St. Louis experienced a population boom during the late 1800s when German and Italian immigrants settled in large numbers, and thanks to the work of several visionary thinkers, the city became home to the first concrete stadium (Francis Field at Washington University), the first skyscraper (the
This area offers most visitors their first impression of the city, greeting them with its signature
This old, well-established neighborhood is situated south of Downtown. Here you will find a fine selection of jazz and blues clubs as well as the gargantuan outdoor
A large Asian community resides in the South Grand area, offering a tantalizing selection of Asian restaurants, like
Settled by Italian immigrants in the late 1800s, this area still offers some of the best traditional Italian fare this side of the Atlantic.
Central West End
The heart of the Central West End is
The largely restored
The Loop (University City)
Called "The Loop" by locals,
The quaint historic town of
St. Louis, which began experiencing an influx of immigrants from Europe in the mid-1800s, offers a variety of fine ethnic fare, including some of the best traditional Italian cuisine on this side of the Atlantic. While St. Louis may not be as widely known for its restaurants as some other American cities, it contains a wealth of good eating options—from elegant to casual—for the hungry traveler to discover.
Downtown St. Louis offers an exciting and eclectic mix of dining choices. If you're in the mood for French fare, head for the elegant, yet comfortable ambience of Cafe de France. This is the kind of place you'd expect to see more of in a city named after a French king. Faust's serves inventively prepared wild boar and venison as well as a fabulous Sunday brunch. For a breathtaking view of downtown St. Louis you can't beat Harry's Restaurant & Bar, a favorite stop for business professionals.
The Loop (University City)
Brandt's Market & Cafe is known for its gourmet food and fine selection of wine and beer. Cicero's specializes in traditional Italian cuisine, and also has a popular bar and game area. Riddles' Penultimate Cafe & Wine Bar is a bistro-style restaurant with a warm, inviting interior. The menu at Vietnam Star is long and impressive, and contains many dishes from the country, many of which are also vegetarian. For something unique, stop into the Red Sea, where plates are brought to the table sans utensils. Shu Feng fuses Chinese and Korean to form inventive creations that appeal to many diners.
The neighborhood known as "The Hill" is the place where baseball legend Joe Garagiola grew up (right down the street from Yogi Berra), and it is still largely populated by descendants of the Italian immigrants who began settling in St. Louis in 1857. The lawns are well-manicured, the community is close-knit and the food is world class. Cruise through this area in the southwest quadrant of St. Louis and you'll find fine formal dining and mom-and-pop eateries with red-checkered tablecloths. St. Louisans celebrate special occasions with the elegant Northern Italian cuisine at Dominic's. Crowds flock to Gian-Peppe's for arguably the most delicious Marsala sauce in town. LoRusso's Cucina regales diners with seafood pasta specialties, while patrons often wait one or two hours for dinner at Cunetto House of Pasta.
St. Louis stood as a gateway to the west long before the famed St. Louis Arch was erected, before Six Flags flew over St. Louis and before Anheuser-Busch brewed its first beer. French explorers Marquette and Joliet discovered the mouth of the Missouri River in 1673; St. Louis was founded as a fur trading post nearly 100 years later, in 1764, by Pierre Laclede and René Auguste Choutou, who named the town after France's King Louis IX.
However, St. Louis' history actually began long before the 18th century. Historians think Native Americans built earthen dwellings here in 400 BC and may have roamed this area more than 1,000 years before that. While Europe was in the Middle Ages, this rich culture vanished for reasons that still elude historians.
Founded in 1779, Soulard Farmers' Market continues to operate today as the oldest continually running farmers' market west of the Mississippi River. Ulysses S. Grant, who later became the 18th president of the U.S., once peddled goods there.
By 1804, St. Louis was the hub of the American fur trade and had become the starting point for Lewis and Clark's explorations of the Louisiana Territory. Ever a river city, St. Louis saw its first steamboat on the mighty Mississippi River in 1817 and, due to its central location, has since continued to grow as a transportation hub. The city experienced a population boom beginning in 1857 when the railroad arrived, bringing Irish, German and Italian immigrants with it. The Italian Hill, the German-populated South Side and the Jewish-populated community in Mid-County offer just a sampling of the ethnic diversity of St. Louis. (The Hill still serves up some of the best traditional Italian cuisine this side of the Atlantic.)
In 1850, St. Louis witnessed a landmark trial that had repercussions across the nation. In what is now known as the Old Courthouse, a slave named Dred Scott was given his freedom. However, the original ruling was overturned in both the Missouri and United States Supreme Courts in what is known as the Dred Scott Decision. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Missouri sided with the Union; however, the state remained divided between slave owners and abolitionists.
Forest Park, founded in 1876, continues to be visited by millions annually. In addition to the world-class St. Louis Zoo, the park boasts 38 tennis courts, 20 baseball fields, a skating rink, two free golf courses, a cricket field and even a croquet course. The park began its ambitious development phase in 1911 when Dwight Davis (for whom tennis' Davis Cup is named) took over as park commissioner.
More than 100 years ago, the St. Louis Union Station was built and at one time served more than 250 trains a day. Now the huge structure, with its gothic clock tower, houses a popular mall filled with stores and eateries.
St. Louis is home to the world's first skyscraper—the Wainwright Building, built in 1891— and the first concrete stadium in the country, Washington University's Francis Field, constructed for the 1904 Olympic Games. 1904 was also the year St. Louis hosted the World's Fair, immortalized by Judy Garland's rendition of "Meet Me in St. Louis" from the 1944 film of the same name. The fair brought worldwide attention to St. Louis for several months and gave many fairgoers their first tastes of hot dogs and ice cream cones. However, the event cost the city $50 million to stage, and while composer and ragtime popularizer Scott Joplin had people humming a lively tune, construction and development would come to a near standstill in St. Louis for more than a decade. People who had moved to the city for jobs at the fair eventually found themselves out of work as the economy continued to suffer.
The folks of St. Louis did get a boost in pride in 1926 when baseball's St. Louis Cardinals won the first of their nine World Series titles. (You can still watch the Cardinals play at Busch Stadium, for as little as USD7.) A year later, Charles Lindbergh's non-stop transatlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis gave the city an additional self-esteem lift.
Still, there were hard times during the Great Depression, although St. Louis fared better than many other cities because, then as now, its economy did not rely on any single industry. After World War II, St. Louis became a leader in airplane and automobile production, and Boeing and Chrysler remain two of the city's largest employers.
The famed Route 66, which gained popularity in the 1940s and 50s as it enticed motorists to drive cross-country, runs through "St. Louie." To get a feel for the charm that used to line America's dream drive, check out Ted Drewes Frozen Custard Stand. Lines are long, but the legendary thick, rich ice cream tastes as good today as it did to weary travelers mid-century. The 1950s also brought rock 'n' roll and the explosion of St. Louis native Chuck Berry onto the national scene. Berry still performs at Blueberry Hill every month or so, although shows sell out quickly.
The 630-foot Gateway Arch, perhaps the city's most identifiable icon, was completed in 1965 as a memorial to the great westward expeditions launched from here, including that of Lewis and Clark.
Underneath the city of St. Louis lies a series of connected, meandering caves, thought to be the largest concentration of natural caves in any city on the planet. Now sealed off, these caves once provided a haven and a secret passageway for fugitives, Native Americans and beer brewers. Meramec Caverns, 60 miles form St. Louis, still allows visitors to tour some of the caves and take a peek into Jesse James' infamous escape route and hideaway.
St. Louis itself is much like the caves hidden beneath its pavement: Unassuming at first glance, it still awaits discovery, offering world-class restaurants, top-notch professional sports, a rich musical heritage and a friendly people who still welcome explorers.
Numerous explorers from days past, including the famed duo of Lewis and Clark, launched westward expeditions from the shores of this gateway city. Years later, St. Louis remains a great place to stage a touring excursion, whether you are a history buff, an Americana scholar, an art and architecture lover, a beer connoisseur or an outdoors enthusiast.
Old Courthouse Downtown St. Louis offers a variety of historic sites, such as the Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott slavery trial was held, the Wainwright Building, which was the precursor to the modern skyscraper, and the splendid Old Cathedral. There are many places to enjoy lunch. Try the Broadway Oyster Bar, then climb the Gateway Arch, which offers breathtaking views of the city.
Fox Theatre Tour the historic Fox Theatre, which was built in 1929, then catch a performance by the St. Louis African Chorus or visit the Powell Symphony Hall, home to the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Walk around the Grand Center entertainment district, and have lunch at Arcelia's.
St. Louis Walk of Fame Explore the St. Louis Walk of Fame, located in the University City Loop, which takes tourists along a number of eclectic shops, stores and restaurants, like Brandt's Market & Cafe. While you're reading the sidewalk, keep a lookout for Blueberry Hill and the Tivoli Theater, both famous destinations for visitors.
Missouri History Museum Explore Forest Park, which takes bikers past the zoo. Hike the scenic Compton Hill Reservoir Park. Located near the Holy Corners District, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis contains the largest mosaic in the world, and the Missouri History Museum contains artifacts from the area's past.
St. Charles Enjoy breakfast downtown at Edible Difference, then head to Historic St. Charles, located just outside St. Louis proper. The Frenchtown Historic District is home to nearly 60 historic buildings that were built between 1830 and 1920. In downtown St. Charles are the restored First Missouri State Capitol and the Foundry Art Centre.
There are many different ways to see St. Louis, from hiking to helicopters.
Walking Tours St. Louis Walking Tours ( +1 314 368 8818/ http://www.triunecommunications.com/walk/ )
Bus Tours Tour St. Louis ( +1 314 241 1400/ http://www.tourstlouis.net/ ) Monticello Bus Service Inc ( +1 314 454 0448 ) Mid-American Coaches and Tours ( +1 636 239 4700/ http://www.mid-americancoaches.com ) Greater St. Louis Black Tourism Network ( +1 314 865 0708 )
Trolley Tours Tour St. Louis ( +1 314 241 1400/ http://www.tourstlouis.net/ ) Bluff City Tours ( +1 618 466 8693/ http://www.bluffcitytours.com/ )
Bike Tours City Cycling Tours ( +1 314 616 5724/ http://citycyclingtours.com/ ) Bike and Roll ( +1 202 842 BIKE/http://www.bikeandroll.com/ ) Touring Cyclist ( +1 314 739 4648/ http://www.touringcyclist.com/ )
Boat Tours Gateway Arch Riverboat Cruises ( +1 877 982 1410/ http://www.gatewayarch.com/ ) Great Rivers Tour Boat Company ( +1 618 786 1855/ http://www.greatriverstourboat.com )
Helicopter Tours Midwest Helicopter Tours ( +1 636 532 5613/ http://www.flymidwest.com/ )
Segway Tours Glide St. Louis ( +1 314 868 7386/ http://www.glidestlouistours.com/ )
Brewery Tours Anheuser-Busch Brewery ( +1 314 577 2626/ http://www.budweisertours.com/ )
Sports Tours Big League Tours ( +1 866 619 1748/ http://www.bigleaguetours.com )
Ghost Torus Ghostride Tours ( +1 314 845 0522/ http://www.ghostridetours.com/ )