Anyone visiting Asheville can see its allure—so much so that nearly 100,000 people live within city limits, and annual visitors are around 12 million. Our city may be considered small to some, but it’s rich in character and set against an incredible backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Get to know the many sides of Asheville with this blog series, which examines Asheville through its unique, colorful, spirited, and incredibly distinct neighborhoods. We start with the center city of Asheville, which includes downtown Asheville and the South Slope Brewing District. 

Downtown Asheville
Punctuated by iconic architectural landmarks from the Roaring ’20s, Asheville’s downtown skyline is unmistakable. It’s also ever-evolving as hotels and high-rise condos jostle for space within the roughly 20 blocks that comprise the city’s beating heart. This eclectic mix of old and new enhances the city’s character and allure. 

What is the best way to discover downtown Asheville? Strap on your comfiest sneakers and simply wander from one end to the other, stopping at local farm-to-table restaurants, indie boutiques, hopped-up breweries, incredible art galleries, and so much more.  

Start with an early breakfast or cup of coffee at Old Europe Pastries on Broadway Street, an old-world coffee shop offering locally roasted brews and various European-style pastries. Or get your daily cup of joe at the coolest coffee bar in downtown Asheville—Double D’s Coffee & Desserts. This hip, bright red double-decker bus serves coffee, espresso drinks, and sweet treats and is a great photo op for the Instagram influencer. 

Travel down the store-lined streets and pop into whatever local shop catches your eye, like Woolworth Walk on Haywood Street, a Woolworth-store-now gallery featuring diverse works by 175 local artists, and a restored soda fountain. Lexington Avenue is another shopping mecca lined with ample boutiques, like Duncan & York, one of the most creative and put-together gift shops you’ll ever find, and Minx Boutique, a chic clothing store. 

When you reach the western side of downtown, continue your shopping spree at the Grove Arcade—a beautiful 1929 galleria built by E.W. Grove that today houses fine jewelry and other retail stores and restaurants. Some of our city’s best shops are located inside, including Adoratherapy, an aura therapy studio that sells aromas to help align your chakras, and outside, including Roberto Coin, a handmade maker of elegant and timeless necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, pendants, and bangles; and Caravans, a women’s clothing store a perfect fit for all frames and all frames of mind. 

After shopping, you’ll be hard-pressed not to shop or tuck into a bar for a pick-me-up, like The Times Bar & Coffee Shop on Patton Avenue, a chandelier-lit, vintage-style bar in a historic building for cocktails and coffee. If you’d rather have a pint, Highland Brewing, Wedge Brewing, and One World Brewing all have downtown taprooms to explore. The ultimate pick-me-up can be found every Friday night from April to October in Pritchard Park on Patton Avenue at College Street, and that’s what’s called the Drum Circle. A favorite Asheville tradition for locals and visitors, anyone can participate by drumming, dancing, or simply watching. It’s an experience that can’t be beaten! 

You can’t visit Asheville without visiting what makes Asheville so unique, and that can absolutely be found downtown. 

South Slope Brewing District
Grab a pint and some BBQ in one of Asheville’s most walkable areas—the South Slope Brewing District. Just south of downtown, the burgeoning South Slope Brewing District is a short walk from downtown and absolutely worthy of exploration. If you’re a craft beer drinker, this is a must-see on your trip to Asheville! Only within the past 10 years has this former manufacturing district developed into a vibrant, thriving area chock full of breweries (around 10 within a five-block radius), bars, and nightlife. Check out some of the city’s most colorful murals while sipping and sampling beers and beverages from our city’s finest. 

In the South Slope, you’ll find a few of Asheville’s most popular and oldest breweries, including Catawba Brewing, Green Man Brewing, Hi-Wire Brewing, and Asheville Brewing Company. If you’re looking for creative sour beer, Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium is the place to go. Burial Beer Co. should be on your list if you’re more in the mood for a heavy metal-themed brewery with some of the city’s highest-rated beer. 

If you’re in the mood for something lighter, try Ginger’s Revenge. They’ve recently opened their second location in the South Slope, which ferments and serves naturally gluten-free, alcoholic ginger beer in which they’ve made their own lane! And Urban Orchard’s South Slope location is an enormous venue serving alcoholic cider unlike any you’ve had before. Plus, they hold special events (salsa night, anyone?) every week. 

Regarding nightlife, Ben’s Tune Up, a sake and beer garden, is a tourist destination with a lively crowd most nights. For the cocktail-inclined, you can’t miss Antidote, a chic turn-of-the-century-inspired spot offering specialty cocktails with an incredible rooftop terrace. The bar serves liquor created by its sister distillery, The Chemist, located right next door. And then stop by The Tiki Easy Bar, a thrilling new tiki bar and distillery from Hi-Wire Brewing.

South Slope is also becoming a place for art, with Tracey Morgan Gallery specializing in contemporary photography, painting, works on paper, and sculpture, and The Refinery showcasing a collaborative collection of local working artists. Today, colorful murals are sprinkled throughout the district, which you can explore as you make your rounds from brewery to brewery. 

Getting hungry? You can find some tantalizing grub in the heart of the South Slope District, like Buxton Hall, which specializes in whole-hog East Carolina BBQ and southern sides, and newcomer Bear’s Smokehouse, which specializes in Kansas City-style BBQ. If you get to the South Slope early enough in the day, you can grab a yeast or cake doughnut topped with creative glazes, toppings, and fillings from Vortex Doughnuts. No matter what, end the night with something sweet at Sunshine Sammies, which sells made-from-scratch ice cream sandwiches and cookies.

There’s an incredible list of reasons to explore our burgeoning center city of downtown Asheville. Explore more things to do in Asheville’s center city on our A Look at Asheville directory