Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky, and each year more than 16 million people flock to the River City to experience all the fun things it offers — from bourbon and bourbon-inspired fare to art galleries, museums, theaters, skate parks and so much more. If you’re visiting Louisville for the first time, it can seem daunting when figuring out where you should stay and what you should see, but you’ve come to the right place if you’re looking to discover the top sites in Louisville.
Generally speaking, most of what tourists come to see is located downtown or in nearby neighborhoods. Louisville is home to 10 bourbon distilleries and even more bourbon-related experiences, and a good majority of these fall within the downtown area. Also in this region is where you’ll find most hotels, museums like the famous Louisville Slugger Museum, theaters, restaurants, bars, art galleries, boutiques and even some parks and a pedestrian bridge.
Louisville is home to many neighborhoods that are rich in culture and have a plethora of things to do, and the good news is it’s a city that is easy to navigate by car. And if you’re downtown, it’s definitely easy to get around on foot, scooter, bike or bus. Some of the more eclectic Louisville neighborhoods include the Highlands, Old Louisville, Germantown, Butchertown, NuLu and Crescent Hill, to name a few.
If you’re visiting Louisville for the first time, it’s likely you’ll have more on your must-see list than you’ll actually have time for, so we recommend you check out a reputable city sightseeing service, like Mint Julep Experiences, which can show you dozens of the top sites in Louisville all within a few hours time span.
Whether it’s Louisville history, bourbon, cocktails, notable landmarks or even locally-made beer, you can customize a sightseeing experience that will check all your boxes and then some. Explore the downtown area, then hit the bourbon trail and horse country for an iconic Kentucky experience.
Must-See Sites in Louisville and Easy To Get To
So what are some specific things to see and do in Louisville? These are all located in the downtown region and categorized by type of experience.
Old Forester Distillery — This distillery opened in 2018 in the same Whiskey Row building the brand occupied in 1882.
Kentucky Peerless Distillery — This distillery was actually located in Henderson, Ky., in the 1880s but was closed due to Prohibition. The brand got revived in 2015 when the distillery reopened in Louisville.
Angel’s Envy Distillery — This modern bourbon brand opened its official distillery in downtown Louisville in 2016.
Evan Williams Distillery — This was the first distillery to reopen in downtown Louisville in 2013. The state-of-the-art tour features history, tastings and a little bit of virtual reality.
Rabbit Hole Distillery — Modern and traditional methods collide at this distillery, which opened in the NuLu neighborhood in 2018.
Copper & Kings Distillery — This Butchertown distillery does not make a drop of bourbon, instead focuses on brandy, gin and even absinthe.
Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery — Michter’s opened its doors in downtown Louisville in 2019 after many years of restoration on the historic building. It was worth the wait!
If you’re exploring downtown and looking to enjoy some of Bourbon Country’s tastes, check out some of these bourbon distilleries that are close to downtown Louisville. For a guided tour of downtown distilleries and bourbon tasting book a custom tour with Mint Julep, or hit the Kentucky Bourbon Trail for a public bourbon tour.
Louisville Slugger Museum — This world-renowned baseball bat factory is a must-see for sports fans. Tours are offered daily and include a mini-bat souvenir.
Frazier History Museum — This museum highlighting the history of Louisville also includes the official starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®. There are all kinds of exhibits on bourbon, too, as well as bottles for sale at the giftshop.
Kentucky Science Center — Since 1977, this hands-on, science-centered museum has been entertaining and educating children and adults from all over the country.
Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft — Step inside for a look at the region’s best contemporary artists.
Roots 101 African-American Museum — Founded in 2019, this is a place to celebrate the cultural contributions and experiences of African-Americans.
Belle of Louisville — This old-time steamboat has been in operation since 1914 and is one of the few originals left in the country. The Belle offers lunch and dinner cruises.
The Belvedere — This urban park overlooks the Ohio River and also features historic statues of George Rogers Clark, the founder of Louisville, and York, the enslaved man who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their momentous expedition.
Waterfront Park — This 85-acre park is located on the banks of the Ohio River and features playgrounds, bike and walking paths, pristine lawns for sports or picnics, boat docks and more. Each July, the annual Forecastle Festival is held here as well.
Big Four Pedestrian Bridge — This old train bridge was converted into a pedestrian walkway to Southern Indiana in 2014. Now, thousands of residents use it each day for fun, exercise and exploration.
Butchertown — Originally a meatpacking district, this historic Louisville neighborhood is dotted with trendy restaurants, breweries, bars and even the bustling Butchertown Market with lots of shopping opportunities.
Whiskey Row — Before Prohibition, Louisville’s Main Street was home to more than 50 businesses related to the bourbon industry. Some of these historic buildings still stand today, and some now house bourbon-related tenants, like the Old Forester Distillery.
Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen — Merle’s is all about three things: bourbon, tequila and having a grand old time. With tacos and hot chicken on the menu, the restaurant is the place to go for a quick bite and some live music.
Troll Pub Under the Bridge — Just look for the giant troll guarding the doorway to this local sports bar and come on in for great food and drinks. Don’t worry, he doesn’t bite.
High Horse Bar — This Butchertown dive bar is a beer-and-a-shot kind of place, but they also have half-a-dozen cocktails on the menu that are mighty fine, including a $5 Old Fashioned.
Hell or High Water Speakeasy — Want to get a fancy cocktail in a secret place? Make a reservation at this speakeasy for a dark and intimate experience with all kinds of spirits.
Proof at 21c Museum Hotel — Hands down one of the best places in Louisville to get an expertly crafted cocktail, Proof also offers a full dining experience and is located inside the modern 21c Museum Hotel.
Brown Hotel Lobby Bar — Throw one back at this infamous hotel bar and enjoy a Hot Brown while you’re there.
Old Seelbach Bar — Another historic hotel bar, the Old Seelbach created the famous Seelbach Cocktail made with bourbon and champagne.
Fourth Street Live District — This bar and restaurant district on Fourth Street features a handful of local and chain establishments all under one roof, including Whiskey Dry and Gordon Biersch Brewery.
NuLu Marketplace — One of the newest districts in downtown, the NuLu Marketplace features everything from a brewery and cocktail bar to a pizza place and seltzery.
8UP Restaurant, Lounge & Rooftop — Located on the rooftop of the Hilton Garden Inn, take in the city as you sip high above the ground. You’ll see some of the best views of Louisville here while partaking in a drink or two.
Goodwood — Every beer this brewery makes touches wood — more specifically, used bourbon barrels — hence its name.
West Sixth — This Lexington-based brewery is located inside the NuLu Marketplace.
Ten20 — This Butchertown brewery offers a plethora of outdoor seating as well as a comfy lounge area inside. They’re one of the newest to open in Louisville.
Akasha Brewing — Come for the beer, stay for the boardgames. And better yet, bring your dog with you and enjoy the spacious tap room.
Apocalypse Brewing — “Drink beer till the end” is this brewery’s mantra, and they offer plenty of outdoor seating options plus live music on most evenings.
Falls City — One of Louisville’s first breweries, Falls City dates back to 1905. This re-established brewery also sits next to a taco restaurant.
Against the Grain — This beer is known throughout the country and for good reason: It’s some of the best. There’s also a great smokehouse at this downtown brewery, so plan to eat while you imbibe.
Bluegrass Brewing Co. — BBC was a leader in the craft beer movement in Louisville in the ’90s, and this downtown brewery and restaurant offers a great space to learn and sip through many styles of beer.
While Louisville is known as the ‘Bourbon City’, there is plenty of excellent craft brews to taste. We recommend getting out to at least one brewery while you’re out and about. If you’re a beer enthusiast that appreciates the process, hops, and unique flavors we’d recommend a guided brewery tour with Mint Julep that shows you the sights, breweries and offers you exclusive access to the brewing scene.
About The Author
Sara Havens has been a bourbon enthusiast and educator long before the boom began. As a Louisville-based writer, her work has appeared in various national and regional publications, including Bourbon+ Magazine, The Bourbon Review, Alcohol Professor and Food & Dining Magazine. In 2020, Havens was one of 10 finalists in the World’s Top Whiskey Taster competition held by the Bardstown Bourbon Co., beating out more than 400 contenders to represent the Kentucky region. She maintains her own website, barbellelou.com, covering the bourbon industry and local nightlife scene, and in her down time, you can find her leading tours along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® for Mint Julep Experiences.