Why Richmond, Virginia, Is a Must-Visit Design Destination

From food to art, here’s everything you need to know about the River City.

 VISIT RICHMOND PHOTO

photography by VISIT RICHMOND


With its hot culinary scene, indie boutiques, and contemporary art galleries, Richmond, Virginia, has evolved into a vibrant, cultural city. Virginia Commonwealth University’s thriving arts program, the much-anticipated Institute for Contemporary Art (slated to open spring 2018), new CURRENT Art Fair, and community art centers and galleries have transformed the River City into a hub for creativity and design.

From strolling down Monument Avenue and admiring the beautiful architecture to meandering along the James River’s wooded nature trails, the River City is a feast for the eyes. Street artists have turned the city into their canvas, bringing lackluster building facades to life with their vibrant murals. Art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants have reinvigorated the downtown. And, since it’s just two hours south of Washington DC, the city is easily accessible.

Whether you’re just passing through or staying for a few days, there’s no shortage of beautiful places to see and exciting things to do. Here are our favorites.

 QUIRK HOTELS

photography by QUIRK HOTELS


Where to Stay

Quirk Hotel, 201 West Broad Street
This hip new boutique-hotel-meets-contemporary-art-gallery is the perfect home base for your Richmond getaway. With a rooftop bar, restaurant, coffee bar, gallery, and gift store on site, you don’t have to wander far from your room to be part of the action. Beautifully decorated guest suites are appointed with modern furnishings, and the art and decor is all by local makers.

The Jefferson Hotel, 101 West Franklin Street
Downtown Richmond’s The Jefferson Hotel is a River City institution with its Beaux Arts-style architecture and swanky interiors. After a long day of sight-seeing, unwind at the hotel bar’s popular happy hour with a cocktail and bite to eat, and then retire to one of the recently renovated guest suites. 

 VFMA

photography by VFMA


What to Do

Virginia Museum Of Fine Arts, 200 North Boulevard

Since the state art museum’s permanent collections are open to the public for free, take an afternoon to stroll through the galleries, and view everything from works by the old masters to pop art. Currently, the museum has Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style (pictured below) on exhibit up until August, where you can learn about the life, inspiration, and designs of the famous fashion designer. On Friday evenings, grab a bottle of wine from the cafe and loll in the sculpture garden among Dale Chihuly’s Red Reeds, along with the museum’s latest sculpture addition—Chloe, a 24-foot bust of a young girl by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.

 YSL EXHIBIT

photography by VFMA


The Branch Museum Of Architecture and Design, 2501 Monument Avenue
While driving down Richmond’s cobblestone Monument Avenue, you can’t miss the magnificent, 27,000-square-foot 1919 Tudor Revival. Built by architect John Russell Pope for prominent banker John Kerr Branch as his winter home, the sprawling mansion is open for architectural tours, while also playing host to both permanent and rotating exhibits.

The Valentine, 1015 East Clay Street
If you want an exciting visual narrative of the city, The Valentine museum’s exhibits and tours explain Richmond’s 400-year history. Tour the neighboring 1812 John Wickham House, grab lunch at the onsite Garnett’s Cafe, and scope out the museum’s latest design exhibit: Our Hearts on Our Sleeves, an ode to Richmond’s fashion and fiber arts scene.

 VISIT RICHMOND

photography by VISIT RICHMOND


T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge And “The Path Untraveled” Sculpture, Brown’s Island
Venture down to Brown’s Island and walk across the new 1,600-foot-long stainless steel pedestrian and bike bridge. It traverses the James River and connects with Manchester, a gritty industrial area that is on the up and up.

And while your gaze may be transfixed on the river and skyline, be sure to stop and read the historical markers for the bridge’s “Three Days in April 1865” installation—it tells the tale of how the Confederate Capital fell during the Civil War. On the south entrance of the bridge, you’ll also find “The Path Untraveled:” eight 17-foot-tall weathered steel rings created by Colorado-based artist Joshua Wiener.

VISUAL ARTS CENTER OF RICHMOND

photography by VISUAL ARTS CENTER OF RICHMOND


First Fridays

While the First Fridays art walk is a year-round event, it kicks into high gear come fall. Scope out the galleries in the downtown Arts District—1708 GalleryADA GalleryCandela Books + Gallery, and Quirk — or explore West Main Street’s art offerings at Glave Kocen GalleryPage Bond GalleryReynolds Gallery, and the Visual Arts Center of Richmond.

 Verve

photography by SARAH WALOR


Where to Shop


Verve Furnishings, 4903 West Leigh Street
This 12,000-square-foot warehouse is chock full of furniture, art, and tchotchkes from a variety of eras. Currently, owner Kim Vincze is adding more tribal art and decor, but you’ll also find Hollywood glam, mid-century modern, and statement pieces from the 1970s and ’80s.

Class And Trash, 1720 Altamont Avenue
If you enjoy the thrill of the hunt, head to Class and Trash in the hip Scott’s Addition neighborhood. While there are plenty of antiques and industrial pieces to pick through, take note of their extensive collection of garden decor and furnishings—think intricate metal archways, plant stands, and antique urns with perfect patina.

NEED SUPPLY CO.

photography by NEED SUPPLY CO.


Need Supply Co, 3100 West Cary Street
The internationally recognized fashion e-tailer Need Supply Co.’s Richmond headquarters recently expanded its brick-and-mortar to include a curated home goods section that showcases a range of interesting items, from confetti glassware by Hawkins New York and pottery by Brooklyn-based artist Helen Levi to locally made candles by Richmond’s very own Square Trade Goods Co.

Gather Home And Garden, 2704 East Marshall Street
In this pint-sized plant shop, owner Melissa Roberts channels her art background into curating a jungle-like display of greenery that showcases sculpture, texture, and color. You’ll also find handmade macrame plant hangers, terrariums, and gardening supplies for city dwellers. She also makes sure to stock Pan Natural Goods handcrafted soaps, as well as essential oils by Suzy Brockmann, who makes her products onsite.

 QUIRK GALLERY

photography by QUIRK HOTELS


Quirk Gallery Store, 207 West Broad Street
After viewing Quirk Gallery’s current exhibit, mosey on to the back of the gallery and peruse the gift shop’s fabulous offerings of ceramics, wearable art, and stylish housewares. Frequent popups and trunk shows promise new, exciting inventory by both makers and artists.

Studio Two Three, 3300 West Clay Street
Tucked in the hip Scott’s Addition neighborhood, this nonprofit, printmaking studio hosts an array of workshops and events. But it’s also home to a fabulous gift shop that sells quirky prints and textiles made in-house by artists Brooke Inman, Alyssa Salomon, Elizabeth Cogar, Natalie Kohlhepp, and Studio Two Three’s executive director, Ashley Hawkins.
 

 DEAR NEIGHBOR

photography by WESTON CLARK


Dear Neighbor, 2415 Jefferson Avenue
If you’re looking for a thoughtful present (or even something special for yourself), be sure to pop into this new Church Hill gift shop—it offers jewelry, leather goods, handmade housewares, and cheeky cards. While you’ll find an array of beautifully-designed goods from around the world, it’s the wares by local designers that shine bright—Na Nin candles and fragrances, Rabbit Foot Fern paper goods, Holly Francis ceramics, Marleigh Culver prints, Huerta cutting boards, and owner Kristy Cotter’s Drift Riot line of jewelry and accessories.

Brenner Pass

photography by Mel Calabro


Where To Eat and Drink

Brenner Pass, 3200 Rockbridge Street
The folks behind RVA’s revered Metzger Bar & Butchery just opened their much-anticipated second eatery, Brenner Pass, which has an interior that is just as exciting as the food. An Alpine-inspired menu and tasty craft cocktails pair perfectly with the space’s bright and airy industrial chic surroundings.

 SECCO

photography by ANSEL OLSON


Secco Wine Bar, 325 North Robinson Street
Whether it’s for happy hour or a nightcap, grab a drink at Secco Wine Bar’s bigger, better, and boozier location.Its patio is the perfect place for people watching, sipping wine, and sharing a cheese and charcuterie spread with friends.

Whisk, 2100 East Main Street
Fuel up for a day of sightseeing at this cheery bakery in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom neighborhood. Pair your espresso beverage with a savory croissant bread pudding—it’s the best.

 SEN ORGANIC

photography by MARISSA HERMANSON



Sen Organic Small Plate, 2901 West Cary Street
Grab lunch at this new, rustic chic Vietnamese restaurant—it uses organic and all-natural ingredients. Choose from bahn mi, pho, or noodle dishes. And if you’re feeling like a quick snack, simply feast on several of the small plates.

Shagbark, 4901 Libbie Mill East Boulevard

Chef Walter Bundy’s new venture celebrates the Virginia table quite literally, as the restaurant’s live-edge community table is fashioned from a beautiful shagbark hickory tree. Dishes showcase both Virginia’s bounty and Chesapeake Bay’s seafood, and the decor is a celebration of the Commonwealth’s artists and makers.

 

 CURRENT ART FAIR

photography by TERRY BROWN


Mark Your Calendar For

CURRENT Art Fair, September 28-Oct. 1, 2017
Now in its second year, CURRENT Art Fair will feature 14 local contemporary art galleries presenting works by local, national, and internationally recognized artists. The fair is free and open to the public Friday through Sunday, but if you’d like VIP access to the preview party on Thursday evening, you can snag a ticket for $50. The weekend is an exciting opportunity for new and experienced collectors to see and purchase art, and this year, some new exhibitors will also be displaying 3D work.
 

 INLIGHT

photography by TERRY BROWN


InLight, November 3, 2017
From 7pm to midnight on November 3, 1708 Gallery’s 10th Annual InLight will take place along Broad Street, in Richmond’s downtown Arts District. This year’s light festival will take its cue from the 1901 Electric Carnival that illuminated the same downtown stretch with thousands of lights.


Craft+Design Show, November 17-19, 2017
Now in its 53rd year, the high-end craft show has more than 120 artists coming from around the country to sell their contemporary crafts in the historic Main Street Station’s newly-renovated train shed. A special Made In Virginia section will showcase beautiful wares created by local artisans, such as North End Bag Company, Shockoe Atelier, and Molly Virginia Made.

See more travel guides:
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Published on August 22, 2017 - 5:00pm EDT

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