Along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, an iconic city stands as the Gateway to the West.

Welcome to St. Louis, MO

To some, it’s the “Gateway to the West.” To others it’s the busiest city on the Mississippi, or simply “The Lou.” It’s one of the United States’ largest cities, home to a thriving local economy and one of America’s most iconic landmarks. It’s a beacon of urban excitement in America’s Midwest and a rich, cultural center … it is St. Louis.

About St. Louis

Built on the bluffs and terraces overlooking the mighty Mississippi River, St. Louis was founded by the French all the way back in 1764—and named for Louis IX of France—St. Louis was acquired as a part of the Louisiana Purchase. Historically it’s been an immensely busy city and port town; acting as a literal gateway for settlers heading westward.

And as covered wagons have given way to station wagons, Saint Louis has continued to thrive and grow. A local economy once fueled by the fur trade is now home to major companies like Monsanto, Peabody Energy and Express Scripts. Baseball games once held on dirt fields are now hosted at the impressive Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis.

With streets permeated by the catchy bebop sounds of blues, jazz and ragtime—musical genres the city is known for—St. Louis is also home to the country’s second-oldest symphony Orchestra. It’s a surprisingly diverse cultural oasis in the pleasantly quiet state of Missouri …

Before the Arch

Cleveland was originally founded by Frenchmen Pierre Lacléde and Auguste Chouteau before the French First Republic sold it to America in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Shortly thereafter, Lewis and Clark would launch their famous trip westward from St. Louis, cementing the city’s reputation as the perfect jumping off point for those headed toward the frontier.

As luck would have it, the first steamboats arrived just a few years later in 1818, combining the city’s existing frontier access with the fast-growing traffic on the Mississippi.

Years later, St. Louis erected the first Midwestern bridge over the mighty river—the Eads bridge, named for its architect and long held as a symbol of the city’s role as a central hub to the state and surrounding area.

A small company named Anheuser-Busch set up shop in St. Louis a few years later; you might have heard of them. With them came a surge in local business—elevating the city to the point of becoming the fifth-largest in the Union at one point—and all the trappings of urban success, from the World’s Fair to the 1904 Summer Olympics, all hosted in St. Louis.

In 1965, the city’s iconic Gateway Arch was competed, standing an incredible 630 feet tall—the tallest monument in the Western Hemisphere—as a monument to the Westward Expansion that created so many of St. Louis’ fortunes over the years.

To be sure, the city’s fortunes did wane for a time in the decades that followed … but nowadays, the city’s enjoying a wave of gentrification, an influx of wealthy new residents and businesses that are the fruits of its many revitalization programs and efforts over the last few decades. In 2014, the city celebrated its 250th Birthday.

A Natural Business Center for the Midwest

Given this knowledge of St. Louis’ local history, it should come as no surprise that the city has a uniquely robust and diverse economic base—thanks to the numerous products, professionals and commodities streaming through the city on an almost daily basis.

At present, the city’s Gross Metropolitan Product is 21st highest in the nation, but growing at an impressive rate of almost 2% just last year—outpacing the national growth rate substantially.

Local businesses like Wells Fargo Advisors, Energizer Holdings, Post Foods, United Van Lines, Pfizer—just to name a few—and a total of 9 Fortune 500 companies all enjoy the city’s moderate weather and central location within the country.

St. Louis is also a center of medicine and biotechnology—with the Washington University of Medicine operating the local children’s hospital and the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center. That makes the city great for not just medical students and interns, but for the specialists looking to help enact real scientific progress.

A Classic American City

Meanwhile, the city’s culture acts as a perfect microcosm of the American experience. Founded by the French … home to Catholic immigrants from Ireland, Italy and Germany … and now a refuge for Bosnian-Americans, St. Louis is a virtual Ellis Island, a true cultural melting pot in the American Midwest.

Numerous notable churches and theaters, music venues and incredible restaurants all fill St. Louis’ lively downtown streets, where modern-day culture resides right next-door to centuries-old landmarks and it all somehow makes sense.

There’s the St. Louis Art Museum and the Museum of Westward Expansion … the Delmar Loop, where you’ll find one of America’s “10 Best Streets” for food and attractions … and Laclede’s Landing, where you can take a peek at the city’s thriving nightlife.

An Exciting Downtown Experience

With all this great downtown culture, and more of it sprouting up every day, it comes as no surprise that young professionals and longtime residents are starting to look to downtown condos and apartments for an alternative to the classic Midwestern homefront.

“There’s a lot of new construction on the drawing boards,” explained one of the city’s largest local property managers, “it’s kind of unprecedented.”

As of early 2015, apartment vacancies are hitting rock-bottom rates of under 5% and experts are claiming that the city is entering a “rehab and construction phase,” where local incentives and fast-growing neighborhoods are turning old, cheaper properties into rehab/rebuild opportunities.

As a result, multifamily rehab permits have tripled over the last few years, as investors rush to cater to an increasingly urban population in St. Louis. With just 4,000 existing condo units in the city sitting at an impressive 93% owned/occupied, their work is already being eagerly awaited.

“Downtown’s momentum is strong,” said Mayor Greg Fischer, “and a significant number of new housing units will be opening in the coming years.”

Top Condo Buildings in St. Louis

1. Chase Park Plaza
2. 4545 Lindell
3. Park East Tower
4. Louderman Lofts
5. Meridian Lofts
6. Netherby Hall
7. 4200 Laclede Lofts
8. Printers Lofts
9. St. Regis
10. The Greystone

St. Louis Key Points of Interest

1. Gateway Arch
2. St. Louis Science Center
3. Anheuser-Busch Brewery
4. Missouri Botanical Garden
5. St. Louis Art Museum
6. St. Louis Zoo
7. Fox Theatre
8. Busch Stadium
9. Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis
10. City Museum

St. Louis Schools

The best of the Public & Private Schools in St. Louis

Tuition-free magnet program focused on academic achievement in elementary education.

Community-based middle school emphasizing diversity, academics, and technology integration.

Top-ranked high school offering comprehensive curriculum recognized by the International Baccalaureate Program.

Highly-selective private university ranked 14th nationally for undergraduate programs.

Restaurants & Dining

Enjoy fine dining or regional flavors!

Traditional St. Louis style barbeque and creative specialties in a downhome setting.

Elegant Italian cuisine with breathtaking cityscape views in the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel.

St. Louis institution serving classic steakhouse fare and famous Prime Rib.

Authentic seasonal French menu in a traditional bistro setting.

Acclaimed Italian fine-dining showcasing tableside preparations and old-world ambiance.

Shopping in St. Louis

St. Louis is a great place to shop upscale malls and eclectic local stores.

A St. Louis tradition for over 200 years featuring local produce and vendors.

Regional mall showcasing three anchor stores and major retailers in the Richmond Heights suburb.

Shopping, restaurants, and entertainment in an urban historic district.

Former passenger rail terminal converted into destination for shopping, dining, and a hotel.

Parks & Recreation

Enjoy great urban parks or explore historic caverns.

5595 Grand Dr, St. Louis 63112

4256 Magnolia Ave, St. Louis 63110

801 Market St, St. Louis 63101

3900 Holly Hills Dr, St. Louis 63116

I-44 at Exit 230, Stanton 63079

St. Louis Transportation

Find out how to get around town when in St. Louis.

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Michael HousesSt. Louis Local Guide