St. Paul is a city known for its decades-old heritage, and maybe no other neighborhood showcases that heritage quite like the Cathedral Hill Neighborhood.
Beginning at the landmark St. Paul Cathedral, this neighborhood follows the regal Selby Avenue, which runs past numerous historic buildings and even more of the city’s best restaurants.
Cathedral Hill is definitely a place that any St. Paul visitor should spend a few hours checking out. Which is exactly why we’ve put together this guide showing off some of the area’s fascinating history, attractions, shops, and… let’s be honest… delicious food and drink.
Map of Places to Visit in Cathedral Hill
A Quick History of Cathedral Hill
Cathedral Hill wasn’t always part of St. Paul. In the early days, the only settlers of St. Paul lived near in the low land next to the river, near today’s downtown area and West 7th neighborhood.
The area now known as Cathedral Hill didn’t really get moving until after the American Civil War ended in 1865. Then, some of St. Paul’s wealthier residents moved out of the crowded, swampy lands near the river and up to the cleaner, quieter, and nicer grounds near Summit Avenue.
In the 1870s, the Summit Hill neighborhood began expanding towards Cathedral Hill. Things really started taking off in 1880, when the city constructed the first cable car along Selby Avenue. The fancy new cable car now meant residents could easily travel to downtown St. Paul for business, then retreat to the relaxation of Cathedral Hill at the end of the day.
As expected, this made Selby Ave the heartbeat of the neighborhood. At the cable car’s first stop near the Selby & Western intersection, the beautiful Dacotah Building was constructed and soon housed the neighborhood’s most popular pharmacy. (Named W.A. Frost – after it’s owner and the founder of University of Minnesota’s College of Pharmacy.)
Shortly thereafter, the stunning Blair Flats Building was finished at the same intersection, where it served as a residential hotel for some of St. Paul’s wealthiest people.
In 1906, the catholic church commissioned the chief architect from the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis for a big project. His job? Construct the present-day St. Paul Cathedral. His budget? $1 million. (An astounding $30 million in today’s dollars.) The church worked on the cathedral for the next decade. It eventually opened in 1915 and still remains the flagship landmark of the neighborhood.
The neighborhood remained popular until the 1950s. That year, the W.A. Frost pharmacy closed and the neighborhood began a steady decline. By the 1970s, the population was sparse, and many decaying historic buildings were lost.
Interestingly, the entire neighborhood didn’t turn around until the opening of a familiar business. In 1975, The Rupp Family took a chance by buying the Decotah Building and reviving the W.A. Frost pharmacy as a trendy new bar and restaurant in the depressed neighborhood. The bet paid off, and for the last 50 years, W.A. Frost (now a National Historic Landmark) has spurred the revitalization what’s now St. Paul’s most charming and historical neighborhood.
Basic Layout of the Neighborhood
The official boundaries of Cathedral Hill are formed by I-94 to the North, Dale to the West, and Summit Avenue to the South and East.
The major landmark in the neighborhood is the Cathedral of St. Paul. Once at the Cathedral, just follow Summit Avenue west and you’ll soon find yourself in the heart of the Cathedral Neighborhood, which I’d argue lies at the historic Western Ave & Selby Ave intersection. Once the cable car’s first stop in the neighborhood, this corner is now a hotbed trendy, popular restaurants like W.A. Frost, Handsome Hog, and Red Cow and the always popular Nina’s Coffee shop.
The official footprint of the neighborhood is somewhat small, but in practice, a visit to the neighborhood combines nicely with a 4 mile drive (or walk!) down the mansion-lined Summit Avenue or the shop & restaurant filled Grand Avenue. Click here for our guide to the Summit Avenue / Grand Avenue neighborhood.
The St. Paul Cathedral: The cathedral that the whole “Cathedral Hill” neighborhood is named after. Even our well-traveled European friends have been amazed by the St. Paul Cathedral’s 175 foot tall dome and absolutely stunning architecture. This one is absolutely worth a visit, and best of all, it’s free to the public and available to enter any time church isn’t in service. (You can double check the cathdral’s mass time here.)
Selby Avenue & Western Avenue Intersection: It’s not hard to envision the history as you’re taking in this historic intersection. With the Dacotah Building to the East and the Blair Flats to the west, the ornate architecture will have you feeling like you time traveled to turn of the early 1900s. If it’s open, step inside the Blair Flats building and imagine the wealthy residents who used to call this luxury residential hotel home.
F. Scott Fitzgerald House: Right on the border of the Cathedral Hill and Summit Hill neighborhood is the old home of the famous American author. The exact address of the National Historic Landmark is 599 Summit Avenue. (Note this is now a private home, so tours aren’t available.)
The F. Scott Fitzgerald Statue: The old St. Paul Academy at 25 Dale Street is where F. Scott Fitzgerald learned his legendary prose. The spot is commemorated with a statue of the young author.
Boyd Park: The neighborhood’s primary greenspace is the perfect place to relax on a park bench whenever the weather’s nice.
Bon Vie Cafe The restaurant side of the “A Piece of Cake” bakery. The restaurant focuses on breakfast and lunch classics. You’ll find omelets, eggs benedicts, pancakes and more, for breakfast, and a modest collection of sandwiches for lunch.
The French Hen Cafe / Moonflower Pizza: The French Hen Cafe has been a long favorite spot for breakfast and brunch, but just recently, they upped the game by opening for dinner, too. As a pizza place!
The Gnome: Once a long-time favorite known as “The Happy Gnome,” this spot had a roller-coaster few years that saw an unexpected closing and uncertain future, followed by a purchase of the restaurant by one of the city’s most respected chefs. Now, The Gnome is back and firing on all cylinders, with a new menu that’s every bit as delicious as the original.
Handsome Hog: The uber-popular Southern BBQ restaurant from the Iron Chef America winning celebrity chef Justin Sutherland. Anything here with pork is bound to be great (which is about half the menu) but they also have some great chicken and waffles, seafood, southern sides, and more.
La Grolla: La Grolla is a romantic Italian restaurant with one of the coziest patios in the city.
Louisana Cafe This large, casual diner has one of the neighborhood’s favorite brunches.
Mango Thai: This neighborhood spot serves all of the Thai favorites in a clean, casual environment.
Moscow on the Hill: An awesome restaurant with delicious, authentic Russian food, plus the city’s best vodka bar. The dining room is a fun, casual atmosphere while the outdoor space is a magical hidden gem of a patio. Moscow on the Hill is one of our favorite spots anywhere! (Check out our full Moscow on the Hill review.)
Red Cow: A restaurant and bar with upscale takes on bar food, with a menu mostly revolving around their top-notch burgers. If nothing else, Red Cow is worth a stop for an appetizer order of their amazing cheese curds.
Revival: Revival brings some upscale takes to southern fried chicken. Their menu showcases America’s favorite bird in all sorts of ways, including chicken by piece, chicken sandwiches, and their always famous chicken and waffles.
Not enough restaurants for ya? Then just keep driving down Selby or check out our picks for all the best restaurants on Selby Ave.
The Commodore: The Commodore is a 100 year old bar and restaurant that’s been meticulously restored to its Jazz Age glory. Supposedly a favorite spot for F. Scott Fitzgerald back in the day.
Sweeney’s Saloon: Classic beer and bar food, done right. Don’t miss their cozy yet fun patio when the weather’s nice.
W.A. Frost & Company: Famous for their world-class patio and longstanding history in the neighborhood, this place also sports a basement that feels like a stairway to another era. The whole experience is a cocktail lounge atmosphere, plus a full food menu to boot.
Coffee Shops & Bakeries
Claddagh A Wee Shop: A small, cute little coffee shop that has some great coffees, teas, snacks, and more.
Great Harvest Bread Co: A neighborhood bakery selling bread and all sorts of other baked goodies.
Nina’s Coffee Shop: Nina’s is a neighborhood-staple and always popular coffee shop. It’s housed in the first floor of the historic Blair Flats building, so we’d recommend grabbing a coffee and then strolling through the beautiful historic building.
A Piece of Cake: A small neighborhood cake shop, with a ever-rotating pastry case. They also specialize in custom-made cakes.
Aesthetic Home: A family owned furniture store that specializes in classic and modern furniture.
Ergo Floral: A popular neighborhood florist in a bright, beautiful space. In addition to the flowers, they also have an impressive selection of plants and succulents, and are known as one of the best wedding florists around.
IDUN: Located right across the street from The Gnome, this unique shop is set up in bright, loft-like space and carries some of the most interesting women’s apparel in the neighborhood.
Primp: Located on the always-happening Selby/Dale intersection, Primp is a beautiful women’s clothing boutique with an always changing selection of chic fasion.
Saintapolis: An interesting shop selling all kinds of goods “intended to raise your vibrations.” You’ll find unique apparel, detox teas, books, and more.
Solo Vino: Solo Vino is a wine-only shop with a truly impressive collection. From the best sellers to some truly hard to find winds, Solo Vino sells it all in a warm, rustic atmosphere.
Ten Thousand Villages: This gift shop specializes in fair-trade, hand-crafted from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. From woven baskets to unique jewelry, you’ll definitely find something interesting in this shop.
The Yarnery: The long-time favorite shop recently moved from Grand Avenue to 493 Selby. It’s now located next to IDUN and across the street from The Gnome, but it still features all the knitting supplies customers have come to expect.