They call it the “Paris of the South.” Quite a nickname for Asheville, North Carolina—though one can see a resemblance. Art museums and galleries are around every corner. The architecture is stately and varied, a mix of neoclassical, Romanesque revival, art deco, Beaux-Arts, Gothic, and Spanish Renaissance. And the food scene? Spectacular, both award winning and true to its Appalachian roots.
Downtown Asheville serves as the gateway to the city, where several James Beard Award–winning chefs and restaurants—Katie Button (Cúrate), Meherwan Irani (Chai Pani), and John Fleer (Rhubarb), to name a few—are concentrated in one area. The Citizen-Times building, built in 1939, is now the site of Citizen Vinyl, where you can listen to records and sip coffee or a cocktail at Session cafe. On a Friday night when the weather’s warm, dance at the Drum Circle in Pritchard Park and you’ll truly understand the appeal.
Once you’ve experienced downtown, so many other enclaves, each with their own personality and vibe, are worth exploring. Here are seven of our favorite Asheville neighborhoods to visit on your next trip.
River Arts District
In the late 1800s, RAD (River Arts District) was the booming industrial center of Asheville, home to stockyards, Hans Rees & Sons tanneries, Asheville Cotton Mills, and meat processing plants near the French Broad River. By the late 19th century, Western North Carolina Railroad laid tracks along the river, and the area became a coveted waterfront destination. Tragically, by the 1940s after a series of floods, businesses and residents abandoned the area to seek higher land.
In the 1970s artists began to move into abandoned buildings—cheap rent, a bohemian tale as old as time—and the area slowly became a creative haven. After 12 Bones Smokehouse and New Belgium set up shop here, RAD became a vibrant hub for artists, innovative businesses, restaurants, breweries, and more. On the Second Saturday of each month, the River Arts District holds gallery walks with workshops, live music, and winetastings.
Riverview Station is a once-vacant, multiuse space that’s now home to more than 60 artists, galleries, and small businesses, including Newstock Food Studio, where pastry chef Ashley Capps and her husband bake beloved cinnamon rolls and pastries. And there’s never a wrong time for a hot chocolate at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.
The Radical Hotel recently took up residence in a former five-story warehouse. It’s ideal for a home base for the weekend, especially if you have one too many Roof Is On Fire cocktails (with jalapeño-infused tequila, mango, passion fruit, and lime) at the rooftop bar. Other must-eat-and-drink stops are the Bull and Beggar (the burger never disappoints), RosaBees for Hawaiian food (the poke bowl is a favorite!), All Souls Pizza (with a great outdoor space and wine list, and obviously pizza), Vivian (where Vivian’s steak is a must-have), and Plēb Urban Winery (wine made with native North Carolina grapes).
Haywood Road, West Asheville’s main street, has been intact since the 1880s, when it was a prominent commercial corridor running to the River Arts District. Today, it’s home to local indie shops and businesses. Locals love this neighborhood, in part because it’s so close to downtown, but also for its mix of bookstores, dive bars, vintage shops, music venues, hip restaurants, and breweries.
At Fleetwood’s Chapel, you can get married, drink a beer, and scour for vintage finds (ahem, perhaps a wedding dress?!) in one space. Down the street is One World West where live music and offbeat beers like Legacy Lager-Mexican Corn Lager and Ashevegas Pale Ale await. Neng Jr.’s is an 18-seat restaurant by chef Silver Iocovozzi, a second-generation Filipino serving up pork belly and the most delicious, chewy, hand-pulled noodles. Laid-back Leo’s House of Thirst has exceptional natural wines from around the world, including some on tap (don’t miss Tap Tuesdays where all bottles are $25). Tastee Diner, a diner-meets-dive bar, focuses on local ingredients (i.e., the chopped cheese, originating in New York City, comes with local Shipley Farms Beef); and so many cool shops like Bagatelle Books, Wildflowers Vintage, Flora, and Melona.
In the east end of downtown, the predominantly Black neighborhood the Block prospered from the early 1900s through the Great Depression, attracting headliners like Louis Armstrong to the neighborhood’s juke joints. Thanks to a recent revival, the Block has transformed into more than just a business district. At its heart, the YMI Cultural Center, originally founded as the Young Men’s Institute in 1893 by businessman Isaac Dickson and educator Dr. Edward S. Stephens, remains the neighborhood’s anchor.
The YMI stands as a resilient cultural center for Asheville’s Black community, offering a business incubation program that supports Black entrepreneurs. Check out Noir Collective AVL, a boutique and art gallery where owner Ajax Ravenel gives Black makers in the city a collective place to sell items like art, incense, and books. Take a “Hood Tour” with social entrepreneur, veteran, and visual and performing artist DeWayne Barton to view the past, present, and future of African Americans in Asheville. Or dine at Benne on Eagle, a restaurant that highlights the culinary heritage of the Appalachians and the African diaspora, demonstrating how ingredients and dishes developed during the transatlantic slave trades from the 1500s to the 1800s still shape food traditions.
Montford historic area
Historic Montford has a bit of everything when it comes to architectural styles—Victorian, Queen Anne, arts and crafts—reflecting Asheville’s cosmopolitan character during the early 20th century. In this neighborhood it’s wise to wear walking shoes and wander; a portion of Montford is a National Register Historic District with more than 600 buildings constructed between 1890 and 1920. Architect Richard Sharp Smith, known for his work on the Biltmore Estate, worked on many of the homes you’ll pass here. The neighborhood is also home to the Montford Park Players (there’s an annual Shakespeare Festival) and the resting place of literary legends Thomas Wolfe and O. Henry in Riverside Cemetery. LaZoom Comedy Bus Tour is always recommended (lots of laughs, lots of history), and the Montford Rooftop Bar is a great place to end the day with sunset views.
The “Wellness Block”
Leave it to Asheville’s yoga and well-being community to create an entire wellness district. Visitors usually aren’t familiar with it, but the “Wellness Block” that spills over and around Liberty Street, Central Avenue, Orange Street, and Chestnut Street is worth seeking out. Stay at the Chestnut Street Inn, where owner Emilie Kapp has the best tips and tricks for navigating your own personal Asheville. The Asheville Yoga Center—a community yoga studio that offers more than 100 weekly classes, teacher training, events, and workshops—is the lifeblood of the area. The Ayurvedic Institute, Lighten Up Massage and Body Work, and Asheville Salt Cave are local favorites, as is the Pulp + Sprout Juice Bar + Vegan Cafe where you can sip bone broth unironically pre- or post-massage or yoga class.
South Slope, formerly a predominantly African American community next to Southside, evolved from an industrial center in the early 1900s. In recent years it’s been dubbed Asheville’s “brewery district.” A concentrated number of craft breweries are within walking distance from each other. Do a self-guided tour and venture among Burial Beer Co., Hi-Wire Brewing, Wicked Weed Funkatorium (famous sours and awesome food), Catawba Brewing Company, Green Man Brewery, Terra Nova Beer Co., Asheville Pizza and Brewing, and Twin Leaf Brewing. Non–beer drinkers can appreciate Antidote at Chemist Spirits and Urban Orchard Cider Co.
In 1888, during the Gilded Age, George W. Vanderbilt arrived in Asheville and was captivated by its beauty. He bought 125,000 acres of land and started designing his dream country estate, the Biltmore. (Vanderbilt combined “Bildt,” his ancestors’ Dutch surname, with “more” for the now famous name.) Architect Richard Morris Hunt and Frederick Law Olmsted labored together to conceive the 250-room château and grounds, which included a village at the estate’s entrance to accommodate all the staff working on the property.
Biltmore Village came to life as one of the first known planned communities in the USA where residents could live and work, with essentials like a school, shops, and post office. It was officially incorporated into the City of Asheville in the early 20th century and is now a sought-after destination for its shops, restaurants, and old English village vibe. You can stay in Biltmore Village at the Grand Bohemian Asheville, Autograph Collection, or just down the way at the four-star Village Hotel or private historic Cottages on Biltmore Estate. Take advantage of private tours of the estate’s winery. The village holds one of Asheville’s best-kept-secrets, Eda Rhyne Distillery, making small batch Appalachian fernet and nocino with locally foraged ingredients.