An Insider’s Louisville, Kentucky Hotel Guide

What Louisville lacks in corporate five-star properties, it makes up for in swanky hotels that embrace the city’s charming quirks.

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Muhammad Ali, perhaps Louisville’s most famous native, proclaimed that “my greatness came and started in Louisville, Kentucky,” and declared that it was “one of the greatest cities in America.” The Greatest had a point. Louisville is the largest city in the Bluegrass State, and alongside its Southern charm and Midwestern heartiness, it offers a rich history, captivating architecture and green spaces galore. Situated on the Ohio River, the city took its name from the French in 1780—Louisville literally means “Louis’ city,” namechecking King Louis XVI in tribute to his support during the Revolutionary War. 

For history and architecture buffs, downtown’s West Main Historical District has the largest collection of cast iron facades anywhere outside of Soho, New York. One of Louisville’s many monikers is Park City, so-called for the 18 parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who was also the visionary behind Manhattan’s Central Park.  

Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon, and the spirit’s aficionados can honor that heritage by following  the Urban Bourbon trail, which includes bars, restaurants and distilleries serving the tipple across downtown’s Whiskey Row and beyond. Most famously, it is home to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, “the most exciting two minutes in sport,” which celebrates its 150th anniversary in May 2024. 

For a long time, Louisville struggled to attract tourists outside of the Kentucky Derby. But over the last several years, an influx of young creatives, often fleeing high rents in bigger cities, have debuted a dizzying array of buzzy restaurants, trendy bars, locally curated concept stores and craft distilleries that have drawn a steady flow of travelers to the locale known as the Gateway to the South. 

The city’s growing popularity has increased demand for stylish hotels. What Louisville lacks in corporate 5-star hotels, it makes up for in swanky properties that embrace the city’s charming quirks. If you’re ready to pack your bags, there are old-world grande dames, Parisian-inspired contemporary stays, an art museum-cum-inn and a hotel built in a former disco factory that’s keeping night fever alive and well. Below, see the best accommodations to book for your next trip to Bourbon City. 

The Seelbach Hilton Louisville

  • 500 S. Fourth St., Louisville, KY 40202

A favorite haunt of F. Scott Fitzgerald (in The Great Gatsby, Daisy and Tom Buchanan marry at a fictionalized version of the Seelbach), this Louisville grande dame has stood the test of time in terms of service and architectural majesty. Open since 1905, nine presidents, including FDR and JFK, and countless celebrities like Elvis Presley and Whitney Houston have visited the downtown French Renaissance-style landmark, which overflows with marble from Europe and wood from the West Indies. 

The 321 classically designed rooms and suites feature colonial-style mahogany furniture, two-poster beds and Chippendale accent pieces, but the Seelbach’s captivating history really comes alive in its private event spaces. The Oakroom, a former billiard hall paneled in hand-carved American oak, was a frequent hideout for Al Capone; he played clandestine poker games here and escaped the police thanks to a two-way mirror in his booth. Capone’s vanishing act was performed courtesy of secret stairways and tunnels off the hotel’s cellar and former bar, the Rathskeller (Fitzgerald’s preferred drinking den), which was constructed using Rookwood Pottery and is the only remaining room of its kind in the world. While the hotel’s dining options are limited, there is a breakfast space as well as room service, and make sure to ask the concierge about the plethora of restaurants to choose from at the always-lively Fourth Street Live one block away.

The Seelbach Hilton Louisville's Suite Parlor Seelbach Hilton

The Brown Hotel

  • 335 W. Broadway, Louisville, KY 40202

Another downtown Louisville landmark, the Brown celebrated its centennial last fall, in 2023. Historic splendor abounds in the Georgian Revival hotel gilded in the grand European tradition. First up, the two-story lobby stuns with hand-painted coffered ceilings, soaring Palladian-style windows and Botticino limestone floors. The 294 guest rooms and suites beckon with oversized mahogany beds, sunburst wallpapers and Spanish Remora marble bathrooms. Inaugurated by the boxing champ himself, the black-and-gold Muhammad Ali Suite features crystal chandeliers, hardwood floors, a wet bar and signed Ali memorabilia, including his boxing gloves. 

In the Roaring Twenties, up to 1,200 partygoers would cut a rug in the historic hotel’s ballroom every night. Faced with feeding the post-shimmy hordes, chef Fred Schmidt came up with the open-faced Hot Brown sandwich: oven-roasted turkey breast, fresh tomatoes, cheesy Mornay sauce and crispy bacon atop thick Texas toast; the hearty meal could easily power the dancers for many more twirls around the dance floor. The iconic sandwich continues to satisfy patrons at the casual chic J. Graham’s Café or at the fine-dining old world Lobby Bar & Grill, where a menu of Southern comfort foods like smoky mac and cheese and Kentucky Derby Pie can be paired with a hand-selected flight of bourbon.  

Muhammad Ali Suite at The Brown Hotel. Brown Hotel

21c Museum Hotel Louisville

  • 700 W. Main St., Louisville, KY 40202

Louisville natives and avid art collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson wanted to share their love of contemporary art with both locals and visitors, and in 2006, brought their vision to life when they opened the first of what would become the 21c Hotels empire. Located within five converted 19th century warehouses on downtown’s Museum Row, the boutique hotel features a gallery on the first floor near the front desk, and has shown works by national and international artists, including Turkish-American conceptual artist Serkan Özkaya, whose 30-foot-tall, gold-painted foam David (inspired by Michelangelo) stands guard at the hotel entrance. 

The 91 hotel rooms reflect the building’s historical bones with large windows and exposed brickwork, which contrasts with minimalist crisp white bedding and one-of-a-kind art. The on-site restaurant, Proof on Main, has drawn Louisville’s glitzy crowd since it debuted. A bright space with floral wallpaper hung with artworks from rotating exhibits, its menu focuses on Southern and Appalachian-style cuisine—standouts include the fried chicken biscuit sandwich with hash browns and pork chops with peas and ramps. The cocktail menu is jam-packed with noteworthy concoctions like Bluegrass Baby, a sherry, gin and grapefruit mix topped with sage and hops and akin to a work of drinkable art.

21c Museum Hotel. Magnus Lindqvist

Hotel Genevieve

  • 730 East Market St., Louisville, KY 40202

Nestled in the heart of buzzy NuLu, this new build, opened in May 2023, is the first Kentucky property by Austin-based hospitality group Bunkhouse. The hotel’s name, taken from the patron saint of Paris, celebrates Louisville’s French origins. The design leans into feminine forms reminiscent of Art Nouveau: soft arches and lush hues extend into the 122 guest rooms and suites, where blush pink, aqua gray or buttery mustard walls and curvilinear cream-and-brass furniture coalesce into dreamy spaces. 

Each of the on-site eateries incorporates the Gallic theme. Rosettes is a mix of Parisian and Southern influences serving dishes like omelet Provençal packed with goat’s cheese and served with a side of garlicky potatoes and cherry-braised pork belly smothered with cheesy grits. French street food like rolled crêpes stuffed with chicken and gruyère and mussels escabeche cooked in a wine marinade takes top billing at rooftop lounge Bar Genevieve. The hotel even has a pop art-inspired Mini Marché that sells locally made snacks. While its central location sets it within walking distance of some of Louisville’s finest bars, the hotel’s intimate speakeasy, Lucky Penny, can’t be missed before turning in. Our suggestion? The Mirrorball, made with gin, strawberry liqueur and ginger beer, is a sweet-and-spicy homage to the disco ball, which was invented in Kentucky in 1917.

Hotel Genevieve Double Queen Bathroom. Genevieve Garruppo

The Grady Hotel

  • 601 W. Main St., Louisville, KY 40202

In 1883, a pharmacist commissioned a building to house a medicinal bourbon apothecary on Louisville’s Main Street. In the 1920s, it was home to a millinery that made hats for the Kentucky Derby. In 2021, it was transformed into a hotel. The Grady, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, has 51 guests rooms bedecked in a navy-and-white palette, with soaring ceilings studded with reclaimed wood, crisp Frette linens tucked into tufted leather headboards and silken bathrobes inspired by Muhammad Ali’s boxing robes. At on-site restaurant the Wild Swann, the internationally influenced menu holds its own against the enticing interiors embellished with leather banquettes, book-filled shelves and brick-enclosed nooks. Culinary highlights include the hot honey bourbon sliders with panko-dusted fried chicken, a champagne slaw and sidewinder fries and steak Coulotte with fried smashed potatoes topped with bourbon shallot sauce. The inventive cocktail menu wins with Swann Song, a creamy white chocolate martini that could double as dessert. 

The Grady Hotel. The Grady Hotel

The Bellwether Hotel

  • 1300 Bardstown Rd., Louisville, KY 40204

For two decades, a pair of early 20th-century buildings sat vacant in the lively Highlands neighborhood. Over the years, the buildings housed a police station, a telephone switching station and the Louisville Ballet, but after 20 years of disuse, these properties were transformed into a hotel in 2021. The low-touch hotel (self-check-in allows for an Airbnb-like user-driven experience within a hotel) is composed of just 19 rooms, ranging from studios to four-bedrooms units. Two restored WWII-era original murals depicting fire and rescue and street scenes that were painted in oil by a policeman punctuate either end of the four-bedroom suite. Each individually decorated suite, some featuring art deco motifs, is outfitted with eco-friendly linens and organic bath toiletries, while local amenities like fresh ground coffee from Louisville favorite Heine Brothers, Crosley Bluetooth radios and a snack bar spotlighting Louisville-made treats for purchase adds a uniquely Derby City touch.

The Nostalgic restaurant and bar is a midcentury-style haven,  offering a contemporary take on Kentucky classics: think mushroom-and-potato vegan pot pie cooked in miso white wine gravy and cheddar corn fritters dipped in Aleppo pepper and green chili jam. True to its name, the eatery serves up cocktails like the Teddy Graham Penicillin, in which graham-cracker scotch and ginger bitters are infused with salted honey syrup and smoke. 

Bellwether Hotel. Bellwether Hotel

The Myriad Hotel

  • 900 Baxter Ave., Louisville, KY 40204

In 2023, this former telephone company and disco ball factory was turned into another Highlands hotel with a sociable personality, where the lobby doubles as a coffee and drinks lounge. Leaning into its disco-era history, the elevators transform into disco balls with a “party button” that prompts music and dancing lights. (Myriad Reflector was the original name given to the disco ball by its inventor.)

The 65 rooms and suites, all of which feature smart TVs and free wifi, reflect the building’s heritage with industrial elements like concrete floors and exposed brick walls. Crisp white sheets against honey wood tones create a retro vibe and bright pops of color signify which area of the factory you’re in: Blue rooms are situated in the building’s most architecturally significant portions; Green rooms are in the former disco factory; and Pink rooms overlook the outdoor pool. The Myriad Swim Club, which is also open to locals, is a vibrant oasis with cushy loungers, cozy cabanas, a tanning deck and a Pool Bar serving craft cocktails. While the Highlands heaves with restaurant options, on-site Paseo is worth a visit for its Mediterranean-influenced entrees cooked in a wood-fired oven. Cocktails and small bites at Switchboard pack a tasty punch—try the Hang Up 11, made with bourbon tarragon syrup and Turkish tobacco bitters. 

Myriad Hotel. Myriad Hotel

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