November 23, 2015
Virginia’s capital, Richmond has long drawn travellers in for its status as one of the most historic cities across the States. And amidst this riverside urban sprawl, no setting better reflects Richmond’s heritage than Church Hill, which – made up of a collection of neighbourhoods – displays its roots through its 18th-century architecture. But there’s more to this district than historic sites; these streets have also become a favourite among epicureans, with an array of artisanal bakeries, restaurants and cafes. And, due to its rising status, tours are led by residents themselves, showing visitors the area’s great appeal. Take a look at our neighbourhood guide to Church Hill and discover the city’s most vibrant district.
Dating all the way back to 1733, Church Hill has historic sites tucked within its streets that are definitely worth a visit. Perhaps the most notable is St. John’s Church, a significant site of the American Revolution. It was here that over 100 Virginia colonial leaders retreated to safety in 1775, and where Patrick Henry – a Founding Father of the United States – delivered his famous speech stating, “Give me liberty or give me death”. You can take guided tours of the church, and in summer it is the setting for historical re-enactments. Chimborazo Park is also worth stopping by, with a museum now situated where the Civil War Hospital was once located.
Take a tour encompassing these sites and more, on foot, by bus or by bicycle. You can also get around on two wheels by taking a bike tour with the much-loved Richmond Rides; the outfit’s local tour guides introduce visitors to the community and popular foodie spots, in addition to the history of these neighbourhoods and panoramic views. For a more novel way to see the sites, take a tour with Segway of Richmond.
On any of these tours, you’ll no doubt stop by Libby Hill, where you can take in views across Richmond. As one of the neighbourhood’s original parks, this view was historically likened to the one from Richmond Park in London, which is how the city its name.
As Church Hill emerges as a foodie destination, there are some stellar places to grab a bite to eat in. Dubbed Church Hill’s original neighbourhood café, The Hill Café puts out comfort food like crispy fried oysters, homemade meatloaf, and shrimp and grits, with more of a bar feel in the evenings; settle in for lunch, dinner or a long, leisurely brunch. Another brunch spot – that’s also good for dinner and cocktails – is The Roosevelt. Here you can get tempting bites like littleneck clams, maple glazed pork belly, and peanut butter pie; big brunch fillers like ricotta pancakes and the Roosevelt Big Breakfast; and both original and classic cocktails.
The Urban Farmhouse Market & Café meanwhile, was built around the ethos of bringing local, wholesome food and a warm rustic environment into the urban setting. As well as using locally sourced seasonal produce, the café focuses on using fair trade and organic tea and coffee and biodynamic wine. The café is located in a historic warehouse, with a farmers market to pick up food products and artisanal goods. Local musicians also play a part here, performing live on evenings and at weekends, while artists and photographers display their artwork on the café’s walls.
For pie, look no further than Proper Pie Co. This bakery draws in hungry passers-by for indulgent baked goods, like pumpkin and salted caramel or sweet potato pecan pie. Not to forget the coffee. For sweet treats, WPA Bakery is hard to beat, with choices like chocolate-fig-walnut cookies (they also make the peanut butter pie for The Roosevelt), while Sub Rosa Bakery uses a wood-fired masonry oven and in-house stone-milled flour to bake artisanal breads and pastries. Call into Sub Rosa for breakfast and try the locally roasted Lamplighter Coffee while you’re there. For more eclectic dining, try The Dog and Pig Show, where classic American South specialities fuse with South Central Asian cuisine.
Alternatively, grab a quick bite to eat at Tricycle Gardens. This grassroots, environmental non-profit was set up to promote agriculture and healthy eating, with community gardens and a farmers market that takes place each Thursday.
If you come at the right time of year, you’ll also catch one of Church Hill’s popular annual events. Each March, the Irish Festival brings the streets to life, with live music performances and plenty of food and drink. In October, Church Hill hosts the meat-centric Hogtoberfest, which also has live music. Then in December, the neighbourhood’s historic homes are opened up, with a generous offering of food and live music, as well as festive carol singing and candlelight walks. For a culture fix at any time of the year, head to the highly-rated art venue, Eric Schindler Gallery, which happens to be the longest-running gallery in Richmond.
Our partnership with Delta connects you with a range of destinations across the United States, making it even easier to book flights to Richmond and explore Church Hill.
Written by Lauren Hill