Signature Charlottesville Experiences: Restaurants, Shopping, and Attractions

One of the best things about living in or visiting the City of Charlottesville is the variety of experiences you can have here. It’s no mystery why so many people love this city. Inspired by a world-class university, Charlottesville is full of creative people, ideas, destinations. And that’s reflected in our diverse dining and shopping offerings. When it comes to unique things to do, Charlottesville can’t be beat. There’s so many great places in the city, you won’t know where to start. So, we decided to break down the best of the best of signature Charlottesville experiences.


Bodo’s Bagels: world-famous experience available in three locations:  On the corner, on Emmet Street, and downtown on Preston Avenue.

Ask any local, and they’ll tell you Bodo’s Bagels is a quintessential C’ville dining experience. This isn’t just true for students It’s true for residents and visitors as well. You can load their hot New-York-style bagels with whatever smear or topping your hungry stomach desires. On a lazy weekend morning, the signature roast coffee is sure to wake you up for the day ahead. Easy on the wallet and heaven for the tastebuds. You can only find this bagel shop in the city of Charlottesville, which makes it quite the can’t-miss option in town.

Citizen Burger: 212 East Main Street, Charlottesville, 22902

In a town where Riverside Lunch has ruled for over 50 years, UVA alum Andy McClure stunned the Ville when he opened Citizen Burger in the center of the Downtown Mall. Yep, the price of beef went up significantly, but the gourmet quality of his locally-sourced burger, served with a craft pint in a chic town-gown setting, is so good that C-Ville Weekly has named it the Best Burger for many years running. If you’re visiting from out-of-town, and want a delicious burger and flavorful ambiance, this is your place.

Pre-Dinner Cocktails at Vitae Spirits’ New Tasting Room at 101 E. Water Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902

Former UVA microbiologist Ian Glomski has emerged as Charlottesville’s leading resident mixologist, and his brand of gins, rums and liqueurs are signature Charlottesville! Vitae’s new tasting room is in the center of the action on the Downtown Mall, directly across from John Grisham’s office and several of Charlottesville’s toniest fashion shops.  It has large windows perfect for people-watching inside and out, sleek interior lines and botanical art by local artist Lara Gastinger on the walls That connection between Vitae spirits and the botanical world sets the stage for action. and makes this a  perfect  for pre-game.

Maru  412 East Main Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902

Voted a “Top 10 Best New Restaurant” by C-Ville Weekly in 2018. Maru is one of the most exciting new restaurants to come along in recent years,. Steve & Kay Kim brought their native know-how down from DC and set-up near the middle of the Downtown Mall, infusing it with a delicious energy that will surely enhance your visit. The interior is narrow but sleek. Often packed, the open kitchen projects a flavor and sizzle throughout. The dumplings and skewers are divine. The Bibimbap is as good as it gets! Maru is quick and current.

Miller’s Downtown: 109 West Main Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902

Other than the University of Virginia, the Dave Matthews Band may be the best-known thing about Charlottesville, and Matthews himself once worked in this historic bar on the mall. It’s already quite the draw to visit where Matthews grew up, but this great dive combines that mystique with a killer menu in an enjoyable atmosphere. With live music three nights a week, great happy hour and specials, and a whole lot of history, Miller’s is a solid bet for lunch, dinner or late night grub. Tip: If you do go, don’t sleep on the bratwurst & mustard!


C’ville Arts: 118 East Main Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902

The Downtown Mall offers so much that overlooking a great shop or two is a simple mistake. However, Cville Arts is a place that you absolutely can’t pass over. This art cooperative combines a gallery and gift shop into one colorful, beautiful storefront. In addition to a monthly exhibition for solo or group artwork, C’ville Arts sells a variety of crafts and art, from home decor to jewelry to photography and paintings. Even if you’re not in the art-buying mood, this eclectic little storefront has a great vibe to walk through and just explore.

The Virginia Shop: 1047-B Emmet St North, Charlottesville, VA 22903

Up at Barracks Road Shopping Center, you’ll find The Virginia Shop, and the name says it all. Proprietress Tiffany Smith, an unofficial mayor of Charlottesville, understands your needs. Here, you’ll find all sorts of Virginia-related gifts and novelty items. The business primarily specializes in VA-themed gift baskets and welcome bags – great for souvenirs and mementos from a visit to Charlottesville – but they also have a surprisingly large selection of Virginian items from all departments. Highlights from the store’s inventory include wine from local names like Barboursville Vineyards, or AR’s tantalizing Hot Southern Honey.

New Dominion Bookshop: 404 East Main Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902

Wanna visit John Grisham’s favorite book store? The gem we know as New Dominion Bookshop bills itself as the oldest independent bookstore in Virginia – their history dates back to 1924! Although the store maintains a slight focus on the subjects of regional history, architecture, and landscaping, the store’s regulars will vouch for both an incredible atmosphere and a wide, sometimes surprisingly good selection. At its barest level, the store is an important piece of Charlottesville’s history; at its deepest, the store remains a haven for book lovers and a pillar of the community. Store owner Julia Kudravetz is nationally acclaimed for her curation of books and for her energy in hosting frequent readings by acclaimed authors. You can find their schedule HERE.


The Jefferson Theater: 110 East Main Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902

The Charlottesville area has a revered music scene that rivals that of major metropolitan areas, and The Jefferson Theater is one of go-to venues. John Paul Jones Arena may handle the biggest acts that Charlottesville enjoys, but “The Jeff” routinely puts on shows 3 nights a week, from well-established acts to industry up-and-comers. Acts are booked by DMB Manager Coran Capshaw’s Red Light Management, and quite frequent they’re bumping in this 800-person venue that serves excellent beer. Originally built in 1912, the theater is a great place to take in a night of music, with beautiful architecture and a high-energy atmosphere (well, depending on the artist).

Monticello: 931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway, Charlottesville, VA 22902

For a town so clearly built in the image of Thomas Jefferson, we would be remiss to go without mentioning Monticello, Jefferson’s sprawling estate. Nestled in the Carters Mountain range south of downtown Charlottesville, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a sight to behold; the property includes his plantation, house, presidential library, institute of research, and a museum to boot. With so many activities at your disposal at Monticello, exploring Jefferson’s old stomping grounds can be an all-day affair. Luckily, pricing for day passes, tours, and harvest tastings at Monticello is quite reasonable, making this a prime option for an outing with the family.

Michie Tavern: 683 Thomas Jefferson Parkway, Charlottesville, VA 22902

Less than 10 minutes to the west of Jefferson’s Monticello, Michie Tavern is another Charlottesville icon that acts as a time machine. Built in 1784, the Tavern was originally located in Earlysville, Virginia, and was operated there by the Michie family until the next owner moved it nearer to the site of Monticello in 1910. Nowadays, the Michie Tavern serves food with an 18th-century flair; the dining area has historic character and the meals attempt to stay as true as possible to the palette of the late 1700’s. After your meal, there are a number of shops within the Tavern that carry on with the historic vibe: a general store, a gift shop, an armory and artifacts shop, and a metal smith shop.