Saint Louis Downtown Walking Tour, Saint Louis

Saint Louis Downtown Walking Tour (Self Guided), Saint Louis

Missouri's main city, Saint 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 this and other attractions of downtown Saint Louis, follow this self-guided orientation walk.
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Saint Louis Downtown Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Saint Louis Downtown Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Saint Louis (See other walking tours in Saint Louis)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Gateway Arch
  • Old Cathedral
  • Old Courthouse
  • Kiener Plaza Park
  • Wainwright Building
  • Citygarden Sculpture Park
  • Market Street
  • St. Louis City Hall
  • The Ulysses S. Grant Statue
  • Stifel Theatre
  • Saint Louis Union Station
  • Campbell House Museum
  • City Museum
Gateway Arch

1) Gateway Arch (must see)

The Gateway Arch 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, the arch is the tallest man-made monument in the United States. It is located at the site of St. Louis' foundation, on the west bank of the Mississippi River.

The monument was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen and German-American structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel in 1947. It 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.
Old Cathedral

2) Old Cathedral

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.

The church is located near the historic riverfront of St. Louis, surrounded by the Gateway Arch grounds. Because of the historical significance, it was left intact while all the 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 the U.S. soil. Every inch of the wall, ceiling, and floor here is an amazing thing to look at.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am-6pm; Sat: 6:30am-6pm; Sun: 7:30am-6pm
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Old Courthouse

3) Old Courthouse (must see)

The Old St. Louis County Courthouse was built as a combined 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 was the tallest building in Missouri and St. Louis until 1896 when Union Station was built. When St. Louis county and the city split in 1877, the courthouse became city property. It 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.
Kiener Plaza Park

4) Kiener Plaza Park

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.
Wainwright Building

5) Wainwright Building

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

6) 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 that larger works of art could 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— to fiberglass and even polyester. On September 20, 2011, a 9-foot (2.7 m) aluminum sculpture of a bodiless pink suit titled "Big Suit", by Erwin Wurm, 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

7) Market Street

Running east-west from Memorial Drive by the grounds of the Gateway Arch to Compton Avenue in Midtown, Market Street is the main thoroughfare in St. Louis and the usual site of local parades and public festivals. Lined by prominent buildings, half way along, the street opens out into St. Louis Memorial Plaza. On its 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.

Downtown, the street forms the southern boundary of the Gateway Mall, and further west in Midtown, it borders Harris-Stowe State University. There is also a small stretch of Market Street, running between Prospect Ave. and South Vandeventer Ave., which houses the old armory of the 138th Infantry building and the old Famous-Barr warehouse.
St. Louis City Hall

8) St. Louis City Hall

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, the Board of Aldermen and St. Louis Department of Public Safety are all housed here. The majority of government meetings take place within the City Hall, 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
The Ulysses S. Grant Statue

9) The Ulysses S. Grant Statue

The Ulysses S. Grant Statue is located in the southwest corner of the intersection of Market Street and Tucker Blvd, in front of the City Hall.

The iconic figure of Ulysses S. Grant has several ties to St. Louis and Missouri. On August 22, 1848 Grant married Julia Boggs Dent who lived at her father's plantation, White Haven, just west of St. Louis. Grant had met Julia while being stationed at the Jefferson Barracks. As a Brigadier-General of Federal Volunteers, he led a force of about 3,000 Federal volunteers in the Battle of Belmont near Belmont, Missouri.

Between 1854 and 1858, Grant tried to make a go of it farming at White Haven, but had to give it up due to health problems. Next thing, he attempted real estate in partnership with Julia's cousin, Harry Boggs, but that St. Louis business did not do well enough either, so he would have to move back to Galena, Illinois to work in his father's store. In 1866, Grant returned to St. Louis after the Civil War and purchased White Haven, at which he wanted to breed horses.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Stifel Theatre

10) Stifel Theatre

Founded as the "Kiel Opera House" (in honor of former St. Louis Mayor Henry Kiel), this theater opened in 1934, as a part of the "Municipal Auditorium and Opera House", and remained in operation until 1991.

On July 11, 1978, The Rolling Stones performed here one sold-out show. The Stones used a stripped back, minimal stage presentation, compared to their previous tours, with an emphasis solely on music and attitude rather than presenting a grandiose extravaganza. Because of the limited seating at such an excellent venue, fans who were unable to purchase tickets, gathered outside in protest before the showtime. To keep the peace, a police force with dogs was needed.

On October 1, 2011, the venue reopened as the Peabody Opera House, following a $79 million renovation. That show featured personalities such as Jay Leno, Aretha Franklin and Chuck Berry, and was attended by a full house of 3,100. On July 16, 2018, it was announced that the building would be renamed Stifel Theatre.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Saint Louis Union Station

11) Saint Louis Union Station

St. Louis Union Station is a former 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. At its height, the station combined the St. Louis passenger services of 22 railroads, the most of any single terminal in the world.

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 a National Historic Landmark, it serves only local rail transit passengers.

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.
Campbell House Museum

12) Campbell House Museum

Opened on February 6, 1943, the Campbell House Museum commemorates the home and Victorian lifestyle of Robert Campbell and his wife Virginia Kyle Campbell. The leading experts in history, architecture and art who were summoned during the preparation of an inventory and evaluation of the estate, were all amazed and pronounced that, "probably nowhere in America, possible nowhere else, is such an intact and integral display of elaborate and ornate furnishings of the middle Victorian period to be found, as in the Campbell mansion".

During the 1940s, the Campbell House was one of the only museums dedicated to the history and decorative arts of mid-Victorian America. The discovery of the Campbell House photo album allowed for accurate restoration of the interior rooms.

The museum was documented as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey between 1936 and 1941, designated a City of St. Louis Landmark in 1946, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, and became a National Trust for Historic Preservation Save America's Treasures project in 2000.

In February 2000, the restoration of the house started with the packing and storing of the entire museum collection. The exterior restoration was complete by mid-2001. The interior restoration began in the Spring 2001 and was completed in 2005 restoring the house as closely as possible to its appearance in the 1885 photographs.

Why You Should Visit:
Personally guided tours of this meticulously restored and maintained treasure are wonderful.
You truly do step back into time upon entering the house with its beautiful woodwork, artwork, and furnishings.

Don't miss the tour over the holidays when the museum is decorated with antique decorations (be advised, however, that on certain days of the week and in January and February the tours are by appointment only).
The shop is also very unique offering lithograph nightlights and books about the St. Louis area.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Sat: 10am–4pm; Sun: 12pm–4pm
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
City Museum

13) City Museum (must see)

The City Museum is a museum consisting largely of repurposed architectural and industrial objects, and is 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 its artistic director until his death, and his then-wife Gail Cassilly. The venue'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 make 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.

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.
Forest Park Walking Tour

Forest Park Walking Tour

Saint Louis boasts a 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 self guided walking tour to discover the most visited tourist attractions in Saint Louis Forest Park.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.9 Km or 3.7 Miles
Historical Religious Buildings Walking Tour

Historical Religious Buildings Walking Tour

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 famous and interesting churches in the USA as well as other well known religious buildings. Take this self guided walking tour to visit the beautiful religious buildings in Saint Louis.

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

Top Museums Walking Tour

Amid an array of diverse cultural attractions fit to delight any tourist in Saint Louis, museums are among the most prominent. If you're an American history buff or have a keen interest in military or architecture, you can discover much to your liking, as well as learn a great deal about the city's past and present by visiting the Museum of Westward Expansion, the City Museum, the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles