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Welcome to St Louis

St Louis

Fur trader Pierre Laclede settled St Louis as a French trading post in 1764 at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. This location proved to be an ideal meeting point and it subsequently became a major port for boats on the Mississippi, and the main departure point for explorers on the western-bound wagon trails. As the 'Gateway to the West', St Louis became a manufacturing centre for everything a pioneer would need on his journey, such as saddles and guns, and it was here that Lewis and Clark stocked up with provisions for their famous expedition.

Today St Louis is the biggest city in Missouri and one of the largest inland ports in the country. It is a modern, commercial, industrial and cultural centre. Although a cosmopolitan river metropolis, reminders of its frontier history are in evidence throughout the city, most visibly in the shining steel Gateway Arch that is the famous landmark of St Louis, dedicated to the pioneers of the western frontier.

It is a city with numerous personalities: a mix of authentic America with a vaguely European air. Music from the nations past floats from the famous jazz and blues clubs over the waters of the Mississippi, paddle steamers dock along the riverfront where warehouses that once housed industrial cargoes now contain antique shops and restaurants as part of the revitalised Laclede's Landing Historic District.

Its distinctive neighbourhoods retain the lingering influence of the many ethnic groups that settled the city, comprising the real heart of St Louis. The Hill is known for its old-world charm and excellent restaurants imbued with a Latin flavour lent by its Italian community. The Central West End is a trendy quarter filled with chic boutiques and antique shops, sidewalk cafes, art galleries and some of St Louis' finest residential properties. The French neighbourhood of Soulard has a colourful Saturday produce market.

Free attractions are a St Louis tradition, and today's visitor will find more attractions here at no cost than almost anywhere else on earth. There are scores of interesting things to do, and these include some of the best attractions in the city as well as numerous activities geared towards children, making it an excellent family destination.

Information & Facts


St Louis has moderate, seasonal weather, but storms can occur at any time of the year. July and August are the hottest and most humid months of the year, and January and February are cold, usually with snow. Winter temperatures range from below 32°F to 55°F (0°C to 13°C), while summers have daily temperatures of between 57°F to 90°F (14°C to 32°C).

Getting Around

The pride of St Louis is the city's clean, efficient light rail system, called the MetroLink, which is regarded as one of the best mass transit systems in the United States. Using the MetroLink visitors can see most of St Louis' attractions without a car. The system's zone covers the airport and East St Louis, stretching for 34 miles (55km) through downtown, trains stopping at 27 stations in Missouri and Illinois where the line ends at suburban Belleville. Fares are exceedingly cheap and rides are free between Laclede's Landing and Union Station weekdays from 10am to 3pm. Shuttle services carry visitors from some MetroLink stations to nearby attractions. St Louis is also served by the MetroBus network, which covers not only the city but also most of the county, buses run to schedule from 4am to 2am. There are taxi ranks near most major hotels and attractions in the city, or cabs can be ordered from various companies. Those who opt for self-driving will find the city easy to navigate, the downtown streets laid out on a grid pattern and the city being served by a good network of highways. There is abundant parking in high-rise garages.

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.

The beautifully landscaped Forest Park is larger than New York's Central Park and its leafy grounds are filled with attractions. The acclaimed St Louis Art Museum has a magnificent international collection of art, covering works from prehistoric times to contemporary, and houses one of the most extensive collections of German Expressionism worldwide. The St Louis Science Center features life-size dinosaurs along with displays and interactive exhibits on the environment, aviation, technology and more. There is also an OMNIMAX Theatre and Planetarium. Thousands of animals roam the beautiful grounds of the St Louis Zoo, with indoor and outdoor cageless displays, and a Living World Exhibition features an animated robotic figure of Charles Darwin who summarises his theories on evolution. The Missouri History Museum documents life in St Louis with old photographs and displays on river life, black music and western expansion.

Within the riverside park known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the Gateway Arch is a soaring landmark above the city's skyline -the thin stainless steel arc reaches to twice the height of the Statue of Liberty at 630ft (192m). It symbolises the role of St Louis as the 'Gateway to the West' for the pioneers who journeyed along the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails towards the western frontier. It is also dedicated to the US president who was responsible for opening up the West. An observation deck that is reached by a tram system provides magnificent views over the city, the Mississippi and the spreading plains. Also on the site with the Arch is the Old Courthouse Museum that was the venue for the hearing of several momentous cases during the 19th century. At the base of the monument is the excellent Museum of Westward Expansion with exhibits covering exploration of the west and its honoured pioneers, including Lewis and Clark, the Plains Indians and buffalo soldiers. The Odyssey IMAX Theatre shows big-screen films about the region and its history.

The mission statement of Laumeier Sculpture Park - an open-air museum, covering 105 acres and containing over 70 outdoor sculptures dotted along a 1.4 mile (about 2.3km) walking trail - is to "expand the context of contemporary sculpture beyond the traditional confines of a museum; [and to] initiate a lifelong process of cultural awareness, to enrich lives and inspire creative thinking, by engaging people in experiences of sculpture and nature simultaneously." Visitors to the Laumeier Sculpture Park - which also boasts outdoor movies and an indoor gallery housed in an 1816 stone Tudor mansion - are unanimous in their approval of this goal, with more than 300,000 people visiting the park every year. Over and above being a wonderful picnic site, Laumeier Sculpture Park offers visitors a fresh and exciting way to engage with the plastic arts, and should not be missed.

Looking for something a bit different?  Check out our selection of cultural & adventure holidays or if you're looking to go it alone then see our selection of solo holidays.

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