As I described in part 1 of the MSP Travel Guide series, it took me 7 years of living in 5 other cities over two continents to appreciate Minneapolis, and St. Paul.
And while Minneapolis is certainly the center of action of the two sister cities, St. Paul has all the historical, quant charm. Minneapolis is outgoing, vibrant, and hip. St.Paul is introverted, wise, and sophisticated.
St. Paul has a special place in my heart, because it’s where I grew up and have many childhood memories. I often don’t think St. Paul gets enough attention as it deserves. Here’s all the things I love most about St. Paul.
The Best Attractions in St. Paul
Walk along Summit and Grand Avenue
Summit Ave is one of the most historical streets in St. Paul, with a neighborhood of mansions dating back to the 1800s. This is also where you will find the house that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his first novel!
Running parallel to Summit Ave is the equally famous Grand Ave, which is where you will find all the shops, restaurants, and cafes in this area of St. Paul. I highly recommend checking out the Primp boutique, and the Salut French restaurant.
Stroll through Rice Park (especially during the holiday season)
Rice Park is charming year-round, but it’s during the holiday season when this place comes to life. Nestled between St. Paul’s Landmark center and Ordway Theatre, Rice Park truly the cherry on top of this picturesque area of downtown St.Paul.
During the winter the bare trees are draped with lights and holiday decorations. You can also find ice sculptures here during the months of December and January.
Have a drink inside the Seventh Street Truck Park
Back in my day, 7th street was pretty much empty besides the legendary Italian pasta bar, Cosettas. Now, the street transformed into a popular nightlife area in a matter of only a few years. You’ll find popular breweries like New Bohemia and eats like Burger Moe’s.
But a trip here wouldn’t be complete with a visit to the Seventh Street Food Truck Park, an indoor bar and food truck eatery with quirky décor. It’s a great place to stop for a bite or a drink in the day, and on the weekends it’s one of the best places in St. Paul for a night out.
Cheer on the Minnesota Wild Hockey Team
Hockey is more or less the official sport of Minnesota, and the Xcel Energy Center is home to the Minnesota Wild. During the winter season St. Paul is actually even more alive with the streets and bars filled with fans in Wild Jerseys.
Indulge in a Gold Latte at Café Astoria
Just a street over from the Xcel energy center is one of my favorite cafes in all of Minnesota. Café Astoria definitely wins the award for the most creative lattes in the Twin Cities, with rainbow matcha lattes and lattes with pieces of gold.
They also have a number of breakfast bowls and small treats like crepes.
Take in the beauty of the St. Paul Cathedral
The St. Paul Cathedral was built in 1915, and over 100 years later it is quite possible the most ornate building in the Twin Cities Area. The outside is constructed with Minnesota granite, while the inside is constructed from marble from nine countries.
Best brunch places in St. Paul
Mickey’s isn’t just a diner; it’s a historical landmark. This vintage train car serves breakfast comfort food 24-hours a day. So naturally, it’s the best place to get pancakes and bacon after 12 a.m. It’s truly like stepping back in time to the 1950’s.
French Meadow Café
French Meadow is a brunch option (and dinner) that you truly can’t go wrong with. It’s one of my favorite restaurants in the Twin Cities, and they also have a location in Uptown Minneapolis.
The location on Grand Avenue in St. Paul is perfect for a cozy, Sunday afternoon. I recommend the cornmeal pancakes, chilaquiles, and any of their baked goods!
The St. Paul Grill
For those interested in a more upscale brunch experience, the St. Paul Hotel is the place to be. Located in the historic, downtown St. Paul area, this restaurant is a local favorite. (Fun fact, I used to teach etiquette classes to children here!)
You can’t really go wrong with anything on the menu here, but the cinnamon rolls and “high tea” breakfast platter is to die for.
Best Dinner places in St. Paul
If you’re looking to load up on carbs before a wild game, concert, or night out of drinking along 7th street, Cossettas is your best bet. This Italian marketplace serves authentic Italian cuisine cafeteria-style so you can try a little of everything. Some of my fondest memories were coming here as a kid as a special treat on the weekends!
For a more intimate dining experience, Caffé Biaggio is about as authentic Italian as you can get. The atmosphere is modern, but still true to it’s mom-and-pop roots. Best of all, their menu items, such as their flavorful pizza, ravioli, and lasagna are all home-made from traditional Italian recipes passed down for generations.
It’s like having a little slice of Italy right here in the Twin Cities!
J. Selby’s is the gateway drug to veganism. Kidding, but the plant-based restaurant is a favorite among vegans and non-vegans alike. The menu offers a variety of modern takes on American classics, such as chili dogs, beef sandwiches and mac and cheese. They also have some guilt-free options like soy chorizo tacos, salads, and rice bowls.
El Burrito Mercado
When I came from Europe back to Minneapolis for the first time in almost 2 years, this is the place I asked my family to take me for my first meal. There’s a lot of great Mexican restaurants in town, but this one happens to be one of the most authentic. El Burritio Mercado consists of a Mexican food market and grocery story, a buffet, and a sit-down restaurant.
I recommend trying the tamales, cactus tacos, or the enchiladas, and then browsing the market for anything from plantains to Mexican-style home décor!