NuLu may be one of the trendiest neighborhoods in town – if not the trendiest. Historic brick buildings painted with vibrant murals line the streets, hip local restaurants & bars pour craft beer and bourbon, and art galleries and eclectic shops are all at the core of NuLu.
“NuLu” stands for “New Louisville,” and is located on East Market Street, east of Downtown and Museum Row and south of the equally hip Butchertown Neighborhood. The neighborhood is also referred to as the “East Market District,” its original name, well, because it’s on East Market.
In this NuLu Neighborhood guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about exploring NuLu!
Check out a few of these other neighborhood posts:
- The Highlands Neighborhood Guide: Where to Eat, Drink, Play & Stay
- The Clifton & Crescent Hill Neighborhood Guide: Where to Eat, Drink, Play & Stay
- Old Louisville Neighborhood Guide: Where to Eat, Drink, Play & Stay
- Butchertown Neighborhood Guide: Where to Eat, Drink, Play & Stay
The Story of NuLu
Sandwiched between downtown Louisville and Butchertown, East Market Street has long been a center of commerce for Louisville. The first market was built in 1804 at Fourth and Market, and during the 1820s, the street hosted impromptu horse racing (which we can only assume was exactly like the 1800’s version of the Fast & the Furious).
By the late 1800s, this stretch of Market Street was lined with stockyards and (of course) markets and retailers, with herds of livestock in constant travel along Market between the Bourbon Stockyards and the Ohio River. The thoroughfare serving as a hub of business activity well into the 1900s.
But over time businesses relocated, buildings deteriorated, and the area became federally classified as a “distressed area.” (Read: the city built a bunch of highways and people fled to the suburbs, abandoning the once-thriving downtown.)
In the 1990s, the city began efforts to revitalize the area. This began with the destruction of the Clarksdale public housing project, replacing it with the mixed-income Liberty Green Housing Development. This displaced many Black families and longstanding residents of the area, and with the shift towards gentrification and as NuLu developed, most of the area’s original residents did not return.
In 2020, Louisville’s community took to the streets, with protesters and community leaders occupying an entire block of Market Street and demanding policy change that would better support and represent Louisville’s Black community, including Black artists and business owners. Demands included hiring more minorities, developing greater diversity in vendors, and establishing a more inclusive approach to developing NulLu moving forward.
In response, the NuLu Business Association’s Board of Directors formed a committee to address and correct a lack of Black-owned businesses and employment. Empowerment, education and integration through anti-racism training and a Black business incubator are just some of the things that the council hopes will raise awareness for businesses to be more minority-inclusive. And some local businesses owners have embraced the requests, vocally acknowledging the area’s history and striving towards making their businesses more inclusive.
Only time will tell what inclusive changes come about in NuLu, but we hope they make good on their promises.
You can read more about the protests, the requested policy changes, and the responses from local businesses in this article from beloved local publication Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO).
Things to Do in NuLu
NuLu, as you can imagine, is a great place to do things – and it’s a fantastic place to spend a day exploring, because it is entirely walkable!
And while NuLu is only about 5 blocks long, those 5 blocks are packed with more hip shops and restaurants than you can shake a stick at (but they’d probably prefer if you didn’t). Here are the best things to do in NuLu:
Tour a Bourbon Distillery (or Two!)
Louisville is Bourbon City, y’all. There are plenty of distilleries in Louisville, and NuLu is home to TWO fantastic bourbon distilleries. Rabbit Hole is right in the heart of NuLu, while Angel’s Envy is a short 7-minute walk away.
Situated on the border between NuLu and downtown Louisville, the Angel’s Envy distillery is a small batch bourbon distiller that specializes in a delicious finished bourbon: after the usual aging process, Angel’s Envy bourbon is then aged in port barrels. The end product? A deliciously complex bourbon, perfect for both sipping and mixing into cocktails. Try it along with a Rye Whiskey finished in rum barrels!
Take a full tour of the gorgeous Louisville distillery along with a bourbon tasting, or if you’re short on time, try the shorter Sensory Tour, which also includes a bourbon tasting (and chocolate, too).
Rabbit Hole Distillery opened in 2012 when the founder risked his twenty-year psychology practice and took a plunge down the Rabbit Hole to make Bourbon and Rye spirits instead. Which we totally get – once upon a time, Let’s Go Louisville’s founder had a stable corporate career before she threw it all away to be a travel blogger.
Anyway, Rabbit Hole specializes in bourbon and rye, like their Heigold Whiskey with notes of butterscotch and citrus, or their Dareringer Whiskey made in sherry casks, with hints of raisins, currants, and cherries. They even have limited edition Boxergrail Single Barrel Whiskey with Alice and Wonderland illustrations on the label – very on brand!
The distillery is as modern as can be with a sleek futuristic design and plenty of local artwork inside, all of which you can learn about on an immersive one-hour tour. This is one rabbit hole you do want to fall down!
Take a NuLu Food Tour
What’s better than eating at a really good restaurant? A food tour that takes you to SEVERAL really good restaurants, all while telling the story of Louisville and NuLu’s fascinating history!
On the NuLu food & history walking tour, you’ll taste Kentucky classics like bourbon balls and fried chicken, see a historic home once occupied by Thomas Edison, taste a candy inspired by a Victorian-era actress, and trace the history of German immigrants in Louisville.
There’s tons to taste and learn, even for seasoned locals! Use the code LGL10 for 10% off your booking on the Louisville Food Tours website.
Explore the NuLu Marketplace
You can’t visit NuLu without checking out the NuLu Marketplace. Anchored by West Sixth Brewing Nulu, NuLu Marketplace is a mixed-use development filled with restaurants, shops, bars and even a stylish vacation rental.
The courtyard in the middle is truly one of the best outdoor gathering spots in the city and a gathering place on temperate, sunny days. Dogs are allowed in the courtyard as well, so feel free to bring you pup!
Here are some highlights from the Marketplace:
- West Sixth Brewing NuLu: West Sixth is where you need to be when beautiful weather is at its peak. Beer-wise, this brewery has a nifty three barrel system that they use to brew special small batches for the NuLu location only, like the hazy pale Figgy Stardust Belgian Quad with malty notes of toffee and raisin. For the full experience, you can book a guided tasting tour every Saturday at 1pm. (Psst: Check out our complete guide to Louisville breweries!)
- Clayton & Crume: This retail shop creates and sells all the leather things you can imagine and all are designed and hand-crafted in Louisville. Coasters, belts, w̶h̶i̶p̶s̶, and beautiful glass flasks with leather cases.
- Gertie’s Whiskey Bar: Gertie’s is a roaring 20s style whiskey bar with a curated whiskey list, with local whiskeys like Knob Creek all the way to Irish whiskeys like Jameson. They also have craft cocktails like the NuLu made with gin and Prosecco. Reservations are required for the lower level speakeasy.
- The Seltzery: The Seltzery features seltzers mixed with a variety of bases like vodka, tequila, and Prosecco. Some of their one-of-a-kind flavors include “Sh*t is bananas“, a take on Bananas Foster with banana and nutty caramel, or the “Orange I spicy?” spiced orange seltzer.
As you walk up and down NuLu, you can’t help but notice the barrage of eclectic shops that line the street! We highly recommend a stop into anything that catches your eye. These are some of our favorites:
- W.O.W. Woman Owned Wallet: This feminist gift shop with exclusively woman-owned brands is the perfect place to find a gift for yourself or your favorite friend. They’ve got funky earrings, funny stickers and cards, and plenty of colorful purses and apparel.
- Red Tree NuLu: Red Tree NuLu is a unique home decor store and home to a cool umbrella art installation in the back alley which is the perfect place to take an Instagram photo! They also carry a lot of funny gifts – walking around this store is a bit like falling down the rabbit hole to wonderland. (Especially after a tasting at Rabbit Hole Distillery!)
- Revelry Boutique + Gallery: This boutique-slash-art-gallery is filled with lovely things primarily created by local artists. You’ll find everything from t-shirts to stationary, stickers, tea towels, beautiful art, and wall prints. The walls are lined with pieces made by local artists, and they often host gallery events with Hors d’oeuvres and wine.
- Peace of the Earth: Here you’ll find handmade, fair-trade, and eco-friendly natural bath and body products. They also carry teas, and general spiritual, well-being goodies – so you know you’ll leave here feeling grounded.
- BLoFISH: BLoFISH is a gender-neutral, sustainable clothing store with a purpose. This LGBTQ+ friendly boutique creates super cute basics designed around themes like Pride and All4All. 10% of profits are donated to rotating causes to help end hunger and homelessness.
Visit a Local Brewery
There’s no shortage of excellent Louisville breweries, and several of them are located in NuLu!
West Sixth Brewing NuLu
Originally from Lexington, West Sixth Brewing NuLu is the fourth taphouse expansion in the Kentucky area, and it is an absolute gem of outdoor/indoor mix space decked with cafe lights on a shared courtyard style patio with neighboring NuLu Marketplace businesses.
West Sixth is where you need to be when beautiful weather is at its peak. Although this location does not brew any flagship styles, the NuLu location does have a three barrel system that they use to brew special small batches for the NuLu location only, like the hazy pale Figgy Startdust Belgian Quad with malty notes of toffee and raisin.
Just look for the “NuLu Brewed” mark on the tap list to try the exclusive styles. And for the full experience, you can book a guided tasting tour every Saturday at 1pm.
Akasha Brewing Company
Akasha Brewing Company has all the classic brewery vibes: industrial setting, chalk board menu, brewery cat that you can totes cuddle while you sip, board game shelves, and cornhole – just classic, classic, classic.
But what really sets Akasha apart is their lightly malted Fehr’s XL lager. This (dare I say classic) beer recipe is from the Louisville-based Frank Fehr Brewing Company from 1872! The original Fehr’s XL lager won The Southern Exposition from 1883-1888 and was extremely popular in the city, so Akasha purchased the recipe to bring back this Louisville… classic.
Admire NuLu’s Murals & Street Art
The vibrancy that people describe when they talk about NuLu is not only the people, shops, restaurants and nightlife, but also the beautiful murals that bring so many of the buildings to life! And the best way to see these murals is by doing the Nulu street art scavenger hunt put together by local artist Liz Richter.
One of the most notable murals in NuLu is the one on the building that Red Tree Furniture lives in at the corner of Clay & Market Street. The mural, called “Nulu Wildflower” painted by Liz Richter is of large scale, abstract florals. You may not realize it, but every single flower in the mural is a native Kentucky wildflower, which is pretty darn cool.
Other notable murals include the chicken king mural on the exterior wall of Royal’s Hot Chicken at 736 East Market, which is easy to spot and hard to forget, and the “The Unified Race” featuring colorful stained glass running horses on the wall of NuLu Marketplace, created by The Art of Kacy.
Keep your eyes open for more as you stroll through NuLu!
Try Louisville Specialties at Muth’s Candies
Before you even start, dear reader, yes, this place deserves it’s own category. Why? Because Muth’s Candies is kind of a big deal in NuLu. The shop has been here since 1921, ya’ll, that makes Muth’s Candies the OG before NuLu was NuLu!
Inside, chocolates, handwritten signage, and wooden bookshelves with decoration and candy galore have you feeling like a kid again. But the real draw are the confections – Muth’s is home to two of the most famous Louisville foods!
Muth’s is known for their delicious Modjeskas – a soft caramel with a chewy marshmallow center – named after Polish actress, Helen Modjeska, who starred in a play in Louisville in 1883. The inventor of the candy was so taken by her performance that he named his creation after her.
While at Muth’s don’t forget to pick up a Kentucky delicacy – Bourbon Balls. Chocolate, bourbon and pecans are delicious and iconic to Louisville. But let’s be real, you can’t go wrong with any of the candies in this Louisville original!
Throwing axes is a great way to get out some aggression and have fun in a safe, non-homicidal environment.
At Flying Axes, “Axepert” Coaches are at each cage (think of it like a bowling lane) to help teach you to properly through a sharp, metal tool at a wooden bullseye. It’s fun, invigorating, and mostly not dangerous.
The atmosphere is like a super clean garage party with a bar to grab your favorite drink – just remember you’re driving… axes into walls, that is! (We’ll be signing autographs after the show, folks.)
At Climb NuLu, you can try “bouldering” – rock climbing without ropes – which on paper sounds a little scary, but it really isn’t! The ground has a super thick pad, and the walls are only 15 feet high.
First-timers will get an orientation and rent climbing shoes, and take on the neon-colored walls, pulling themselves up by the climbing holds and trying to reach the top/ travel across, depending on the route.
It’s a good way to learn bouldering in a way that doesn’t involve you being outside, and potentially falling to an early demise. Fun stuff!
Get Crafty at a DIY Bar
The Craftery is a DIY craft bar where you can enjoy a drink and make a craft of your choice, like a custom wall decoration, beaded wrap bracelet, macrame wall hanging, succulent planter, and so much more! They literally have a menu of crafts you can choose from.
The studio is chic and inspiring, and there are team members to cheer you on or recommend a drink that pairs well with each craft (very important). Reservations are encouraged, but you don’t have to pick your craft in advance.
So if you fancy yourself a DIY’er or DIY wannabe, this is a good place to get inspired (and know you won’t have to run out to the craft store midway through your project).
Search for Treasure at a Flea Market
The Flea Off Market is a pop-up Flea Market that is held outside in an open parking lot at 1000 E Market St. every weekend.
Here you can wander around, grab a local craft beer and some food from a food truck (or two), and peruse the 100-200 vendors selling art, jewelry, antiques, and sometimes, just junk (hey, let’s be real).
They even have live music to accompany your experience, and this event is truly a “local NuLu” experience.
Places to Eat in NuLu
In NuLu, it is hard to throw a rock and not hit an amazing restaurant (once again, maybe avoid sticks and stones!). Louisvillians take their food very seriously and there are some seriously delicious and diverse eateries to check out.
Below are a few of our favorites – and although the list is long, we actually really struggled to edit ourselves down!
Where to Eat Lunch in NuLu
Let’s start with the best NuLu restaurants for a quick lunch.
Feast BBQ is a quick place to stop for a deliciously moist pulled pork sandwich and buttery toasted bun. But our favorite menu item are the pork cakes, which are similar to a crab cake but made from pulled pork (a Louisville culinary creation), served with a mouth-watering sorghum syrup and crunchy coleslaw.
For a side, the Mac & Cheese is buttery perfection and the greens have a delicious hints of smoke. And if you don’t get a bourbon slushie did you even go there?!
Royals Hot Chicken
Y’all know Kentucky loves some fried chicken – and we are not particular about the genre. Royals Hot Chicken serves up Nashville style hot chicken: deliciously crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside fried chicken that isn’t your normal fast food fare.
Besides a perfectly fried chicken sandwich on a potato bun (which you can get with “no heat” to “Gonzo” level spicy), you’ll also find have delectable sides like creamy Mac & Cheese or the savory Broccoli & Bacon Salad.
Royal’s also serves slushies you can add bourbon to – best enjoyed on their outdoor patio on a warm day.
Biscuit Belly blurs the line between breakfast and lunch. Hmm, is there a word for that?? Oh right – brunch! Biscuit Belly is one of our favorite places to get brunch in Louisville, because is there anything that says Southern Brunch like a delicious, fluffy buttermilk biscuit?! No. There is not.
Biscuit Belly specializes in delicious biscuit sandwiches. Our favorite pairs buttermilk fried chicken with roasted jalapeños, pimento cheese, crunchy pickles, and a fried green tomato.
In addition to yummy biscuit sandwiches, Louisville-born Biscuit Belly also offers three delicious gravies – order a “Gravy Train” to try them all and appreciate the excellent pun. We also recommend ordering a side of Bonuts, biscuit donut holes served with bourbon cream cheese frosting or chocolate gravy. Yum.
Where to Eat Dinner in NuLu
Heading to a night out on the town or a fancy date? Here are the best places for dinner in NuLu!
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 and changes quite a bit, but you can always count on it being absolutely delicious.
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!
A pioneer restaurant in Nulu, the Mayan Cafe has been making bellies happy for 20+ years. Mayan Cafe offers an intimate dining experience centered on Mayan cuisine crafted with locally sourced, sustainably farmed, and seasonal ingredients.
Their carefully curated menu features dishes like fresh ceviche and Cochinita Pibil, made with local pork, achiote sauce, and their famous lima beans and rice – anyone that has had them will tell you that the lima beans are roasted to perfection :chefs kiss:.
While enjoying an upscale dinner at the Mayan Cafe you’re gonna want to get a drink – we recommend the blood orange margarita, which is divine.
Where to Eat Dessert in NuLu
Ah yes, dessert: the most important meal of the day. Here’s where to satisfy your sweet tooth in NuLu:
Roasted peaches. Bourbon smoked pecans. Mascarpone swirled with homemade strawberry jam. Louisville Cream makes ice cream that sounds like desserts I flip over at a high-end restaurant, topped with baked goods and mix-ins that elevate their cones from “amazing” to “am I dreaming??”
In addition to ridiculous ice cream cones, they also have delicious ice cream floats, made with craft soda like Kentucky’s own Ale8 and Sioux City Cream Soda.
Grab something cold and sweet on a hot day and stroll around NuLu for the perfect Louisville afternoon pick-me-up! This is one of our favorite places to get dessert in Louisville.
The bright colors and minimalist decor in Macaron Bar make you want a macaron even if you didn’t know that you wanted one (now that’s what I call marketing!).
These delicious French butter-cream or ganache filled almond cookie sandwiches come in all kinds of flavors, like birthday cake, blueberry cheesecake or lemon lavender. YUM.
They’re also really hard to make (where my Great British Baking Show fans at?) so it’s not like you’re gonna make them yourself… who do you think you are, a baker? (Well, maybe you are, I don’t know your life…) In any case, pick up a variety so you can snack on them all over NuLu.
Coffee Shops in NuLu
While there aren’t many coffee shops in NuLu, there is a) coffee and b) good coffee, so honestly we’re not mad about it.
Feel free to strike up a chat with your barista about the notes in your single-origin pour-over or espresso: they’re passionate and knowledgeable about coffee, and it shows!
They also have an incredible back patio, shaded by trees – the perfect place to enjoy a summer day.
Please & Thank You
Please & Thank You makes a damn fine cup of drip coffee, crafted with beans from local roastery Good Folks.
But their real claim to fame is the best chocolate chip cookie in Louisville. Although we think they make the best chocolate chip cookie IN LITERALLY THE WORLD, and I’m not even exaggerating.
Gooey and chocolatey with a warm, molten core, it’s like the pleasure of eating warm cookie dough combined with the satisfying crunch around the outside of a well-baked cookie. There’s also a hint of salt which totally takes it to the next level.
Look, just go there and get a cookie. Or three. We won’t judge. Either way you won’t regret it.
Bars & Nightlife in NuLu
As the sun goes down, the vampires rise from their – oh wait, wrong story – bars and restaurants come to life in NuLu.
The perfect setting for a night out in Louisville, the neighborhood itself offers plenty of ambiance from well-lit city murals to the glow of neon signs in the gallery windows and an abundance of outdoor patios strung with twinkling lights. Here are the best places to get a little tipsy during the evening in NuLu.
Nouvelle Bar & Bottle
Novelle Bar & Bottle is a classy little spot, with a beautiful teal blue interior and a patio with twinkling lights in the evening. Though it feels upscale and Parisian, their goal is to make good wine feel accessible to everyone (so exactly the opposite of my last trip to France).
The wine bar and bottle shop offers over 40 wines by the glass, curated to have the best selection of reds, whites, sparkling, and rose wines you’re not likely to find everywhere. Their motto is “drink better wine”, and their dedicated team of “Better Wine Specialists” will help you find a wine that suits you!
They also offer small plates, so you can nosh a charcuterie or a chocolate plate as you drink your new favorite wine.
Picnic tables and seating covered in astroturf, ping pong tables lit up by string lights and a DJ spinning out front: the Garage Bar patio is one of the most fun spots to hang out after dark in NuLu – especially when it’s warm out!
Converted from an old mechanic garage, the bar is easy to identify thanks to the art sculpture out front featuring two cars crashing head-on into each other at the pace of about an eighth of an inch an hour (yes, they are actually being pulled together and crushed in slow motion).
Come hungry, because Garage Bar has a full menu of delicious wood-fired pizzas. Try the Margherita pizza made with fior di latte cheese & fresh basil. And on warm summer evenings, their honey lavender lemonade made with vodka and house-made honey lavender syrup is perfectly refreshing!
Take a brick alley down to find Taj Louisville, where bottles hang from the ceiling for lights and a deer and goat heads are mounted on the wall. It’s giving dive bar vibes, though the floor is not quite sticky enough to be a true dive bar.
The atmosphere here is casual, with karaoke most Thursday nights and plenty of live music on other days of the week.
This space-themed-restaurant-slash-bar-slash-club is self-described as “Tacos, Nachos and Damn fine margaritas.” Which, to be fair, is a lot less of a mouthful than our attempt.
On Friday and Saturday nights at Galaxie Bar, the out-of-this-world eatery transforms into a club in their “outerspace” (GET IT?!), with a rotating mix of DJs and Producers in their partially enclosed warehouse-like dance space, complete with trippy lazer lights and visuals.
If you stop in for food – or, more realistically, get hungry after dancing and drinking all night, try the chipotle chicken watakas with grilled chicken, arugula, aioli, pico de gallo, and cilantro. And definitely get a signature margarita (opt for spicy if you’re feeling a lil’ spicy).
NoraeBar gives Louisville a taste of that sweet, sweet private karaoke room realness.
With a full bar service and specialty drinks like the WAP, a wet-a** pineapple tequila drink, you can sing your heart out in a small or large rented room where you and your friends can be the stars of your own show (which may or may not be canceled after its first season…).
There’s also a main stage karaoke where you can sing in front of strangers, if you’re so inclined! FWIW, the team at Let’s Go Louisville are often so inclined. See ya there!
Gertie’s Whiskey Bar
Gertie’s Whiskey Bar is snugly tucked away for the ultimate speakeasy experience.
Bottles line the walls, the lighting is dim, and cozy booths and candles set the mood. You’ll probably turn into a jazz baby and start saying things like “this drink’s the bee’s knees” and you’ll definitely feel hip to the jive.
Reservations are required. We highly recommend trying the Gertie’s Old Fashioned (so on theme) made with homemade brown butter bonded bourbon, pecan syrup, and bitters. Speaking of, did you know the Old Fashioned is Louisville’s official Cocktail? Some say it was even invented here… read more about famous Louisville foods!
Where to Stay in NuLu
Your best bet for this area is to stay in a vacation rental! There aren’t many big hotels here, but there are some incredibly cute, centrally located apartments and lofts.
- For a contemporary boutique hotel feel, check out the Hancock House on Jefferson Street, just two blocks from Market where all the restaurants and shops are! You can choose a comfy and functional studio apartment complete with a kitchen and great views. A perfect home base for your NuLu explorations!
- This chic, hip loft is one street over from the shops and restaurants on Market Street. The loft features two bedrooms on two separate stories, a gorgeous kitchen, updated bathroom (with an Instagrammable tile wall, I might add) and a cute little outdoor patio.
- This budget-friendly historic apartment is right next to the NuLu Marketplace! It’s easy to find, just look for the colorful rainbow horse mural on the side of the building. Inside the apartment is all exposed brick walls, high ceilings and huge windows looking out on the city views of NuLu. Relax by the working fireplace, take a bath in that huge bathtub, cook in that stunning kitchen (or don’t, there’s incredible food steps from your door) and enjoy!
Map of Things to Do in NuLu
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 NuLu.
About the Author: This post was co-written by our Editor-in-Chief Richie Goff and Nina Weierman, a freelance writer and mother. Nina also writes about running, parenting and the hospitality industry. In her free time you can find her outside hiking trails or jogging.
Are you excited to explore more of NuLu? 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 Highlands Neighborhood Guide: Where to Eat, Drink, Play & Stay
- The Clifton & Crescent Hill Neighborhood Guide: Where to Eat, Drink, Play & Stay
- Old Louisville Neighborhood Guide: Where to Eat, Drink, Play & Stay
- The 63 Best Things to Do in Louisville, Kentucky