St. Paul, the Silver City. The Last City of the East. Hockeytown. Minnesota’s capitol has a storied past, and much of the beautiful, historic architecture still stands to help tell that story. Though St. Paul was, as recently as the last decade, considered “dead,” the city has experienced a recent revitalization; a change so drastic it could be called a renaissance. Life has returned to the streets all across the city, and perhaps most noticeably, to the city’s downtown core. Starting there, St. Paul’s “all roads lead to downtown” design makes for a walkable city core surrounded by fascinating neighborhoods. Here is a guide for anyone looking to spend time in one of the most beautiful cities in the country.
Here is the map of St. Paul neighborhoods for a visual on how they relate to, and are connected with, one another.
Downtown St. Paul
Downtown should be the epicenter of any city, and St. Paul has seen a revival that has turned quiet streets into those any downtown would be envious of. The prerequisite skyscrapers tower over bustling streets, and there is no shortage of dining, shopping and entertainment options. The Ordway Center for Performing Arts is one of the finest theaters, showing everything from Broadway musicals to orchestras. Before the show, dinner at award-winning French restaurant Meritage recalls the quiet bistros of Paris. Looking to do some shopping? Heimie’s Haberdashery has anything a man could want, and Details Boutique takes care of the ladies. You could spend a day at one of the many museums, from the Minnesota Children’s Museum to the Science Museum of Minnesota, or the History Center just up the street. Or watch the Minnesota Wild NHL team play at the Xcel Energy Center.
Lowertown is St. Paul’s arts district adjoining downtown and could be described as the catalyst for St. Paul’s recent renaissance. The influx of artists into this cluster of century-old warehouses has created one of the most vibrant arts scenes in the country, which has in turn led to a lively nightlife with restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges to suit any mood. Barrio Tequila Bar is the spot for weekend dancing, as well as one of the largest selections of tequila in the country. Bulldog has an awe-inspiring beer list, and Heartland Restaurant and Farm Direct Market has everything from four-star dining to craft cocktails in its elegant space. Then there is the renovated Union Depot, a stunning transit hub that also hosts cultural events. Or how about a year-round farmers market? And don’t forget about beautiful Mears Park, complete with a stream running through the middle, in which to relax.
Payne-Phalen is just northeast, touching the border of downtown St. Paul. The neighborhood has also seen new life recently, with new restaurants like the fan-favorite Ward 6 and the Korean-infused American diner Cook. This area also features plenty of shopping, ethnic groceries and plenty more on the main artery, Payne Avenue. The Hamm’s Brewery on Minnehaha renewal has brought Flat Earth Brewing Company, Urban Organics organic aquaponics and 11 Wells Distillery. A stroll along Phalen Boulevard offers greenery and park-like serenity, while Payne Avenue gives you the hustle and bustle of Main Street.
Related: Best Neighborhood Gems: St. Paul
You won’t find better views of the downtown skyline than from Dayton’s Bluff, the historic district located, surprise, on the bluffs overlooking the city’s beginnings in Lowertown. Some of the city’s most beautiful houses are located in this neighborhood, and while it has struggled in recent years with crime and foreclosures, it has, like the rest of the city, seen growth and progress in the last couple of years that has brought life back to the streets. Historic Mounds Park features Native American burial mounds preserved in a peaceful park, complete with walking paths, endless green space and, of course, those fantastic views that reach all the way to downtown Minneapolis. One of the best restaurants in the city is also located in Dayton’s Bluff, The Strip Club Meat and Fish, so you won’t be lacking in dinner options after a scenic stroll.
District del Sol (West Side)
Directly across the river from downtown St. Paul, District Del Sol, also known as the West Side, is the city’s Latin district and the culture, music, dining and all around fun to be found in this neighborhood is second to none. The country’s finest Cinco de Mayo celebration takes place here every year, and shops, restaurants and incredible murals make for a bustling street scene. While there are plenty of authentic restaurants in the neighborhood, if you can only make it to one, head to El Burrito Mercado which anchors the area on Cesar Chavez Street. The colorful complex features full grocery and deli, takeout as well as a sit-down restaurant and amazing margaritas at the bar in the back, making for a vacation to Mexico without having to leave the state.
Adrian Schramm is a resident Saint Paul writer with a passion for all things local. Through his work with Saint Paul Almanac and Minneapolis Examiner at Examiner.com, as well as in the kitchens of bars and restaurants around town, he has discovered what truly makes the Twin Cities tick.