Where to Stay in St Louis
Founded in 1764 by French fur traders, St Louis lies on the Mississippi River in the heart of the United States. Located on the eastern border of Missouri, it’s a medium-size city today (with a metro population of just over 2 million), though it played a pivotal role in the expansion of the country and is consequently filled with world-class attractions, from major art museums to the monumental Gateway Arch. Most sights in St Louis can be found Downtown, near the river, or in Forest Park, 5 miles to the west. In between are Midtown, Grand Center Arts District, and Central West End, with their own smattering of sights and best known for their restaurant, art, shopping, and bar scenes. South of Downtown, Soulard is home to the city’s most historic market, while northwest of Forest Park, the Delmar Loop is another entertainment and culinary hub worth seeking out.
While it’s relatively easy to explore Downtown on foot, public transport or a car are required to make the best of the city; things are very spread out.
• St. Louis Lambert International Airport is 13 miles northwest of Downtown. The MetroLink light rail connects it with the city center.
• The St Louis area light-rail MetroLink system is fast, cheap ($2.50 per ride), and convenient, with lines that connect Downtown with Central West End, Forest Park, Delmar Loop, the airport, and Maplewood.
Most places to stay fall in the city center, but more choices are gradually springing up in St Louis’s characterful outer neighborhoods. We’ve covered our favorite neighborhoods to visit and stay in more detail below, but with more time, these districts are also worth checking out:
• Cherokee Antique Row: Around 3.5 miles south of Downtown St Louis, Cherokee Street west of I-55 is known as “Antique Row” thanks to the plethora of vintage, antiques, specialty shops, and art galleries here. There are even a couple of historic homes to explore – Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion and Lemp Mansion. Lemp Mansion is also one of the few places to stay in the area; its reputation as one of the most haunted houses in America is part of the appeal for guests. Benton Park Inn is a lovely B&B not too far away.
• The Hill: The city’s historic Italian quarter lies 6 miles west of Downtown. There’s not much to see here in terms of sights, but it’s a great place to eat with numerous Italian restaurants, grocery stores, and bakeries. Gian-Tony’s Ristorante is our favorite. There’s not much point in staying here, but there is a cheap Red Roof Inn PLUS+ motel, and the much superior Drury Inn & Suites Forest Park and Clifton Heights Inn on the western fringes of the neighborhood.
• Motels and chain hotels line the length of I-70 to the northwest of Downtown, (including just outside the airport); there are other clusters in Maryland Heights in the western suburbs and along I-64 to the southeast, over in Illinois. These motels can offer low rates but are only recommended for those with vehicles, and are not especially atmospheric or convenient for the city center.
Best Places to Stay in St Louis
- Best Luxury Hotels in St Louis
Four Seasons • Le Méridien Clayton • Le Méridien Downtown • Ritz-Carlton
- Best Boutique Hotels in St Louis
Angad Arts • Hotel Saint Louis • Moonrise Hotel • St Louis Union Station Hotel
- Best Cheap & Mid-range Hotels in St Louis
Courtyard Downtown/Convention Centre • Drury Inn & Suites Forest Park • Fairfield Inn & Suites Downtown • Hampton Inn & Suites Forest Park
- Best B&Bs in St Louis
Benton Park Inn • Casa Magnolia Bed and Breakfast • Clifton Heights Inn • Fleur-de-Lys Mansion
Best Neighborhoods in St Louis for…
- Best Neighborhood to Stay for First Timers/Sightseeing: Downtown St Louis
No surprise here: Downtown boasts the biggest choice when it comes to accommodation, from the best business hotels to cheaper motels, as well as the most important attractions in St Louis. Boats zip up and down the Mississippi from the riverfront and the monumental Gateway Arch, while a little inland the City Museum is a big family-favorite. There’s also the redeveloped Union Station, a vast range of restaurants, shops, and bars, and Busch Stadium (home of the Cardinals). Thanks to MetroLink, it’s also well-connected to the western parts of the city.
- Most Romantic Neighborhood: Compton Heights
Though it’s a couple of miles beyond Downtown, Compton Heights is worth considering for couples looking for a romantic break in St Louis. The compact neighborhood is crammed with beautiful residential architecture dating back to the city’s 19th-century heyday, including the sensational Fleur-de-Lys Mansion B&B, the best place to stay (Forget Me Not B&B is another good option). The B&B lies across from leafy Reservoir Park and is a short ride away from Missouri Botanical Garden, its trails and seasonal flower gardens making it a favorite local date spot. Just to the south, South Grand is an up-and-coming strip of diverse restaurants such as Pho Grand and the Vine Cafe and Market. You’ll need a car to make the most of the Compton Heights location, but parking usually isn’t a problem.
- Best Neighborhoods for Nightlife: Downtown, Soulard, and Delmar Loop
Laclede’s Landing on the Mississippi bank just north of Gateway Arch is Downtown’s traditional entertainment district, with a smattering of bars and clubs along its pedestrian-friendly cobblestoned streets. Other popular watering holes are scattered throughout Downtown, with the greatest concentration along Washington Avenue (the Flamingo Bowl is a good bet, combining cocktails with a bowling alley).
To the south, Soulard is another fun, laid-back neighborhood for a drink, especially known for its live music and blues and jazz pubs: 1860 Saloon, Hammerstone’s, and John D. McGurk’s Irish Pub among them. Finally, Delmar Loop is home to famed Blueberry Hill (Chuck Berry’s old local), bars such as Three Kings Public House, and other live venues such as Delmar Hall and The Pageant. Note that Grand Center, a few miles west of downtown, is the city’s premier theater district.
- Best Neighborhoods for Food and Restaurants: Delmar Loop, The Hill, and Maplewood
The culinary scene in St Louis has boomed in recent years, but locals tend to rove the entire city to sample the top restaurants – things are very spread out. Though there are plenty of good options in Downtown (including in Laclede’s Landing), foodies will want to check out the outer neighborhoods.
We like Delmar Loop; there’s a lot packed into 6 easily walkable blocks, from high-quality barbecue at Salt + Smoke and Blueberry Hill, to the amazing cakes at Sugar Momma’s Traditional Treats and ice-cream sandwiches at The Baked Bear.
For Italian food, The Hill offers by far the best and most authentic choices in the Midwest (“toasted ravioli” is a local specialty). As well as old favorites such as Mama’s On The Hill and Gian-Tony’s Ristorante, Gioia’s Deli has been knocking out hot salami sandwiches since 1918.
Out in the western suburbs, Maplewood is something of an up-and-coming dining destination, with the main drag along Manchester Road (Hwy-100). Top choices here include micro-breweries Schlafly Bottleworks and Side Project Brewing, as well as Strange Donuts, Kakao Chocolate, Boogaloo Cuban restaurant, and Great Harvest Bread Co. There are no hotels in central Maplewood; take MetroLink to the Maplewood station and walk east along Manchester, or drive (there are usually several free lots and street parking spots available).
- Best Neighborhoods for Shopping: Maplewood, Antiques Row, and Richmond Heights
Downtown isn’t especially good when it comes to shopping and though there are plenty of interesting boutiques and indie stores in neighborhoods such as Delmar Loop and Central West End, most of the action in St Louis takes place in the burbs.
Maplewood is a fun place to shop, with plenty of indie gift stores in addition to food specialists (Kakao Chocolate, Pie Oh My, Great Harvest Baking), leather goods at Sole Survivor, Bee Naturals Spa, bath and candle products at Maven, and Reset Vintage Apparel.
In addition to antique and vintage shops, Cherokee Street’s Antique Row is also home to Latin American markets and indie favorites Dead Wax Records, Infinite Spin Records, and Apotheosis Comics. For major shopping malls, hit Richmond Heights to find Saint Louis Galleria and The Boulevard, with several more outlets in adjacent Brentwood (to the south) and Clayton (to the north). Convenient hotels are Drury Inn & Suites Brentwood and TownePlace Suites Brentwood.
- Best Neighborhood for Local Vibe: Lafayette Square
One of the city’s most alluring neighborhoods and just a mile south of Downtown, Lafayette Square is a great place to escape the tourists. Anchored by leafy Lafayette Park, it’s full of beautiful Victorian mansions (aka the “painted ladies”) and peppered with coffee shops, specialty stores, bars, and small restaurants. Highlights include Park Avenue Coffee and Square One Brewery on Park Avenue (the main drag), ice cream at Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery, and SqWires Restaurant & Annex with its adjacent fountain and plaza. It’s possible to stay here, too, in one of those gorgeous old homes: the Lehmann House Bed & Breakfast.
- Unsafe Areas of St Louis
Most of the neighborhoods mentioned here are generally quite safe during the day, though the usual precautions should be taken at night. In 2014, riots broke out in the suburb of Ferguson over the shooting of African American teen Michael Brown by police, and violent crime remains high in some neighborhoods. In 2020, the city recorded its highest homicide rates in 50 years. Neighborhoods to avoid include Peabody-Darst-Webbe (just to the east of Lafayette Square), Old North Saint Louis (just north of Downtown), and Wells-Goodfellow (in the northwest suburbs). Northwest St Louis generally experiences high crime rates. Central West End, Soulard, and The Hill are generally the safest neighborhoods.
The 6 Best Neighborhoods in St Louis for Tourists
Downtown St Louis (plus what’s known as Downtown West) encompasses the original French settlement of 1764 and remains the city’s primary business district. It’s an area rich in history and sights, beginning with the Mississippi River itself and the landscaped parks around the Gateway Arch National Park. This incredible feat of engineering was designed by Finnish-born architect Eero Saarinen and completed in 1965 – it’s possible to ride to the top of the 630ft-high stainless-steel parabola on special trains. Nearby is the historic Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, and the Old Courthouse (site of the landmark Dred Scott case). Busch Stadium is the home of the beloved Cardinals (Downtown gets packed out with fans on game days), while on the north side of the Arch, Laclede’s Landing is a compact neighborhood of warehouses converted into bars and restaurants. Further inland, the quirky City Museum is a major hit with kids, while the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum commemorates local veterans. The memorial is linked to the Gateway Arch by a mile-long series of parks, sculpture gardens, and green spaces, which culminates at the renovated Union Station, home to the giant St. Louis Wheel and St Louis Aquarium. Along Washington Avenue, the main dining and drinking strip, you’ll find the fascinating National Blues Museum.
- The biggest concentration of hotels in the city is here and usually features good deals.
- Downtown is easily explored on foot and it’s also served by several MetroLink stations and a downtown trolley.
- Best Hotels: Drury Inn At Union Station • Drury Plaza Hotel At The Arch • Four Seasons • Hotel Saint Louis • Hyatt Regency At The Arch • Live! by Loews • Le Méridien Downtown • St Louis Union Station Hotel
- Best Cheap/Midrange Hotels: Courtyard Downtown/Convention Centre • Fairfield Inn & Suites Downtown • Holiday Inn Downtown • Indigo Downtown • Pear Tree Inn
The geographic heart of St Louis is actually Midtown, just west of Downtown beyond Jefferson Avenue. It’s perhaps best known for housing the campus of Saint Louis University (and Harris-Stowe State University), but we’ve also grouped it together with the Grand Center Arts District, just to the northwest. Unsurprisingly, the main draws in the latter neighborhood are art galleries and theaters. The Contemporary Art Museum heads a line-up of cutting-edge, modern facilities that include the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis University Museum of Art, International Photography Hall of Fame, and Sheldon Concert Hall & Art Galleries. Live entertainment also thrives here, with numerous venues including the incredibly opulent Fabulous Fox, Kranzberg Arts Center, Powell Hall, ornate home of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and many others.
- There’s a not a lot of accommodation here, but the Angad and Element are 2 of the city’s most enticing boutique hotels.
- It’s not far from Downtown; take a bus or Metro Link train to the Grand station. There’s also ample parking for visitors who prefer to drive.
- Best Hotels: Angad Arts • Element Midtown
- Best Cheap/Midrange Hotel: Grand Center Inn
Welcome to the Central West End, one of the city’s most appealing (and safe) neighborhoods. It’s a pleasure to stroll its tree-lined streets (especially the main drag Euclid Avenue), admiring the historic architecture, trendy shops, and bars, though there are no major sights apart from the Romanesque-Byzantine Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. Completed in 1914, this is a truly spectacular church, with a lavish interior containing the world’s largest collection of mosaic art. Chess aficionados will want to check out the World Chess Hall of Fame, which boasts the world’s largest chess piece (14ft tall). The neighborhood also plays host to the city’s biggest Halloween party every year. Another major plus of staying here: the greenery and attractions of Forest Park are a short walk away.
- There’s a smattering of hotels (and rentals) here, including one of the best (Chase Park Plaza), and the neighborhood is also an easy ride from Downtown via the MetroLink light rail.
- Best Hotels: AC Hotel West End • Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta • Kasa Central West End
- Best Cheap/Midrange Hotels: Aloft Cortex • Central West End Bed & Breakfast • Home2 Suites Forest Park
4. Forest Park
Covering some 1,300 acres at the heart of the St Louis metro area, Forest Park is a vast oasis of trees, meadows, ponds, and playgrounds, though it’s best known for its world-class museums which are all free. Kids will enjoy the Saint Louis Zoo and the St Louis Science Center on its southeastern edge. Otherwise, the Missouri History Museum, built in 1914 with proceeds from the 1904 World’s Fair, and the grand Beaux Arts-style Saint Louis Art Museum are a must-see, the latter home to the world’s largest public collection of works by German Expressionist Max Beckmann.
- There are no hotels in the park itself, but there are several within short walks of it.
- The Forest Park-DeBaliviere MetroLink station is a short stroll from the park’s main entrance and the Missouri History Museum.
- Best Midrange Hotels: Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta • Kasa Forest Park • Hampton Inn & Suites Forest Park • Cheshire
Just south of Downtown St Louis, red-brick Soulard is a primarily historic residential neighborhood that attracts visitors for 2 reasons. First, it’s one of the best places for live music in the city (especially blues and jazz), with several pubs, bars, and live venues scattered throughout, culminating with the Anheuser-Busch St. Louis Brewery itself, home to a beer garden and a museum. Tour the 19th-century factory to see its beloved Clydesdale horses. The second draw is the venerable Soulard Farmers Market, which has been in business since 1779 and is a wonderful spot to shop for fresh fruit and foodie gifts. Soulard also houses the city’s oldest church (Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church) and several “haunted” houses including Hammerstone’s restaurant (in a building dating back to 1884) and The Darkness Haunted House. Finally, Soulard is host to the third largest Mardi Gras Festival in the world, usually kicking off on January 6.
- Other than apartment rentals, there is not much accommodation here, and it’s best to visit from Downtown or elsewhere in the city. One exception is the excellent Dwell Nine Twelve private apartment bed and breakfast in nearby LaSalle Park.
The Delmar Loop is popularly known as one of the city’s best entertainment districts, a 6-block strip of Delmar Boulevard just northwest of Forest Park. It’s especially popular with students from nearby Washington University, but there’s not much to see in the way of sights – this is primarily a place to shop, eat, and drink. Check out the legendary Blueberry Hill, haunt of the late Chuck Berry and many other stars of blue and rock, and sample the delectable sweets at Sugar Momma’s Traditional Treats. Also here are Planet Walk, where scale models of the solar system are set apart from a sun plaque embedded in the sidewalk, and the St Louis Walk of Fame, which honors over 150 of the city’s most famous citizens with a brass star. There are quite a few: Maya Angelou, Josephine Baker, Yogi Berra, Chuck Berry, Miles Davis, TS Eliot, Scott Joplin, Kevin Kline, Nelly, Joseph Pulitzer, Tina Turner, and many others. Other than the exceptional Moonrise Hotel, there’s nowhere to stay on the Loop itself. Hence, we’ve included hotels in nearby Clayton (a 7-minute drive away).
- The Loop Trolley ($2–5) runs along Delmar Blvd and continues to DeBaliviere Ave for easy access to Forest Park.
- MetroLink trains zip between Downtown and Delmar Loop Station, though parking along the street usually isn’t a problem.
- Best Hotels: Hampton Inn and Suites Clayton • Le Méridien Clayton • Moonrise Hotel • Ritz-Carlton • Seven Gables Inn