If you want to feel the charm and the rich historical heritage of one of the oldest and most beautiful Mid-South cities in America, St. Louis is definitely the best place to start.
This beautiful and compact city near the Missouri River offers one of the best cultural atmospheres in the whole of the USA, with numerous theaters, museums, and galleries, as well as the starting point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
But where should you stay in St. Louis? If you read this article, you’ll find every answer you need to that question.
The 3 Best Parts of St. Louis
Most of the landmarks, tourist attractions, museums, theaters, restaurants, and hotels are located between Downtown and Forest Park in an almost perfect straight line.
That doesn’t mean that the rest of the city is not worth visiting (quite the contrary), but most of the fun happens here.
Our favorite areas include:
- Downtown: Located right next to the Missouri River and the Gateway Arch National Park and packed with museums and landmarks, it’s the best option for first-time visitors to St. Louis.
- Midtown and Grand Central: To the west of Downtown, these two small, charming, and beautiful centrally located areas are perfect for lovers of the arts and culture in general.
- Forest Park: The area around the oldest and largest park in St. Louis is best for families and the most suitable location for nature lovers.
Where to Stay in St. Louis: Best Areas & Hotels
St. Louis attracts a significantly larger number of tourists than you’d probably expect. The number of landmarks and cultural establishments from Downtown to Forest Park reminds us of a much larger metropolis.
The same holds for the accommodation options. If you’re looking for luxurious and very expensive five-star hotels, you’ve come to the right place.
Every area in St. Louis boasts at least a couple of the world’s famous hotel brands, like Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons. The central area is also packed with mid-range and budget options.
If you’re looking for something cheap and affordable, you had better stick either to the Downtown or to the neighboring Midtown and Grand Central.
Although Forest Park is the most family-friendly area in the city, it has practically no budget accommodations. Most of the hotels in this district are stubbornly mid-range or luxurious.
Downtown St. Louis is your traditional city center of a major American city. It’s the place where most of the business is happening and where you’ll find some of the most important museums, the most visited landmarks, and plenty of cafes, restaurants, and nightclubs.
Plainly speaking, it has all the qualities to make it the most suitable area for first-time visitors to the second-largest city in Missouri.
The mighty Missouri River runs next to the city center, and one of the first things you should do is take a long and slow stroll along the river. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
It’s also the most convenient thing to do first because you’ll come across Gateway Arch National Park, probably the most visited landmark in the city.
What makes the Gateway Arch so special is that it’s the tallest monument in the whole of the USA and the tallest building in Missouri. Built in the 1960s, it became the defensive trademark of the city.
Nearby, there’s also a museum, a visitors’ center, and the historically significant Old Courthouse. Whatever you do in the city, make sure to spend at least a day at the smallest National Park in the country.
Once you’ve seen all of this, you’re ready to “attack” all the other attractions in the area.
There are plenty of museums that are going to bring smiles to the faces of even the harshest critics. Then, it’s hard to miss the home stadium of the revered Saint Louis Cardinals and the many surrounding shops, restaurants, and nightclubs.
In terms of accommodation options, Downtown definitely has the largest offer in St. Louis. Whatever you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it here.
Things to Do
- As we mentioned earlier, Downtown boasts the best museums in the city. Start with the Museum at the Gateway Arch in the Gateway Arch National Park; lovers of music should check out the National Blues Museum, and the City Museum is very popular with kids. Lastly, the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum is a lasting witness to the heroic deeds of the veterans.
- History buffs will probably have the time of their life in St. Louis, one of the most important historical cities in America. The Old Courthouse, built in 1839, is a must-see, and so is The Old Cathedral, located in the shadow of the Arch. If you want something more concentrated, check out the following historical museums: the Museum of Westward Expansion, which chronicles the migrations of the 19th century, and the Campbell House Museum, full of artifacts representing the old ways of life.
- Downtown St. Louis has a lively and vibrant nightlife, exemplified by the many cafes, bars, and nightclubs. Here’s a list of some of the best and most visited locales in the city center: Thaxton Speakeasy, 360 Rooftop Bar, Trust, The Honky Tonk STL, and Brewhouse Historical Sports Bar.
- St. Louis is packed with open green spaces, parks and has plenty of trees. The first and obvious place to go if you prefer the outdoors is the Gateway Arch National Park, but it’s not the only one. Make sure to also check out: Kiener Plaza Park, Citygarden Sculpture Park, and Poelker Park.
Where to Eat
- If you’re keen on trying authentic and tasty Cajun and Creole food, Broadway Oyster Bar is a great place to start. It’s a modern and tasteful (but very expensive) restaurant that was selected as the 2022 Travelers’ Choice and also functions as a pub.
- For a great seafood and steak combo, visit Carmine’s Steak House, one of the best restaurants of its kind in St. Louis. The prices may be high, but the twice-baked potatoes, the numerous meat options, and the oysters are well worth it.
- Chili Mac’s Diner is the perfect place if you’re looking for a down-to-earth American diner that serves extremely tasty breakfast, brunch, and dinner at reasonable prices and in a relaxed atmosphere.
Downtown Budget Hotels
- If you’re used to bringing your pet on your trips and you prefer accommodations with city views, check out OYO Hotel St. Louis Downtown City Center MO, a charming, cheap, pet-friendly two-star hotel with a fitness center on the premises.
- Americas Best Value Inn St. Louis Downtown is a great family-friendly two-star hotel that has free WI-Fi and free parking but also provides (on request) free baby cots. The hotel is located on Interstate 70, very close to Lumiere Place Casino.
Downtown Mid-Range Hotels
- Missouri Athletic Club is a beautifully decorated three-star hotel located near Edward Jones Dome. It’s mostly suitable for business travelers and provides a working desk in every single room. There’s also a restaurant and a bar on the premises.
- If staying in shape while traveling is very important to you, Pear Tree Inn St. Louis Near Union Station is a perfect choice since it boasts both a large swimming pool on the premises, as well as a fully equipped fitness center. The hotel is also close to many of St. Louis’s major landmarks.
Downtown Luxury Hotels
- You don’t have to look very hard to find one of the best hotels in St. Louis — Four Seasons St. Louis is located right in the center of the city. It boasts everything that a super luxurious hotel is supposed to have, like an outdoor swimming pool, a bar, and a restaurant on the premises, as well as excellent room service.
- The four-star Hyatt Regency Saint Louis at The Arch offers an excellent location within St. Louis’s Downtown, including a stunning view of the city and pet-friendly premises. RED Kitchen (the hotel’s restaurant) is a famous restaurant that works exclusively with fresh local ingredients.
2. Midtown and Grand Central
While the downtown area of any city of St. Louis’s stature may steal the limelight, Midtown and Grand Central are the city’s beating heart. Squeezed between Downtown and Forest Park, they’re probably the coolest and most artistic districts in St. Louis.
The Grand Central area is home to the best performance venues in the city, making it a true cultural hub. Expect highly professional, top-notch performances that can match even the establishment of considerably larger cities like New York or Chicago.
Whatever you do, don’t miss the aptly named Fabulous Fox Theater, located very close to the prestigious Saint Louis University. This 1920s venue hosts a variety of musical performances and Broadway shows.
These two charming neighborhoods are also fully covered in other domains of the arts. Powell Hall is another historical venue (built in 1925), famous for its vaudevilles and being the permanent residence of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
The Pulitzer Arts Foundation, on the other hand, is a post-modern museum of the visual arts, which creates a fantastic dialogue between its exhibits and the building that houses them.
On the other hand, if you’re completely in love with photography, don’t miss the fantastic International Photography Hall of Fame, with its subtly and historically important collection.
In terms of accommodation, Midtown and Grand Central are a reasonable alternative to Downtown.
They’re practically in continuity with the fabulous hotels that are scattered on every block in the city center, but there are also quite a few budget and mid-range options.
Things to Do
- Lovers of music, especially of classical music, have a wide range of establishments to choose from in this area of St. Louis. We already mentioned the Powell Hall venue and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, but don’t forget the almost equally famous Sheldon Concert Hall. Finally, there’s also the Scott Joplin House State Historic Site, which is practically a museum of music.
- If theater is your thing, check out not only the Fabulous Fox Theater but also the Grandel Theater. It may not be as famous, but it’s just as good as the Fabulous Fox.
- The offer concerning the visual arts and the history museums is equally strong. The fantastic Pulitzer Arts Foundation should definitely be your first option. If, on the other hand, you prefer history — or even religion — go to the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art and then to the Art and Entertainment District Grand Center.
- Finally, if you’ve brought your pets with you, take them to the charming and convenient SLU Dog Park & Sculpture Garden. It’s located very close to the Scottish Rite Cathedral, the The Saint Louis University Museum of Art, and the New Masonic Temple (St. Louis).
Where to Eat
- For something completely different and out of the ordinary, check out Bulrush STL, a new American fusion restaurant that specializes in exploring the subtle contacts of European and Native American cuisines in the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Everybody wants a cold and tasty ice cream or a creamy frozen yogurt after a long stroll on a hot day. The Fountain on Locust is the place with the best ice creams and yogurts in St. Louis and a 2022 Travelers’ Choice selection.
- Southern is an American restaurant that specializes in carefully prepared and slowly marinated chicken. It’s perfect for every visitor who wants spicy food, casual dining, and professional yet warm service. The restaurant provides catering as well.
Midtown Budget Hotels
- If you prefer the privacy of your own apartment and your own space (instead of hotels), take a look at CozySuites CWE Modern Queen Suite. It has a living room with a TV and one bathroom. There’s also free Wi-Fi and parking.
- White House at Grand Central is a family-friendly complex of apartments located in Midtown. It’s pet-friendly, has a nice garden, and even boasts barbeque facilities on the premises. A safe haven for you, your pet, and your family.
Midtown Mid-Range Hotels
- AC Hotel by Marriott St. Louis Central West End is an all-around great three-star hotel with rooms equipped with all the amenities, including TVs and sitting spaces in every single room. The hotel also has a swimming pool, a restaurant, and a bar on the premises.
- Aloft St. Louis Cortex is a three-star pet-friendly hotel with a swimming pool. The hotel also has a fitness center, a bar, and even a pool table. In the morning, you’ll wake up to a scrumptious continental breakfast.
Midtown Luxury Hotels
- Angad Arts Hotel is a very beautiful and artistically decorated luxurious five-star hotel that, surprisingly enough, doesn’t come at a very high price. There’s a restaurant and a bar on the premises, as well as a fitness center and breakfast in the morning.
- If you can’t make your mind up between Midtown or Forest Park, choose The Cheshire and stay in between, equally close to both of the areas. This four-star hotel offers a relaxing and luxurious experience, an outdoor swimming pool, room service, and a restaurant and bar on the premises.
3. Forest Park
No more than three miles from Downtown St. Louis lies the largest and the most beautiful park in the city and the area named after it: Forest Park. With its 1300 acres of land, trees, and buildings, it has something to offer to everybody.
Because of that, it’s hard to pin this area into a single category: it offers plenty of landmarks, and it’s perfect for sight-seeing; it has plenty of museums and cultural establishments, especially for children; lastly, the park is the most convenient place for nature lovers in all of St. Louis.
The park itself is not only the most important place in the area but also one of the biggest and most attractive landmarks in the city.
Opened in 1876, it boasts plenty of walking areas, athletic fields, museums, and establishments. Simply put, it offers a genuine all-around experience, especially for families.
The things you simply can’t miss are:
- The STL Zoo is the premier family-friendly location in an area of around 90 acres and with a variety of animals — from bears to penguins, elephants, and large cats, as well as a charming train.
- The Saint Louis Art Museum offers a rich collection of more than 30,000 art objects and has free admission.
- The Missouri History Museum mostly focuses on the history of the state of Missouri but also provides a panoramic picture of America and the West.
- The Forest Park Golf Course boasts nine holes, beautiful natural surroundings, and plenty of restaurants and shops on the premises.
The area of Forest Park is more than tourist-friendly, and the numerous accommodations and restaurants confirm that in every way possible.
As a matter of fact, some of the best and most luxurious hotels in St. Louis are located precisely here, like the Ritz-Carlton. The only weakness of the area is the comparatively smaller number of cheaper hotels.
Things to Do
- Forest Park is huge and has plenty of open green spaces for lovers of nature and the outdoors. Art Hill, for example, is a great picnic spot, offering excellent views. The Forest Park Fountain is a nice dog-friendly place, and both Forest Park Hatchery and Emerson Central Field are some of the most beautiful open spaces you’ll ever see.
- Forest Park offers plenty of opportunities for sports lovers. As we mentioned, if you want to have a couple of rounds of golf, there’s first the Forest Park Golf Course, but there’s also The Highlands Golf & Tennis — located on the opposite sides of the park. However, if you’re solely partial to tennis, make sure to check out the Dwight Davis Tennis Center.
- Forest Park is definitely a great place to learn something new about nature since the place is packed with different but almost equally family-friendly establishments. First, there’s the STL Zoo which is a story by itself; second, the unforgettable movie-like Saint Louis Science Center; and third and final, HealthWorks! Kids’ Museum St. Louis, located just outside the south parts of the park.
- Quite unexpectedly, Forest Park is not the only park that offers something interesting in this part of St. Louis. Go a little to the south (less than two miles), and you’ll reach the historic (1868) Tower Grove Park. Inside the park, you’ll find the Missouri Botanical Garden, which is both a greenhouse dome and a sophisticated Victorian home — the perfect place to discover the secret lives of plants.
Where to Eat
- For a classical American seafood restaurant, go to Yellowbelly, located just next to the legendary Forest Park. Bringing the tastes and the smell of the ocean right in St. Louis, this gastro pub serves fresh and tasty fish and some of the best cocktails in the city.
- Everybody gets tired of fancy and overpriced restaurants, and at that moment, they prefer to have breakfast or lunch at a classical American diner, much like Songbird. The prices are low, the eggs are fantastic, the orange juice is fresh, and the atmosphere is communal and relaxed.
- Stone Turtle is another great down-to-earth American restaurant and a pub that also provides delivery in the local area. It’s suitable for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers a great burger, steak, and fries. The salmon is also understated, as is the wide variety of entrees.
Forest Park Budget Hotels
- Forest Park Hotel is a decent and not very expensive three-star hotel located just a couple of miles from the legendary Forest Park. It doesn’t offer much, aside from the great location, free Wi-Fi and parking, a practical business center on the premises, and a vending machine.
- Home2 Suites St. Louis / Forest Park is a significantly better equipped and more expensive three-star accommodation that’s still in the budget category. It has a nice indoor swimming pool and a fitness center on the premises, and flat-screen TVs (with HBO channels) in every room.
Forest Park Mid-Range Hotels
- If you want a decently-priced three-star hotel with a swimming pool and completely pet-friendly premises, look no further than Residence Inn St. Louis Galleria. The hotel is located around 9 miles from Lambert-Saint Louis International Airport., and serves a great breakfast in the morning.
- DoubleTree by Hilton St. Louis Forest Park is a great three-star hotel leaning to the luxurious class of accommodations and part of the famous Hilton chain of hotels. Located merely five minutes from the most important attraction in the area, Forest Park, it also has a fitness center, a bar, and a restaurant on the premises.
Forest Park Luxury Hotels
- Everybody knows what staying in The Ritz means (no matter the city), and spending your vacation in The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis is no exception to that rule. It costs a lot of money, but it’s well worth it, since the spa and wellness center, the restaurant and the bar on the premises of the hotel, are simply one of a kind.
- Located right next to Forest Park, Kasa Forest Park St. Louis is a fabulous five-star hotel with an outdoor swimming pool and barbeque facilities. It provides an excellent view from the terraces in the rooms and has a barbeque and a fully equipped fitness center on the premises as well.
So, Where Should You Stay in St. Louis?
|🏆 Best for First-Time Visitors||Downtown|
|⛪ Best for Local Culture||Midtown/Grand Central|
|👪 Most Family-Friendly Area||Forest Park|
Like Lewis and Clark, we must put a stop once we reach the Pacific Ocean — the end of this guide.
It was a fun and educational trip, full of class, and before we put the final dot, let’s do a quick recap of the best three areas in St. Louis:
- Downtown, located right next to the mighty Missouri River, boasts the smallest National Park in the USA, the iconic Gateway Arch, as well as plenty of museums, landmarks and great hotels, making it the perfect choice for first-time visitors to the city.
- Midtown and Grand Central are areas that every cultural aficionado — especially of music, the theater, and the visual arts — simply can’t miss. The area also offers a variety of great accommodation options.
- Finally, the area around Forest Park is the most family-friendly location in the city and a perfect match for lovers of the outdoors. This huge park also houses the Saint Louis Zoo and plenty of kid-friendly museums.
So, with so much to see and do, and the ability to visit this lovely city on any budget, what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that St. Louis has to offer. Happy travels!