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louisville city guide


Louisville print by Capow at Etsy

Our Louisville City Guide comes to us from native Kentuckian and avid Design Sponge reader, Lee Ann Massey. When not immersed in the medical world as the administrator of a surgery center, Lee Ann hangs out with her minature daschund, Moxie, learns photography and is working her way through the “Top 100 Best Books of All Time” as a reading project. Today she shares with us some of the magic that is Louisville with a wonderful list of antique shops, local festivals and historical accommodations. Thanks Lee Ann for such a great guide! –Stephanie

CLICK HERE for the full guide after the jump!

The city of Louisville is home to about 600,000 residents and is the largest city in Kentucky. It is separated from Indiana by a bridge and the Ohio River giving it a Mid-Western identity by geography. However, its influences are both Southern and Appalachian in a city and state that hosts the Kentucky Derby, produces world famous bourbon, and creates bluegrass music. But it’s not all roots and boots here. Whether its down home or down right sophistication your’re looking for, Louisville’s got a lot to offer!

TO SHOP:
Andrew Gentile Antiques
Sizeable selection of well-curated 18th, 19th and 20th century French and English Antiques as well as some contemporary, classic pieces. Walls of beautifully framed vintage botanicals…I shall stop coveting now. 1287 Bardstown Road

Architechtural Salvage Missing parts and pieces for things you have and design inspiration for a home you don’t have. Several stories of antique salvaged glass, mirrors, tiles, furniture, fixtures and a veritable museum of widgets both substantial and not.
618 East Broadway

2023 Antiques
Small shop with mostly mid-century modern furniture, housewares and clothing so you can look like you’ve stepped out of Atomic Ranch.
2023 Frankfort Avenue

Elizabeth’s Timeless Attire Vintage clothing taken from a 1930’s starlette’s closet or from an 1880’s prairie home. Elizabeth’s isn’t ever predictable but it’s always beautiful.
2050 Frankfort Avenue

Hudson Home Sophisticated but unfussy store specializing in green and sustainable products. Owned by designer Andrew Hudson who can give you a lesson on eco-friendly furniture and show you some of his great design work and one of a kind vintage finds.
806 East Market Street

Dandelion Fresh, contemporary home and gift store with items hand selected by interior designer and owner Andie Frisbie. Great selection of jewelry with leather and semi-precious stones from local designers from a little sophisticated to a lot funky. Baby items too.
3729 Lexington Road

Discoveries
Unique jewelry from around the world, busts of Frida Khalo and hilarious clay El Dia de Los Muertos artifacts don the walls of this colorful boutique that has been mainstay for the accessory needs of Louisvillian’s for over 15 years.
1315 Bardstown Road

The Deal
Mostly mid-century modern finds and probably that perfect stylized chair you’ve been looking for to give your room an added dose ‘what is it’?
1004 Barret Avenue

Dover House Antiques
A mix of European antique and upscale new, the practical make take liking the selection of Dash and Albert rugs, the decorative to the walls of John Derian decoupage’d plates.
2000 Frankfort Avenue

Dreamlight Antiques With most of its inventory jumbled inside an adjacent abandoned church-cum-storage shed, Dreamlight has the most extensive selection of Arts and Crafts and Mid Century Modern furniture in the city.
1140 South 3rd Street

Oxenrose Home Antique, new and repurposed furniture designed in-house with elaborate storefront designs created by the talented co-owner Jonathan Thornton. The store features the work of Louisville jewelry designer and mixed media sculptress Amanda Hofmann.
623 Baxter Avenue

Scout Scout is both a fun home store and personal accessory bonanza. Features local cabinet makers who create original casement pieces for Scout only. And, you may have never wanted a Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams sofa until you’ve sat on a velvet one here.
742 East Market

Why Louisville? Dozens of original screen printed t-shirts by local artists with sayings like “Someone in Louisville Loves Me,” vintage Kentucky novelties and an art gallery featuring the work of locals. It’s hard to walk out of here empty handed.
1583 Bardstown Road

TO EAT AND DRINK:
El Mundo Teeny tiny box of a restaurant with Mejicano memorabilia like tarot cards and skulls dangling from brightly colored but dimly lit bar serving $4.00 ‘ritas on Wednesday and Thursday nights. The other nights people pack in for a fresh take on Mexican in this very popular hangout.
2345 Frankfort Avenue

Heine Brothers Coffee Genuinely nice baristas who aren’t overly caffeinated serving up fair trade, organic coffee in the local chain. Featuring Louisville-made Kizito baked goodies like pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. Try the neighborhood hangout in the Crescent Hill Location.
2714 Frankfort Avenue

The Blind Pig Gastropub appropriately located in Butchertown serving more than just beer and piggy: spicy sangria made with jalapeno and local honey, bison patty melts, pan roasted cod. Housed in a historically preserved 1870’s residential complex, the building and neighborhood is bringing back part of Louisville’s past. 1076 East Washington Street

Proof on Main
Restaurant located in the lobby of 21C Museum Hotel. Southern influenced cuisine, great seasonal cocktails from the bar, cotton candy for desert! The museum features national and international art and installations as well as cultural exhibitions.
702 West Main

North End Café Local favorite in the Crescent Hill/Clifton neighborhood and good for any meal of the day but I prefer sitting on the patio for brunch and eating the Fruit French Toast. Many organic and veggie options.
1722 Frankfort Avenue

Toast on Market
Open only for extending breakfast/brunch hours, the food is very hearty at this popular restaurant where you should call ahead for seating on the weekends.
736 East Market

Café Classico
European influenced cafe for quick lunch or full dinner. Try the pomme frittes or swing by for a coffee at the bar.
2144 Frankfort Avenue

Lynn’s Paradise Café Over the top décor with lamp shades dangling from the walls and ceiling and a gift shop called World of Swirl featuring every novelty item conceivable. Just save your money for the delicious, hearty food.
984 Barrett Avenue

Jack Fry’s Easily one of Louisville’s most prized restaurants and feels like you’re stepping into something timeless, treasured. Vintage photo collages of the city’s characters and history adorn the walls.
1007 Bardstown Road

Zanzabar Casual restaurant then nightspot after 9 pm with great local acts and your favorite national ones too, The Walkman, Toro y Moi, Ben Kweller. The building’s façade was recently renovated to its original look and sports the simple black tile ‘Z’ of the original Zanzibar once housed here.
2100 South Preston Street

TO SEE AND DO:
Old Louisville Louisville is home to largest preservation district of Victorian mansions in the country. The homes are unique, stately and worth a guided tour of the neighborhood or a drive down the main thoroughfare, 4th Street. Old Louisville Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center.
218 West Oak Street

Humana Festival of New American Plays Lasting several weeks each year and featuring dozens of new plays, Actors Theatre hosts the internationally renowned festival which has premiered several Pulitzer Prize winning plays.
316 West Main Street

Muhammad Ali Center ‘The World’s Greatest,’ born in Louisville, KY shows the world not how not to fight butto live in peace and harmony in an inspiring educational center dedicated to finding our own greatness.
144 North 6th Street

Kentucky Museum of Arts and Craft Contemporary and traditional exhibits of our brethren’s handiwork beautifully displayed in an airy downtown space. Stop by the gift shop for the jewelry, pottery and other Kentucky-made goods.
715 West Main Street

Kentucky Derby Festival Kicks off the second weekend in April with one of the largest fireworks displays in the country and culminates with The Kentucky Derby the first weekend in May. In between, bed races (literally beds on wheels being pushed around a track), a spelling bee, hot air balloon races, The Chow Wagon (food festival), and enough drinking and eating to last until Christmas.

The Lebowski Fest Home of the original Lebowski Fest in an ode to The Dude as played by Jeff Bridges’ character in the cult classic Coen Brother’s film, The Big Lebowski. Fans have been gathering here to bowl, drink, dress in costumes and celebrate achievement in a weekend festival since 2002.

Speed Museum of Art Works from around the world but with a focus on Western art. The English Room with ornate carved paneling from a 17th century country home is a favorite of mine but I also love the contrasting children’s exhibit with a trippy, interactive video art screen.
2034 South 3rd Street

TO STAY:
21 C Museum Hotel Voted by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine Reader’s Choice Awards as the #1 hotel in America. Modern boutique hotel with interactive art exhibits, even in the hotel lobby bathroom. Small but fun gift shop selling necessities like the 21C signature red penguin statue.
700 West Main Street

The Seelbach Hotel Located in downtown Louisville and built in 1903, the hotel served as the inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby.
500 South 4th Street

The Galt House This two tower megalith of a hotel sits on the banks of the Ohio River. Rest your beer on top ofthe glass enclosed fish tank hotel bar.
140 North 4th Street

LOUISVILLE NOTABLES:

My Morning Jacket and fabulous lead singer Jim James

Will Oldham aka Bonnie Prince Billy aka Palace Brothers aka Palace Music–often seen riding his bike around town or in local coffee shops

Hunter S. Thompson, founder of Gonzo journalism, author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Muhammad Ali

Diane Sawyer

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61 Comments

Andrea

Don’t forget Ramsi’s Cafe on the World! I’ve lived in Louisville since August and it’s hands-down my favorite restaurant!

Jennifer McGee

woot woot!! Love seeing some love for my city! Awesome job, Lee Ann!

Natalie Hartman

Glad to see Louisville get some love! I can’t wait to check out some of these shops I’ve never heard of, and I live in Louisville :)

Amy W

What surprise to see this on DS this morning!! I live about 30 minutes from L-ville, and it is where we all must to go get ANYthing we need crafty related! Arch Salvage is my all time favorite place! I have so many awesome things from there! Thanks for featuring our great city!!

Janelle

AH! I just visited there two days ago!

Joe Ley Antiques and Crazy Daisy Antique Mall should be added to the list! Amazing shops.

Cecil

Awh!! We lived there for six years, so awesome to see it in DS. There is also Louisville Slugger Museum/Factory – a must visit. I am not a huge fan of baseball, but the factory so worth visiting!

Karyn

My hometown! :) Great guide, Lee Ann! Looks like we have nearly exactly the same taste in Louisville restaurants.

Designtripper recently visited Louisville this spring, too — they loved several spots mentioned above as well as the new Hillbilly Tea, which I seriously need to try next time I’m home…
http://www.designtripper.com/category/locations/kentucky/

Lisa

Must also include The Mayan Cafe- one of the most unique, delicious and eco-minded restaurants in Louisville…

And Acorn Apparel on Barret Avenue for great vintage clothes.

Lewis

Awesome! Glad Louisville received some D*S Love :)

Louisville is my hometown and I love the city. I also have a website that focuses in on design as well, if you fellow Louisvillians are interested!

http://limewedge.net/design

Annie

so many people and places i know and love…especially Andrew Gentile and
the divine, amazing, most loving sculptress Amanda Hofmann!

Melissa B

Yay!!! it’s so nice to see my hometown in DS city guide! Dandelion is my favorite store :) Thanks Lee Ann.

Sara

Louisville is on our short list of future road trip destinations, so I’m thrilled to have this! Can’t wait to come see your lovely city!

sara

Veronica

Yes, thank you! I moved to Louisville a year and a half ago and still haven’t explored it like I should.

Katie

This is my town!
I second Andrea–you have got to try Ramsi’s. I also recommend Highland Coffee, which is just down the street. For book lovers, check out Carmichael’s (on Bardstown Road) or A Reader’s Corner off Breckinridge Lane (http://www.areaderscorner.com/).

I bought my prom dress at Elizabeth’s Timeless Attire a few years ago. I love that place so much!

Great guide, Lee Ann!

kt

Also of note in Louisville:

- Cherokee Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (famous for Central Park, wiki page says he designed 18 of Louisville’s parks).
- Baer Fabrics is a giant fabric store downtown. I’m from eastern KY and we used to travel to Louisville to go shopping for fabric for prom dresses there. Love it.
- St. James Court Art Show at the beginning of October every year is huge and in a beautiful part of town.

Nicole

Louisville is a great town to live in and we have a ton of great designers here…Dandelion’s interior designer help with my house and my husbands office…both look great! Also, locally owned Holy Grail has the best beer selection in town and yummy sliders.

MJ

I was so happy to see this! Thanks Lee Ann. All my faves! Dandelion is that store where I want everything!!!

Jessica

I wanted to add a few more places. Born and Raised in Louisville. My heart is so happy to it be noticed (for something other than a 2 minute race, not that I’ve missed a Derby party yet!)

First KT, Baer closed recently :(

Coffee Shops: I’m not the biggest fan of Heine Bros (listed in the original post), although I know Louisvillians love it. I personally prefer
-Sunnergos or
-Quills.
Much more unique drinks, and much more reasonable prices

Restaurants:
A list wouldn’t be complete without
-Blue Dog Bakery (Bread rivals European Bakeries) Go for breakfast or lunch
-Wild Eggs (amazing breakfast and brunch)
-Social (Pre prohibition era cocktails, and amazing American food)

Heather

Good timing! … with the derby coming right up. I would love to make in to Louisville one day. So many places… so little time.

EmmyL

I used to live in Louisville and, indeed, it is a marvelous town! I used to spend afternoons wandering through Goss Ave. antiques. There are too many great places to stop for coffee on Bardstown–try Quills or Day’s in addition to Heine Brothers. Check out Carmichael’s bookstore on Bardstown or Frankfort Ave. Dot Fox is a cute clothing boutique and Nitty Gritty on Barrett is fun for vintage. Third St. Cafe in Old Louisville has great veggie eats and I will always miss my old neighborhood watering hole with the most wonderful punk jukebox ever: Mag Bar.

JannaB

So nice to see Louisville here. I also recommend the Bristol Bar & Grille (i prefer Bardstown Road location). My Morning Jacket was amazing at the Yum! Center in October.

Katie

kt, Baer fabrics closed about a year ago (or two?). It was a lovely place, though. The only locally-owned fabric store I know of anymore is out in Shelbyville.
I noticed that Louisville Stoneware and Hadley Pottery were not on the list, either. My mom’s been collecting Hadley stuff for years. It’s all lovely and well-made. There’s also Bybee Pottery in Middletown, but that’s a little further on the east end than most of the places on this list.

Dra

I feel so deprived. Oh, Fairy Godmother, please wave your wand and move me to Louisville!

Steven

Great to see Louisville and alot of it’s awesomeness.

Also something tasty and healthy to try while in Derby City, and a Louisville original, Rooibee Red Tea! (rooibeeredtea.com)

Rachel

I’ll have to say, this is the only city guide I’ve read all the way through! Because Louisville is just a straight shot 90 minutes away from those of us in Indianapolis. When I made a trip there several years ago I had a hard time finding antique stores and the like online for planning purposes, so this guide is perfect!

Lynn’s Paradise Cafe: she beat Bobby Flay in a Throwdown. Nuff said!

Gemma

I love my hometown and happy to see it featured here.
I would like to suggest some of my favorite places not listed…
SHOPS:
in Butchertown: Work the Metal (home/gifts..also within, Cellar Door Chocolates!)
in Audubon Park: Junk in the Trunk and the Seek and Find (both antiques)
in Crescent hill: Crescent Hill Trading company (antiques)
Highlands/Crescent Hill: Carmichael’s Bookstore

Good Eats:
Highlands: Winston’s & Asiatique
Germantown: Eiderdown & Hammerheads
St. Matthews: Havana Rumba & Mojito’s
Clifton: Sweet Surrender, Osaka & Maido
Iroquois Park: Vietnam Kitchen
COFFEE & a wine bar: Java Brewery…all over town!

Julia

Oh, I’m going home to Louisville in 10 days, and this just made me so excited to go home! Leaving Louisville for college has made me realize what a magical city I live in. This guide has me ready to visit all of my old favorite restaurants and stores ASAP.

candice

I really love the places on the list! We were only in Louisville for a year when my husband was working at Actors but I completely fell in love with Louisville.

I’m surprised no one added The Homemade Pie and Ice cream Shop? Best pie caramel apple pie with cinnamon ice cream ever.

I like Architechtural Salvage but Joe Ley Antiques also has a huge inventory of doors, windows and fireplace surrounds at a more reasonable price. Plus it’s worth it just to go through the store. It’s huge and it’s crazy, but they do charge you a dollar to go in.

Aaron

Nice listing of the best Louisville has to offer. Dandelion is on of my favorites!!

Ashley

Scout is amazing! Sam and Jim are wonderful and there is always something new and special! Definitely a must-see.

Nicole S

Seeing this post this morning makes my heart smile. Moved here three years ago and am in love with the Ville.

avimom

So excited! We’re off to Louisville for the first time this weekend. Perfect timing!

my little apartment

yay! I’m a Lexington girl, but all my mom’s family is in the Cherokee Park area.

KT: Baer’s closed. so sad.

this is a great list with great additions in the comments– glad someone else mentioned Ramsi’s, I love that place!

Jefro

Checkout Parkside Bikes (parksidebikes.com) if you’re on Bardstown road. Benny’ll take care of ya!

Amy

Don’t forget 610 Magnolia… one of the best restaurants ever. Farm to table, local, fresh, delicious food. It’s at… 610 Magnolia St.

Erika

Louisville is an amazing town made up of amazing people (Kentucky people). I live in Cincinnati, but I love going to visit this town, it is the real deal. Nothing rings my bell like horses and bourbon (alright I admit it, I am from Kentucky), so if you ever have the chance please go and visit the best town in KY!

Beth

I can’t tell you how excited I am to see this! I am considering a move to the region, and was shocked to just recently discover that a fun, thriving city like Louisville had yet to be included as a city guide destination! Thank you so much! d*s is the very first place I seek out when I’m traveling!!

James

I lived in Louisville for 3 years during law school. Neither a Kentucky Native nor a Louisvillian, I found the city charming, interesting, and compelling enough to move there mostly because it so manifestly possessed what my hometown of Orlando (and sadly few cities in the South) possess: an appreciation for independent businesses over chains, a support of culture and the arts over pop culture, and a belief in basic human decency towards the downtrodden residents inhabiting the city.

I’m 4 months out and only now found this guide, but I can tell you that all of the places are remarkable, and there are constant surprises around every corner. What a great city.

shona~LALA dex press

There is something about KY I really love (I live in TN) + enjoy visiting Louisville. Thanks for the guide. On our next trip up I hope to go on the BBC brewery tour

emily

finally! i’ve been wondering where the louisville guide was.

Carrie

You all have made me homesick!!! My husband and I lived in Louisville from 2003 – 2009, and although we’re currently back in Michigan with our families in the town where we were born and raised, a huge part of my heart is still in Louisville. If we ever have the opportunity, I’ll move back in a heartbeat.

D

I love Louisville! A few additional places to visit: Havana Rumba is a delicious Cuban restaurant in the St. Matthews area, small vintage-y boutique Dot Fox on Bardstown Rd, lovely tea house Zen Garden on Frankfort Ave, and of course Glassworks in downtown…Louisville has a surprising glass art scene.

cass

Ah! I love Louisville. I second Blue Dog Bakery – best bakery around. Great list!

Angelina

Has anyone noticed a lot of the great places in Louisville are on Frankfort Ave.?!
Specifically, in the 2000 block , I suggest Scott F. Nussbaum Antiques (recently featured on American Pickers), SisterDragonfly Gallery, Mona & Lisa Boutique and Pottery Rowe (Melvin Rowe is one of Ky’s premiere potters). If you need a coffee and a bagel Nancy’s Bagels
is handy.After 5:00 it’s time for cocktails and dinner at Varanese.

Catherine Bryant

OMG can’t beleive you have left out EDENSIDE GALLERY, one of the BEST places to shop on Bardstown Road!! Please add!

melanie

Louisville is just about as great a locavore city as any. Don’t miss wonderful food at Eiderdown, near Goss Antique in Germantown (tho not German food.) Nearby is Nachbar for nightime, and Zanzabar for food, fun, and music. A must is Blue Dog Bakery, and now Thurs – Sat. evenings, same spot, is Red Hog Tapas – awesome pizza. We have great local music, good, and goods – just plan on a long visit!

Hollie @ I'm Busy Procrastinating

Thanks for this guide! I live in the Louisville area and have experienced many of the places you mentioned, but there are many more to go! My husband and I enjoy all the local restaurants, especially, that Louisville has to offer.

Kara Knorr

Best coffee in Louisville are the people that micro-roasts Heine Brother’s Coffee and that is Sunergos Coffee Micro-Roastery and Espresso Bar.

They now have two locations 2122 South Preston Street Louisville, KY (502) 634-1243 and
306 West Woodlawn Avenue Louisville, KY (502) 368-2820

Jeff Blanchard

If you’re downtown, a great place to grab a quick lunch is Safier Mediterranean Deli on 4th, north of Broadway. Tasty and affordable falafel sandwiches, and awesome hummos.

Angeline

Any recommendations on good places to find an apartment in Louisville? My husband and I may be relocating and are trying to look at our options.

Vicki Kelch

Great to see Louisville on the list.I was born & raised there & often wish I was still there! I had such a great childhood in the Highlands & I am so glad someone mentioned Cherokee Park & Cave Hill Cemetery (all my relatives are buried there).It is so beautiful & worth a visit by travelers. Also, in addition to the Steelbach Hotel,the Brown Hotel, which has been restored, is close by on Broadway.

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