Richmond can get lost in the shuffle of the quaint feel of Alexandria, which is right outside of Washington, D.C., or the sunny shores of Virginia Beach. However, the capital of Virginia is overflowing with sites to see. The former capital of the confederacy acknowledges its past while embracing a progressive future. Whether you’re into the arts, a history buff, or a major foodie, it’s possible to get a glimpse of everything, even when you only have 48 hours. This crash course in Richmond will give you a taste and leave you wanting to come back for more.
Day 1: Morning
11 a.m.: First order of business is checking into your hotel. Quirk is located in the prime downtown location, and it has the warm feel of a boutique hotel, plus with modern amenities you’ll love. It’s the site of a former department store so you can expect sky-high ceilings. And the massive windows make for great selfies. You might be a bit tired from traveling, so grabbing a coffee from the lobby bar is a great option. And this can be your first chance to experience a taste of Richmond as the bar serves up beans from Blanchard, a local roaster.
Day 1: Afternoon
1 p.m.: After resting for a few in your hotel and being fueled by coffee, trips to the area museums are worthwhile. Head up Broad Street towards the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The VMFA has been around since 1936 and has gone through quite a few expansions over the decades. The modern and contemporary art includes sculptures, paintings, and more. Admission to the VMFA is free, and it’s open 365 days a year. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see Kehinde Wiley’s Rumors of War statue, which the artist created in response to the Confederate statues in Richmond. You can also check out the Science Museum of Virginia. This is one museum where touching is encouraged, thanks to interactive exhibits, and if time permits, head to The Dome for a planetarium show or to catch a flick on the 76-foot screen.
3 p.m.: A trip to Richmond, the craft brewery capital of the state, wouldn’t be complete with actually sampling the beers. You could spend quite some time trying to taste the brews at one of the 30 breweries in the city, but since you’re on a time crunch, a trip to Scott’s Addition is your best bet. The formerly industrial area is the hub for many of the city’s breweries, so you can hop from one to the next. The most popular options are Vasen and Veil Brewing, less than a five minute walk from one another. Try to find a seat wherever you can at either of these breweries and if you’re lucky, there will be a food truck parked outside, like Zorch Pizza or TBT El Gallo, serving birria tacos. But before you leave the area be sure to head over to nearby Isley Brewing. The Choosy Mother peanut butter porter was voted the best in Richmond, and if you can’t stay too long, buy a case to take home.
Day 1: Night
8 p.m.: All that beer is sure to work up a hearty appetite. And fortunately, Saison is near your hotel. The Jackson Ward restaurant opened in 2012, serving amazing American fare food, and also includes a market. The menu rotates pretty frequently, but you’ll always find a focus on local ingredients. The picks can range from braised oxtail to the Saison burger to seafood dishes. Make a reservation to dine in on a busy weekend or enjoy the fresh air of outdoor seating.
10 p.m.: If you make it back to your hotel before 10 p.m., a visit to the Q Rooftop might be in order. The relaxed downtown vibe isn’t the overcrowded scene you might be used to if you’re coming from a larger city. But it’s calm, has great views of the city, and there’s no shortage of cocktails, beer, or wine. Another option that’s not far from Quirk is Kabana Rooftop. The space is open until midnight, and you can sip on hard seltzers and cocktails. The bartenders here know their drinks and are more than willing to mix up a cocktail that’s just right for you. This place has such a fun vibe and is a great first night option in Richmond.
Day 2: Morning
9 a.m.: The last full day surely means stepping into some comfy shoes so you can truly explore. A short walk from Quirk Hotel is the Maggie Walker statue at the corners of Broad and Adams Street. Walker was the first Black woman in the United States to charter a bank and she’s a local legend. Her bronze statue is in the heart of Jackson Ward, the Harlem of the South, and chronicles her legacy. You’ll also find a ton of murals around Jackson Ward that highlight the greats of the past, but also address current, poignant issues. You’ll easily stumble upon these murals, especially as you make your way towards 2nd Street.
10:30 a.m.: In the Jackson Ward and Arts District neighborhoods is the Urban Hang Suite. It’s not just a coffee shop, but defines itself as a social cafe. This is the place to sit for a few and sip your coffee, tea, or latte. Also, breakfast sandwiches are sold all day so nibbling on a bacon, egg, and cheese on a croissant or a bagel is a leisurely affair. The shop was named after R&B artist Maxwell’s debut album and the vibe is just as laid back as the classic disc. Before you leave, buy a bottle or two of wine from RichWine. The curated selection of vino is sold in the shop and features some varietals you’ve heard of as well as some local faves that might be new to you.
Day 2: Afternoon
12 p.m.: Head straight down Broad Street and you’ll come across many historic locations. As the former capital of the Confederacy, Richmond is also home to the White House of the Confederacy, where confederate president Jefferson Davis and his family resided. As you cross the bridge heading into Shockoe Bottom, you may also notice plaques for the Richmond Slave Trail. This self guided walking tour highlights important stops along the way as enslaved Africans arrived in the Americas and journeyed along the James River.
1 p.m.: The Church Hill and Shockoe Bottom areas are full of even more historical moments and spaces like the Holocaust Museum or the Edgar Allan Poe Museum. Take in the people watching at the 17th Street Market or maybe sip a glass of wine or grab light bites at C’est le Vin before hopping in a quick Uber, unless you want to walk up some steep hills of Church Hill. James Beard-nominated Sub Rosa Bakery can draw lines for their layered, flaky chocolate or almond croissants.
3 p.m.: Before leaving the area, check out Nota Bene for a late lunch. You’ll find pizza, sandwiches, and even date night specials. There’s no wrong way to go with this menu, but the fried artichoke sandwich and wood-fired pizzas are divine. Dine at the outdoor space or you could take your food and drink to go, specifically to a nearby park. Chimborazo and Libby Hill Park are some of Richmond’s original parks and the perfect setting to enjoy a casual meal or even snap some Instagram-worthy photos as the hilltop views provide an absolutely picturesque view.
Day 2: Night
8 p.m.: Finally, the last meal in Richmond is another standout. Lehja’s Sandeep "Sunny" Baweja was nominated for a James Beard award for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic. It’s about a 20-minute drive from downtown RVA, and the menu does not disappoint. You’ll find Indian restaurant staples like chicken tikka masala and saag paneer, but you’re in Virginia, so it’s not a bad idea to try some seafood as well. Try the blue crab incorporated in appetizers or entries like the surf and turf curry or crab-scallop MelJol, that’s flavored with a tomato and spice base. Saving the best for last will have you wanting to come back to Richmond to explore even more.