Richmond is a city with one foot in the past and the other firmly planted in the future. For every plaque commemorating Patrick Henry’s speech demanding “give me liberty or give me death” (given at Richmond’s St. John’s Church), there’s an innovative craft brewery or tech startup working to put this 400-year-old region on the map.
From Civil War artifacts to drag bars to cozy little shops where you can still be actual books, Richmond is a delightful exercise in contradiction.
Book a Room
The Jefferson Hotel opened in 1895, the brainchild of tobacco baron Lewis Ginter and renowned architecture firm Carrère and Hastings, the same firm behind masterpieces like the New York Public Library and both the House and Senate Office Buildings in D.C. Rooms are luxuriously appointed, there’s a full slate of amenities, and you’re a short walk from the Museum District.
Aptly named, Quirk Hotel is full of memorable touches like an in-house gallery featuring local artists and beds made from floor joists salvaged during the building’s renovation. The Berkeley Hotel eschews whimsy in favor of tradition; the warm wood furnishings and elegant décor inside mesh well with the cobblestone streets running through the surrounding Shockoe Slip.
Dine & Drink
Start your day at the hugely popular Perly’s, a Jewish restaurant and deli offering affordable and thoroughly delicious versions of old-school favorites like chopped chicken liver alongside wink-wink dishes like the Benny Goodman, a take on eggs benedict using dill hollandaise and potato latkes.
For a grab-and-go breakfast or snack, check out Sugar & Twine. They get their espresso from local Roastology Coffee and handmade pastries—made daily, of course—include both dairy- and gluten-free options. Try the Fontina & Thyme Croissant or the Brown Butter Blackberry Muffin. 821 Café serves breakfast til 4pm, so you can indulge in a loaded Baked Potato Omelet or jump straight to plant-based lunch options like the Vegan Caesar or Grummus Wrap.
Venture into Saison and discover a fascinating mix of Central American and Southern cuisine. Seating is a simple wooden-table-and-four-chairs affair, and the artwork is similarly bare bones yet pleasant, deftly keeping the focus on dishes like Oxtail Sopes and Coconut Rice Congee. The drink menu is seasonally inspired and impressive; choose your beverage based on ingredients or a trio of descriptors ranging from “crisp/bright/eternal” to “bitter/juicy/ominous.”
Richmond has a booming craft beer and cocktail scene and there is no shortage of places to sample the local offerings. In terms of sheer variety, it’s hard to beat the 100+ craft brews at Mekong, and their strictly Vietnamese menu only elevates the experience. The beer garden—complete with bocce, corn hole, and live music—at Hardywood is a social butterfly’s dream come true, while cocktails and ambience get wild at L’Opossum, where you can dig into a caviar-studded edible Fabergé egg and wash it down with bawdy beverages like Shiny Blue Ball or French Tickler.
See the Sights
The 100-acre Maymont estate includes a Gilded Age mansion, once a private home and now a coveted event venue, with nature-steeped attractions including a Japanese Garden, an arboretum bursting with over 200 botanical species, a children’s farm, and a collection of vintage carriages.
Muddle through a rainy day with a visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; rotating exhibits including fascinating collections of masks from the Congo and examples of Native American art, and the permanent collection encompasses more than 35,000 works of art from all over the world. For something completely different, check out the Edgar Allen Poe Museum. Poe lived in Richmond for a number of years, and now there’s a museum displaying all kinds of Poe artifacts, including everything from manuscripts to a pair of his socks.
The Shockoe Slip Historic District dates back to the 1600s, when it served as a trading post. In its current iteration, Shockoe is a charming spot where you can take a canal boat ride, see a Broadway show, or check out The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar,
Hollywood Cemetery is a burial ground that doubles as an outdoor museum. Visit the final resting places of Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler or pay your respects at the Monument to the Confederate War Dead, a 90-foot pyramid built in honor of the 18,000 Confederate soldiers laid to rest in the cemetery.
Stop & Shop
Quaint to the point of picturesque, Carytown is a commercial district packed with places to work, live, eat, and shop. Beasties is a stellar place for all kinds of unique gifts, and the culturally diverse and socially conscious offerings at AlterNatives are second-to-none.
Shop for one-of-a-kind denim at Shockoe Atelier; jeans are sewn in the on-site workshop and come with a lifetime guarantee. If it’s top-of-the-line ingredients you’re after, you can’t go wrong with the 17th Street Farmers Market and Belmont Butchery.
What to Know Before You Go
- The Best Way to Travel: Richmond’s central location means it’s a mere half-day drive from roughly half the U.S. population, but if you’re not into a road trip, you can fly into Richmond International Airport, which is just 7 miles from downtown Richmond.
- When to Go: Expect hot, humid summers and cold, snow winters in Richmond; for milder conditions, book your trip in spring or fall.
- Local Currency: USD
- Native Language: English
- How to Get Around: Rent a car to hit the best of both urban and countryside attractions. If you’re staying in the city, taxis, rideshare services, and the GRTC bus system are all good options. There’s a healthy bike culture as well.
- Plan To: Keep your eyes peeled for street art. The Richmond Mural Project brings in dozens of international artists to create public works across the city.
- Here’s a Hint: Get your daily dose of weird via rat basketball. It’s a Richmond thing.