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Moving to Richmond

Richmond is the capital of Virginia and the fourth largest city in the state. Straddling the scenic James River, Richmond's location is both beautiful and conveniently close to major East Coast metros, including the nation's capital, Washington DC.

Both out-of-state Americans and expats are increasingly choosing to base themselves in Richmond for a variety of reasons. The city has a stable, growing economy, a good housing market, low cost of living and great quality of life. Not to mention the stunning views and outdoor adventures that its location on the river provides.

Richmond has several large employers, including six Fortune 500 companies, and those with qualifications and experience in law, finance, advertising and government should have no trouble securing lucrative employment in the city.

The Virginia capital has a lovely range of areas and suburbs for newcomers to choose from. Young professionals will love living in vibey downtown close to the action, while families have a slew of quieter leafy neighbourhoods to choose from. Accommodation in Richmond, generally, is quite affordable and compares favourably to other state capitals and is certainly much cheaper than in larger East Coast cities.

Parents moving to Richmond will also have a large range of good schools to choose from. Though, if they're planning to enrol their children in a public school, they'd be wise to choose their neighbourhood carefully, as admittance is usually based on catchment areas. The city also has several private and international schools, but expats should be conscious of the fact that these often come with enormous tuition fees.

Although Richmond is conveniently located on several interstate highways and a number of railway lines, public transport in Richmond itself is nothing to write home about. Residents who live downtown are well served by the city's bus service but, on the whole, most Richmondians own their own vehicles.

The lifestyle in Richmond is laid back, and residents are quite active. Outdoor pursuits include running, cycling or strolling along the river, hiking through lush forested areas around the city, river-rafting or kayaking on the James River, or just kicking back on a picnic blanket in one of Richmond's many green spaces. There's also a surprising abundance of things to see and do, including a host of museums and galleries, theatres, botanical gardens, canal walks and myriad historical sites dedicated to the city's turbulent past as the Confederate capital.

Eating out is also a treat in Richmond, and there are so many restaurants, breweries and distilleries to choose from. Being a good mix of northern and southern America, one can expect to eat anything from smoky barbecued ribs and hearty Mexican fare to refined Mediterranean-style dishes. One could walk out of a down-to-earth brewery and into a high-brow wine bar next door. The city truly caters to every taste and budget.

Richmond also has a calendar brimming with fun annual events, which are great for newcomers to meet likeminded people and make friends.

Those who move to Richmond often stay far longer than planned, and it's no wonder. The city's residents are welcoming and warm, the quality of life here is excellent, and costs, in pretty much every category, are wonderfully low.

Weather in Richmond

Richmond has a subtropical climate, with hot, humid summers and mild winters. The mountains to the west act as a partial barrier to the worst of the cold continental air in winter, while the open waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean contribute to the humid summers and mild winters. Late May heralds the start of warm summer days, and the peak summer months between June and August can be quite hot and humid, with temperatures ranging between 65°F (18°C) and 100°F (38°C).

Some relief from the summer heat is provided by rain showers, with July the wettest month of the year. Days stay warm to mild through to October, when autumn is marked by colder nights. December and January are the coldest winter months, with temperatures falling to between 28°F (-2°C) and 51°F (11°C). Light snowfalls occur from the end of November, but most snow falls in January.

 

Working in Richmond

The capital city of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States, Richmond has long been a hub for commerce. Its strategic location on the James River along with its Great Turning Basin for boats, its triple crossing of rail lines (the world's only), and the intersection of two major interstates mean that the Virginian capital has a long and thriving commercial history, and an economy that continues to flourish and attract droves of new residents every year.

Americans from elsewhere in the US as well as foreigners are increasingly electing to base themselves in Richmond for its diverse and robust economy, plentiful commercial opportunities, good housing market and relaxed lifestyle.

Apart from the six Fortune 500 companies that call Richmond home, the city has several other large employers that continue to entice young professionals into a move to the Virginia capital.


Job market in Richmond

Primarily driven by finance, law, advertising and government, Richmond's economy is stable and employs an enormous workforce across these and other sectors.

The city is home to two US Courts of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond (one of 12 in the country). Four of the largest law firms in the US are based in Richmond, including Hunton & Williams, McGuireWoods, Williams Mullen and LeClairRyan. Its Fortune 500 companies include Dominion Resources, CarMax, Owens & Minor, Genworth Financial, MeadWestvaco/WestRock and Altria Group.

The city is also something of an advertising mecca and home to several large advertising agencies (including The Martin Agency) and other advertising-related businesses. New arrivals with qualifications in the pharmaceutical or biotechnology industries would be pleased to know that Richmond has several employers in these fields too, many of them based at the continually developing Virginia BioTechnology Research Park in Richmond.

The city's tourism sector is also growing steadily, and Richmond's food scene is considered one of the most underrated in the country, not to mention its multitude of acclaimed craft breweries and distilleries. Even Richmond's film and television industry is on the up and employing a large number of residents with several high-profile films shot in the city over the last few years.

Entrepreneurs and business people thinking of relocating to Richmond will be glad to hear that the city is considered one of the most 'business friendly' in the US, with low corporate tax rates, no tax rates on manufacturer inventory, and credits and abatements for job creation and development in impoverished areas.


Finding a job in Richmond

It's always better, when relocating, to secure employment before the move. Many professionals move to Richmond as part of a transfer through their company, but those who arrive in the city without a job offer in hand will do well to scour online job portals, social-networking sites such as LinkedIn and individual company websites in their fields.

Recruitment agents are also a good option. These professionals will have unique insights in the job seeker's specific industry and are well placed to link up qualified candidates with employers. 

Networking is another viable avenue to make business connections and get some insider tips on local industries and the local job market. It's also a good way for new arrivals to make friends and establish themselves in their new community. 


Work culture in Richmond

Richmond's economy is a hive of activity with a well-educated workforce employed across a healthy variety of industries. That said, the city's 'rat race' isn't nearly as frantic or cut-throat as that of major US cities such as New York, Washington DC or LA. People are career driven in Richmond – and are well paid – but the work-life balance is much healthier here and the pace far more relaxed.

Richmond, like many other prominent US commercial hubs, thrives because of a willingness to accept new ideas and nurture budding entrepreneurs. Business culture is individualistic, and the workplace rewards 'go-getters' while those who lack independence, initiative and self-reliance lag behind. Status and age are largely obsolete and, instead, merit, good ideas and hard work are the vehicles for advancement. 

Cost of living in Richmond

The cost of living in Richmond is one of the main reasons so many people have been flocking to the city in recent years. With a convenient location on the East Coast, a good economy, great quality of life and plenty to see and do, Richmond's cost of living has stayed surprisingly low, and new arrivals will discover that most expenses in Richmond are lower than the US average. In fact, in Numbeo's 2021 Cost of Living Index, Richmond ranked 244th out of 598 world cities analysed, making it more affordable than 58 other American cities on the list.

As in most cities, the largest portion of a Richmondian's salary will likely go to accommodation and utilities. Transport expenses will also have to be budgeted for.


Cost of accommodation in Richmond

Richmond boasts a variety of accommodation options, from inner-city apartments and condos to suburban Cape Cod-style mansions, rowhouses and cottages. New arrivals will undoubtedly find something to their style and liking – and at a reasonable price too. Rental costs here are low compared to the US average, while, thanks to the influx of new residents which increases demand plus the upward trajectory of the city's economy, purchasing a house in Richmond is considered a solid investment.

The cost of utilities is also below the US average, so newcomers are often able to lead a better quality of life than they did in their home state or country.


Cost of transport and driving in Richmond

Public transport is relatively affordable in Richmond compared to other East Coast cities. But given that Richmond's public transport infrastructure is rather limited outside of downtown and central areas, most Richmondians own a vehicle. Driving isn't cheap when one considers the purchase cost, maintenance, gas (petrol), insurance and parking, but those who choose to settle in Richmond's suburbs will have no choice but to budget for these costs.


Cost of healthcare in Richmond

For those who can afford it, the standard of healthcare in Richmond is world class. For patients without insurance, healthcare can be mediocre at best and completely inaccessible at worst. Major traumas can easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and, although emergency services must be provided by law to everyone, patients can often expect to pay hefty fees subsequently. We therefore recommend that newcomers to Richmond and expats invest in a good health insurance policy so that all costs are covered. This comes at a price though, so we'd advise that employees negotiate for a healthcare subsidy before starting their new job.


Cost of entertainment in Richmond

Of course, entertainment costs come down to lifestyle and preference. Generally though, having a good time in Richmond doesn't cost an arm and a leg. One could visit a good restaurant or brewery, take a walk through a museum, take in a game at one of the local stadia and top it off with a shopping spree, and one would walk away relatively unscathed. There's also plenty to do without even reaching for the wallet, including a host of fun adventurous activities on and alongside the James River, a stroll down any of Richmond's historic streets, or a picnic in one of the city's many green spaces.


Cost of education in Richmond

Public education in Richmond doesn't cost a cent, apart from buying stationery and the like. School admittance is determined by catchment areas, so parents will have to consider carefully before choosing a neighbourhood, as not all public schools in Richmond are of a good standard. 

Parents can also choose from several private schools in Richmond, which aren't bound by zoning regulations, but which do come with steep tuition fees, not to mention myriad extra costs such as uniforms, field trips, books and more.


Cost of living in Richmond chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for January 2021.

Accommodation (monthly)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 1,140

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 920

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

USD 1,940

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

USD 1,620

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

USD 1.40

Milk (1 litre)

USD 0.76

Rice (1kg)

USD 3.20

Loaf of white bread

USD 2.60

Chicken breasts (1kg)

USD 7.45

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

USD 6

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

USD 8

Coca-Cola (330ml)

USD 2

Cappuccino

USD 4.60

Bottle of local beer

USD 5.90

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

USD 60

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

USD 0.15

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

USD 70

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

USD 150

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

USD 1.55

Bus/train fare in the city centre

USD 1.75

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

USD 60

Accommodation in Richmond

Richmond has become something of a new hotspot, and the Virginian capital is attracting both out-of-state Americans and foreigners with its promising economy, commercial opportunities and laid-back lifestyle. We would suggest that those who are angling for a move to Richmond research housing options, scout suitable neighbourhoods, and make a decision whether to buy or rent.

The latter determination will of course depend on the duration of one's stay in Richmond, budget and the state of the housing market. Regardless, new arrivals in Richmond tend to rent first and, once they have a feel for where they'd like to put down more permanent roots, they might decide to make a purchase. And, given the influx of new residents which increases demand, and the robust nature of the city's economy, purchasing a house in Richmond is considered a solid investment.


Types of accommodation in Richmond

House hunters will discover that Richmond boasts a wide variety of housing options to suit every taste, budget and lifestyle. From inner-city apartments and condos to more spacious houses in the outlying suburbs, newcomers will be spoilt for choice. The standard of housing in the city is equally varied, but generally quite solid.

Apartments

These are modern self-contained units within a larger building, and are mostly found in downtown Richmond. They are more affordable, and tend to suit young professionals who haven't yet started a family.

Condos

Condos are a happy medium between houses and apartments. New arrivals will find this option allows them to have a little extra space along with the benefits of communal living. Condos are self-contained units within a bigger complex where residents share a range of amenities including communal swimming pools, gyms, gardens and laundry facilities. 

Houses

New arrivals in the city and expats tend to gravitate towards the suburbs, where they're afforded more space, a garden, quieter surroundings and good schools.

Types of houses in Richmond include Cape Cod-style houses, colonial mansions, rowhouses (also called townhouses) and cottages.


Finding accommodation in Richmond

A few important considerations for house hunters in Richmond include budget, nearby amenities, proximity of workplace and schools, and how much space is required.

Online is usually the best place to start one's search. Property portals, community pages and social-networking sites are all useful. Real-estate agents are also a valuable source of information as they will have intimate knowledge of the city's various neighbourhoods and of the housing market in general. They do charge commission of course, but they remove a lot of the hassle from the house-hunting process. Prospective renters or buyers simply submit their desired specifications and the agent does all the legwork. 


Renting accommodation in Richmond

New arrivals in Richmond will usually rent first and look to buy later. The demand for accommodation in the city is on the rise, so prospective renters should move quickly when they find something they like.

Making an application

Once prospective tenants have found a property to their liking, they’ll need to express their interest either to the agent or the landlord directly. The landlord or agent will then conduct various credit and reference checks, and if verified, a lease is signed by both parties. For expats, it's a good idea to open a US bank account and have a social security number set up before applying for a rental property.

Leases

Rental contracts are usually for a year or more, though shorter leases can sometimes be negotiated. At the termination of the lease, the landlord and tenant can either agree to renew the lease or end it. It is possible to terminate a lease early, but it is generally the prerogative of the landlord whether the tenant will then be liable to pay the full amount of the agreed lease.

Utilities

Renters need to pore over the terms of their lease agreements to determine which utilities are included. In most cases, the landlord covers standard utilities such as water and electricity. Optional extras such as internet, cable TV and other luxuries are usually for the tenant's personal account.

Deposits

Prospective tenants will be required to put down a security deposit to secure the lease on a property, usually the equivalent of one month's rent. These rental deposits are fully refundable once the lease terminates, provided that the property is left in an acceptable state. For this reason, it is important to carry out a detailed inventory at both the beginning and end of the rental term, as damages will be deducted from the deposit.

Areas and suburbs of Richmond

The best places to live in Richmond

Relocating to a new city can be daunting, and a smooth transition into one's new surroundings depends much on the neighbourhood one chooses to settle in. Richmond has a huge variety, each with its own unique character, and we'd encourage new arrivals to do a thorough recce before settling on one. 

Where in Richmond new residents decide to make a home will depend on preference, lifestyle, whether they have children, and how much they'd be willing to spend. 

Richmond is divided into five distinct districts: Downtown, East End, North Side, Southside and West End. Each of these districts contains several neighbourhoods, the most popular of which we've listed below.


Trendy neighbourhoods in Richmond

Richmond Skyline

Scott’s Addition

Scott’s Addition is one of Richmond’s trendiest and fastest-growing neighbourhoods. A lovely historic district, Scott’s Addition is today known for its slew of breweries, distilleries and vibey eateries. Popular with the young crowd, this bohemian area boasts a mix of rowhouses, condos and modern apartments set in historic buildings. A lot of creatives reside here too, as the area is home to several advertising agencies, marketing firms and film studios.

Manchester

Located south of the James River, Manchester is another area popular with young professionals – particularly young techies and artists – and consists mostly of apartments and single-family homes. It combines all the amenities of urban living with easy access to the outdoors and fun river-based activities. Nearby Brown’s Island and Belle’s Island are also fun to explore. Its location is conveniently close to midtown, and it’s also super bicycle friendly.

Short Pump

The affluent suburb of Short Pump is immensely popular. It’s a mix of residential and commercial properties, with a variety of older and modern single-family homes, apartments and rowhouses. Residents are spoilt for choice when it comes to dining and shopping options, including the popular West Broad Village and Short Pump Town Center, an open-air mall with high-end stores and boutiques. Short Pump residents also have a very short commute, and those with kids have a wide selection of schools to choose from.

Downtown

Those newcomers who want to be right in the mix should set their sights on Downtown Richmond. The area is in the midst of a dramatic upswing and the Broad Street corridor, in particular, is highly popular. Accommodation here consists of high-rise apartments, condos and funky industrial lofts. Residents in Downtown have a host of excellent restaurants, galleries, theatres and more right on their doorstep.


Family-friendly neighbourhoods in Richmond

Lakeside

Lakeside is located in Henrico Country north of the city, and is the ideal area for families. The leafy neighbourhood is bordered by Joseph Bryan Park and the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, so there’s plenty of opportunity for joggers, strollers and picnickers to enjoy nature. With so much space and greenery, it may surprise newcomers that Lakeside is mere minutes from the city. Housing mainly consists of spacious single-family homes, many complete with big lawns and garages.

James River

Chimborazo

Chimborazo oozes charm and offers splendid views of the James River. The neighbourhood is part of the Oakwood-Chimborazo Historic District and boasts plenty of historic architecture. Indeed, house hunters who like their history will be excited to learn that Chimborazo boasts a large number of late 19th and early 20th-century brick homes ranging from Late Victorian to Queen Anne and Colonial Revival. Families love to explore Libby Hill Park, while Broad Street has a host of great eateries, coffee shops and pubs. Parents will be pleased to know that the area has plenty of good schools too. 

Wakefield

A little further afield, but compensating with an abundance of space and greenery, Wakefield lies about an hour southeast of Richmond and is perfect for families looking to avoid the city bustle. Besides more spacious homes and yards, the other upsides of Wakefield include its proximity to Virginia Beach, a great selection of schools, good restaurants, quaint shops and plenty of small-town charm. 

Healthcare in Richmond

Healthcare in Richmond, and indeed the US, remains a worry for a lot of residents. Former president Barack Obama made establishing affordable healthcare for all one of the key objectives of his presidency and, although he did some admirable work, it remains a muddled, contentious issue.

For those who have private medical insurance and comprehensive coverage, US medical facilities and treatment are world class. For those without insurance, healthcare can be mediocre at best and completely inaccessible at worst.

Major traumas can easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and for those who can't afford it, medical treatment is limited. Emergency services must be provided by law to everyone, but patients can often expect to pay hefty fees afterwards.

We therefore recommend that newcomers and expats in Richmond get comprehensive medical insurance, with which they'll have access to excellent facilities, some of the best medical technology in the world and highly trained doctors and specialists. Other advantages include short waiting times for operations and specialists as well as competing medical services.

Pharmacies are available all over Richmond in grocery stores, department stores, hospitals and clinics, some staying open 24/7.

Richmondians are able to get almost all prescription medication at a pharmacy, though it can be quite expensive and all receipts should be kept in order to claim the costs from the health insurance provider.


Hospitals in Richmond

St. Mary's Hospital | Bon Secours

Website: www.bonsecours.com
Address: 5801 Bremo Road, Richmond

VCU Medical Center Main Hospital

Website: www.vcuhealth.org
Address: 1250 E. Marshall Street, Richmond

Henrico Doctors’ Hospital

Website: www.henricodoctors.com
Address: 1602 Skipwith Rd, Richmond

Education and schools in Richmond

Richmond has a variety of schooling options for parents to choose from, including public, private, charter and international schools. New arrivals in the city can opt to enrol their children at any of these, but those who choose public schools will likely have their choices limited to the neighbourhood they choose to settle in. Private and international schools tend to have a better standard of facilities and better teacher-to-student ratios, but they also come at a price. 


Public schools in Richmond

The city of Richmond governs and operates 28 elementary schools, nine middle schools and eight high schools. Public schools accept students based primarily on their catchment area, so new arrivals in Richmond with children of school-going age should think carefully before settling on a neighbourhood.

Charter schools

Parents also have the option of sending their children to a public charter school in Richmond which, despite being publicly funded, function independently of government regulations. Such schools, therefore, have more flexible academic programmes and curricula than traditional public schools.

Charter schools have grown in popularity over the past decade, largely due to the perceived flaws of the traditional public schooling system. But they can be inconsistent in terms of quality and many have been closed down in the past for failing to maintain sufficient standards. That said, they usually offer a higher standard of education than traditional public schools.


Private schools in Richmond

Many newcomers and expats opt to send their children to private schools in Richmond. These schools have complete control over their curricula. As such, it's recommended that parents familiarise themselves thoroughly with an institution before enrolling their children. Although they often come with exorbitant tuition fees, these schools offer an excellent standard of education, from small student/teacher ratios and specialised programmes to religious instruction and same-sex classrooms.


International schools in Richmond

There are several schools in the Richmond area that offer the International Baccalaureate Programme. These are ideal for families who aren't planning to be in Richmond for an extended period of time or whose children are moving from an international school in another country. International schools will provide a more familiar environment, association with other expat children, and continuity with their previous curriculum.

International schools often have extremely high fees and space is limited so parents are advised to apply as soon as possible to secure a spot for their children.


Special-needs education in Richmond

Virginia’s laws stipulate that if a child has any learning difficulty or physical disability, he or she is entitled to receive additional support through the public school system. This is further backed up by federal law which states that all children are entitled to free and fair education, including anyone with a disability.

Parents new to Richmond can rest assured that students with special needs are well catered for here. Not only are there a number of dedicated special-needs schools, but both public and private schools are also expected to have support structures in place to support children with various developmental, behavioural and physical disabilities. 

The priority is always to have a child integrated into the regular school system and only once it has been established that their issues are too severe will they be referred to a specialist facility. 


Tutors in Richmond

Tutoring has become highly popular all across the United States, and Richmond is no exception. Tutors can be a valuable resource for a number of reasons, including for students who need help in specific subject areas or to learn English, students who need assistance for university entrance exams preparation, or those who just need some help in building confidence in a new school environment. Private tutors can be a great source of support in all of these instances, and there are plenty of options to choose from in Richmond.

Often, the first reference point for a private tutor would be to arrange one through the child’s school, or on the school's recommendation. Otherwise, parents should look online. Some of the established companies in Richmond include studyBuddyJ.com and WyzAnt Tutoring. 

Lifestyle in Richmond

Richmond is a city on the rise, and it continues to receive national accolades for its progressive development. Residents who moved to Richmond from elsewhere in the US or abroad frequently comment on the welcoming nature of the city and how easy it was for them to fit in, and the collective and contagious pride that its residents take in the various treasures that the Virginia capital has to offer. 

Richmond's craft-beer culture is famous and, more recently, the city's become something of a foodie capital too. New residents will take great delight in trying out the city's host of culinary and brew offerings, and art lovers will also be well catered for with a trove of galleries and museums. Avid shoppers will feel right at home too, as will outdoorsy types and nature junkies.


Arts and culture in Richmond

Richmond has a rich and storied history, which is celebrated by the multitude of museums and monuments in the city. Monument Avenue, which is rated as one of the top 10 most beautiful streets in the US, is a tree-lined mall originally named for its slew of statues honouring those who fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. But with a city keen to shake its reputation as the erstwhile confederate stronghold, Monument Avenue now includes a varied mix of structures including beautiful churches and other splendid architecture.

Newcomers who enjoy the arts will discover that the city has plenty to offer, including a wonderful symphony orchestra, galleries celebrating visual and performing arts, ballet theatres and more. Residents can catch a show at the Altria Theatre, check out downtown's impressive selection of galleries during an art walk on First Fridays, or peruse the stunning collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The kids will also have plenty to gawk at at the Science Museum of Virginia, or the Children's Museum of Richmond.


Sports and outdoor activities in Richmond

New arrivals in Richmond with an affinity for the outdoors will be in their element. Sometimes nicknamed the 'River City' because of its location on the James River, Richmond is the only place in the US where river rafters can experience Class 3 and 4 rapids in urban surroundings. Those who are less keen to get wet can nevertheless enjoy the acres of secluded forest trails that straddle the river, where they can choose between mountain biking, hiking or a leisurely stroll through tranquil forest environs.

The city also has a number of local sports and hobby clubs that newcomers can join – social-networking sites are a good place to find these and sign up, and they're a great way to meet people too. Those more interested in following sports than playing them can get behind the Flying Squirrels, the city's baseball team, or the Richmond Kickers for those who are more into soccer. The Virginia Commonwealth University boasts one of the best college basketball teams in the country, while petrol heads can get their fix at the NASCAR track at the north end of the city.


Shopping in Richmond

Shoppers new to Richmond will want to head straight to Short Pump (the city's most fashionable neighbourhood) or Stony Point Fashion Park, where they'll be able to shop to their hearts' content at all the chain stores imaginable. For a more original and bespoke experience, newcomers should explore the quaint and quirky boutiques, bookstores, antique shops and vintage emporiums of downtown, Carytown and Broad Street.


Eating out in Richmond

Richmond is now considered one of the East Coast foodie hotspots, and its culinary scene has exploded in recent years. New arrivals will be able to experience anything from Southern soul food and moreish Mexican fare to Mediterranean cuisine and world-class fine-dining establishments.

Richmond is a beer lover's dream destination, and the city is home to several excellent craft breweries, favourites among them being Hardywood, The Veil and Ardent.


Nightlife in Richmond

Richmond might not have as raucous a nightlife scene as some of the bigger East Coast cities, but there's still plenty to do for night owls here. Revellers can choose between bespoke wine bars, breweries or dive bars; they can go check out a live gig or dance the night away at one of several big clubs; or they can take in a show at the theatre or get in a few laughs at a stand-up comedy club. 

See and do in Richmond

Newcomers to Richmond will soon learn that the city has a wealth of activities and attractions, and boredom here is barely an option. The city is situated on the James River, and outdoors enthusiasts will love immersing themselves in nature and participating in fun adventures on and astride the river.

The city has an incredible history, having served as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War and having been the site of countless battles but, while many attractions are dedicated to this violent and fascinating era of American history, these aren't the only sights worth seeing in Richmond.


Attractions in Richmond

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Newly arrived art lovers in Richmond will want to put this right at the top of their to-do list. A surprisingly impressive collection that rivals galleries in much larger cities, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts boasts works by such masters as Matisse, Picasso, Braque and many prominent examples of German Expressionism and French Impressionism. Visitors will also be treated to marvellous works of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Modern and Contemporary American, as well as Asian and African collections.

Maymont

Perfect for a family day out, the estate of Maymont has something for everyone to enjoy. Left to the city of Richmond by the Dooley family who lived here in the late 19th century, the estate sports a 100-acre park, several gardens, a kids’ petting farm, a carriage collection, and the mansion itself which has been converted into a museum furnished in the overly lavish style so typical of the late 1800s. Visitors are welcome to spread a blanket in the gardens and have a picnic, or visit the Nature Center, which explores the natural history of the James River.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Not your typical botanical garden, the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden has plenty for both kids and adults to see and do. Kids love playing in the children’s garden where they can explore, climb, cool off in the water-play area, and check out the CWDKids Tree House. Mum and Dad, meanwhile, can marvel at the views from the 63ft (19m) tall domed conservatory, which houses plenty of spectacular floral exhibits, a model-train display, a butterfly experience, and hosts seasonal events such as the holiday light festival.

Canal Walk

Another must-do in Richmond, the James River-Kanawha Canal, which was built on the advice of George Washington to connect the East Coast harbours to western markets, can today be explored along its 1.25 miles (2km) of promenade. The promenade is dotted with significant historic sights, markers and monuments that tell of Richmond’s storied history. Also along the walk is Brown’s Island and the American Civil War Center. Guided historical river cruises are also available.

American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar

Along the James River are the five original buildings of the former Tredegar Iron Works, now a National Historic Landmark. As mentioned, the American Civil War Center can also be found here, where visitors can browse the fascinating exhibits that tell the story of the Civil War from multiple perspectives, including the Confederates, the Union and African Americans.

Virginia State Capitol

Another landmark that is not to be missed is the imposing State Capitol, built in 1785 and designed by Thomas Jefferson himself. The impressive structure was modelled on the Maison Carree, a Roman temple in Nimes, France. An important structure in Virginia’s history, the Capitol saw plenty of history being made, including the appointment of Robert E. Lee as commander of the Southern forces, and the ratification of Virginia’s secession. Also on the spacious and green premises known as Capitol Square are the 1813 Governor's Mansion, a bell tower built in 1824 and two statues of George Washington.

What's on in Richmond

There's never a dull moment in Richmond, and newcomers will discover that the city's calendar is chock-full of fun events for revellers of just about every persuasion. Festivals and events are also a great way for new arrivals in Richmond to meet people and make friends.

We've listed our favourites below.


Annual events in Richmond

The Virginia Wine Expo (March)

Virginia has become something of a wine destination in recent decades, and the Virginia Wine Expo celebrates all the wonderful wines and winemakers of the area. Visitors get to meet owners and experts, and of course get to sample their wares. There are plenty of events, live performances and delicious local gourmet grub too. Non-wine drinkers can indulge in limited edition craft beers, premium whisky, Virginia cider or local spirits.

Dominion Energy Riverrock (May) 

Held at the Historic Tredegar Ironworks and on Brown’s Island, this is the ultimate outdoor, adventure and music event. Events include rock climbing, slackline competitions, mud running, trail running, yoga on river boulders, and of course plenty of live music throughout.

Juneteenth: A Freedom Celebration (June)

Richmond’s Juneteenth festival commemorates Virginia’s history of enslavement and emancipation, and honours the resilience and strength of African-Americans and the atrocities they’ve endured over the ages on American soil. Poignant and important, this festival has grown year on year and is well loved by all. 

Richmond Jazz Festival (August)

One of the biggest jazz fests on America’s East Coast, the Richmond Jazz Festival attracts the best musicians from all over the country, with adoring crowds in tow. The festival is held at the beautiful Maymont Park, and sees star-studded line-ups of the best in jazz, blues and funk. The main party is at Maymont, but performances are also hosted at the Hippodrome Theater, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery.

2nd Street Festival (October)

Jackson Ward was often referred to as ‘the Harlem of the South’, and has a rich history as the heart and soul of Richmond’s African-American community. The 2nd Street Festival celebrates this history and culture, when 30,000 people descend on 2nd Street and reminisce about the heady days of the famous ward. The Mid-Atlantic’s largest street festival, the 2nd Street Festival features four stages of live music performances, along with food trucks, shopping stalls, walking tours and even a Kidz Zone. 

Fire, Flour & Fork (November)

It’s been called one of the country’s top food festivals, and not without reason. Fire, Flour & Fork is a fascinating gastronomic journey of more than 40 dinners, food events, tours, talks and workshops. Richmond’s best chefs spill their kitchen secrets and the festival also welcomes chefs from around the country and indeed the world. Come hungry!

Getting around in Richmond

Richmond's public transport system is adequate, if not as advanced as those in bigger East Coast cities. Downtown Richmond and many of its surrounding neighbourhoods are quite walkable, and the city is also encouraging residents to cycle by building bike lanes and implementing bike-sharing programmes. That said, many Richmondians still prefer to own their own vehicle for the sake of convenience, especially parents who have kids to cart around, and outdoorsy types who like to explore further afield.


Public transport in Richmond

Bus

The Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) runs the bus services in Richmond, but this system is mostly limited to the central areas and only serves small parts of the suburban counties. The far West End (Innsbrook and Short Pump) and almost all of Chesterfield County have no public transportation despite dense housing, retail and office development.

GRTC also runs an ever expanding rapid-bus system called the GRTC Pulse, which (for now) runs along Broad Street from Willow Lawn to Rocketts Landing, and provides a speedier commute.


Taxis in Richmond

There are several cab companies in Richmond. Taxis can be hailed on the street or at taxi ranks, but commuters who live in the suburbs will have to call and book a taxi in advance either by phone or app. Ride-hailing services are increasingly taking over the cab market thanks to their convenience and user-friendliness. These include Uber, Lyft and Bolt, among others.


Driving in Richmond

Newcomers to Richmond tend to buy their own set of wheels within the first few months of arrival. Cars aren't strictly necessary for those who live in downtown and central areas, but most suburbians own their own vehicles.  

Traffic in Richmond is not as congested as in other major East Coast cities, but commuters will still have to plan carefully and factor in congestion in central areas. For commutes to surrounding areas, Richmond is pretty conveniently located at the intersection of several highways. The intersection includes the major north-south bound Interstate 95 and the east-west bound Interstate 64, and supported by Interstate 295 and Virginia State Route 288.

Those with a driver's licence from another state or country are usually allowed to drive in the US, as long as their licence remains valid. Those with licences in languages other than English should obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) before the move.

Once a resident of Virginia, drivers should visit the Virginia DMV to obtain a local driver's licence.


Cycling in Richmond

The popularity of cycling is on the rise in Richmond, and the city is encouraging cycling with a continually growing bike-lane network. There are dedicated bike lanes all over downtown, and there's even a route all the way to Williamsburg called the Virginia Capital Trail.

Those who don't own a bike can make use of several bike-share programmes, which allow riders to pick up a (regular or electric) bike at stations all over the city and drop them at any station after their ride.