Saint Louis Downtown Introduction Walk (Self Guided), Saint Louis

Missouri's main city, St. Louis, is a prominent metropolis with high-rising downtown dominated by the iconic, 630-ft. Gateway Arch, erected in the 1960s to commemorate the early 19th-century explorations of Lewis and Clark and America's westward advance. To see what other attractions Saint Louis has to offer, follow this orientation walk.
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Saint Louis Downtown Introduction Walk Map

Guide Name: Saint Louis Downtown Introduction Walk
Guide Location: USA » Saint Louis (See other walking tours in Saint Louis)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.3 Km or 3.3 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Kiener Plaza Park
  • Old Courthouse
  • Old Cathedral
  • Gateway Arch
  • One Metropolitan Square
  • Wainwright Building
  • Citygarden Sculpture Park
  • Market Street
  • Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse
  • St. Louis City Hall
  • St. Louis Public Library
  • City Museum
  • Saint Louis Union Station
  • Aloe Plaza
Kiener Plaza Park

1) Kiener Plaza Park (must see)

A great gathering place in downtown St. Louis, Kiener Plaza provides one of the best views in town of the Old Courthouse and the Gateway Arch. In the center of the plaza is a pool and fountain, which contains a statue known as “The Runner” by sculptor William Zorach. In the 1800s, Kiener Plaza was home to a jail that used to hold prisoners awaiting trial at the Old Courthouse, including slaves who sued for their freedom.

Why You Should Visit:
In between sightseeing, this is the perfect place for parents to sit and recharge while the kids expend a little extra energy.
There are many diverse elements to this Plaza: sculpture with water fountain, marble circular bench, additional water feature, garden areas, organic wooden benches to rest on and a fenced off creative kids play area with an amazing floor. Also, a bistro area with tables to enjoy brunch/lunch/dinner from one of the surrounding restaurants.
Old Courthouse

2) Old Courthouse (must see)

The Old St. Louis County Courthouse was built as a combination federal and state courthouse in St. Louis. Missouri's tallest habitable building from 1864 to 1894, it is now part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and operated by the National Park Service for historical exhibits and events.

Land for the courthouse was donated in 1816 by Judge John Baptiste Charles Lucas and St. Louis founder René Auguste Chouteau. The Federal style courthouse was completed in 1828. It was designed by the firm of Lavielle and Morton, which also designed the early buildings at Jefferson Barracks as well as the Old Cathedral. In 1839 ground was broken on a courthouse designed by Henry Singleton, with four wings, including an east wing that comprised the original courthouse and a three-story cupola dome at the center. In 1851 Robert S. Mitchell began a redesign, in which the original courthouse portion on the east wing was torn down and replaced by a new east wing. In 1861 William Rumbold replaced a cupola with an Italian Renaissance cast iron Dome modeled on St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

The courthouse building was the tallest building in Missouri and St. Louis until 1896 when Union Station was built. When St. Louis County, Missouri and the city split in 1877, the courthouse became city property. The courthouse formally became part of the new monument area in 1940. Replaced in 1941, the roof was renovated in 1955, 1985, and 2010. The courthouse remained the largest structure in the monument until the Gateway Arch was built in 1965.

Why You Should Visit:
The beautiful paintings, carvings, decorations, and spiral staircases make this building worth your time. Arch tickets are sold here, too.

Make sure to climb the stairs to the very top, and to visit the courtroom where the first Dred Scott decision was rendered.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am-4:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Old Cathedral

3) Old Cathedral (must see)

The Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, formerly the Cathedral of Saint Louis, and colloquially the Old Cathedral, was the first cathedral west of the Mississippi River and until 1845 the only parish church in the city of St. Louis. It is one of two Catholic basilicas in St. Louis, and it is named for King Louis IX of France, also the namesake for the city of St. Louis.

It is located near the historic riverfront of St. Louis, surrounded by the Gateway Arch grounds. Because of the historical significance of the church, it was left intact while all neighboring buildings were demolished to make way for the Gateway Arch. The basilica remains a popular church for marriage ceremonies in the archdiocese and a popular tourist destination.

Why You Should Visit:
You would be hard-pressed to see more exquisite mosaics on US soil. Every inch of wall, ceiling, and floor is another amazing thing to look at.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am-6pm; Sat: 6:30am-6pm; Sun: 7:30am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Gateway Arch

4) Gateway Arch (must see)

The Gateway Arch is an arch that is the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis. It was built as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States. At 630 feet, it is the tallest man-made monument in the United States. The arch is located at the site of St. Louis' foundation, on the west bank of the Mississippi River.

The Gateway Arch was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen and German-American structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel in 1947. The arch typifies "the pioneer spirit of the men and women who won the West, and those of a latter-day to strive on other frontiers." The arch has become the iconic image of St. Louis, appearing in many parts of city culture. Both the width and height of the arch are 630 feet. The structure weighs 42,878 short tons.

Why You Should Visit:
THE iconic thing to see in St. Louis, even with the inevitable controversy surrounding it. The grounds are lovely: tree-lined walking paths with historical markers to help one appreciate the history of this world-renowned waterfront. Very quirky lift mechanism to get to the top, but great views when you get there.

Go early to walk to the (free) small museum prior to the tram car up.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am-10pm
The park grounds are open 5am–11pm year round.
Sight description based on wikipedia
One Metropolitan Square

5) One Metropolitan Square

One Metropolitan Square, also called Met Square, is an impressive skyscraper in Saint Louis. It was built in 1989. The structure stands 181 meters tall, featuring 42 floors and green roofs, and it is still the tallest office building in the city. It was designed by architects Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum.
Wainwright Building

6) Wainwright Building

The Wainwright Building is a 10-story red-brick landmark office building at 709 Chestnut Street in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. Built in 1890-91 and designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, it was among the first skyscrapers in the world. It was named for local financier Ellis Wainwright. The ornamentation for the building is adopted from Notre-Dame de Reims in France. It is described as "a highly influential prototype of the modern office building" by the National Register of Historic Places. In May 2013 it was listed by a PBS program as one of "10 Buildings That Changed America" because it was "the first skyscraper that truly looked the part" with Sullivan being dubbed the "Father of Skyscrapers."
Sight description based on wikipedia
Citygarden Sculpture Park

7) Citygarden Sculpture Park (must see)

Citygarden is an urban park and sculpture garden in St. Louis, Missouri owned by the City of St. Louis but maintained by the Gateway Foundation. Before being converted to a garden and park, the site comprised two empty blocks of grass. Citygarden was dedicated on June 30, 2009, and opened one day later, on July 1, 2009.

The park was designed so larger works of art rest on wide lawns, while smaller spaces are reserved for more private areas. It is home to 24 sculptures. One statue, by Igor Mitoraj, features a large bronze head lying on its side, while works by Julian Opie comprise digital screens displaying walking people. Park visitors are allowed to touch the sculptures and even walk inside them. This means, however, that some of the works require more frequent maintenance, such as re-waxing. The sculptures range in medium from various metals—bronze, stainless steel, and cast aluminum—fiberglass and even polyester. On September 20, 2011, a 9-foot (2.7 m) aluminum sculpture of a bodiless pink suit, by Erwin Wurm and titled Big Suit, was installed in the garden.

Why You Should Visit:
This park, unlike many other structure parks, allows guests to walk through the sculptures. There are also a few water features – a treat on hot summer days!
No admission fee and you are free to roam.

Night time provides a nice stroll through the garden filled with unique lighting.
Don't forget to stop into the cafe with patio service or enjoy a lunch from a nearby food truck!

Opening Hours:
Daily: Sunrise-10pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Market Street

8) Market Street

The city's main street, it is lined by important buildings and, half way along, opens out into St Louis Memorial Plaza. On the left-hand side is the gigantic rotunda of the Busch Stadium, which has seating for 50,000 spectators. The stadium is home to the St Louis Cardinals, the city's baseball team, whose history is documented in the St Louis Cardinal's Hall of Fame. The neighboring National Bowling Hall of Fame does the same for bowling.
Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse

9) Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse

Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse is a modern skyscraper in Saint Louis, built in 2000. The structure has a height of 170 meters and 29 storeys. It is the fifth tallest habitable building in Missouri. It is the vastest single courthouse in the U.S. with a surface of nearly 90,000 square meters. The building design pursues a classical tripartite scheme. It was designed by architects Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum.
St. Louis City Hall

10) St. Louis City Hall (must see)

St. Louis City Hall was designed on July 19, 1890. It was modeled after the city hall in Paris, and was not completed until 1904, just in time for the St. Louis World's Fair. The interior is beautifully decorated with marble and gold trim. There are interesting murals on the Market Street and Clark Avenue entrances.

The offices of the Mayor, and Board of Aldermen and St. Louis Department of Public Safety are housed here. The majority of government meetings occur here, most of which are open to the public.

Why You Should Visit:
This old City Hall features a large lobby/atrium with beautiful marble stairs and railings along with a stunning ceiling. It's worth taking the time to enter the building for this view.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-5pm
St. Louis Public Library

11) St. Louis Public Library (must see)

The St. Louis Public Library was founded as a members-only private library in 1865 with a collection of 1,500 books. It was opened to the public in 1874 and reestablished as a publicly supported free lending library in 1893-94, by which time the collection included 90,000 books. In 1901, Andrew Carnegie made a large donation which was used for expansion, including building the current central library. By 1938 the collection included 900,000 items, and by 2014, 4,600,000 items. Nowadays the central Saint Louis Public Library is one of the most significant buildings from the early 20th century in the city. It was designed by architect Cass Gilbert in 1912. The structure houses a vast collection of books in various fields of study. The Library regularly hosts organized events such as authors' readings, live music concerts and others.

Why You Should Visit:
A goldmine for historians and anyone who just want to learn something unique about Saint Louis.
The building is amazing, the books are great and the opportunity/options to read, play games, eat and just hang out are endless.

Make sure to check out the events they hold at the Public Library on their website.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am-6pm; Sun: 1-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
City Museum

12) City Museum (must see)

City Museum is a museum, consisting largely of repurposed architectural and industrial objects, housed in the former International Shoe building in the Washington Avenue Loft District of St. Louis. Popular among residents and tourists, the museum bills itself as an "eclectic mixture of children's playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel." Visitors are encouraged to feel, touch, climb on, and play in the various exhibits. The museum attracted over 300,000 visitors in 1999 and over 600,000 in 2007. It has been named one of the "great public spaces" by the Project for Public Spaces and has won other local and international awards as a must-see destination.

City Museum was founded by artist Bob Cassilly, who remained the museum's artistic director until his death, and his then-wife Gail Cassilly. The museum's building was once a shoe factory and warehouse but was mostly vacant when the Cassillys bought it in 1983. Construction began in January 1995 and the building opened to the public on October 25, 1997. The museum has since expanded, adding new exhibits such as MonstroCity in 2002, Enchanted Caves and Shoe Shaft in 2003, and World Aquarium in 2004. A circus ring on the third floor offers daily live acts. The City Museum also houses The Shoelace Factory, whose antique braiding machines makes colorful shoelaces for sale.

Why You Should Visit:
This place is like the biggest playground in the world, and is quite literally, fun for all ages.

Be prepared to sweat and work out! Knee-pads are a must (and sold in their gift shop if you forget).
Make sure you come on a day with good weather, so you can enjoy the outdoor parts. The extra $5 for the rooftop is worth it.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Thu: 9am-5pm; Fri-Sat: 9am-12am; Sun: 11am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Saint Louis Union Station

13) Saint Louis Union Station (must see)

St. Louis Union Station, a National Historic Landmark, was a passenger train terminal in St. Louis, Missouri. Once the world's largest and busiest train station; in the 1940s, it handled 100,000 passengers a day. As airliners became the preferred mode of long-distance travel and railroad passenger services declined in the 1950s and 1960s, the massive station became obsolete and too expensive to maintain for its original purpose. It was converted in the early 1980s into a hotel, shopping center, and entertainment complex. Today, it serves only local rail transit passengers. At its height, the station combined the St. Louis passenger services of 22 railroads, the most of any single terminal in the world.

Why You Should Visit:
The Grand Hall is magnificent with statues, stained glass and the "whispering arches" at the front door.

A light show happens every hour from 5-11pm. It is on the ceiling of the historic Grand Hall. There are comfortable seats and a full-service bar.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Aloe Plaza

14) Aloe Plaza

Aloe Plaza is part of the Terminus section of the St. Louis Gateway Mall. It is two blocks in size and sits directly in front of Union Station. It is bounded by Market, Chestnut, 18th, and 20th streets.
The plaza is dominated by the Carl Milles fountain The Meeting of the Waters.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Saint Louis, Missouri

Create Your Own Walk in Saint Louis

Create Your Own Walk in Saint Louis

Creating your own self-guided walk in Saint Louis is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Shopping Tour in Saint Louis

Shopping Tour in Saint Louis

Saint Louis was founded in 1764. Today, it is one of the most interesting and attractive cities in the United States. Besides some of the most interesting tourist attractions, it also offers a fascinating shopping experience. Take this walking tour to explore some of the most famous specialty and antique shopping places in Saint Louis.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.1 Km or 3.2 Miles
Saint Louis Civil War Walking Tour

Saint Louis Civil War Walking Tour

Situated on the Mississippi River, Saint Louis is today one of the top tourist destinations in United States. The city played a very important role during the American Civil War. It had a strategic location, a major port and was a commercial center with a growing industrial base. Take this walking tour to explore places in Saint Louis that played a role in the greatest and most terrible war that...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.1 Km or 4.4 Miles
Downtown Nightlife

Downtown Nightlife

Saint Louis is a city that offers a wide variety of nightlife entertainment. You can find cozy cafes, amazing bars and dynamic nightclubs that will suit couples, friends and families. If your are planning to spend a night out in Saint Louis, take this walking tour and explore the best nightlife venues of this city.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Famous Religious Buildings Walking Tour in Saint Louis

Famous Religious Buildings Walking Tour in Saint Louis

Saint Louis is considered the perfect destination for those who want to see great architecture that also has an important spiritual value. This old city features some of the most famous and interesting churches in the USA as well as other well known religious buildings. Take this walking tour to visit the most famous religious buildings in Saint Louis.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.1 Km or 3.8 Miles
Saint Louis Forest Park Walking Tour

Saint Louis Forest Park Walking Tour

Situated on the Mississippi River, Saint Louis is one of the top tourist destinations in the United States. The city boasts a vast number of entertaining and educational facilities such as museums, zoos and parks. Among the latter, the most outstanding is Saint Louis Forest Park, established in 1876. The park represents an ideal location for a great time out. Take this walking tour to discover the...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.9 Km or 3.7 Miles
Saint Louis' Top Museums Walking Tour

Saint Louis' Top Museums Walking Tour

Saint Louis is a city that has a wide variety of attractions on offer for the tourist. You can discover the cultural past and present of Saint Louis by visiting some of its museums and galleries. This walking tour will take you through the most popular museums in Saint Louis.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.4 Km or 2.7 Miles