USA Radio
Galena, Illinois

Exploring Downtown Galena, Illinois

By Marieve Herington


As I drove into Illinois’ Great Rivers Country on Highway 20, the sights were already making me relax: rolling hills with beautiful views of trees starting to change to autumn colors. Great Rivers Country includes 33 counties, with the Mississippi River forming the western border and the Illinois River the eastern border.

My final destination was the small town of Galena in Jo Daviess County. The town has a population of just 3,500 residents, but it’s a popular tourist destination, attracting nearly 1 million visitors each year. With its charming downtown full of all the shopping, dining and amenities anyone could ask for, it’s no wonder visitors escape to Galena for a fun long-weekend getaway.

Historic Charm

Conversations about Galena tend to start with its charming downtown, where a full 85 percent of the buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. As you walk through the city center, the red brick buildings look much like they have for decades. In fact, today there are restrictions to keep the exteriors of the buildings looking authentic. Here you’ll find the state’s oldest operating hotel and the second-oldest post office in America, among other historic treasures.

Shopping in Downtown Galena

With the welcoming sidewalks, large shop windows and historic brick architecture, downtown Galena’s Main Street looks like something out of a postcard.

Antiques lovers will find plenty to browse. I found some really great items, including reasonably priced old books and knickknacks that would be great for interesting home décor. I also browsed an eclectic assortment of fun, quirky items – from interesting drinkware to colourful jewelry and even toys for children. In fact, all along Main Street, the stores are boutiques and smaller brands instead of major chains. I loved this idea of preserving small businesses and supporting local retail owners.

Downtown Dining & Unique Lodging

After wearing myself out shopping, I was tempted by the many quaint restaurants, coffee shops and pubs in Galena. All tastes and styles can be found here from casual fare in relaxed atmospheres to high-end cuisine served in one-of-a-kind settings.

When it’s time to relax after a long day of exploring, the historic Desoto House Hotel, the oldest operating hotel in all of Illinois, is a favorite in downtown Galena. Abraham Lincoln spoke from its balcony in 1856. The hotel is so full of history that it’s even said to be haunted!

Another charming boutique hotel, The Irish Cottage, was built to look like an old-fashioned Irish inn. Be sure to visit Frank O’Dowd’s, the pub and restaurant attached to the hotel.

Galena, Illinois, is a place I will definitely return to. If you’re looking to relax in a truly charming environment, I’ll see you there.

For more information, please visit us:

Official Galena Travel Site

Great Rivers Country Regional Tourism Development Office

Welcome to Visit The USA!

Now that you have registered, you can save trip ideas to your suitcase.

Start exploring

Enter your email address and we’ll send you a link to reset your password.

Please check your email.

Start exploring

The password on your account has successfully been changed. Please use your new password to login.

Start exploring

This website is set to 'allow all cookies' for the best user experience. By continuing without changing this setting, you are consenting to this. You may change your settings at any time at the bottom of this page.

More information about cookies

Cookies are very small text files that are stored on your computer when you visit some websites.

We use cookies to make our website easier for you to use. You can remove any cookies already stored on your computer, but these may prevent you from using parts of our website.

If you choose to disable non-essential cookies, the website will:

  • Allow you to log in and remember you are logged in, while in session
  • Determine your country of origin in order to serve you the most relevant version of the site

This website will not:

  • Restrict welcome messaging to the first time you visit the site
  • Track any activity on the site for analytics purposes

More information about cookies