21c Museum Hotel Louisville
What We Love
- Part hotel, part art museum; the hotel's collection of 21st-century art is outstanding
- Farm-to-table restaurant Proof on Main offers over 75 KY Bourbons
- Housed in a historic former tobacco warehouse
What To Know
- The first hotel in the 21c collection, the property opened in 2006
- Art-forward design may not appeal to travelers looking for traditional Southern charm
- It’s a quirky, small hotel
- Free WiFi
- Handicap Accessible
- Parking On Site
There are lots of reasons people open hotels: to make money, to have fun, to satisfy their egos. Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, the owners of the 90-room 21c Museum Hotel, had a different motive: to introduce the world to their vast contemporary art collection and their beloved city of Louisville at the same time. North America’s only museum dedicated solely to art in the 21st century, 21c has 9,000 square feet of gallery space that is free and open to the public 24/7. Art is so essential at 21c that the museum hosts rotating concerts, screenings and even Yoga with Art classes.
Bed and Bath
In keeping with the hotel’s art bent, the rooms are highly design-oriented. High ceilings and large windows are standard, while many rooms feature exposed brick, a reminder of the building’s past life as a tobacco warehouse. Guestrooms offer luxury bedding, but it’s the bizarrely endearing items such as pewter mint julep cups and the hotel’s omnipresent Red Penguin sculptures that remind you that this is a true boutique hotel, with personalized service and modern Southern hospitality.
You don’t have to leave 21c to sample some of the best bourbon in Kentucky: The hotel’s restaurant, Proof on Main, has a bourbon list long enough to be called the Bourbon Library. Even the low end, an Old Rip Van Winkle 10-year-old, is excellent, while the 23-year-old Van Winkle Family Reserve will knock your socks off. Don’t miss the specialties on the cured meat menu, which features ultra-authentic local specialties like Kentucky country ham and pork jowl terrine alongside standards including Tuscan salami.
In the Area
Eight distilleries make up the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and all are open for tours. From famed Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam to lesser-known Tom Moore and Heaven Hill, these distilleries make 95 percent of Kentucky’s bourbon, and all are close to the city; you might want to spring for a car and driver for the day. Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is a worthwhile tour. See the factory floor, then browse the fascinating collection of baseball memorabilia. For the city’s best nightlife, drive — or cab it — to Bardstown Road. There you’ll find quirky bars, cafés and music venues that have nurtured many of the great Louisville bands through the years.
How to Get There
My husband and I traveled to Louisville, Kentucky as part of a 10 day road trip. We had never been to Louisville before and loved the entire area. Our room at the 21c was a Corner Suite so it had a King size bed, a living area with couch, 2 chairs and TV and also a dining area with a long dining table that would seat 6 or more. It was very nicely done. The bed was comfortable and the room was relatively quiet for hotel rooms. Being in the downtown area we were concerned we may hear road or people noise from the street. We were pleasantly surprised to see they had double paned windows that totally cut out any outside noise. We did have a neighbor the second night who called his significant other and talked over speaker phone late that night and also early the next morning. Could hear every word both of them said. Oh well, what can you do about that? We had a bit of an issue with the hot water as it was slooowww to heat up.
We ate at the hotel restaurant Proof on Main one night and drinks with appetizers on a couple of occasions in the bar area. Both were exceptionally good food and service along with beautiful and unusual decor. All the service staff were very friendly and attentive. Our waiter for dinner was very informative when we asked about the theme of the restaurant decor. It was really beautiful decor and unusual to find such a good dining experience for a hotel property.
We valeted our car with the hotel at an additional charge but the valet service was always good. Never waited more than 5 mins for them to retrieve our car.
Our next stop was Memphis and the service at that hotel was surprisingly bad. We paid approximately the same amount for both hotels. Just goes to show you don't always get what you pay for. I'll cover that one in my next review.
A very nice smaller hotel, beautiful art and decor, nice lounge, and great food and drinks. We really enjoyed our drinks at the lounge. Server was very good. The Proof restaurant was excellent, server knowledgeable and helpful, food excellent, art/decor excellent. I looked at every picture!
Loved everything about it! Check in and out was quick and easy. The room was clean and orderly. The bed was comfortable (and I suffer from back issues). We stayed two nights and our car was ready and waiting each time we called for it. The restaurant, Proof on Main was fantastic!