One of the oldest cities in the United States, Richmond has remarkably been the capital of Virginia since 1780. As it was heavily involved in the Civil War, countless important landmarks and historic sites dot its streets while thriving arts and craft brewery scenes have also developed in recent years.
While it certainly has a wealth of magnificent monuments and museums to stop by, each district has its identity. This makes exploring the city interesting as the bohemian Carytown couldn’t be more different from the quiet cobbled streets of Church Hill and ostentatious Gilded Age estates that dot its surroundings.
Other things to do in Richmond include exploring its picturesque parks and gardens while wonderful waterfront walks can be enjoyed along the banks of the James River. Along with the stunning state capitol and marvelous Maymont estate, plus all the other attractions in Richmond, it could take weeks to reveal all of it’s riches.
24. T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge
Offering fantastic views of the river, rapids and downtown is the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge. Connecting the center to the Manchester side of the city, it’s a popular spot to walk, run or cycle for locals and tourists.
A key part of the city’s Riverfront Plan to rejuvenate the waterfront, the 1,600-foot-long walkway is built atop what was once a hydroelectric dam. Only opened in 2016, it is now named in honor of the senior planner who was such a staunch advocate of improving access to the city’s green spaces.
Aside from strolling across the bridge and taking in its delightful panoramas, you can also read the various informative plaques and historical markers lining its sides.
23. Fan District
So named due to the distinctive shape its streets make, the Fan District boasts lovely historic houses and tree-lined avenues. Centered on the Virginia Commonwealth University campus, the very lively neighborhood can be found in between both the Museum District and downtown.
Although it hums with life and energy, the Fan is primarily residential with most of its fine old buildings dating to around the turn of the twentieth century. Despite being known for its wealth of Victorian architecture, just as many houses showcase exquisite Edwardian and Queen Anne-style features.
Plenty of colorful shops and local restaurants line its streets while the charming district’s bars host excellent live music nights. You can also enjoy great shows and concerts at the Altria Theater on the college campus alongside Monroe Park.
22. Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Lying directly north of the Fan District is one of the best places in the city to enjoy a freshly pulled pint. At the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, guests can take tours and tastings while basking in the appealing ambience and listening to live music.
In recent years, a whole host of microbreweries have popped up around Richmond with many craft beer lovers now making sure to stop by one or two when in town. Since being established in 2011, Hardywood has gone from strength to strength with tours of its brewing facilities highlighting how they produce their award-winning ales and IPAs.
Afterwards, you can sample some in its atmospheric taproom or outdoor beer garden while eclectic music acts and food trucks also feature at the weekends.
21. Richmond Raceway
If you’re after an enthralling, action-packed experience, make sure to check out the exciting events held at the Richmond Raceway. Nestled away towards the northern outskirts of the city, ‘America’s premier short track’ hosts both the thrilling NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series.
Inaugurated in 1946, the historic old raceway is known for its unique ‘D’ shape which allows drivers to reach high speeds and increases the likelihood of contact between cars. This makes it ideal for all the riveting races it puts on with perfect views guaranteed of the track from all its seats and suites.
In addition to all the roaring races, the ‘Action Track’ holds countless concerts, community festivals and consumer trade shows during the year.
20. Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site
A fascinating place to visit, the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site offers an invaluable insight into the life and legacy of the Civil Rights activist. Located along Quality Row in the Jackson Ward part of town, her former home is full of interesting artifacts and exhibits on her accomplishments.
Born in 1864 to Elizabeth Draper, a former slave, Maggie later remarkably became the first African American woman to serve as the head of a bank. As an influential leader and newspaper editor, she used her position to advocate for the economic empowerment of Jim Crow-era African Americans and increased educational opportunities and civil rights.
While touring around her home, you’ll see refined furnishings and personal belongings dating to the early 1900s. Historical photos and commemorative plaques also provide more info on the successful entrepreneur.
19. American Civil War Museum
As Richmond served as the capital of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, it would be remiss to visit and not stop by this magnificent museum. Housed at the historic Tredegar Iron Works just off Brown’s Island, its engaging exhibits and original artifacts present a picture of the war from numerous perspectives.
Only opened in 2019, its beautiful new building blends perfectly with the battered old bricks of the 1837 industrial site around it. Inside, well-done displays document the history of the Civil War, its key events and figures. These exhibits cover not just the Union and Confederate positions but those of common soldiers, civilians and both enslaved and free African Americans too.
Its immersive A People’s Contest film also highlights the important role Richmond played while a statue of Abraham Lincoln and his son sits outside.
18. Altria Theater
Set right at the southwest corner of Monroe Park is the outstanding Altria Theater; the largest venue of the Richmond CenterStage performing arts complex. In its ornate auditorium, visitors can watch some hilarious stand-up comedy and brilliant Broadway shows by local and international acts.
Instantly recognizable from its marvelous Moorish Revival-style exterior, the theater was formerly known as first The Mosque and then the Landmark Theater. Originally erected in 1927 as a temple, the renowned venue’s opulent interior has put on top-class plays and performances since the forties.
Over the years, everyone from Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra to Bruce Springsteen and B B King have graced its hallowed stage. Make sure to check out its packed calendar when you’re in town as new and interesting shows take place all the time.
17. Agecroft Hall & Gardens
A very peaceful and picturesque place to explore, Agecroft Hall and its gorgeous gardens lie just a ten minute drive up the James River from downtown. After touring around the terrific Tudor mansion, you can wander about the lovely landscaped grounds outside.
Remarkably enough, the manor house was built in the late fifteenth century in Lancashire, England before being painstakingly dismantled and rebuilt in the Windsor Farms part of Richmond. Now a historic house museum, the hall is adorned with ornate wood panels while fabulous furnishings and period pieces decorate its rooms.
Once you’ve taken in its delightful decorative features and heard about its journey to the States, you can bask in the beauty of its garden and fine views over the river. In summer, hordes of people flock here for its fantastic Shakespeare Festival which sees plays performed in the garden.
16. Virginia Museum of History & Culture
For those interested in learning more about the state’s storied past, the Virginia Museum of History & Culture is an absolute must. This is because its innumerable artifacts and exhibits shine a light on over 16,000 years of history and the various cultures and communities to impact the Old Dominion.
Established in 1831 as the Virginia Historical and Philosophical Society, its huge collection of more than nine million items now occupies a striking neoclassical building in the Museum District. Inside are countless detailed displays on everything from early settlers and local Native American peoples to the Civil War and the Colony of Virginia founded in 1607.
Besides learning about all its important peoples and places, you can peruse centuries-old maps and colorful folk art with the museum’s military-themed murals being a particular highlight.
15. Short Pump Mall
After all the sightseeing and shows, the stylish Short Pump Mall is the perfect place to go for some retail therapy. At the enormous open-air shopping center on the northwestern outskirts of town, you can shop until you drop with plenty of cozy cafes and restaurants also on offer.
Since opening in 2003, the shopping center has expanded considerably with over 120 upscale stores now packing out its two vast floors. Whether you’re after beauty accessories and clothes or gadgets, gifts and jewellery, its boutiques are sure to sell them with Macy’s and Dillard’s anchoring the mall.
In between picking out shoes and sportswear, you can stop for a coffee at Starbucks or sit and enjoy a tasty Indian or Mexican meal. Several strip malls lie nearby should you want to continue shopping beyond the chic complex with all its wonderfully laid out walkways.
14. Science Museum of Virginia
Back in the Museum District is yet another of the city’s top cultural institutes to hit up: the engaging yet educational Science Museum of Virginia. Full of interactive exhibits and hands-on experiments and activities, it makes for a great day out for all the family.
Now based in what was once Broad Street Station, the museum was set up in 1970 to encourage an understanding and appreciation for the sciences. It has certainly succeeded as its dynamic displays and immersive installations make topics like health, energy and space fun and unforgettable to learn about.
After playing air hockey against a robot or racing a T-Rex and cheetah, you can watch some superb science shows in its state-of-the-art planetarium and IMAX.
13. Church Hill Historic District
If you want to step back in time and see what Richmond was like before the Civil War, make sure to stroll around the charming Church Hill Historic District. As well as attractive old houses and gas-lit cobblestone streets, it contains important landmarks such as St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Now located directly east of downtown, it was here in 1773 that Richmond was actually born on the banks of the James River. Its collection of compact neighborhoods and all their Queen Anne-style buildings are very well-preserved while leafy parks and arresting monuments are also dotted about.
Aside from taking in the area’s atmospheric old look and feel, you can see the church where Patrick Henry gave his famous ‘Give me liberty, or give me death’ speech in 1775. Now a National Historic Landmark, it has tours to take around its graveyard with reenactments also regularly taking place.
12. Virginia Capital Trail
An enjoyable and outdoorsy way to see more of the city and its surroundings is to walk, run, jog or cycle along the Virginia Capital Trail. In addition to connecting the state’s past capitals to its present one, it takes you past loads of interesting historic sights and pristine nature spots along the way.
Stretching just over fifty miles in length, the multipurpose path currently winds its way between the center of Richmond and Jamestown; the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. Further plans will see the trail eventually extend ten miles more to Williamsburg which was the last colonial capital of the Colony of Virginia.
On top of basking in the stunning scenery on show all around you, you can also visit fascinating old landmarks and museums in the center and nearby surroundings of the three historic cities.
11. Virginia Holocaust Museum
Not far from the start point of the trail is the powerful and poignant Virginia Holocaust Museum. As well as highlighting the horrors of the Holocaust through historic photos and oral testimonies, it has several sections dedicated to the genocides that sadly occurred in Armenia, Cambodia and Rwanda.
One of the best Holocaust museums in the nation, it was founded in 1997 to honor its victims, tell their stories and serve as a reminder that this should never happen again. While many of its displays narrate the history of the Holocaust and present the perils of prejudice and indifference, some share the Ipson family’s experience and how they survived.
Visitors can see original artifacts and walk through both a ‘goods wagon’ used to transport prisoners to the camps and a reproduction of the Nuremberg Trials courtroom. Harrowing film clips and audio testimonies also present what life was like in concentration camps.
10. Belle Isle
Surrounded by the rushing waters of the James River is the scenic and serene Belle Isle. One of the most picture-perfect places to spend time in Richmond, its untouched wild spaces and rock-studded shores can be accessed from the center via a pedestrian suspension bridge.
Originally known as Broad Rock Island, it was explored by Captain John Smith in 1607 before later serving as a prison for Union forces during the Civil War. While wandering along its trails, you will come across ruined structures from the 1860s village that once occupied the isle.
Besides hopping from rock to rock and sunbathing or picnicking atop particularly large boulders, you can swim and kayak in the river’s cool waters. Outdoor lovers can also drink in divine views of the rocky rapids and downtown skyline rising up before them.
9. White House of the Confederacy
Yet another of the capital’s hugely interesting historic sights to check out is the White House of the Confederacy. Lying in the Court End neighborhood just north of downtown, the restored mansion’s three floors are full of original furnishings and period pieces that highlight how its former occupants used to live.
Now preserved as a National Historic Landmark, the handsome historic house was built in 1818 and features some understated neoclassical architecture. Between 1861 and 1865, it served as the main executive residence of Jefferson Davis; the sole President of the Confederate States of America.
Nowadays, visitors can take a tour around its interior and learn about his and his family’s lives during the Civil War and how they eventually had to flee before the invading Union forces.
8. Edgar Allan Poe Museum
Not far away is the excellent Edgar Allan Poe Museum which commemorates his time spent living in the city. Through all its original manuscripts, letters and other memorabilia, guests learn all about the beloved American author’s life and career.
Home to one of the world’s largest collections of his works and personal belongings, it opened back in 1922 in the Old Stone House – the oldest original residential building in Richmond. After having taken in the quaint brickwork of the 1740s house, venture inside for exhibits on his early childhood, important poems and mysterious death.
After having seen a lock of his hair and furniture from his former homes, you can also stroll around several gardens behind the building inspired by Poe’s writing.
7. Hollywood Cemetery
Sprawled across a massive part of the city’s Oregon Hill neighborhood is the historic Hollywood Cemetery. The final resting place of many famous figures, its impressive old monuments and rolling hills overlooking the James River make it an attractive and interesting spot to explore.
As it was designed in 1849 to be a garden cemetery, lush lawns and groves of trees lie amidst all the intricate tombstones that coat its rambling valleys. Named after the holly trees that dot the property, it is mostly known for the grand graves of the two US presidents James Monroe and John Tyler.
Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederate States, is also interred here as are more than twenty Confederate generals. Taking a tour enables you to learn about its history while seeing sights such as the towering Monument of Confederate War Dead and the pretty Palmer Chapel Mausoleum.
6. Canal Walk
Canal Walk takes you along a scenic part of Richmond’s recently rejuvenated waterfront. As well as offering some fabulous views of the river, rapids and downtown, it has captivating historic sights and artworks to stop off at along the way.
Although it only stretches 1.25 miles in length, the picturesque path certainly packs a lot in with the 22 bronze medallions along the route teaching you all about its storied past. These highlight the key role the canal played in the city’s development by focusing on the various factories and districts to have lined it over the centuries.
Numerous sculptures and colorful and creative murals litter its banks which meander about not just the Haxall and Kanawha canals but the James River and Brown’s Island too.
One of the hippest and most happening spots to hit up in the city is the lively yet laidback Carytown next to the Museum District. Packed with enticing indie boutiques and award-winning restaurants, the bohemian district is loads of fun to explore at any time of day.
Established in the late 1920s, the historic neighborhood is known for its eclectic array of shops and eateries. These now number well over two hundred in total with cozy cafes and cool clothes boutiques lying alongside lovely little local restaurants and family-run bakeries.
Plenty of public art pieces and well-preserved old buildings are also on display while the latest films can be enjoyed in the Byrd Theater’s beautiful auditorium. Each year, the exciting exhibits and live music shows of the Watermelon Festival draw huge crowds of both locals and tourists to the district.
4. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
An absolute treat to wander about peacefully, the gorgeous Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is full of colorful plants, flowers, trees and shrubs. Its fantastic themed gardens cover a ginormous area just north of the city limits with arresting artworks and reflective ponds punctuating its flowerbeds.
First opened to the public in 1984, it is now regularly included on lists of the best botanical gardens in the country due to its dozen or so delightfully different sections. These include rows of blooming rose bushes and an extensive Asian Valley with old-fashioned Victorian-style gardens also featuring.
The highlight though is of course its classical glass-domed conservatory which is the only one along the mid-Atlantic. It houses an amazing collection of exotic and unusual plants and a live tropical butterfly section where they flutter about beneath its tall dome’s intricate ironwork.
3. Virginia Capitol Building
As it was designed by Thomas Jefferson to resemble a Roman temple, the Virginia Capitol Building certainly makes for a striking sight. On tours of its cavernous interior, you’ll learn about the history of the state and key figures like George Washington while enjoying all its fine art and architecture.
Following the onset of the American Revolutionary War, the capital was moved from Williamsburg to Richmond. Since being completed in 1788, the brilliantly bright white building has served as the state’s seat of government. Remarkably enough, it also encompasses North America’s oldest elected legislative body, the Virginia General Assembly, which was established in 1619.
Once past its elegant Ionic columns and protruding portico, you can explore its grand chambers and art-decked hallways. Upon exiting, you can enjoy divine views over downtown and the James River from its prominent hilltop setting.
2. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Besides the nearby Maymont estate, the phenomenal Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is undoubtedly the city’s standout sight. Located in the Museum District, it boasts an extraordinary collection of art pieces and artifacts that cover more than 5,000 years of art history.
Now displaying roughly 22,000 paintings, photos and ceramics, the magnificent museum occupies a distinctive modern building while a superb sculpture garden lies outside. Alongside masterpieces by Rubens and Rousseau, you can see an ancient Egyptian mummy, Tibetan cultural treasures and lots of glittering Faberge eggs.
Other parts of the museum focus on both Art Nouveau and Art Deco design elements with American landscapes and African artworks also decorating its airy galleries. Thanks to its impressive scope, it is no wonder the museum has been a firm favorite with families ever since 1936.
Richmond’s top tourist attraction however has to be the massive and majestic Maymont which is set just ten minutes drive west of downtown. At the elaborate Gilded Age estate, guests can tour its huge historic house museum and immaculately groomed grounds.
Once home to a dairy farm, the scenic site that overlooks the James River was acquired by the wealthy lawyer James Dooley and his wife Sallie in 1886. They set about building the estate and the lovely Japanese Garden home to fountains, a koi pond and waterfall.
The real showstopper though is exploring Maymont Mansion which is adorned with antiques and lavish furnishings. Afterwards, there is a leafy arboretum and large carriage collection to see while its wildlife center contains black bears, bald eagles and a bobcat.