Salt Lake City’s neighborhoods can feel very European, under the right lens. Each has its own character, defined by the types of denizens, architecture, storefronts and walkability. Downtown is the obvious first choice for visitors because of Temple Square, the city’s top attraction, but the city’s hub also features a new mall development across the street, an array of historic buildings and some of the city’s best restaurants and pubs. Do take the time to venture beyond downtown, to the steeply sloping Avenues district just a few miles north, and southeast to three other noteworthy Salt Lake City neighborhoods. There you’ll discover the parks, bookstores and cafes that locals like to keep to themselves.
Connected to downtown to the north, this Salt Lake City neighborhood spreads along the city’s northernmost foothills in grid-patterned streets, which follow an alphabet system on north-south roads. Historic Victorian homes, a huge cemetery holding the remains of some of the city’s most prominent residents, the Cathedral of the Madeleine and a smattering of locally owned shops and restaurants make this a great district for wandering. Residents here are considered more liberal and artsy than other areas, but real estate here is expensive, so it’s not particularly bohemian. The district’s steep slopes provide great views of the valley, and City Creek and Memory Grove have abundant hiking trails and walking paths.
A victim of various incarnations of boom and bust, downtown still serves as the city’s financial and workday hub, and its Main Street is undergoing a revival, with a new mall and condo complex across from Temple Square. Major sights include Temple Square, which includes an informative Visitor’s Center and Church History Museum, and the homes of all major arts organizations, from Ballet West and the Utah Opera to smaller theater companies and the Utah Symphony. For the first-time visitor, Salt Lake City's downtown may feel spread out, thanks to the large blocks and wide streets. If you’re planning to see the sights on foot, be prepared to log more miles than you might expect.
Fifteenth & Fifteenth
This quiet pocket of retail is situated in a residential Salt Lake City neighborhood filled with big trees, sidewalks and brick bungalows, which once housed the city’s working class. Shop at the Blue Cockatoo Gallery or Great Garb before heading to one of the city’s best-known indy bookshops—King’s English, where the handpicked stacks reflect a keen sense of the book industry. The district’s restaurants include the casual Middle Eastern haunt Mazza, which offers great shawarma and tabouli, and the upscale and romantic Fresco Italian Cafe.
Named for a sugar beet test factory during Mormon founder Brigham Young’s days, this Salt Lake City neighborhood has undergone numerous incarnations, from housing a prison to the city’s furniture store row. A few decades ago, the neighborhood became home to numerous quirky, independent businesses, including the adult store Blue Boutique. But as big box stores slowly moved into Sugar House, many of the smaller businesses moved out, stripping the neighborhood of much of its character. Even so, it’s still a good place to wander, especially if you start at nearby Sugar House Park, which has steep grassy hills for kite flying and sledding and impressive mountain views.
Ninth & Ninth
If you’re a people-watcher, head to this Salt Lake City neighborhood to see some of the city’s best displays of self-expression, including tattoos and progressive fashion (sometimes difficult to find in other parts of Salt Lake). A cafe, a few restaurants, yoga studio and art film house set the tone for the business district, while nearby historic homes have nontraditional gardens filled with wildflowers and walls painted with murals. While nearby Liberty Park isn’t officially considered part of the hood, it is the area’s green anchor and within easy walking distance.
Best in Salt Lake City Travel
Salt Lake City Travel Guide