In recent years, St. Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood has seen a total revitalization.
Gone are the neighborhood’s sleepy days, and Lowertown is a now a bustling part of St. Paul, complete with some of the city’s biggest attractions, events, and ever-expanding selection of bars and restaurants.
In this guide, we’re sharing everything you need to know about this unique section of St. Paul.
- Where is Lowertown?
- A Quick History of Lowertown
- Lowertown Neighborhood Attractions
- Restaurants and Bars
- Coffee Shops & Bakery
Where is Lowertown?
Lowertown St. Paul is one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city – and where I call home. While there’s no official city designation, Lowertown generally refers to the area bound by:
- Shepard Road/Mississippi River to the south
- Jackson Street to the West
- 7th Avenue and I-94 corridor to the North
- Highway 52/Lafayette Bridge to the East
A Quick History of Lowertown
Lowertown got its name both from the geographical and historic nature of the neighborhood. Initially built in the 1840s, the area was first known as “Lowertown Landing” since it geographically sits at a lower elevation than the higher hills and bluffs of the city.
Lowertown served as the first port of arrival on the Mississippi River in St. Paul. As boats and barges traveled up the Mississippi, goods and people would arrive in Lowertown and disperse to the rest of the Upper Midwest. What followed was a boom of railroad, manufacturing, and warehouse companies that grew alongside the river-driven economy.
At its peak in the 1880s, Lowertown held some of the Midwest’s most prominent, architecture-driven buildings. However, Lowertown was hit hard in the Great Depression, with little to no economic redevelopment until the 1960s. Since then, the city has continued to fund revitalization projects focused on creating a vibrant artist community among the historic red-brick buildings. Today you’ll find it’s one of the most popular neighborhoods in the city and a thriving entertainment district.
Lowertown Neighborhood Attractions
St Paul Farmer’s Market
Among all the things St. Paulites tend to boast about having “the best of,” our Farmers’ Market really takes the cake.
As our complete guide suggests, locals flock here all summer for fresh produce, treats, and an authentic farm-to-your-kitchen table experience. It’s consistently ranked one of the best in the nation and one of the oldest attractions in the neighborhood.
If you’re in the area on Saturday or Sunday during the summer, it should be top on your Lowertown list.
Our second must-visit spot in Lowertown is one of the reasons many tourists and locals visit the neighborhood in the first place.
In 2015, the minor league St. Paul Saints professional baseball team opened its inaugural season at the brand new CHS Field. Lowertown has never been the same since.
The ballpark debuted to high praise from baseball fans, eco-conscious residents, and architecture fans alike.
Recently, the Saints became the minor league affiliate for the Minnesota Twins, meaning it’s now possible to ride Metro Transit Lightrail to games in both stadiums on the same day.
The St. Paul Union Depot is one of the best demonstrations of how Lowertown has undergone a revitalization.
This historic railroad station opened in 1923, serving as the primary railroad depot and the Downtown Post Office. At its peak in the 1920s, more than 280 trains moved daily through the Union Depot.
When train service ended here in 1971, it was unclear what would happen to one of the most significant buildings in the city. After undergoing a complete restoration, the building now serves as a community and transportation hub, hosting Amtrak and statewide bus service, special events, and the beloved European-style Christmas Market.
Historic Buildings Tour
In 1983, Lowertown St. Paul was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a designation that protects the dozens of famous and architecturally significant buildings in the neighborhood.
On your first visit to Lowertown, it’s a great idea to download the Minnesota Historical Society’s walking tour or find a local guide. Along with the Union Depot, you’ll learn the history behind locations like the Great Northern Building, where railroad tycoon James J. Hill had his storied office.
City of Baseball Museum
Located within CHS Field, the City of Baseball Museum is a tiny tribute hall to all-things St. Paul baseball.
The museum is located on the 3rd base concourse of the stadium and features stories, photos, and memorabilia from St. Paul’s long history with the game. To date, three native St. Paulites have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and all three have fitting tributes in this unique stop.
Admission is included with a St. Paul Saints ticket.
Mears Park has had many different names throughout Lowertown’s history. However, the park has served as a central gathering space and city square since the 1880s.
Bounded by 5th, 6th, Sibley, and Wacouta streets, the park is a mix of open green space, a meticulously maintained stream flowing through the center of the park, and a bandshell that hosts some of the best live outdoor shows in the city.
Music in Mears happens Thursdays all summer long and culminates yearly in the Twin Cities Jazz Festival held in the park.
And if you happen to travel here in the winter, Mears Park transforms into a twinkly winter wonderland worthy of the Hallmark channel.
Minnesota Museum of American Art
Located in the historic Pioneer Endicott Building on the corner of Robert Street and 4th Street on the western edge of Lowertown, the Minnesota Museum of American Art holds more than 5,000 works from the 19th century to the present.
Known by locals as “The M,” it’s technically the oldest art museum in Minnesota.
Admission to the museum is free, and the window installations are available 24/7 near the Robert Street entrance.
The Artists’ Lofts
Lowertown’s enduring legacy can be attributed to the dedicated arts community that has called the area home for decades. Many warehouse spaces were converted into live/work studio spaces for an artist community who struggled to find affordable living in other areas of the city.
Several times each year, the St. Paul Art Collective hosts the “St. Paul Art Crawl,” where artists extend the invitation to the general public to visit the Lowertown studios, purchase art, and learn more about the neighborhood that has supported generations of artists.
Nautilus Music Theater
Tucked in an unsuspecting block of Lowertown, kiddy-corner from the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, is of the best hole-in-the-wall musical theater venues in the Twin Cities.
The performing arts venue primarily supports opera but caters to music-theater artists hoping to create and develop new productions.
Restaurants and Bars
One of the longest-operating restaurants in Lowertown, Barrio is the neighborhood spot for tacos and happy hour margaritas. Their menu features an incredible grilled elote and a tequila bar that goes for miles. One of the best places for tapas in the Twin Cities.
Barrel Theory Beer Company
According to Beer fans at beeradvocate.com, Barrel Theory is the highest-rated brewery in the Twin Cities. It’s one of our favorite spots and the go-to spot for sours and IPAs in the Metro.
Big River Pizza
Located in the heart of Lowertown on the corner of 5th and Wall Street across from the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, Big River is hands down some of the best pizza in St. Paul and one of the best spots to grab a bite on the way to or from the Market. Ingredients are sourced from local Minnesota vendors and out-of-this-world flavors.
The Bulldog Lowertown
The Bulldog Lowertown blends two American classics, beer and hot dogs, into a unique combination of sports bar and neighborhood hangout. The small patio seating near Mears Park is a popular spot to listen to live music while you share some apps with friends.
At the time it closed, it was hard for Twin Cities locals to imagine anything competing with Lenny Russo’s Heartland. Yet somehow, a Brazilian steakhouse with a sizzling menu has warmed the hearts of Lowertown diners. The carnivore-friendly menu has what you’d expect from a traditional churrascaria, but the service here sets them apart from the other spots in town.
Dark Horse Bar & Eatery
Topping the list of our favorite Lowertown patios, Dark Horse is one of our favorite spots to bring out-of-towners. The upscale industrial vibe fits a casual happy hour, hosting the client dinner, and everything in between. The menu is approachable from all directions and pairs well with a beer from Barrel Theory next door.
Every neighborhood in St. Paul has a dive bar, including Lowertown. Gopher Bar advertises itself as the best spot for Coney Island hot dogs in town, but we’d like to think the wood paneling and St. Paul nostalgia all over the walls keep the locals coming back. And in true dive bar fashion, it’s cash only.
Lowertown newbie, Lost Fox opened in March 2022, just in time to welcome back the Farmer’s Market and Jazz festival crowds. The coffee house serves pastries, sandwiches, and a full-service espresso bar. Around dinnertime, the cafe swaps over to a full bar and dinner menu featuring “elevated street food.” It’s topped the list of new spots to check out this year.
We’ve always believed that good music and beer go hand in hand. So do the founders of MetroNOME brewery on 5th Street near CHS Field. Co-founders Bill Eddins and Matt Engstrom have musical backgrounds and a passion for outstanding music education. That’s why proceeds from beer sales go to fund instruments, lessons, and music education for at-risk youth in the Twin Cities.
Noyes & Cutler
When former Public Kitchen announced its closure during the pandemic, Lowertown locals were nervous about what might fill the popular happy hour spot overlooking Mears Park. Just recently, Noyes and Cutler opened in the space, serving dinner, drinks, and what appears to be a lasting brunch menu.
Ox Cart Arcade & Rooftop
Rooftop views are hard to come by in Lowertown. The rooftop at Ox Cart Arcade is one of your only options to seek a cocktail and the night sky views. While we admit the setup is a bit unusual (the rooftop access is down the block from the arcade itself), the views of CHS Field and the Lowertown area are the best you’ll find in the neighborhood.
Best for Bloody Mary’s. Best ‘fancy’ burger. And best for brunch before or after the Farmer’s Market. So many reasons to love the classic flavors and menu perfection at Saint Dinette. It’s traditional American fare with a French twist.
Station 81 Drink & Eatery
The lobby space in the Union Depot has seen a rotation of dining options since the renovation project. The current iteration is Station 81 Drink & Eatery, a local spot for farm-to-table options with decent vegetarian and vegan options. However, getting to dine in the historic open-air lobby area of the Depot is really what draws fans here.
Located directly across from the Union Depot, Urban Wok is one of our favorite spots for curbside and take-out Asian fusion in St. Paul and one of our top picks in Lowertown. Fully customizable options (think Chipotle, only for your Thai, Chinese, and Indian favorites). The portions here are generous, and they always include steamed dumplings.
Coffee Shops & Bakery
It’s not uncommon to pull up a seat in one of the coffee shops in Lowertown and find a writer making revisions to a manuscript, someone perfecting lines in a sketchbook, or a vigorous conversation about an upcoming gallery show. So if you love art and a good cup of coffee, meander to one of these Lowertown local hangouts.
Creator’s Cup Coffee House
Housed in the Creator’s Space membership-based art studio, this corner coffee house serves equal parts of well-crafted coffee and local art selection. So stop in for your usual morning cup and be inspired by the hundreds of different artists who use this community studio space.
The Buttered Tin
While it’s just outside the northern edge of Lowertown, we can’t NOT mention The Buttered Tin in a respectable guide to the neighborhood. This Twin Cities favorite tops our list for brunch, farm-to-table fare, mimosas, and more.
True Stone Coffee
The closest coffee shop to the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, this is a top spot for Twin Cities locals to grab a warm cup to hold while wandering the aisles of produce. The menu also has pastries and savory sandwiches, although we recommend saving room for the Farmer’s Market fare.
While Lowertown has a strong history as a shopping hub, these days, you’ll find just a few local hangouts and spots catering mainly to downtown residents. Here are a few favorites if you happen to be in the area and in need of some retail therapy:
Chuck & Don’s
One of the two spots for furry friends in Lowertown, this boutique-style Chuck and Don’s pet store keeps all the neighborhood pets well supplied. You’ll find all the basics from the chain retailer in a smaller format store. Located on the corner of 6th and Wall Street.
Dreadlocks for Dingoes
Lowertown’s second pet store, Dreadlocks for Dingoes, has a hilarious name and full-service pet daycare and grooming services. So many of the furry friends downtown enjoy the treats here on the way to the dog park at CHS Field.
Lowertown Wine & Spirits
Located on 4th Street between Wall and Wacouta, Lowertown Wine and Spirits is one of the only full-service liquor stores in downtown St. Paul; this is the spot locals go to grab a local craft beer or a specially-curated bottle of wine.
Lowertown Bike Shop
We have been coming to Lowertown Bike Shop for repairs and gears since they opened on the lower level of the Union Depot. Owners Crystal and Jeremy are some of the best in the business and can get you set up with whatever your pedal-pushing heart desires. Even if you’re not a cyclist, stop into LBS to meet Merv, the resident’s four-legged greeter.