From its beginnings as a trading post for early settlers to the thriving economic center it is today, Richmond has grown into a city with a rich history, diverse culture and gracious hospitality. Tree-lined streets and quaint bricked walkways invite locals and visitors to explore this easily manageable city. Stroll along the river that brought Captain John Smith to this area, walk in the footsteps of patriots like Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson and see the Capitol building which once flew the flag of the Confederate States of America.
A charming blend of old and new, Richmond's city center is made up of commercial, residential and government buildings.
Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom
Originally part of Richmond's commercial district, this newly renovated part of town is the hot spot for trendy restaurants and lively entertainment. Its location along the river, cobblestone streets lit with gaslamps and old warehouses converted into shops make it a great place for an evening stroll. The quaint
This historic section of town is nicknamed “the Harlem of the South” because of the many legendary African-American performers who got their start here—among them
Richmond's first suburb is so named because the streets fan out from Monroe Park creating wide lots and avenues, which are lined with stately homes. Several types of architecture are represented here including Queen Anne, Tudor, Spanish and what is believed to be the largest collection of Victorian buildings in the country.
Along the west end of Cary Street is Richmond's version of New York's Greenwich Village or Washington DC's Georgetown. Boutiques, cafes and ethnic restaurants line the streets where some of the city's best people-watching can be done. Everything from used bookstores and antique shops to specialty food stores and art galleries have been established in this former residential neighborhood making it a perfect place for a Saturday afternoon stroll. For those who need a break from all the shopping, coffeehouses are in abundance – more per square mile than anywhere east of Seattle. For something more substantial, restaurants range from casual eateries like Carytown Burgers and Fries to fine dining at
Richmond's location in the center of Virginia provides easy access to other areas of interest as well. Washington DC is only 90 minutes to the north and a drive to the east leads to the resort town of Virginia Beach and
With its long history and political and economic prominence, Richmond has always been a city with much to offer in the way of accommodation. Grand Old South hotels in the downtown area have made room for newer modern lodgings that fit every price range. Charming bed-and-breakfast inns offer the comforts of home with genteel southern hospitality.
The epitome of gracious accommodations is found at theJefferson Hotel. Its clientèle has included several US presidents and notable personalities such as Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford. The 1895 Beaux Arts hotel is adorned with Persian carpets, Tiffany glass windows and a sweeping grand staircase. Equally regal, although much newer, is the elegant Berkeley Hotellocated in the heart of historic Shockoe Slip. In this renovated warehouse district are several of the larger hotels that cater to business and convention travelers as well as tourists. They include the Richmond Marriott, Omni Richmond and the Crowne Plaza hotel. The charming Linden Row Inn consists of seven antebellum townhouses with many original furnishings inside.
This classic residential neighborhood, with its collection of stylish homes, is a wonderful place to stay, especially for a romantic weekend getaway. Two lovely bed-and-breakfast inns offer comfortable accommodations with the convenience of being close to dining, shopping and historic sites. The Summerhouse is a Greek Revival home built in 1909 and the Emmanuel Hutzler House dates back to 1914. Both are located on tree-lined Monument Avenue.
Certainly one of Richmond's, and the country's, most significant events took place at St. John's Church for which this area of town is named. Mr. Patrick Henry's Inn honors the man who declared in 1775 that he would give his life for freedom. The colonial-style hotel has an award-winning tavern on the first floor and antique-filled guest rooms upstairs. Nearby is the William Catlin Bed & Breakfast, a quiet retreat not too far from the entertainment of Shockoe Bottom and downtown.
Richmond North and West
A little further out, convenient to the University of Richmond and larger corporations, are several hotels with familiar names and a variety of price ranges. They include the Hyatt Richmond, the Days Inn-Richmond and Courtyard by Marriott. Many cater to the busy traveler and are equipped with business center, fitness facilities and restaurants.
Whether for business or pleasure, luxury or budget, Richmond visitors will be welcomed with the hospitality of the Old South and the conveniences of the 21st century.
With the opening of its first theater in 1786, Richmond has always put a great emphasis on the cultural arts. A busy calendar of theater, music and festivals has made the downtown area a popular spot to spend an evening. The renovated Shockoe Bottom area is the hub of clubs and a variety of music, and Carytown is a lively neighborhood for strolling and window-shopping after dinner. The Parks, Recreation and Community department operates many city-funded activities throughout the year including outdoor concerts and festivals.
Cinema & Theater
The Landmark Theater is the place to see big shows in Richmond–Broadway musicals, the Richmond Symphony and the annual performance by the Richmond Ballet of the Nutcracker Suite. The 3500-seat venue was designed so that all seats have a good view of the stage. For fans of Shakespeare, the Encore Theater Company performs the bard's classic works outdoors in the Elizabethan Garden at Agecroft Hall. The 15th-century Tudor mansion provides the perfect setting.
The historic Empire Theatre, built in 1910, is home to the Theatre IV company, which performs plays designed especially for children and teenagers. The troupe's year-round program includes both classic plays and new productions. The Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts was built in 1928 as a movie theater and now houses the Virginia Opera. Performances by the Richmond Ballet and Richmond Symphony are also featured. Housed in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Theatre Virginia presents a variety of musicals and plays.
Cinemas can be found throughout the city and suburbs, but for a special movie experience visit the Byrd Theater in Carytown. This magnificent hall shows the latest box-office hits in a glamorous atmosphere of marble, hand-painted murals and chandeliers. On Saturday evenings, an original Wurlitzer organ entertains guests before the movie starts.
Music & Dance
Music from classical to contemporary can be heard in the bars, clubs and concert halls of Richmond. The Richmond Symphony performs throughout the year with a mixed program; some concerts are specifically designed to introduce younger audiences to the classic composers. Among the best ballet companies in the country, the Richmond Ballet performs throughout the state of Virginia and also runs the renowned School of Richmond Ballet, which caters to all levels of dance ability.
The sultry sounds of jazz are perfect for hot summer nights in the South, and Richmond has many places to listen to live musicians. Bogart's Back Room in The Fan district is popular music joint, with jazz and blues every Friday and Saturday evening. Medley's in Shockoe Bottom is famous for its blues bands, which perform throughout the week. For contemporary tunes, see who is playing at The Tobacco Company Club or at the Main Street Grill.
For those who have more energy, dance clubs abound in the downtown area. Kick up your heels to the sounds of rock and roll, country and the South's own beach music at Lightfoot's or the Peppermint Lounge. Most clubs vary themes each night, so check the local paper ahead of time. Club Fahrenheit is the "in" place to be seen, so expect crowds, but go for the fun atmosphere.
Every Friday evening in the summer, the city presents "Fridays at Sunset." This series of jazz concerts has become a favorite way to start off the weekend.
Throughout the year Richmond commemorates its cultural heritage with festivals and events celebrating holidays, seasons and historical events. The Maymont Flower and Garden Show in February is held indoors at the Richmond Centre and features all sorts of plants and garden accessories. It is a great place to get landscaping ideas before spring arrives.
At the River City Real Beer Festival, held in June, vendors pour out samples of brews from around the world. Listen to live music and feast on fresh seafood as well. A summer-long Festival of the Arts is held at the city-run Dogwood Dell. Activities include theater and dance performances, music programs from reggae to pop and the Ha'Penny Stage for children.
Virginia is horse country and one of the best ways to celebrate that is at the Strawberry Hill Races. The steeplechase event takes place in April and proceeds benefit the Richmond Symphony and other community and cultural organizations. It is generally an all-day affair with visitors bringing picnics and enjoying the entertainment.
The traditional start to the harvest season is the State Fair and Virginia's is held here in the state capital. Livestock shows, cooking competitions, an arts and crafts market, live entertainment and food make the event fun for everyone. The Virginia Harvest Celebration at the Farmers Market focuses on produce and southern cooking with demonstrations by local chefs.
Although relatively small, Richmond is a city with a wide variety of activities to appeal to its diverse population. For specific information, pick up a copy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch or Punchline Weekly.
With its colonial and Civil War history and modern-day museums and parks, Richmond is a city with much to offer the visitor. Many sections are easily walkable, but a car is necessary to reach some of the outlying areas. The city and surrounding area is easy to navigate and most attractions are well-marked. The Historic Downtown Richmond Ticket is a great deal for those who wish to visit several places of interest. They are available at many museums and visitors centers.
Tour One: Downtown Richmond
Begin at Capitol Square with the magnificent Virginia State Capitol, the oldest legislative house in the Western Hemisphere. In the enclosed park is the Executive Mansion, home to the Governor of Virginia and the Old Bell Tower which houses a tourist center where information on Richmond and Virginia can be obtained. The Old City Hall with its Victorian-Gothic exterior, is located at the northern entrance to the square.
One block up is Broad St. Turn right and then left on 13th St. to visit the Museum and White House of the Confederacy. A block west from here is the Valentine Museum with exhibits on the almost 400-year-old history of Richmond. The nearby John Marshall House–at 8th and Marshall Sts. has been restored to its original condition and contains memorabilia from the great Chief Justice who lived here until 1835. Head south on 8th St. to the corner of Grace St. to visit St. Paul's Episcopal Church, where Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, and Robert E. Lee, worshipped. Shockoe Slip - a restored warehouse district – is not far if a stop for a bite to eat or a little shopping is in order.
Tour Two: Church Hill and Eastern Richmond
Perhaps the most famous landmark in this area is St. John's Church where Patrick Henry delivered his famous line, "...give me liberty or give me death...," declaring his commitment to the cause of freedom from Great Britain. Eight blocks east of the church is one of the Richmond National Battlefield Park visitor centers. Housed in what was originally the Chimborazo Hospital for Confederate soldiers, it now contains exhibits, a bookstore and a film on the history of the battles around Richmond. Loop back towards downtown and make a stop at the Farmers Market – one of the oldest in the country dating back to 1740.
Tour Three: West Richmond
Jackson Ward, a thriving African-American community since the Civil War, is a good place for a walking tour. The neighborhood has the largest collection of castiron work outside of New Orleans. Be sure to visit the Maggie L. Walker residence, home of the first female bank owner, and the statue honoring Bill Bojangles Robinson. The Hippodrome Theater was host to many renowned performers from Jackson Ward including Lena Horne and Billie Holiday. Take Monument Avenue west, passing by the statues for which the street is named. Five Civil War heroes and local tennis legend, Arthur Ashe, are memorialized here. Carytown, with shops and restaurants, is not far away. Just take Malvern Avenue south to Cary Street.
Tour Four: Richmond Riverfront
Along the James River are two lovely homes: Victorian Maymont with its beautiful gardens and wildlife park, and the Tudor-style Agecroft Hall, built in 15th-century England and shipped across the Atlantic. Both houses have magnificent views of the river. Nearby is Hollywood Cemetery, final resting place of many historic figures including two presidents of the United States: James Monroe and John Tyler. Jefferson Davis, the only President of the Confederate States, is buried here along with one of his generals, J.E.B. Stuart and 1800 soldiers.
Tour Five: Colonial Heritage
Traveling southeast from Richmond, along the James River, are several 18th-century plantation homes open to the public. Among them are Evelynton, Berkeley, Sherwood Forest and Shirley Plantation. The plantation road leads directly into Colonial Williamsburg, the restored original capital of Virginia. Costumed guides lend an air of authenticity as visitors step back in time to the late 1700s. Jamestown is nearby with its replica of the fort that was built here in 1607 when the first settlers arrived in North America. Yorktown, site of the Revolutionary War victory, is also worth a visit.
If you would rather go with a guide, Historic Richmond Tours offers basic downtown tours as well as themed tours, which take in the battlefield, Hollywood Cemetery or the Church Hill district. Living History Associates lead walking tours with costumed guides and are also available for private tours.