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Updated: December 2, 2022
The Best Areas to Stay in Denver
The capital of Colorado, Denver lies on a plateau some 5,200 feet above sea level, with snowy peaks looming on the western horizon. The “Mile High City” is a gateway to the central Rockies as well as a major commercial center, driven especially by booming energy and mining sectors. It’s a fun city to visit, with a dynamic culinary scene, burgeoning craft beer industry, and a smattering of world-class museums and family-friendly attractions, all within a short ride of spectacular mountain scenery.
Most of the attractions (and hotels) in central Denver are located in downtown and just to the south in the Capitol Hill and Golden Triangle district. To the north, the River North Art District (RiNo) is a relatively recent creation, an old warehouse district best known today for its bars and restaurants. The posh residential neighborhood of Uptown backs on to City Park, home to the Denver Zoo and the Museum of Nature & Science.
While it’s relatively easy to explore Downtown Denver on foot, the city’s public transportation system (buses and light rail) is cheap and relatively comprehensive. Though a car is useful to explore the outer districts, it’s not really necessary to have one in the city itself, where parking can be a hassle.
• Denver International Airport is 24 miles northeast of downtown. All the usual chains and motels can be found on the freeway just outside the airport. The Light Rail A Line links the airport with Union Station in downtown (37 minutes), every 15–30 minutes.
• If driving, there’s a cluster of motels on I-70 east of the city center and along I-25 to the south. These are not especially convenient for exploring the city, though.
• Lyft and Lime are Denver’s official providers of dockless e-scooters and bikes.
We’ve covered our favorite neighborhoods to visit and stay in more detail below, but with more time, Golden is also worth checking out. Some 15 miles west of central Denver, Golden served as Colorado’s territorial capital until 1867. Set at the foot of the Front Range, it’s home to several family-friendly museums, miles of hiking trails, and Clear Creek, which offers whitewater rafting and excellent fishing. It’s probably best known, however, for Coors Brewery, one of the largest brewing facilities in the world (which you can tour), and the nearby Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre, a stunning open-air theater in the mountains. Rising sharply behind downtown Golden is Lookout Mountain, the final resting place of Buffalo Bill Cody and Buffalo Bill Museum. Our favorite hotels here are the Dove Inn, Golden Hotel, Pansy’s Parlor Bed & Breakfast, and the Silk Pin Cushion.
Best Places to Stay in Denver
- Best Luxury Hotels in Denver
Four Seasons • Kimpton Born • Patterson Inn • Ritz-Carlton
- Best Boutique Hotels in Denver
Art Hotel • Brown Palace • Catbird • Maven at Dairy Block • Ramble • Teatro
- Best Cheap/Midrange Hotels in Denver
AC Hotel Downtown • Holiday Chalet • Homewood Suites Downtown • Hotel Indigo Downtown
- Best Hostels in Denver
Ember Hostel • Hostel Fish • 11th Avenue Hostel
- Best B&Bs in Denver
Adagio Bed & Breakfast • Capitol Hill Mansion Bed & Breakfast Inn • Off Broadway B & B • Queen Anne Bed & Breakfast
Best Areas in Denver for…
- Best Neighborhood to Stay for First Timers/Sightseeing: Downtown Denver
Being in the heart of the city makes the most sense: the widest choice of accommodation is here, as well as key attractions such as the 16th Street Mall, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and Larimer Square. The LoDo (lower downtown) section near Union Station has a little more character than the rest of Downtown, and some of the best hotels (Crawford, Maven at Dairy Block) – it’s also crammed with excellent places to eat and drink, including some of Denver’s justly famed micro-breweries.
- Most Romantic Neighborhood: Capitol Hill
There are several contenders for this category, though some of the most attractive neighborhoods – such as the Art District on Santa Fe – have little or no accommodation at all. Capitol Hill is our pick: it’s one of the few genuinely historic residential areas in central Denver, peppered with gorgeous Victorian mansions and a handful of coffee shops, restaurants, and bars more popular with locals than tourists. Stay in charming properties such as the Patterson Inn or Capitol Hill Mansion Bed & Breakfast Inn, or opt for stylish urban chic at the Art Hotel.
- Best Neighborhood for Nightlife: RiNo (plus LoDo and SoCo)
Several Denver neighborhoods have become nightlife hubs, but our favorite is River North Art District (aka “RiNo”), especially good for Denver’s booming craft brewing industry. We recommend Epic Brewing, Mockery Brewing, Odell Brewing, and Ratio Beerworks, but everything that features on the Denver Beer Trail is good. You’ll also find urban wineries in industrial-chic warehouses such as Infinite Monkey Theorem and Bigsby’ Folly Craft Winery, plus the Ironton Distillery, which makes excellent gins, rums, and whiskeys. Venues such as the Mission Ballroom, Westword Music Showcase, and Nocturne feature live shows.
Nightlife in the LoDo district is also pretty good, with it’s own spread of bars and craft brewers (Wynkoop Brewing is here), and the Denver Performing Arts Complex nearby. Finally, the “South of Colfax Nightlife District” (aka SoCo) is known for its club scene, with the likes of Temple, The Church, and Club Vinyl clustered around Broadway, south of Capitol Hill.
- Best Neighborhood for Food and Restaurants: LoDo
Denver’s food scene is thriving, with innovative spots sharing spaces with more traditional steakhouses and Mexican taco joints all over the city. LoDo (in Downtown Denver) is our overall favorite place to eat, mainly for the sheer diversity and convenience of so many spots close together. The city’s original dining hub, Larimer Square, features Jennifer Jasinski’s lauded Rioja, Richard Sandoval’s Tamayo, and Italian destination Osteria Marco, while the renovated Union Station features Alex Seidel’s flagship Mercantile Dining & Provision, Italian restaurant Tavernetta, and tapas bar Ultreia. The Milk Market is a stylish food hall with pizza, sandwiches, ice cream, seafood, Mexican food, and hot chicken stalls.
- Best Neighborhoods for Shopping: Downtown, Cherry Park, and South Broadway (SoBo)
It’s hard to beat Downtown Denver when it comes to diversity and quantity of shopping options. Historic Larimer Square remains the city’s most chic fashion district, laced with indie boutiques, while the I.M. Pei-designed 16th Street Mall stretches for 16 blocks across the heart of the district. This pedestrian-only boulevard is lined with restaurants and stores, including the Denver Pavilions mall. The main branches of the iconic Tattered Cover Book Store can also be found Downtown.
With more time, there are plenty of alternative shopping scenes to check out. Cherry Creek (3.5 miles southeast from Downtown) is a relatively affluent neighborhood, known for the upscale Cherry Creek Shopping Center and Cherry Creek North, a 16-block walkable district filled with independently owned stores, boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and spas. Our favorite hotels here are the HALCYON, Moxy Cherry Creek, JW Marriott Cherry Creek, and Jacquard.
In contrast, the low-key South Broadway Shopping District (aka SoBo), around 4 miles due south of downtown, features vintage clothing, bookstores, and specialty hobby stores, as well as Denver’s Antique Row (primarily the stretch of South Broadway between Arkansas and Evans). Other than a few sketchy motels, there’s nowhere to stay in SoBo, and it’s best tackled as a half-day trip from elsewhere in the city.
- Best Neighborhood for Local Vibe: Five Points
Five Points (named for the 5-point intersection at Washington Street, 27th Street, 26th Avenue, and Welton Street) is one of Denver’s oldest neighborhoods and the historic heart of the city’s African-American community. Just northeast of Downtown, it was once known as the “Harlem of the West” for its hopping jazz clubs. Today it’s worth wandering Welton Street, the main drag, soaking up the atmosphere at local spots such as Coffee at The Point, Famous Original J’s Pizza, Spangalang Brewery, and Queen City Collective Coffee. Check out also the Black American West Museum, which chronicles the experience of African-Americans in the region (one third of all 19th-century cowboys were black). Other than apartment rentals, there’s nowhere to stay in Five Points itself, though hotels in Downtown and RiNo are nearby.
- Unsafe Areas of Denver
Crime has risen dramatically in Denver since the COVID-19 pandemic but remains low overall in US national terms. Central Denver (all the neighborhoods mentioned here) is generally safe during the day, though the usual precautions should be taken at night. Take special care along East Colfax Avenue and Colfax Avenue just east of the State Capitol, in Five Points, or anywhere in downtown at night, where opportunistic crime tends to be higher. Note that the city also hosts a large homeless population. Uptown and Cherry Park are some of the safest areas.
The 7 Best Neighborhoods in Denver for Tourists
1. Downtown Denver
Downtown Denver is where most visitors are likely to be staying – it’s where most of the hotels are, as well as some of the best shopping, restaurants, and bars in the city. It’s fairly flat and easy to navigate on foot, with a typical grid plan anchored by the 16th Street Mall. This mostly pedestrianized boulevard is lined with shops and restaurants and is served by a free shuttle bus. The mall connects the two sections of Downtown: the skyscraper-heavy CBD at the southern end, home to the American Museum of Western Art and the Denver Convention Center with its famous Big Blue Bear statue, and “LoDo” (Lower Downtown) at the northern end, home of the renovated Union Station development and Coors Field, the Colorado Rockies’ ballpark. Also up here, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, designed by star architect David Adjaye, and Dairy Block, another dining and shopping complex. In between the two areas is Larimer Square, a historic block of specialty boutiques and innovative restaurants.
- Downtown offers the biggest choice of accommodation in the city, especially at the top end – quality is high, but so are prices.
- The A Line train from Denver International Airport will take you straight to Union Station. Driving here is not worth the hassle (and high parking fees), as it’s easy to walk everywhere or take a bus.
- Best Hotels: Brown Palace • Crawford • Four Seasons • Kasa Denver Union Station • Kimpton Born • Maven at Dairy Block • Oxford Hotel • Renaissance Downtown • Ritz-Carlton • The Westin
- Best Cheap/Midrange Hotels: AC Hotel Downtown • Embassy Suites Downtown • Homewood Suites Downtown • Hotel Indigo Downtown
- Best B&B: Queen Anne Bed & Breakfast
- Best Hostel: Hostel Fish
2. Capitol Hill and Golden Triangle
Just to the south of Downtown, Denver’s civic center forms part of the historic Capitol Hill and Golden Triangle neighborhood. The gold-domed Colorado State Capitol – with its “Mile High” marker on the 13th step – remains at the heart of state government, while the equally grandiose Denver City Council building lies opposite.
Some of Denver’s finest museums are also here, including the Molly Brown House Museum (which chronicles the history of “Unsinkable” Molly Brown), the sensational Daniel Libeskind-designed Denver Art Museum, the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, and the ultra-modern Clyfford Still Museum. History buffs should check out the enlightening History Colorado Center and the Center for Colorado Women’s History at Byers-Evans House Museum. There’s slightly less choice here when it comes to eating or drinking, though the SoCo club district attracts plenty of revelers at the weekends, and East Colfax Avenue is lined with live venues, bars, and indie shops.
- Finding parking on the street can be a nightmare in Capitol Hill – try to use public transport.
- There’s only a handful of places to stay, but these comprise high quality B&Bs, perfect for a romantic getaway, plus the Art Hotel, the city’s most stylish boutique hotel. At the lower end, it’s home to 2 of the best hostels in Denver.
- Best Hotels: Art Hotel • Element Downtown East • Patterson Inn
- Best B&B: Capitol Hill Mansion Bed & Breakfast Inn
- Best Hostels:11th Avenue Hostel • Ember Hostel
3. River North Art District (RiNo)
This former industrial area has been dramatically transformed over the last 15 years with the arrival of hip bars, innovative restaurants, and boutique shops along main drag Larimer Street. Formally established in 2005 by local artists, the River North Art District (aka “RiNo”) is now home to numerous art galleries, craft brewers, and some of the best restaurants in the city. There are no major sights, but it’s a fun area to explore, with street art adorning numerous walls and buildings, including Denver Central Market.
- There’s not a lot of choice when it comes to hotels in RiNo (rental apartments are plenty), but the neighborhood is easily accessible from Downtown Denver.
- Best Hotels: Catbird Hotel • Ramble Hotel • Source Hotel
4. Uptown Denver (North Capitol Hill)
Just east of Downtown, Uptown is primarily an upscale residential area with its own small-scale culinary scene. The main drag is 17th Avenue, known as “Restaurant Row” for most of its length between Broadway and City Park thanks to its numerous coffee shops, bistros, pubs, and restaurants. Highlights include the table tennis club-cum-Asian fusion restaurant Ace Eat Serve and the cutesy premises of Vegan specialist Watercourse Foods. The main family-friendly attractions lie further east in City Park (Denver’s largest green space), Denver Zoo (with more than 3,000 animals), and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
- There are only a few good places to stay in this area; accommodation tends to be located along East Colfax Avenue, on the southern boundary of the neighborhood, and comprises mostly cheap, low-quality motels. We’ve listed a couple of exceptions.
- Best Hotels: Adagio Bed & Breakfast • Holiday Chalet
Around 2 miles south of Downtown, the Art District on Santa Fe is worth checking out: a designated “Creative District” with more than 30 art galleries and studios. It’s traditionally been a Latino area, celebrated by the colorful murals and the exhibitions at Museo de las Americas, as well a authentic restaurants such as El Taco de México, Santiago’s Mexican, and El Noa Noa. The monthly First Friday Art Walks, when studios and galleries open late, are especially good fun. The Su Teatro Cultural & Performing Arts Center is one of the biggest Latino theaters in the country, and the Colorado Ballet is based at the Armstrong Center for Dance.
- There’s nowhere good to stay in this area – it’s a short walk from Capitol Hill or train or taxi ride from Downtown.
- On First Fridays, Santa Fe Drive is closed to through traffic (side streets are closed all day), so take public transport. The closest Light Rail Station is at 10th and Osage (10-minute walk), with swift service into Downtown.
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