Detroit wasn’t in the best shape ten or fifteen years ago, but things are slowly changing, and the city is beginning to glow again.
Full of historical buildings and interesting museums, with a lot of restaurants and a beautiful Riverfront, the city is increasing its number of visitors on a daily basis. We’ll show you why you should visit in our comprehensive guide below.
Why You Should Visit Detroit in 2023
After hitting a rough patch that lasted for almost half a century, Detroit is having a real-life renaissance. First, it was named the first-ever “City of Design” by UNESCO in 2015, and a few years later, in 2022, as one of the fifty greatest places to explore in the world.
These two titles, among other things, gave the city much-needed publicity after having economic problems at the beginning of the millennium.
Detroit is an old city, founded at the beginning of the 18th century. During the 19th and 20th centuries, it was one of the biggest cities in the USA — after New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia — thanks to the busy industry and the mighty Detroit River.
Its strongest side was the automobile industry, and there are some museums in the city that paint that part of the historical canvas. Thanks to its long and rich history, Detroit is swarmed with historical buildings.
Visitors who love architecture, especially Federal, Art Deco, or neo-Victorian architecture, have much to see. For example, the Downtown and Midtown districts are home to the Guardian Building, the Fisher Building, the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, and the Masonic Temple.
In close relation to that are the museums, again located in Downtown and Midtown. From science to art and the history of the city, closely intertwined with Afro-American history, you’ll gain substantial insight into Detroit’s troubled past.
Finally — and we can’t leave that question unanswered — everybody is wondering: is Detroit a safe city to visit? The important thing you have to remember is to stay in the Downtown or the Riverfront area.
Those parts of Detroit are not only completely safe but also very family-friendly, relaxing, and pleasant.
The 3 Best Parts of Detroit
Most of the fun in Detroit happens around Downtown. Almost nothing of interest happens outside of it, and frankly speaking, the neighborhoods that are further away from the center are still not completely safe.
We presented three relevant options in this guide, but the best advice we can give is to entrench yourself Downtown and use the great public transport to check out the other districts.
- Downtown: Located near the Riverfront, it’s the busiest part of the city with the most accommodation options, a lot of parks, and great restaurants.
- Midtown: The historic district of Detroit with the largest number of historical buildings and museums but scant accommodation options.
- Corktown: A family-friendly, relaxing, and calm area located to the west of Downtown with a lot of pubs due to its rich Irish heritage.
The Best Areas & Hotels in Detroit
Thanks to the renovations and the revitalizations it has undergone, Detroit is receiving more and more tourists every year. According to 2022 statistics, we are talking about no less than 16 million visitors a year.
That being said, the city has a long way to go since the accommodation options are far from great. The only area where you can find a budget, mid-range, or luxurious hotel is in Downtown.
Only here we are talking about Detroit, the tourist hub. As soon as you leave the utmost center of the city, accommodation becomes scarce.
Midtown is next on the list, but as we said, the situation is far from satisfactory, and in Corktown, even less so. That’s why the only real advice we can give you is to stick to Downtown and use the great public transport of Detroit and visit the other areas.
The city of Detroit has had its fair share of troubles in the last 20 years, but the renovating process is nearly finished, and the city is good to go.
That especially holds for the downtown area: in the past — much like Baltimore’s downtown — it wasn’t the safest and nicest place in the world, but today it’s enjoying a lively renaissance.
Here you can feel the true atmosphere of the city, experience its vibe, and get to see the historical buildings that give Detroit its specific flair.
The first thing you should do is to get yourself a pair of very comfortable sneakers since most of your time in Detroit’s Downtown will be spent walking around. Go near the Detroit River and see the monument to the legendary boxer Joe Louis, aptly named “The Fist.”
While you’re there, visit the wide Hart Plaza: it’s the place where the magic happens, like the famous jazz fest or any other major happenings and events. But the most beautiful thing is definitely the Guardian Building.
Some of the most interesting museums in Detroit are also scattered around the center. If you’re into animation, there’s Lighthouse ArtSpace Detroit. Then, there’s the Detroit Museum of Natural History, located right next to the Detroit River.
Finally, you’ll need some rest after all that sightseeing. Luckily for you, the center is full of parks where you can relax and enjoy nature.
Grand Circus Park is also a major tourist attraction, full of activities and statues; Campus Martius Park is a combination between a park and a square.
Lastly, if you’re traveling with an animal companion, the Spirit of Detroit Plaza and Beacon Park are dog-friendly. Detroit’s downtown is very tourist-friendly and full of different kinds of accommodation.
Regardless of what you’re looking for — budget, mid-range, or luxury — you’ll find it. The same holds for the restaurants, especially along Greektown.
Things to Do
- Walk to the waterfront and visit Hart Plaza. They pay homage to Joe Louis.
- Don’t forget to check out the most famous building in Detroit called the Guardian. Built in 1929 and recently renovated, it’s an imposing presence in the city and an important National Historic Landmark.
- If you’re interested in art and especially in live performance, Downtown offers a bunch of places where you can experience different kinds of art and artists.
- There’s The Fillmore Detroit, which is mostly about rap and R&B;
- Quite near it is the famous Detroit Opera House if you’re more into classical music;
- Saint Andrew’s Hall is as historically important as it’s visited.
- If you’re a fan of American football and the NFL, you can go to Ford Field. If, on the other hand, baseball is your cup of tea, go to Comerica Park and watch a game by Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers.
- For foodies, we wholeheartedly recommend visiting Greektown in the center of Detroit. Some of the best restaurants in the city are squeezed into this district. We recommend:
- Wahlburgers — American bar;
- Redsmoke Barbeque;
- Pegasus Taverna — Greek restaurant;
- Golden Fleece Restaurant — Greek and Mediterranean cuisine;
- Astoria Pastry Shop — bakery and sweets.
Where to Eat
- SavannahBlue is a sophisticated restaurant that offers up-to-date soul food in combination with a wide range of cocktail options. A cool, inviting, and relaxing place, it’s both great just to grab a drink and have some appetizers or to have a full lunch or dinner. The wine list is extensive too.
- BESA is an international restaurant inspired by multiple traditions and cuisines, but it mostly tries to bring about the flavors of the Adriatic Sea. BESA’s menu is based on authentic products, including olive oil, cheese, and vegetables from the Mediterranean.
- Ottava Via is one of the best and most authentic Italian restaurants in Detroit. Offering everything from pizza to panini and from pasta to seafood, it also serves them in a refined, antiquated, and warm atmosphere. There are also many vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.
Downtown Budget Hotels
- Rivertown Inn & Suites Downtown Detroit is a very cheap family-owned two-star hotel located in the heart of Detroit’s center. It offers free Wi-Fi, free parking, a 24-hour front desk, a tasty restaurant on the premises, and a fantastic view of the river.
- Comfort Inn Downtown Detroit is another centrally located but very cheap two-star hotel that offers a lot more than a regular place of its type. It has a restaurant, a bar, and a fitness center on the premises, free parking and Wi-Fi, and facilities for disabled guests.
Downtown Mid-Range Hotels
- Atheneum Suite Hotel is a great and not very expensive three-star hotel located just next to the famous Greektown Casino. It offers airport shuttles, and it has a bar, restaurant, and fitness center on the premises. There’s free Wi-Fi and parking, as well as facilities for disabled people.
- Hotel Indigo Detroit Downtown, an IHG Hotel is another centrally located three-star hotel that provides a lot of things at a real mid-range price. For example, it has a bar and a restaurant on the premises (with a great breakfast), as well as a fitness center. It’s a great choice for couples.
Downtown Luxury Hotels
- The Detroit Club is a luxurious and pricy five-star hotel located in close proximity to the TCF Convention Centre, presenting a genuine old-Detroit vibe. It offers a lot: a spa and wellness center, a fitness center, a bar, and a French-oriented restaurant on the premises. It’s particularly suitable for couples.
- The Westin Book Cadillac Detroit is a very luxurious and expensive four-star hotel that has an indoor swimming pool. It also has several restaurants on its premises, a bar, a fitness center, free Wi-Fi, and private parking. Every room in the hotel is equipped with a plasma TV.
Just to the north of the center of the city lies the beautiful neighborhood called Midtown. Usually described as the most walkable part of Detroit, we can also add that it’s the most elegant, safest, and charming part of the city.
There’s a grungy vibe to Midtown too, and don’t be surprised if you hear of it as Michigan’s Berlin. Most of the neighborhood is populated by cultural institutions, commercial business, and religious buildings.
There are more than ten historic districts in Midtown. Without exerting, we can conclude that the most important buildings in Detroit are located here.
We can’t give a full list because it’s going to be far too long, but here’s a rough sketch:
- Cathedral Church of St. Paul
- The Cass Community United Methodist Church
- Detroit Masonic Temple (largest Masonic temple in the world)
- Fisher Building (an Art Deco skyscraper)
- Eddystone Apartments
- The Hamilton Midtown Detroit
As we said earlier, this is just a sketch. The list of important buildings both in Downtown and Midtown exceeds one hundred entries. That’s why we turn our eyes to the second most important thing in the district, the museums.
- Detroit Historical Museum
- Michigan Science Center
- Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
- N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art
- Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
Depending on your preference, concentrate on one or at most two visits a day to fully experience what these institutions have to offer. All of the museums are quite large and have rich collections.
Most importantly, they cover the full picture of what Detroit is: you can learn about the city’s history, science, African-American history, and contemporary art. Midtown is not great when it comes to accommodations.
There are few accommodations scattered all over, the budget or mid-range options are practically non-existent, and the prices are high. That’s why it’s probably more practical to stay in the center and reach Midtown by public transport.
Things to Do
- If you’re a big fan of music, Midtown has two very interesting things for you. The Majestic Theatre is one of the most beautiful and famous concert halls in the city and the right place to be if you want to enjoy a live performance. If you want to take some memorabilia with you, visit the legendary store by The White Stripes’ Jack White called Third Man Records.
- Learning about the hidden story of the marginalized and unearthing the buried history is always the right thing to do, wherever you’re visiting. Detroit’s Midtown gives you no less than two chances to do just that:
- First, there’s the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History;
- Second, there’s the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, where you can see and experience the talent and skill of the repressed.
- If you are more of a science person and interested in mechanics and engineering, Detroit is the right city for you because of the rich history of the automobile industry. In Midtown, you can check the restored 1904 factory Ford Piquette Avenue Plant Museum and check out the place where the Ford Model T was built. Again, for a more theoretical viewpoint and a broader picture, visit the fantastic Michigan Science Center.
Where to Eat
- Selden Standard is a contemporary American restaurant that’s all about small plates and versatile and creative cocktails. The dishes are prepared from scratch, using fresh ingredients provided by local farms. Aside from the cocktails, there’s an interesting choice of wine and brews.
- Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails is another great contemporary restaurant that’s all about sipping wine or cocktails with a friend. It offers a homey atmosphere with botanical decor, dishes prepared with locally-sourced ingredients, and an extensive drink list.
- Bar Pigalle is a great French restaurant specializing in mixology, located in a historical building from the beginning of the century by two partners — one mixologist and one sommelier. If you want to try something different, sophisticated, and fancy, this is the restaurant for you.
Midtown Budget Hotels
- Viking Motel-Detroit is a very cheap two-star hotel located in the southern part of Midtown, bordering the city’s center. It doesn’t offer much aside from the cheap price and the great location, but it has free Wi-Fi, parking, and a 24-hour front desk.
- The Inn at 97 Winder is a two-star hotel located in the far north of the district. It offers free Wi-Fi and parking, and it has a spa and wellness center on the premises, as well as rooms with flat-screen TVs.
Midtown Mid-Range Hotels
- Hip Midtown Detroit Hub, Walk to Woodward Ave is a three-star apartment located to the north of Midtown. It offers a fully equipped kitchen, two private bathrooms, free Wi-Fi throughout the premises, and on-site parking.
- Modern Urban Escape 2 Mi to Downtown Detroit! is another decent three-star accommodation that comes at an average price. It offers three bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, plasma TV, free Wi-Fi, and free parking. The accommodation is also completely pet-friendly.
Midtown Luxury Hotels
- The Inn on Ferry Street is a four-star hotel located in a very beautiful building on the north side of Midtown, very close to the Detroit Institute of Art. The Victorian building of the hotel is very elegant and offers — aside from the free Wi-Fi and parking — a very nice breakfast every morning.
- Mint House Detroit – Brush Park is another four-star accommodation located very near two important institutions — the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Hall and Masonic Temple Theatre. It offers rooms with fully equipped kitchens, wide space, free Wi-Fi, and free parking.
We are going to end this guide with the oldest neighborhood in Detroit. After the 1840 famine in Ireland, a lot of immigrants came to Michigan and settled in this area.
That cultural input is responsible for the specific architecture and feel of Corktown, full of Federal-style houses and some eclectic Victorian-town mansions with gothic and Italian elements.
In the past, Corktown was mainly industrial and the place in Detroit where the working class made its base. But as the years went past, and the once dangerous and rough neighborhood became revitalized, it slowly transformed itself into a hipster haven.
The proximity to the center (only five minutes by car) is another reason for that too. Today, Corktown is a relaxed, cool, and even family-friendly district.
To be honest, there’s nothing special to do in this part of Detroit — most of the attractions and the important landmarks are located either Downtown or in Midtown.
There are two buildings that you definitely have to see, though: the former train station called Michigan Central (which is today full of offices) and Roosevelt Park right next to it. The park is a perfect place for a relaxing morning jog or even a picnic with your family or a date.
Considering that the place is both Irish in its tradition and hipster in its present, that can only mean two things: a lot of pubs and numerous places for brunch.
Pub-hopping is one of the activities that you have to try at Corktown since the British and Irish way of doing that is proven as best. Finally, the accommodation options — much like in Midtown — are far from great.
There are practically no good accommodation options in this part of town and literally none of the budget variety. That’s why we’ll give you the same advice as for Midtown: stay in the center and use the public transport for a day’s fun in Corktown.
Things to Do
- As Detroit is mainly famous for its historic architecture, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t check the most important landmarks in Corktown. Aside from the interesting historic houses found around the city, one building tops them all — Michigan Central, which is a former train station. It’s imposing and quite large, so you can’t miss it.
- While you’re visiting Michigan Central, hop on to the nearby Roosevelt Park, the fine green space in the whole district. Located right next to the iconic building, it offers a beautiful natural environment, which is very suitable for either relaxed strolling or a nice picnic with your family. Also, the park is the meeting point for many people and different seasonal events that can be quite fun.
- Some of the best pubs and bars in Detroit are located in Corktown, and it would be a shame to miss them. There’s no need to fill this paragraph with empty words of praise because a list of the best places is definitely more useful:
Where to Eat
- Red Dunn Kitchen is a great American restaurant located on the fine premises of the Trumbull & Porter Hotel. It’s suitable for all meals of the day, from breakfast and dinner, but we mostly recommend a posh brunch with a couple of Mimosas or Bloody Maries.
- Antojitos Southwest is a perfect choice for those people who prefer Mexican food, especially when it’s presented as street food. It’s a food truck that, aside from the usually Mexican dishes, serves a bunch of interesting fusion options too. It doesn’t offer delivery and mostly works by takeout.
- Mercury Burger & Bar is here for everybody who wants to eat a classical burger in an upbeat and vibrant place. Decorated and furnished like a modern dinner, it also serves (aside from the burgers) great hot dogs, fries, poutine, and different kinds of shakes.
Corktown Mid-Range Hotels
- Atheneum Suite Hotel is a more than decent three-star hotel that comes at a considerably lower price than the other hotels of its type in the area. It has a bar and a restaurant on its premises (and a nice breakfast), a gym, and a spa and wellness center.
- Charming Detroit Abode with Meditation Space! Is another great three-star accommodation located on the utmost northern side of Corktown. It offers free Wi-Fi and free parking, as well as a fully furnished kitchen and decently decorated and comfortable interior.
Corktown Luxury Hotels
- MGM Grand Detroit is a very luxurious and upscale five-star hotel that, among other things, features a casino on its premises. It also has a large indoor pool, a fitness center, a spa and wellness center, a bar, and a restaurant. The hotel is also prepared for receiving and servicing disabled people.
- The Detroit Club is a great and very luxurious five-star hotel that’s located on the outskirts of Detroit’s downtown, very close to Corktown. It offers a spa and wellness center and a fitness center, as well as a bar and a restaurant on the premises. The hotel is particularly suitable for couples.
So, Where Should You Stay in Detroit?
Detroit doesn’t offer a large and long trip, but with a good plan and a clear goal in front of you, you can get the most out of it. That can be an advantage too because thanks to the relatively small size, you can see and visit everything.
Now, before we finish this guide, let’s do a quick recap and summarize our findings:
- Located right next to the Detroit River, Downtown is the most tourist-friendly part of Detroit. Boasting a lot of budget, mid-range, and luxurious accommodations, as well as a bunch of historic buildings, museums, and great restaurants, it’s the best place for first-comers to the city.
- Just to the north of Downtown lies Midtown, the historic district of Detroit. A beautiful and elegant neighborhood, lined with some of the most important and beautiful buildings in the city, it also offers the biggest number of museums. But, the accommodation options are generally small.
- Located to the west of Downtown, Corktown is an area that doesn’t offer much in terms of attractions, landmarks, and institutions, but it’s a charming, relaxing, and family-friendly area. Also, due to its long Irish heritage, Corktown offers some of the best bars and pubs in Detroit.
However, regardless of the area in which you choose to stay, there’s something to love for everyone. So what are you waiting for — book your trip to Detroit today!