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Welcome to Richmond


The stately Southern granddame of Richmond has been Virginia's state capital since 1780, and although a bastion of history, it also has all the hallmarks of a lively and modern urban centre. Acting as an ideal gateway to the rest of the state, a range of attractions is within easy reach and visitors can enjoy the neighbouring sights and sounds of the ocean, mountains, battlefields, historic colonial Williamsburg, or can even drive into Washington DC to visit the nation's capital.

Richmond has played an enormous role in American history, particularly as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Today visitors can enjoy a host of monuments, battlefields, cemeteries and museums that hark back to the days when Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee held out against the Union. This is not a city stuck in the past, however, and there are numerous modern attractions including an active nightlife, plenty of restaurants, bars and outdoor concerts. A stroll along the attractive Canal Walk, and along the restored Haxall and Kanawha Canals, provides a great way to relax and there is also the option to catch a boat; some tours include an historical narration or there is the 'drive yourself' option.

The cityscape is an interesting combination of modern high rise office complexes housing financial institutions, Fortune 500 Companies, government offices, hospitals and universities and the more charming cobblestone, gas-lit streets flanked by 19th-century warehouses and a 300-year old farmers' market, filled with the scent of ripe fruit and fresh flowers.

Information & Facts


Richmond has a pleasant climate with four distinct seasons. Spring arrives in April with mild days and cool nights, and late May heralds the start of warm summer days. Summers can be hot and humid, and the days are dampened by gentle showers of rain. July is the wettest month. Days stay warm to mild through to October, when fall is marked by nights once again becoming very chilly. December and January are the coldest months. Light snowfalls occur from the end of November, but most snow falls in January. Average yearly snowfall is 14 inches (36cm).

Getting Around

The Greater Richmond Transit Company runs the public bus system that serves the Richmond metropolitan area with a basic fare that is only accepted in exact change. The bus service runs daily from 5am to midnight. On weekends between June and September a motorised shuttle service connects all the city's cultural attractions for the benefit of tourists. Orange buses travel from Chimborazo Park across to the Science Museum of Virginia, stopping at all the attractions in between. The Blue line buses continue from the science museum to Maymount. The fare is standard and passengers can hop on and off as they choose. Richmond is well supplied with more than 40 taxi companies, with cab ranks outside most hotels, the airport, Amtrak and the Greyhound terminal. The city also offers plenty of walking tours and is relatively compact and easy to negotiate on foot. It is worth hiring a car to explore the outlying regions, but not entirely necessary if staying in town, although traffic is usually fairly light and parking relatively easy to find.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

Richmond's Capitol Square is a glorious oasis of old trees and green lawns in the heart of the downtown area, perched on a hilltop. The magnificent centrepiece is the neo-classical State Capitol building, designed by Thomas Jefferson, which has been in continuous use since 1788. In the Capitol's Rotunda stands Virginia's most treasured artwork, the life-sized statue of George Washington sculpted by Jean Antoine Houdon, for whom Washington posed. Another highlight of the square is the Governor's Mansion, home of Virginia governors since 1813. The mansion, which has been restored but boasts its original woodwork, plaster cornices and ornamental ceilings, is open for tours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays (first floor only). Another historic building in the square is the old Bell Tower, dating from 1824, which houses a visitor centre providing tourist information about Virginia.

Monticello was the estate of Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence. The distinctive neoclassical building of the main house was designed by Jefferson himself, and he continued to improve and add to it until his death in 1826. Jefferson's time at Monticello is surrounded by controversy regarding his treatment of his slaves, and particular relationship with one named Sally Hemings. The house, outbuildings and gardens are all open to the public, and tours are offered year-round.

One of Virginia's most popular tourist attractions and the highlight of any historical Virginia tour, Mount Vernon is the colonial estate of George Washington. The plantation has been restored to look just as it did during Washington's era. Consisting of 500 acres situated on the Potomac River, the gardens, mansion, and other buildings are open to the public, and costumed employees demonstrate life in the 18th century. In 2007, Mount Vernon was given permission to reopen Washington's distillery, which now produces its own whiskey, available only at the Mount Vernon Gift Shop. The estate offers tours of the mansion and grounds, sightseeing cruises on the Potomac River, and special tours showing scenes from the movie National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets.

Civil War buffs flock to the Museum of the Confederacy, which houses the most comprehensive collection of Confederate artefacts, personal memorabilia and art to be found anywhere in the United States. The exhibits include 550 battle flags, 215 uniforms, including those of well-known officers, and 1,000 military buttons. Art works on display include E.B.D. Julio's heroic painting, 'The Last Meeting of Lee and Jackson'. Beside the museum is the White House of the Confederacy, the 1818 mansion in which Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his family lived during the Civil War. It is still furnished with original items. Visitors have to join a tour to see the White House. These depart regularly throughout the day.

Between 1861 and 1865, Union armies repeatedly set out to capture Richmond, strategic capital of the Confederacy, and end the Civil War. Three of those campaigns came within a few miles of the city. The park commemorates 11 different sites associated with those campaigns, including the battlefields at Gaines' Mill, Malvern Hill, and Cold Harbor. Established in 1936, the park protects 763 acres of historic ground. There is a visitor centre in the Tredegar Irons Works on Richmond Riverfront Canal Walk at the corner of Tredegar and 5th Streets. Here, visitors can watch a film depicting the battles around the city and get information about self-guided tours of the battlefields.

St John's Church has stood on Richmond Hill above the James River since 1741, and is known for having been the venue for the second Virginia Convention in 1775, attended by George Washington and other historic personalities. The church is also where legendary Pocahontas was baptised and married to John Rolfe. The wooden building still boasts its original pulpit and some exquisite stained-glass windows. Between May and September living history performances are given every Sunday recreating the historic Second Virginia Convention. Informative tours explore the historic significance of the church building and grounds.

Richmond boasts an exceptional Fine Arts Museum, which presents a panorama of world art from ancient to modern, including the largest public Fabergé imperial Easter egg collection outside of Russia, consisting of roughly 150 jewel-encrusted creations made for Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II. The Museum also boasts a collection of English silver, one of the world's leading collections of the art of India, Nepal and Tibet, and six Gobelin Don Quixote tapestries.

The hands-on Virginia Science Museum allows visitors to touch, feel, observe and explore the impact of science on their lives, covering everything from astronomy to computers, and crystals to flight engineering. The museum is housed in a soaring historic building, the former Broad Street Station designed in 1919 by John Russell Pope. The fascinating and fun museum is complemented by a 275-seat Ethyl Universe Planetarium and Space Theatre that screens Omnimax films as well as providing multimedia planetarium shows.

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