The Best Small Town: Charlottesville, Virginia

I am never hesitant to tell people that one of my favorite places in the world is Charlottesville, Virginia. A fairly small college town of only 10 square miles, the town is full of character of the best kind.

To sum everything up, Charlottesville is a town of coffee shops, independent bookstores, and a crowd of students.

When I lived in Charlottesville years ago, I lived in an apartment with walls painted like murals. The house was a breathing museum, also known for hosting legendary parties. I worked in a busy Cuban coffee shop, and every week I would go to visit the bookstore next door. Living there was a very memorable time in my life, and I’ve always been drawn back to the tiny town.

Here are some things for you to appreciate about Charlottesville, or tips for when you visit.

 

1. the University of Virginia

Without UVA, Charlottesville would be a completely different place. The Rotunda Building is the crowning jewel of the city. The university was established in 1819 and is now among the most prestigious in the country. It was established by Thomas Jefferson, who, by the way, is a big deal here.

I recommend wandering through the university grounds, particularly the lush and historic university gardens, and Edgar Allen Poe’s old dorm room. He attended UVA briefly before dropping out, and now his old room is set up with things that he left behind, and located right in between other dorms. There is a glass door so that visitors can peer inside. It is on the E Range of the dorms, and open to anyone that passes by.

University-of-Virginia-Rotunda.jpg
the Rotunda, thanks to gargola87 on Flickr (when I last visited, I couldn’t photograph it, as it was unfortunately under renovation)

 

2. the Downtown Mall

The Downtown Mall is an outdoor pedestrian mall lined with quaint shops, plenty of places to get coffee, and numerous bookshops. My favorite coffee shop in Charlottesville is located on one end of the mall, The Mudhouse.

Downtown Mall.jpg
the Downtown Mall

 

3. Heaven for Bibliophiles

Charlottesville has some of the best used and independent bookshops that I have ever found. I especially recommend Blue Whale Books on the Downtown Mall, Heartwood Books on the Corner, and – above all – Daedalus Books off the Downtown Mall. Daedalus is winding three-story maze entirely made of bookshelves and books. You can really get lost in here. See my video exploring the entire maze here.

Daedalus Books in Charlottesville.jpg
Daedalus Books

4. Monticello

Located a few miles outside Charlottesville (approximately 20 minutes), Monticello is certainly worth a visit if you are in the area. The historic home of Thomas Jefferson, this house is certainly unique, and shows you much insight into the life of an intriguing man.

 

5. Great, Affordable Food

Some of my favorite food in Charlottesville is dumplings from Marco & Luca’s Dumpling Shop, where you can get a meal for less than $4. They have a location on the Corner, and another (original location) on the Downtown Mall.

If you feel in the mood for a sit-down restaurant, however, I highly recommend Basil, the C&O, or the Virginian.

Just a tip, though – If you enjoy midnight snacks and late dinners, you may have to change your plans. Most places close by 10:00 p.m. or earlier.

coffee at the Mudhouse.jpg
coffee at the Mudhouse

 

You can watch my video exploring Charlottesville here.

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