I’ve written a few travel guides to Richmond before, but I often get Instagram messages and emails asking for recommendations for my hometown, so I thought it would be most beneficial to pull everything together into one travel guide. I’m going over the best of Richmond for you, from the best restaurants to the best activities to the best places to stay. So, get ready, this one’s going to be an encyclopedia of Richmond recommendations.
WHY GO TO RICHMOND?
If you’re looking for an easy weekend escape on the East Coast, Richmond’s your answer. Just two hours from DC by car or train, Richmond is a mid-size Southern city with a vibrant arts scene, an ever-growing foodie culture, and breweries at every turn. It’s a laid-back place to spend a couple days eating, drinking, and strolling around taking in history, street art, and shopping.
WHERE TO STAY
You’ll definitely want to stay downtown or in the Fan. I’ve never done an Airbnb in the Fan – there’s no need to since my parents live in Richmond – but I’ve heard great things from friends who have gone that route. I have, however, stayed at quite a few of the hotels downtown and each have their own personalities.
- The Jefferson Hotel: If you’re looking to splurge on a five star experience, The Jefferson is absolutely where you should stay. It’s always been the Richmond hotel, but after a recent renovation that increased the size of the rooms, you’ll feel like a queen (or king) living in the lap of luxury. Even if you don’t stay here, you should stop by the bar for a drink and to take in the gorgeous lobby.
- Quirk Hotel: The much hyped Quirk Hotel is the perfect spot for an artsy weekend. The former historic department store building was renovated as a millennial pink paradise and is the hippest of hip boutique hotels. The Quirk Gallery, an art gallery and curated shop on the first floor, is one of my favorite spots to pick up a gift – or something unique for myself. Stop by the rooftop on a nice evening for drinks overlooking the Richmond skyline.
- The Graduate Richmond: If you’re looking for a well-priced option that’s conveniently located and super stylish, The Graduate Richmond should be your first stop. I love the mid-century vibes and you can’t beat walking right outside your door in to downtown Richmond – or looking out your window at the stunning city views.
WHERE TO EAT
Oh, where to eat! This is a category that is a little different for me than most travel writers and bloggers that venture to Richmond. Because I grew up in RVA, I have my longtime favorites that go far beyond the trendy restaurants that everyone is lining up at now. But, here are the best, both in terms of restaurants I’ve been going to for years and newcomers to the scene.
- Whisk: An adorable, light filled bake shop perfect for grabbing a coffee and something sweet
- Sugar & Twine: Any place that makes a lavender latte has my vote, and Sugar & Twine does. They also have awesome breakfast sandwiches.
- Lamplighter: If you’re into hanging with the hipsters and drinking pour over coffee, this is your place.
- Weezie’s Kitchen: Weezie’s is a Richmond establishment for breakfast, just be prepared to wait.
- Mosaic: This is actually closer to my parent’s house rather than downtown, but they do a wonderful brunch, so I couldn’t leave it off the list.
LET’S DO LUNCH
- Lunch: Looking for Southern specialties that don’t give a rip about your calorie tracker? Go to Lunch.
- Pearl Raw Bar: You can’t go wrong with fried po’ boys and crab cakes.
- Strawberry Street Cafe: I’ve been ordering the French Dip here for decades.
- Pasture: I like to think of this as down-home, Southern small plates – don’t miss the Ritz crackers served with pimento cheese.
- Buz and Ned’s Barbecue: I felt like I should include this because they’ve gotten a lot of hype nationally, but, also, because they have hush puppies.
- Charm School Ice Cream: If you’re staying at Quirk, this ice cream shop is dangerously close.
- Stuffy’s: This is one of those places, you probably won’t go unless you grew up with it, which I did. This is where I walked to on half days in middle school to grab a tuna sub.
- Bernie’s: Another old school Richmond establishment, you can’t go wrong with the regular.
TAKE ME OUT TO DINNER
- Comfort: A slightly elevated take on Southern classics, this is a great spot in Jackson Ward.
- Stella’s: I love sitting at the bar bingeing on flaming cheese and delicious cocktails at this Greek spot.
- Mama Zu’s: There are no reservations at this bare bones Italian spot that sees its fair share of celeb sightings.
- Supper: If you didn’t make it to Lunch for lunch, don’t worry, it turns into Supper at night.
- Shagbark: In kind of a strange location ten minutes outside of downtown, this farm to table restaurant has still managed to get plenty of attention on the culinary scene.
- Kuba Kuba: This Cuban establishment has been around for forever, so it’s definitely worth a try.
- The Continental: So, this used to be Phil’s Continental Lounge, and it was my favorite place for a hot dog and a limeade. It’s since changed ownership, gotten a half century overdue face lift, and upgraded their menu, but it’s still one of my favorites.
- Boathouse at Rockett’s Landing: For some of the most incredible views of the river, head down to Rockett’s Landing.
There are, of course, a whole slew of places I have yet to try that I’ve heard wonderful things about. I’m often in town for holidays, so there’s not a ton of opportunity to go out to dinner – clearly I need to plan a trip that’s all about eating ASAP! The restaurants high on my must try list are: Roosevelt, Heritage, Saison, Rappahanock, Metzger Bar and Butchery, and L’Opposum.
WHERE TO DRINK
Richmond wasn’t always a drinking town, but recently, there seems to be a new brewery popping up practically once a month. Spend an afternoon in Scott’s Addition and you’ll find beer, cider, mead, and even a new game-filled bar that will trick you into thinking you’re in Brooklyn. And, fortunately, all of the Scott’s Addition spots are walkable from each other.
- Blue Bee Cider: My favorite spot in Scott’s Addition, Blue Bee has a great outdoor patio and ciders that will convert a non-cider lover like myself.
- Ardent Craft Ales: The first brewery in Richmond that I visited, this remains one of my favorites.
- Hardywood: One of the first breweries to pop up in Scott’s Addition, Hardywood does a gingerbread stout every winter that flies out in growlers.
- Three Notch’d Brewing: Actually out of Charlottesville, I couldn’t help but include a brewery that makes so many fruity goses.
- Vasen Brewing: A large brewery with some great sour options and an industrial chic aesthetic.
- Veil Brewing: Honestly, I think I love Veil Brewing so much because they had a bar-Q pop up when I was there – seriously, if they’re there again, get the brisket.
- Black Heath Meadery: More into mead than beer? Check out the bourbon and vanilla notes in these yummy meads.
WHAT TO DO
There’s so much to do in Richmond! I don’t think I truly realized until I moved away and then came back as a visitor just how interesting the city is. It’s so full of history, art, and outdoor activities, you could spend weeks exploring all of the sights – but it’s great to pick one or two for a weekend, that way you have an excuse to come back!
- Virginia Museum of Fine Arts: The permanent exhibits at VMFA are impressive enough – especially the sporting art exhibit – and they’re free, but they also have incredible special exhibits. I’ve been for the Yves Saint Laurent (amazing!), Chihuly, and the Terra Cotta Army.
- Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden: Need a little respite from the city? This garden on North Side offers a summer concert series among other fun events.
- Carytown: I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve strolled up and down Cary Street shopping, popping in the many little restaurants, and even buying my first big girl jewelry purchase.
- Canal Walk: This is one of me and Adam’s favorite morning activities when we’re back in RVA. Similar to the Highline in NYC, this urban hiking trail is just so cool.
- The Poe Museum: Into Edgar Allan Poe? Did you know he lived in Richmond? Add this to your list.
- Vintage and antique shopping: Richmond has fabulous vintage and antique shopping! Whether you pop in one of the collected little shops in Carytown, or do some tipsy shopping in Scott’s Addition at Eviction or Class and Trash, or spend an afternoon wandering the huge West End Antiques Mall, there are countless treasures to be found.
There are, of course, a ton of other historic sites to see that include Maymont, the Valentine Museum, the Virginia State Capitol, Agecroft Hall, and more.
LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU END UP DOING!
If you head down to Richmond, definitely let me know what you eat, drink, see, and do! I’m going to keep updating this travel guide each time I return from another trip down to RVA so it will stay up to date, and I’d love your suggestions along the way!