Butchertown is a neighborhood that is rooted in culture, vibrancy, and history – it’s actually one of Louisville’s oldest locations dating back to the 1800s. And it will always be ranked as one of our favorite locations in the 502 even despite the smell – Hey, it’s called Butchertown for a reason, y’all!
Today, you can find this neighborhood bursting with great restaurants, bars and excellent shopping. Whether you are a local in the city or cruising through for the weekend you must carve out some time to explore the original meatpacking district.
Below we have the best places to check out, whether you wanna dance the night away at a club, get a fantastic meal, or find a local treasure. You can even just wander around the neighborhood and take in the historic architecture. So let’s get to it!
Check out a few of these other posts:
Introduction to Butchertown
Butchertown is located just east of the Downtown area, with the Ohio River to the North, Main Street and the NuLu neighborhood to the South, and the Clifton neighborhood to the east. So basically three of the coolest neighborhoods in Louisville are all back to back!
Today Butchertown is an upcoming neighborhood with hip breweries and distilleries, night clubs, and plenty of good eats, though it hasn’t shirked off its namesake entirely. Though the area used to be home to plenty of stockyards and butcheries, today only one 300,000 sq ft pork butchery remains, but definitely gives Butchertown its authentic flavor. And on processing days, you can smell this flavor from Clifton!
Butchertown blends the old and new as it is a preservation district, with a distinctive industrial feeling mixed with trendy murals and places to explore. But to really appreciate where Butchertown is today, we need to dig in to its history – and there is way more than just meatpacking (phew says the vegetarians) that makeup Butchertown’s history.
The Story of Butchertown
Butchertown is one of Louisville’s oldest neighborhoods and was the city’s original meatpacking district that was mainly dominated by butcher shops and metal workers in the 1800s. The meat industry was the anchor of the Butchertown Neighborhood, and back in the day they used to dump animal entrails and excrement into neighboring Beargrass Creek, making the quiet little creek into what I can only imagine to be a disgusting river of horror. Makes you thankful there’s only the smell now.
Early on, this neighborhood experienced a lot of rough times and important historical events including a the Great Flood of 1937, which submerged 60% of the city (including all of Butchertown) and caused 175,000 residents to flee. If that wasn’t enough, Butchertown was also the site of Bloody Monday, one of the worst anti-immigrant massacres in U.S. history.
Butchertown was home to a large population of German immigrants since they weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty (in a lot of butchered meat no less), and on election day on August 6th, 1855 the protestant, anti-immigrant Know-Nothing Party attacked German and Irish immigrants leaving 22 people dead and plenty of properties burnt to the ground. Ironically enough, Louisville has become home to many refugee immigrants today!
Since Butchertown is a preservation district, as you stroll down the streets of Butchertown it is not uncommon to see a mix of historical and recently updated buildings that weave together to create a unique street view as you stroll. One of the most iconic preserved buildings is found as you head down Frankfort Avenue and towards the Waterfront you will run into the Heigold Facade which is a striking house front that is missing something pretty important – the walls.
This home was constructed by a German immigrant and stonemason named Christian Heigold in 1853. The neighborhood that this home resided in was called “The Point” and this facade is basically all that is left from it. The home was a safe place for mostly immigrant families who were not always welcome in the overarching city’s communities during that time.
Today if you drive past the Facade you will usually see locals grabbing a selfie or admiring the history. I have even witnessed a precious wedding take place in front of it! The facade is a moment of frozen history and is something worth taking a drive to.
Things to Do in Butchertown
Beyond buildings without walls and the meat industry, there are so many things to explore in this area of Louisville. We have taken the time to walk up and down the streets of this neighborhood to scope out our favorite places to visit in Butchertown!
Get a Strike at Vernon Lanes
Want to walk right into some nostalgia? Butchertown is home to the historic bowling alley and club, Vernon Lanes. Recently renovated and reopened after being closed for several years, this eight-lane bowling alley was once a gentleman’s club but was purchased and converted into a recreation center in 1918. This eight-lane alley is not only the oldest in the 502 but is also one of the oldest in America. Talk about retro!
This Bowling Alley has full service including cocktails, coffee, and even real food. Their menu is full of options including burgers, nachos, and flat breads, and even fancier bowling alley food like popcorn with multiple different seasonings to choose from (Mexican Hot Chocolate?). Let’s just say this place is a vibe and the food is top notch!
Bowling is first come, first served, and with only eight lanes grabbing a lane early may be a good bet. So show up, grab a drink, and try not to bowl a gutter ball, not that I would know anything about that…
Eat a Delicious Meal
Butchertown is so much more than pork products (thankfully), and actually has a pretty swanky food scene. While there may not be a ton of restaurants, what Butchertown does have is top quality!
- Naive Kitchen + Bar is located right where NuLu meets Butchertown and is founded on the ideals of connecting to what’s real, which starts with our relationship with the food we eat. Their menu contains healthy, locally-sourced ingredients from local, sustainable farms. My go-to’s? Always the General Tso’s Cauliflower (might be craving some veggies after hanging in Butchertown long enough) and their Beet Margarita – just try it!
- Pizza Lupo was voted best pizza by Leo in Louisville in 2021 and 2022 which are some pretty serious credentials and trust me – it’s some good sh*t. The pizza is wood-fire Neapolitan style and they also have a rotating seasonal menu to keep things fresh. While you can’t go wrong with a classic Margherita, try their “roasted and toasted” with grilled eggplant, soleggiati tomatoes, capers, choice of fresh or aged mozzarella and plenty more to give you that flavor. A pro move? They offer delivery so you can have your own pizza party AND they deliver retail wine + canned beer.
- Chik’n & Mi has quickly become a Louisville and Butchertown favorite, as they serve up an Asian fried chicken and ramen, which let’s be real, is heaven. Their best kept secret? The happy hour. I personally think it is one of the best in the city and I can always go for an Aperol Spritz on their spacious patio. Their menu includes Bonito Fries, Kimchi Mac & Cheese, Asian Fried Chicken, and of course, some stellar ramen. Do not leave without trying their de-constructed Key Lime Pie – it is the perfect night cap for your night!
Take a Distillery Tour at Copper & Kings
It’s not just bourbon you can taste in Louisville – Butchertown-based Copper & Kings makes brandy and absinthe – but since this bourbon country, you better believe bourbon plays a role!
Their American style brandies and apple brandies are aged in bourbon barrels, which adds a signature sweetness and smoothness. Even the absinthe is unique. Unlike most absinthes that get their green color from dyes or steeping plants, their absinthe is clear and comes in four flavors: regular, ginger, lavender, and citrus.
Try these spirits and much more on one of these two distillery tour options:
- The one-hour Copper & Kings Experience will show you why they are the “World’s Most Imaginative Distillery”. You’ll learn how their spirits are made (and how they’re different). The tour ends with a tasting experience where you will sample from their core portfolio of innovative spirits including American Brandy, Gin, Absinthe & Liqueurs.
- On the Copper & Kings Barrel-to-Bottle Experience, you’ll sample the full lineup of cask-strength, limited release spirits and dive into the science and the art of barrel aging while tasting the diverse flavor profiles of unique barrels and finishes. Following the tasting, you can fill your own selection straight from the barrel for a souvenir bottle to take home with you!
Sip on some Craft Beer
With all the cool industrial and historic vibes it’s no wonder that Butchertown has some hip breweries to match. And when you’re wandering around this charming area we won’t blame you if you stop into one… or three breweries to grab a beer!
- Ten20 Craft Brewery is newer to the Louisville scene but it has become a quick staple and a go-to spot to grab a beer before a Louisville FC game. If you want a brewery with some space to move around this is the place to hang out at – they have a 22,000-square-foot facility that includes a beer garden, indoor taproom, and event spaces. The open layout and industrial vibe just overall creates a cool vibe. Beer-wise, the Flying Pig Wheat Beer, Pumpkin Spiced Lager, and Storyteller IPA are all at the top of my list. I also appreciate they have seltzers – I don’t know if that makes me lame or not but I appreciate the diversity in beverages!
- Speaking of diversity – Sergio’s World of Beers is a great place to discover your new favorite brew as they house over 1,000 different beers. Like, that’s a lot of beer. This quaint building located at 1605 Story Avenue is a perfect spot to drop in and expand your beer knowledge and try something new. Want something unique? Go for the Banana Pastry Smoothie Style Sour. Want something classic? Pauwel Kwak Amber Ale. Need a snack while you sip? They have a small menu that is wide in options and serves anything from Bratwurst to Gyros to Ceviche. If you’re a beer nerd, or just casual drinker, you’ll love this homey spot.
- Butchertown Brewing is located in the expansive Mellwood Art Center and specialized in small batch brews. Their space is small but charming, with glass block windows, and you guess it, an industrial feel – but in fairness this building is from 1900. What’s currently on tap is their Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Stout. This roasty dessert stout “is loaded with chocolatey peanut butter goodness”. Um. Do I ever need any other beer ever again? Butchertown Brewing is only open Friday-Saturday, so go have a stout or get some to go!
Cool off with Endless Summer Paddle
Want to know what it’s like to walk on water? Endless Summer Paddle is the perfect way to see the city from the view of a paddleboard on the Ohio River. We’re talking about a sensuous breeze running through your hair and the city glimmering in the sunlight while you sail gently on top of the water. And don’t worry, you’ll be safe with an excellent instructor, and the Ohio River actually only flows at a half mile an hour during the summer, pretty much turning it into a large lake.
Never been on a paddleboard before? Not a problem – Endless Summer Paddle will set you up with a paddleboard and a life jacket. Their classes range from basic paddleboarding classes, to paddleboard yoga so you can find your zen on the water.
In no time you’ll be hooked on the feeling of being able to be one with the river and just enjoy the beauty of the natural and urban environment. It’s addictive! And if you find you can’t be without a paddleboard of your own (and classes are cheaper when you bring your own), check out the Thurso Surf Waterwalker 126 All-around SUP. It’s inflatable making it easy to travel around town!
Shop Local at the Butchertown Market
A staple for shopping in the Butchertown neighborhood is the Butchertown Market. Built in early 1880, this is a spot that you simply can not miss when you drive past it. This spot started its life as a leather tanning operation and then reinvented itself later down the road to become a soap factory and then a paint company and THEN a seed company. It’s okay Butchertown Market, we don’t know what we want to be when we grow up either.
Finally in 1997 the building saw some massive renovations and now is home to over 8,000 square feet of retail space and has over 20 tenants. Some of these shops include Work the Metal, Moss Hill Bath & Body, and Bourbon Barrel Foods.
Work the Metal has always been a go-to for me when it comes to grabbing a quick local gift. The 15,000-sq-ft space is easy to get lost in as you weave through rooms mixed with home decor, clothing, and art. This space is a welcoming, whimsy place and they even have a wine bar to make shopping more fun, and even a confections counter. Finishing off your purchase, Work the Metal offers free gift wrapping which is ALWAYS a perk to me!
Explore Murals & Street Art
While there is so much to see within the inside of the buildings of Butchertown, there is a lot of vibrant and exciting street art that makes you want to linger outside a little longer. Take your time as you walk through this neighborhood and explore the long way home and you might find a vibrant piece of art you were not expecting.
The Butchertown Market has a large mural (located at 1201 Story Avenue) created by Lydia Emily, a world-renowned LA-based artist, who has been diagnosed with MS. The mural features an interpreted self-portrait of the artist surrounded by bright purple flowers in a Mucha-esque style. The words “There is Always Hope” and “End M.S. Forever” are scripted alongside the striking portrait. This mural was part of a collection of four cities that she wanted to highlight one theme – hope.
Another mural that is worth a visit is “The Story on Story Avenue” which is over 5,000 square feet and shows off historical images of Butchertown activities, people, and landmarks in a vibrant and updated way. If you look closely at the mural you will make out references to Thomas Edision, the meatpacking tradition, the 1937 flood, and the the Louisville waterfront.
Under the 64 overpass on Story Avenue you’ll also find a somewhat funny rendition of Butchertown in mural form, with butchers chasing pigs with cleavers, as well as a pig looking at a sign in fear that read “Special: Pork Chops”. A bit morbid, don’t you think?
It seems like new murals pop up in Butchertown all the time, so keep your eyes peeled!
Enjoy the Finer Things at Mellwood Art Center
Ready to get even more into art? The Mellwood Art Center is equipped with everything you need to bring a little color into your Butchertown-focused weekend plans. This space was originally the Fischer Meat Packing Company (more meat packing … I know) and now proudly houses over 170 artist studios, galleries, shops, restaurants, a brewery and more!
While the Mellwood Arts Center is full of all kinds of awesome artsy stores, it’s also home to Louisville’s largest antique mall at 45,000 square feet called Mellwood Arts & Interiors. You can find some incredible furniture, fine antiques, and plenty of strange and wonderful art. It’s like a maze inside – come and get lost!
Mellwood is also home to five venues that are used for larger-scale events, including my personal favorite event to check out – the Made Market. This event is all about local vendors and uniting makers in the community. There are two Made Market events a year – a summer market and a Holiday market. I have always been a sucker for Christmas and you can get great local Holiday gifts made by real artists.
Get your history on at the Thomas Edison House Museum
We have to throw in just a little more history and a visit to the Thomas Edison House is gotta be a pretty important one to check off your list in Butchertown. Crazy enough, Edison came to Louisville in 1866 at the age of 19 to work as a telegraph key operator for a year and a half.
During his years as a telegrapher he started to work on early inventions such as a fire alarm telegraph, until he was fired from his job in 1867. The story goes he was experimenting with a battery and spilled sulfuric acid, which burned through the floor and fell onto his boss’ desk below. Apparently his boss didn’t like that – he then left town for good!
Sixteen years later he gave us something super important – the light bulb. Always cool that we can somehow connect that back to his time spent in the good ol’ 502. The Thomas Edison House is a classic historical brick building that blends in with the other homes of Butchertown. It is pretty incredible to stand on the sidewalk and just let the history sink in.
The home is open for guided tours Tuesday-Thursday from 10 AM-2 PM. On display at the house, you can explore some of Edison’s early inventions including, you guessed it, light bulbs!
Stop and Smell the Botanical Gardens
Brand new to the Butchertown scene and located right by the Heigold Facade is the Waterfront Botanical Gardens. The initial groundbreaking ceremony for these gardens took place in 2017 and it has been incredible to see all of the progress and beauty that has come from this project. These gardens were created to help enlighten, entertain, and educate the community about the botanical world.
Located on what was once the Ohio Street Dump (yes, that’s right, dump!), the Waterfront Botanical Gardens is now a gathering place for nature lovers, flowers, and butterflies! Helen Harrigan, a local gardener with a hope and desire to see a botanical garden and conservatory in Louisville, donate a gift that helped focus and create what has become Louisville’s Waterfront Botanical Gardens.
As you spend some time here you will notice the large freestanding waterfall integrated into the grounds – a perfect place to take a seat and chill out a bit. The grounds are planted with a lot of native perennials to help local insects and wildlife, a good thing to have in your own garden!
If you follow their winding Beargrass Creek pathway and waterfall stream you’ll end up at the Butchertown Greenway. This is a paved half-mile pathway that sits parallel to Beargrass Creek where you can scope out some local Louisville wildlife that call the greenway their home!
The Garden is free to visit and is open Wednesday through Sunday. There are always different events popping up at the garden like community yoga, and evening garden walks, and they are even hosting a Beargrass Creek Canoe Tour! The gardens are still expanding and currently in the words is a 2-acre world-class Japanese Garden – I am for sure geeking out over that one!
See Local Soccer at Lynn Family Stadium
The Louisville City Football Club and Racing Lou Football Club is the place to go if you’re a fan of soccer, which LCFC calls football since it’s called that in literally every other part of the world.
The LCFC meets in the new Lynn Family Stadium, which is the largest soccer-specific stadium in the region with seating locations for 11,600 fans! We are serious about our soccer, er, football here!
Nestled right by the waterfront I will go ahead and use the cliche that there is not a bad seat in the place. Whether you are there to seriously cheer on the team or seriously cheer on some stadium food this spot is a must-see in the Butchertown neighborhood.
Make sure to do your homework because Louisville FC is known for doing some theme nights. Whether its a Pride Night, a dog-friendly night, or a black out – you want to make sure you come prepared!
Grab your purple best (heads up Louisville FC’s colors are purple and Racing Lou is lavender) and go cheer on the city!
See a Drag performance at Play Louisville
What do you get when you combine a thriving theatre scene with a large LGTBQ+ community? A booming Drag scene and plenty of amazing gay bars, y’all! Play Louisville hosts multiple Drag shows every night from Thursday-Sunday with a rotating cast of fabulous Drag Queens. Play makes you feel like you stepped out of Louisville, Kentucky for a second and takes you into a new world full of neon lights and the best of the best drag queens.
The scond you walk into Play you know it is going to be a good night. When you are waiting for a drag show to start you can head over to the dance floor for some loud beats and lots of dancing under the lights.
Never been to a Drag show? Be sure to read up on the proper etiquette, and don’t forget to bring cash to tip the talented performers. And remember: if you are not a member of the LGBTQ+ community, be aware that you are entering a queer space and need to be mindful of your behavior and your mindset – this guide will help!
Check out some Butchertown Bars
You might need to take a solid power nap before this one but we couldn’t leave you without a little late night breakdown of Butchertown. In addition to Play Louisville which was discussed earlier – two bars that keep the party going has to be Alex&nder and High Horse.
- Alex&nder is the world-class cocktail lounge at Copper & Kings, which features a covered skydeck and a pretty spectacular view of the Louisville skyline. Needless to say it’s our favorite places to watch the sunset with an excellent brandy drink, like their Purple Haze with absinthe, creme de violet, and lemon, or their Old Fashioned with apple brandy! Mmmm. And if you ever find yourself there on a Sunday you have to check out the Sunday Brandy Bunch. They have a country ham board and sesame scallion pancakes – need I say more?
- High Horse is known as your “Neighborhood Bar” and it is just that. The sign as you walk in lets you know they have air conditioning – which I always appreciate. The vibes are right here whether you chose to catch a show or sip a beer in the wood-panelled booths with its kitchy decor in all its ironic(?) glory. This bar asks you to get off your high horse and just enjoy strong, simple drinks, good friends, and an unpretentious atmosphere.
Where to Stay in ButchertownButchertown is a fabulous neighborhood to stay in, and it allows you to explore other close neighborhoods like Nulu and Clifton on foot!
- This Artsy Butchertown Apartment has three bedrooms and a fabulous, renovated kitchen. You will be in the perfect spot to stroll down E. Washington Street to all the fabulous shops, distilleries, and Play Lousville.
- This Historic Shotgun House in super charming and cozy, with exposed brick and warm colors. You’ll be right in the middle of Butchertown and close enough to stroll over to Nulu!
Map of Things to Do in Butchertown
Wish you had a map with all of the stuff in this post? Well, wish granted: we made ya one! Bookmark this page to come back to next time you’re exploring the Butchertown.
About the Author: Mel is a contributing writer for Let’s Go Louisville and is passionate about the art of textiles, movement, and finding the best oysters in the city. No matter where Mel travels she always appreciates coming back home to Kentucky.
Are you excited to explore more of Butchertown? What questions about this neighborhood can we answer? Drop us a comment below!
Before you go, be sure to check out these other posts:
- The 63 Best Things to Do in Louisville, Kentucky
- 9 Distilleries in Louisville, Kentucky: from Bourbon to Brandy
- The NuLu Neighborhood Guide: Where to Eat, Drink, Play & Stay