As the capital of Virginia, Richmond is steeped in serious history – and as the former capital of the Confederacy, some of it can be painful. But this city by the James River is also overflowing with charm, a low-key but delicious food scene, art everywhere you turn and no shortage of breweries.
Each neighborhood in Richmond has a distinctive feel, and you can easily spend a few hours – or even a day – exploring them depending on how much you want to shop, eat and learn about the river city. Here are the best neighborhoods in Richmond, Virginia.
Best neighborhood for art
Most visitors, especially those just arriving in Richmond, find themselves in the Arts District, an area of downtown, at the start of their visit. This neighborhood has an abundance of art, and Richmond as a whole has more than 150 murals. These bright, vibrant backdrops aren’t just great for Instagram-worthy pics: many also provide social commentary. Hamilton Glass’ Mending Walls project, for example, brings artists together to paint works that speak to the current climate. If you’re in Richmond on the first Friday of the month, many of the Broad Street art galleries stay open late to welcome in patrons.
The centrally located Arts District is also home to many of the city’s hotels. Quirk, a former department store, has sky-high ceilings, a bright interior and one of Richmond’s best rooftops. The Jefferson caters to high-end travelers who appreciate grand staircases and ornate architecture. The Graduate hotel pays homage to Richmond native and Grand Slam champ Arthur Ashe and also has a great rooftop and cozy rooms with a reasonable price tag.
Best neighborhood for Black heritage
The Jackson Ward neighborhood was once known as the "Harlem of the South" because of the number of Black businesses that thrived here in the early 20th century. Don’t leave this area without stopping by the monument on Broad Street dedicated to Maggie L. Walker, a civil rights activist, educator and the first woman to own a bank. You can also check out Walker’s home, now a National Historic Site.
The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia tells stories of the state’s well-known and unsung heroes. The rich, flavorful history of Jackson Ward can still be seen (and tasted) today – from soul-food staples like Mama J’s and Southern Kitchen to the no-frills takeout at Big Herm’s to One Way Market, which sells international snacks.
Best neighborhood for drinking and nightlife
Richmond loves its beer, and the city has more than 30 breweries, cideries and distilleries, many of them located in the neighborhood of Scott’s Addition. It’s easy to enjoy a few hours hopping from one spot to the next or to make a full night of it. Bingo Beer has tons of lagers and IPAs, as well as a full menu and arcade. For a more relaxed vibe, head down an alleyway to Virago Spirits. This bar might be located near industrial warehouses, but when you open the door and pull back the curtain, you’re greeted with cushy couches, colorful decor and some of the city’s best gin- and rum-based drinks. Virginia is one of the nation’s top apple-producing states, so a trip to Buskey Cider should be on your list. The menu of ciders ranges from cucumber mint to Thai tom yum to tart cherry, and the company has recently debuted a soft-serve cider. You read that right: boozy ice cream.
Scott’s Addition is somewhat lacking in food stops to help you soak up all that drink, but the restaurants that are in the area do it up well. Grab Texas-style barbecue at ZZQ for lunch or an early dinner. A newer addition to the area is Pinky’s, with an airy space and a Mediterranean-inspired menu.
Best neighborhood for shopping
It’s not hard to spend an entire day shopping your way through Carytown. Strolling on Cary Street is a great option for travelers who love returning home with new fashionable finds. Ashby and Clementine have racks on racks of secondhand clothing. Bygones has higher prices but more curated selections of vintage, and it has been a neighborhood staple for more than 40 years. If swiping your card has worked up your appetite, the shops along Cary Street and beyond make it easy to grab a bite. Green juices might not excite everyone, but the menu at The Beet Box has plenty of crowd-pleasers. Besides the drinks having cute names, such as Hulk Smash and So Fresh and So Clean, the small shop has an outdoor seating area perfect for people watching, and on some days there’s a DJ. Zorch Pizza, which began as a food truck outside a Scott’s Addition brewery, sells by the pie or slice from their brick-and-mortar shop in Carytown. Their signature pizza is the cup-and-char pepperoni.
Best neighborhood for parks
Church Hill is a neighborhood overflowing with history. In 1775, Patrick Henry gave his “give me liberty or give me death” speech at St. John’s Church, which is now surrounded by lush parks and locally owned shops and restaurants. You won’t find any Central Park-size green spaces, but Chimborazo and Libby Hill parks offer some of the best views overlooking Richmond. The hills in this area are steep, but once you’re at the top, you’ll understand why they are worth the trek. Before you head up, grab a savory croissant from Sub Rosa Bakery or a paper-thin buttery burger from Cobra Burger.
Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom
Best neighborhood for exploring on foot
Narrowing down your options of what to do is the only issue you'll encounter in Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom. This neighborhood is home to a few hotels, including the Delta and Courtyard Marriott, so it makes a nice starting point for a day of exploration. The cobblestone streets have a range of restaurants and even a few nightlife spots that span from Broad Street to the Canal Walk.
Like so many areas in Richmond, you’ll come across historic markers that speak to the city’s painful past. Shockoe Bottom used to be the second-largest slave trading hub in the USA, so you’ll notice tall metallic and shorter wooden plaques throughout the neighborhood on the Richmond Slave Trail, as well as the site of Lumpkin’s Slave Jail.
The 17th Street Market is one of the oldest public markets in the country, and today it also hosts silent dance parties and free yoga sessions. Places worth stopping along the walkway include LuLu’s, which usually has a line for weekend brunch, the cheap but strong happy hour mojitos of Havana 59, and the savory Ethiopian dishes of Addis, which all have outdoor dining and are places where you can easily linger for hours.
Best neighborhood for the foodies and fitness
Manchester is still pretty industrial in some areas and not the most touristy neighborhood, but it’s a mix of quaint row homes and high-rise buildings being erected at warp speed. The main road, Hull Street, has a few restaurants to satisfy appetites, but it’s the highly anticipated opening of Hatch, the city’s first food hall, that has foodies excited. Legend Brewing has been a mainstay for drinkers after a lager or ale with a view of the river.
Although the Manchester neighborhood is changing, it’s never had a shortage of activities, from walking the Buttermilk Trail to an educational trek along the three-mile Slave Trail and the abandoned train trestles that now make up the Manchester Climbing Wall. If you still need to get your blood pumping, Hour Cycle has spin classes set to some of the best hip-hop and trap playlists that almost make you forget you’re working out.
You might also like:
Top 7 day trips from Richmond, Virginia
Find the ultimate urban adventure in Richmond
36 hours in Scott's Addition, Richmond's new hotspot