of downtown Houston at sunset © Richard Wilbourn / 500px

Downtown Houston

Downtown Houston is the central business district for the city of Houston. It’s home to a skyline of offices, businesses, and hotels with activities and attractions interspersed throughout. With a stay in one of Downtown’s upscale hotels, you can explore on foot or by MetroRAIL and enjoy a show at the Houston Grand Opera, a performance by the Houston Ballet, a Rockets basketball game at the Toyota Center, or an Astros baseball game at Minute Maid Park. Put aside time to visit the 12-acre Discovery Green Park, a gathering place for visitors and locals alike who come to admire art installations, take fitness classes, or explore a local vintage market at night. Families who stay in Downtown Houston should make time to visit the Houston Aquarium, while couples can enjoy art walks and dine in excellent restaurants.

Football fans take photos in front of a graffiti-covered building in the Old Chinatown section of downtown near the  NFL Experience at the George R. Brown Convention Center on February 4, 2017 in Houston, Texas, one day before the New England Patriots play the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl
A graffiti-covered building in the Old Chinatown section of downtown Houston © TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP / Getty Images

Asiatown

You may hear Houston’s Asiatown referred to as "Chinatown," but the old name doesn’t accurately reflect the diverse cultural influences of the neighborhood. Vietnamese, Korean, Malaysian, Indian and Pakistani restaurants and shops are just as much a central part of the community as their Chinese neighbors. Most visit here to taste the best Asian food in Texas, whether it's dim sum at Kim Son, hot pot at Tasty Point, basmati rice at Avesta Persian Grill, or Malay cuisine at Banana Leaf. That’s not to say that restaurants are the only thing on offer in Asiatown – Hong Kong City Mall has over 100 shops, while Harwin Drive is the perfect spot for bargain buys. If you're short on time, then booking with Asian Heritage Tours may be ideal. Their guides will show you the best cultural sites and the most authentic and tastiest food in the neighborhood.

An exterior view of the entrance to the Houston Museum of Natural Science with people crowding around
People gather around the entrance to the popular Houston Museum of Natural Science © All Stock Photos / Shutterstock

Museum District

A cultural exploration of Houston wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Museum District. There are 19 different museums within this neighborhood that focus on art, science, nature and history. The museums range in size and content and include the Holocaust Museum Houston, Children’s Museum Houston, Asia Society Texas Center, the Museum of Fine Arts and many more. Like the Houston Zoo and the Houston Museum of Natural Science, some of the museums are housed within the neighborhood’s most notable green space. With 445 acres full of gardens, museums, sculptures and restaurants, Hermann Park is a must-visit.

The exterior of the Rothko Chapel with its large sculpture in Houston
Exterior gardens and sculpture of the Rothko Chapel in Houston © Christi Vest / 500px

Montrose

Montrose is an eclectic neighborhood that celebrates its eccentricity. Here you can find meticulously curated exhibits like the Menil Collection and Rothko Chapel, modern art at Art League Houston, great films at Aurora Picture Show, and an abundance of shopping along Westheimer Road. Caffeine lovers won’t be at a loss for quirky and stylish coffee shops in Montrose, and foodies can discover the diversity of Houston’s restaurant scene. Make your way to the north part of the neighborhood for kayaking, running and outdoor activities in Buffalo Bayou Park and then party the night away in the LGBTIQ+ quarter in bars like Ripcord.

Mexican tacos with beer on wooden table shot in warm colored light.
Authentic Mexican tacos with beer © Joshua Resnick / 500px

East End

East End’s location next to the Houston Shipping Channel made it an industrial center in the early 1900s. This attracted a wide range of diverse communities and resulted in the growth of a multicultural landscape over the last century. Today, East End is known as a cultural district of Houston and is home to a beautiful selection of outdoor murals and 30 arts and culture institutions.

Get a literal taste of the community’s culture at the East End Farmers Market on Sundays, then catch a dance or musical performance at Talento Bilingue de Houston arts center before making your way to Navigation Boulevard to explore shops and restaurants. Visit Magnolia Park and Second Ward, Houston’s oldest Hispanic neighborhoods located within East End, to enjoy authentic Mexican food. To learn more about Houston’s industrial and shipping history, hop on the free 90-minute Sam Houston Boat Tour through the Houston Ship Channel.

Houston skyline in the afternoon with Memorial Park in foreground
Houston skyline in the afternoon with Memorial Park in foreground © Fotosearch / Getty Images

River Oaks District

The River Oaks District is the epitome of luxury and affluence in Houston. You could easily spend the day driving through the neighborhood admiring mansions, but most people center their experience on the River Oaks Shopping Center. The 14-acre retail cathedral has premium fashion names like Dior and Tom Ford, upscale dining experiences such as La Griglia, and IPIC Theaters, a cinema with gourmet bites and plush seating.

For a bit of culture, stop at Rienzi, a 1950s mansion that has been converted into an art gallery under the tutelage of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. It has a fantastic display of antiques and home décor. With Memorial Park on the northern edge of this neighborhood, bike and running trails are close at hand.

A variety of Indian dishes sitting on a wooden table
Enjoy the incredible South Asian cuisine in Houston, Texas © Raul Gama / EyeEm / Getty Images

Mahatma Gandhi District

The Mahatma Gandhi District is home to Houston’s largest South Asian population. The neighborhood blossomed around a single restaurant called Raja Sweets, the first and oldest Indian restaurant in Texas. The huge success of this eatery drew more South Asians to the community and has resulted in a culturally rich neighborhood full of Indian and Pakistani restaurants, shops, and cultural centers.

If you’re at a loss of where to start your personal tour of Mahatma Gandhi District, make your way to Hillcroft Street, which is lined with Indian and Pakistani restaurants, South Asian grocers, jewelry and sari shops, and other boutiques.

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