Modern Detroit is full of hustle, bustle, and constant movement. From our lively downtown area to the pretty shores of the Detroit River, there’s always something to keep you entertained here in the Motor City. While we love the many perks and conveniences of 21st-century life, there’s something to be said for revisiting a wholly different past. For a sense of what our hometown was like during generations past, check out these seven spots that still offer a taste of “old Detroit.”
1. Amore da Roma
We couldn’t discuss the history of Detroit without mentioning Amore da Roma, a reimagining of Detroit’s iconic Roma Cafe. This restaurant is a continuation of the Roma Cafe legacy, which began all the way back in 1890 and brought a tradition of excellent Italian fare to the Motor City. While ownership has changed, many of the dishes you’ll enjoy here will make you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time – and the eatery’s atmosphere is timeless. This is history-rich dining at its finest.
2. Cliff Bell’s
Venture to another era when you enjoy live music, drinks, and food at Cliff Bell’s, Detroit’s most iconic live music club. Throughout the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, the club was especially rich with activity and fun – perhaps your grandparents even enjoyed a night on the town here. While Cliff Bell’s closed its doors in 1985, it was beautifully renovated and reopened in 2006. When you visit today, you’ll appreciate everything from live jazz to mouthwatering cocktails, all served amid a sense of enchanting history.
3. Motown Museum
While we’re on the topic of music, we’ll discuss another obvious inclusion on our list of “old Detroit” marvels: the unbeatable Motown Museum. Detroit’s Motown era was chock full of hits and our city proudly played a role in the careers of many icons, from Smokey Robinson to Diana Ross. When you explore Hitsville, U.S.A. and experience Berry Gordy’s studio, you’ll feel like you’re walking among Motown’s musical giants.
4. The Guardian Building
If you’re ready to be utterly wowed, simply set foot inside the Guardian Building. This Financial District skyscraper is nothing short of a Detroit landmark, first opening its doors back in 1929. You don’t have to be a full-blown architecture enthusiast to enjoy the building’s breathtaking Art Deco style, complete with vibrant geometric designs, assorted brick and metal work, and so much more.
5. Belle Isle Aquarium
Did you know that Detroit is home to America’s oldest aquarium? That’s right: the Belle Isle Aquarium first opened to the public in 1904 and has served as a popular destination for visitors of all ages throughout the generations. While the aquarium was temporarily shuttered between 2005 and 2012, it now offers guests the chance to experience fascinating marine life in a historical setting. With its iconic green-tiled ceiling and unique exterior design, it’s tough not to be charmed by this locale.
6. Ford Piquette Avenue Plant
It’s no secret that Detroit’s history has been massively shaped by its role within the automotive industry, and the Ford Piquette Plant offers an opportunity to revisit the early days of Ford’s influence within the city. Following its construction in 1904, the plant was second in the line of top automotive production factories in the city. Today, visitors can enjoy tours of the building and learn more about the vehicles it once produced, including the highly influential Model T.
Many tourists associate Greektown primarily with its casinos, but there’s so much more to love in this historic Detroit neighborhood. As its name implies, the area was home to Greek immigrants who came to the Motor City in the early 1900s and established a vibrant community. Today, you’ll find everything from long-standing churches to beloved restaurants (we’re particularly fond of the Golden Fleece) to glowing lights that make for a charming after-dark atmosphere. What’s not to love?
So, there you have it: a handful of destinations where you can still experience old Detroit in all its glory. While we can never return to the past, we can certainly celebrate it – and these spots make it easy to embrace the history of our beloved city. Did we leave any other must-see places off our list? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a Facebook comment or make an official recommendation by completing our nomination form here.