This Historic City Is One of the Best Places to Live in Virginia — With Incredible Museums, Delicious Restaurants, and Diverse Neighborhoods

Here's what you need to know to plan a trip to Richmond, Virginia.

<p>traveler1116/Getty Images</p>

traveler1116/Getty Images

“There is not one story of Virginia, but many,” reads the entrance to one of the long-standing exhibitions at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture in Richmond. It’s a message that resonates across the state, but it’s especially poignant here in the capital, where the history is complex, the residents are passionate, and there’s an unmistakable dedication to conservation, education, art, and entrepreneurship.

Preservation remains central to Richmond’s character, particularly when it comes to museums and architecture, but this is also a destination that continues to push for change and support new ideas. “It’s not the same Richmond,” says Kelli S. Lemon, a social entrepreneur, community activist, and owner of Urban Hang Suite. She encourages visitors to “come with an open mind of seeing something new” and understand that Richmond is “not what we were known for [in the past], but what we are now.” It’s this multi-faceted, dynamic nature, forever rooted in a sense of place, that makes the city so enticing — and even more transformative. “Be careful,” warns Bill Martin, director of The Valentine, “Richmond… might change you.”

<p>traveler1116/Getty Images</p>

traveler1116/Getty Images

As Martin tells Travel + Leisure, Richmond is “filled with the powerful stories of people who created our nation and with a variety of experiences where you will find your own story.” Whether your journey includes a walk along the James River, an afternoon browsing the exhibits at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), or several hours laughing with a friend over dinner in Church Hill, you’re bound to leave with a newfound appreciation of this storied Southern city. Or you may not want to leave at all — Richmond is one of the best places to live in Virginia, according to real estate experts.

Interested in planning a trip, but not quite sure where to begin? Read on to discover T+L’s guide to Richmond, Virginia.

Richmond, Virginia

  • Book a room at The Jefferson, the grandest hotel in Richmond.

  • Walk the Pony Pasture Rapids Trail along the James River — or float down the waterway on a tube.

  • Discover the individual personalities of Richmond’s neighborhoods, including Church Hill, Jackson Ward, The Fan, and Scott’s Addition.

  • Enjoy afternoon tea at Floris, the VMFA’s elegant tearoom that opened at the end of 2023.

  • Plan your visit for the fall, when most of the Virginia humidity has departed.

Best Hotels

<p>Courtesy of The Graduate Richmond</p>

Courtesy of The Graduate Richmond

The Jefferson

“There’s nothing like staying at The Jefferson,” says Lemon. The 181-room historic property is the most regal hotel in Richmond, with a history that dates back to 1895. Upon entering the Palm Court lobby, your eyes are immediately drawn upward to the colorful stained glass ceiling; the impressive architecture continues throughout the common areas, most notably into the Rotunda. One of the dining areas for the popular Champagne Sunday Brunch (which requires reservations made well in advance), the Rotunda is outfitted with Corinthian columns, a resplendent staircase, and decor that harkens back to the Gilded Age.

There are touches of this design style in the traditionally decorated guest rooms and suites, but they don’t feel overly heavy or outdated, thanks to a full-scale renovation that took place from 2013 to 2017. To complete the experience, guests will want to dine at the hotel’s restaurant (and local favorite) Lemaire. “Be sure to order the peanut soup or the pimento cheese for a taste of Richmond,” says Jeanita Harris, The Jefferson’s director of guest services.   

Quirk Hotel

Recommended by both Lemon and Martin, Quirk Hotel is the younger, more modern accommodation option in town. Opened in 2015, the property aims to be a destination “where art and history intersect.” That means you’ll find original artwork throughout the property (which was built as the J.B. Mosby & Co. Dry Goods Store in 1916) —  from the bright guest rooms to the on-site gallery. Before a big day of exploring Richmond, fuel up at The Coffee Bar, then return to The Lobby Bar or Q Rooftop Bar for pre-dinner cocktails.

Graduate Richmond

Richmond may be a big city, but it’s also a college town. The University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia State University, Virginia Union University, and Randolph Macon College are all located within the greater Richmond area, so it makes sense that the Graduate Hotels brand would have an outpost in the city. Along with its cozy rooms and a fitness center, Graduate Richmond has an outdoor pool, a rooftop cocktail bar, and an all-day café and bar.

Best Things to Do

Check out some of the city’s top-tier museums.

Visiting Richmond’s museums is at the top of Martin’s must-do list. “Of course, start with The Valentine for your introduction to the region’s history,” he says, “Then the options are limitless: the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Virginia Museum of History & Culture, Maymont, Science Museum of Virginia, Children’s Museum of Richmond, The American Civil War Museum, and Agecroft Hall & Gardens.”

<p>ferrantraite/Getty Images</p>

ferrantraite/Getty Images

Spend a day along the glorious James River.

“The James River runs right through downtown,” says Harris, who adds that visitors can choose from the “excitement of class four rapids, a leisurely float down the river in a tube, or a hike along the miles of nature trails.” For rafting, tubing, and kayaking trips, check out Riverside Outfitters. Martin also suggests a more relaxing activity of simply “packing a lunch and finding a rock;” you’ll find a number of large picnic-perfect rocks around Belle Isle.

Take a tour of the Virginia State Capitol.

Free one-hour tours are offered throughout the week at the Virginia State Capitol, located in the aptly named Capitol District. “The tours are about 45 minutes long, and the knowledgeable docents provide a wonderful introduction to Richmond and Virginia history,” says Harris. Plus, she notes, it’s home to a life-size statue of George Washington, which is said to be one of the most accurate depictions of the historic figure.

Discover local artists and musicians.

Richmond’s creativity isn’t just relegated to one neighborhood or one category. Rather, it takes on a variety of shapes throughout the city. To admire and shop for locally made artwork, check out Art Works, Iridian Gallery (which focuses on works by LGBTQ+ artists), Arts in the Park (a free outdoor event that takes place in May), Eric Schindler Gallery, or the Crossroads Arts Center. Richmond’s music scene is equally diverse and impressive. To see which performances align with your travels, follow local venues — like The Camel, The Canal Club, or The Broadberry — and local bands and performers — including Cleophus James, Butcher Brown, and The Shack Band.

Best Restaurants

<p>Courtesy of The Roosevelt</p>

Courtesy of The Roosevelt

The Roosevelt

While Martin says pinpointing just one or two top Richmond restaurants is “impossible,” he does mention The Roosevelt (along with Grisette) is one of his neighborhood favorites. Here, Chef Leah Branch brings her own touch to Southern cuisine, with a menu consisting of delicacies like cornbread with whipped maple butter, fried catfish, and tobacco-smoked pork butt.


There are regular cheese and charcuterie boards, and then there are the expertly curated cheese and charcuterie boards at Grisette. The thoughtful, cozy space is open for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays, and reservations are recommended. Fair warning, though: You’ll want to avoid filling up on meats and cheeses. It’s crucial to save a bit of room for the fan-favorite profiteroles.


“Located in the charming Church Hill neighborhood, this is a favorite recommendation for guests interested in seafood. The cocktails are tasty as well,” says Harris. Alewife’s signature sampler platter, the Siren’s Song, is a classic, although the menu does change weekly.

Floris at VMFA

After making your rounds through the VMFA’s exhibits — don’t miss the extensive Fabergé collection — it’ll be time for afternoon tea at Floris. The museum’s tearoom features a rotating menu that takes inspiration from the neighboring collections, and the atmosphere and structure are akin to a British afternoon tea. It’s elegant without being stuffy, and the $45 tea service comes with pastries, sweet treats, and savory bites.

Mama J’s

You’ll want to come hungry to Mama J’s, a family-owned restaurant in the historic Jackson Ward neighborhood. Think fried chicken, crab cakes, pork chops, brisket sandwiches, and a whole host of delicious sides — macaroni and cheese, candied yams, and seafood salad included.

Best Shopping


Carytown is a favorite area for local shopping,” says Harris. The mile-long stretch of Cary St. is filled with various one-of-a-kind restaurants and shops — and you could spend hours popping in and out of the storefronts. “Guests always come back with lots of shopping bags from World of Mirth, Ten Thousand Villages, For The Love of Chocolate, Traveling Chic Boutique, and GlassBoat,” she explains.

Shops at Libbie and Grove

In Richmond’s West End neighborhood, you’ll find a collection of boutiques and gourmet eateries all located along Libbie, Grove, and Patterson Avenues. To update your wardrobe, there’s Nellie George, Peter-Blair, the Shops at 5807, and Jean Theory. To refresh your home, browse the selections at Fraîche, Gild and Ash, and Beckon Home.

Related: Black-owned Businesses to Support During a Long Weekend in Richmond, Virginia

Best Time to Visit

<p>Joe_Potato/Getty Images</p>

Joe_Potato/Getty Images

According to Harris, the best time of year to visit Richmond is the fall: “The weather is perfect for going to the river, [or] exploring the city by bicycle, Segway, or on foot.” Plus, she says, “The cooler temperatures also make for pleasant evenings out to enjoy Richmond’s vibrant nightlife.” Spring is also a beautiful time to visit; the daffodils, cherry blossoms, tulips, magnolias, and azaleas are blooming at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden — and you’ll be able to avoid summer’s muggy weather and larger crowds.

How to Get There

Richmond International Airport (RIC) is one of the larger airports in the state of Virginia, and it’s served by nine major air carriers — including Delta, American Airlines, JetBlue, and United. The airport is only about 10 miles from downtown Richmond, so travelers should factor in about a 15- to 20-minute drive between the two. Uber and Lyft rides are readily available for pickup. Alternatively, Richmond is home to two Amtrak stations; the Main Street Station is located downtown while the Staples Mill Road Station is eight miles northwest of downtown (you’ll need to take a cab to get into the city).

<p>traveler1116/Getty Images</p>

traveler1116/Getty Images

Neighborhoods to Visit

“Richmond is a city of neighborhoods,” says Martin, and Lemon adds that it’s important for travelers to “go into the local neighborhoods, talk to the people [who] have lived there for a long time, see the architecture, [and] see the local businesses that have been there for years.”

Church Hill

“Church Hill is home to St. John’s Church, where Patrick Henry gave his famous ‘Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death’ speech, and the architecture and attractions take you back in time,” says Harris. If you’re hungry while in the area, snag a freshly baked treat at Sub Rosa Bakery.

Jackson Ward

Jackson Ward, a historically Black neighborhood in Richmond, is filled with important cultural and historical markers — including the home of Maggie L. Walker (the country’s first Black female bank president), the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, and a statue of American tap dancer Bill Robinson. Cuisine in the area is also first-rate, so definitely add Adarra, Mama J’s, and Penny’s Wine Shop to your trip itinerary.

Scott’s Addition

If you’re interested in a brewery crawl, there’s only one place to go: Scott’s Addition. The area is packed with taprooms, cideries, and distilleries — most of which are located in repurposed warehouses. Consider starting your tour at Bingo Beer Co., Starr Hill Beer Hall & Rooftop, or Three Notch'd Brewing.

The Fan District

“The Fan, given its name by the streets that ‘fan out,’ is filled with restaurants, bars, shops, and museums,” says Harris. It’s in this part of the city where you’ll find the Virginia Commonwealth University campus, as well as Monument Avenue, the picturesque boulevard featuring stunning homes and the Arthur Ashe Monument (Ashe was a native of Richmond.)


“Another area to explore is Manchester along Hull Street. This neighborhood has its own unique history and is one of the fastest-growing parts of the city with local food favorites like Croaker’s Spot,” says Martin.

Brookland Park Boulevard

“I would also recommend exploring the Brookland Park Boulevard (Barton Heights and Highland Park) area,” says Martin. “In these early streetcar neighborhoods, you will find great architecture, history, and small local businesses and restaurants — don’t miss Ruby Scoop’s Ice Cream!”

Related: 15 Best Places to Visit in Virginia, According to Locals

How to Get Around

There are a few ways to explore Richmond. Having a car is helpful, particularly if you plan to cover a lot of ground in one day (just be prepared to test your parallel parking skills). Biking is also a great way to get around the city; Riverside Cycling and The Kickstand both offer half-day and full-day rentals.

There’s also the local bus system, operated by the Greater Richmond Transit Company, and the GRTC Pulse route is an excellent option for visitors. The “high-capacity bus rapid transit system,” as it’s called, serves a nearly eight-mile route along Main Street and Broad Street. It stops at 14 key destinations, like Scott’s Addition, the Science Museum, and VCU. Find the full route and schedule here. It is currently free to ride.

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