Where to stay in Downtown Raleigh—Top Things to Do & Places to Stay

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Traveling to Raleigh and want to stay right in the heart of downtown Raleigh? It’s really the perfect location for seeing the sights, especially if you’re short on time.

Raleigh is such a beautiful city with plenty of things to see and do no matter the time of year you are visiting. Trying to find lodging in downtown Raleigh can also be challenging, depending on your budget. 

But don’t worry—I made this guide to help you find all the best places to stay in and close to downtown Raleigh. I included a few hotels in nearby Midtown Raleigh and West Raleigh that are a little more budget-friendly. They border downtown, so you can still get to all the best places on a quick Uber or bus ride. 

And, this guide includes the top attractions you can’t miss when you visit! 

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Downtown Raleigh Accommodation Quick Guide 

Budget—Best Western Raleigh Downtown: Offers down-to-earth rooms with all the basic amenities you need to enjoy Raleigh. They have suite options so you can have an extra bed and a living area. Breakfast is free and they have a seasonal outdoor pool. 

Mid-range— Hotel 83: This is one of my favorite places to stay because I love the room decor. All of the paintings are locally inspired and most were done by local artists. The restaurant on-site offers a fully plant-based menu and a cocktail bar. 

Luxury– Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel: This stunning hotel is in the northern part of downtown. The rooms are refined and polished. They even offer upgraded rooms with access to a lounge with free breakfast and evening snacks. This amazing hotel has an Italian restaurant on-site as well as a fitness center. 

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Downtown Raleigh

Staying in downtown Raleigh gives you all the best options for dining and drinking. You’ll also be close to a number of museums and parks. Although the prices for some downtown hotels are more than what you would find elsewhere in the city, you will save money on transportation. 

I also love downtown because you can walk everywhere or use the bus system easily. I personally hate driving in new cities, so staying downtown is always my top choice when visiting Raleigh. 

BudgetQuality Inn Raleigh Downtown: There are not many budget hotels downtown, but this Quality Inn has great amenities and even better customer service. They offer free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, and even free laundry. The rooms are basic, but they have everything you need to enjoy your stay in Raleigh. 

Mid-RangeHoliday Inn Raleigh Downtown: All the rooms at this hotel have amazing views of the city. They have free Wi-Fi and free parking. The on-site restaurant serves classic American food. There’s also a hotel bar where you can sit and relax after a long day of exploring the city. 

LuxuryRaleigh Marriot City Center: This hotel is right in the city center. You can reach the convention center, restaurants, and museums in less than a 15-minute walk. If you upgrade to a suite, you get access to the lounge with free snacks and evening appetizers. They also have a heated indoor pool and a great fitness center. 

buildings and main street in raleigh

North Downtown Raleigh

North downtown Raleigh, also called North Hills Raleigh by the locals,  is just a few steps away from all the action downtown. The atmosphere is a little quieter, so it’s better for families or those wanting a low-key vacation. 

This is a lovely and upscale area. Most of the hotels are within walking distance of several retail centers, casual bars, and small restaurants. The shopping is great in this district as many of the places are small boutique shops that are locally owned. 

BudgetComfort Inn Raleigh Midtown: This hotel is right off the interstate that brings you into downtown Raleigh. It’s within walking distance to many local restaurants, bars, and Grassy Midtown Park. The rooms have two beds, fitting up to four people. Breakfast and parking are always free! 

Mid-RangeFour Points by Sheraton Raleigh North: This great hotel is right on the edge of downtown but in a quieter neighborhood. It’s within walking distance of many shops and local eateries. The on-site restaurant and bar are worth visiting, offering a large menu perfect for every taste. 

LuxuryAC Hotel by Marriot Raleigh North Hills: This Ac Hotel is only about 4 miles from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, which is in the center of downtown. Upgrade to a suite for more sleeping room if you’re traveling with others. The rooftop tapas bar has an incredible happy hour and gives panoramic views of the city. They also have a buffet breakfast and laundry facilities. 

West Raleigh 

West Raleigh is on the other side of the major highway that cuts through downtown. It directly borders downtown, though. Some of the hotels are still within walking distance of many museums and shops. 

All of the hotels are also close to bus stops, so you can easily get to the center of downtown. Many people choose to stay on the west side because it’s more scenic. There are tons of beautiful parks and outdoor activities. It’s also close to North Carolina State University. 

BudgetDays Inn by Wyndham Raleigh Glenwood: This casual hotel offers basic rooms very close to downtown. All the rooms have free Wi-Fi and coffee making facilities. Breakfast is always free, and the fitness center is open 24/7. 

Mid-RangeAloft Raleigh: I love this hotel because it’s located on a beautiful tree-lined street. It’s also within walking distance of the university. The rooms are colorful and modern with free Wi-Fi. They also have some suite options if you need extra room. Their restaurant and bar offer live evening music and some great cocktails. 

Luxury—The Umstead Hotel and Spa: This upscale resort and spa is on 12 acres. It offers a calm oasis directly outside of downtown, and it’s only 5 miles from the city center. Book a room with a lake view balcony. If you’re visiting during the warm months, take advantage of the outdoor pool and the poolside bar. 

north carolina state university campus

Top Things to do in Downtown Raleigh 

Now that you know all the best accommodation options, check out the must-see attractions throughout the downtown part of the city. If you’re seeking a walking tour with a history slant, check out this great Raleigh walking tour.

  • North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is one of the largest natural history museums in the country. All the tours are self-guided, so you can take your time going through the exhibits. They also have a nature research center with a huge collection of ocean fossils and living collections like fish and butterflies as well. 
  • Raleigh Beer Garden is located in the entertainment district downtown. They have over 350 beers on tap. Some are locally brewed, but you’ll find other domestic and international brands you might recognize. Sit on the rooftop if the weather is nice so you can see the view of the city. Or, go on a brew tour of some of the city’s finest!
  • Visiting Deco Raleigh is a must. It’s a huge gift shop as well as an art gallery. Everything in the store is locally-made. You can get homemade cards or locally made crafts to remember your trip to Raleigh. The shop is close to many other boutiques so you shop to your heart’s content if you’re interested. 
  • I love having a drink or two at Raleigh Times Bar. The view downtown is one of the best in the city. It’s too cold to visit in the winter months, but it’s a great spot if you are in Raleigh when the weather is nice. They also have a beautiful private event space if you happen to be planning something in Raleigh that requires a nice space. 
  • If you’re traveling with kids, take them to the Marbles Kids Museum. It has tons of interactive exhibits that the kids can play in. You have to buy tickets in advance, though, so make sure to plan this visit ahead of time. 
  • If you want to stay fit on vacation, go jogging or biking on the Art to Heart trail through downtown Raleigh. It’s part of the North Carolina Museum of Art. If you go the entire six miles, you’ll hit all of downtown’s best spots, including Fayetteville Street and the Raleigh Convention Center. Here is a map of the trail and information on the city’s bike-share program if you want to rent a bike. 
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Heart to Art Trail

How to Get to Raleigh 

Raleigh has a large airport (RDU) with daily domestic and international flights. Many major cities offer non-stop flights to RDU, making travel fast and easy. 

If you are road tripping or driving, you can also get to Raleigh easily as it’s connected by many major roadways, including I-85 and US-1. 

How to Get Around Raleigh 

Downtown Raleigh is huge, so keeping your rental car is recommended. It offers the fastest ways to see the best parts of the city. If you don’t want to drive, there are plenty of other options. 

Uber and Lyft are readily available. You can also walk or bike around downtown if the places you’re planning to visit are close together. 

Raleigh also has an extensive bus system. It stops at all the major places downtown and in the nearby suburbs. 

When to Visit Raleigh

The best times to visit Raleigh are in the spring and fall. Summer gets very hot, so it’s not ideal for walking downtown. Winter can be mild sometimes, but there is also the possibility of snow and very frigid nights. 

To avoid bad weather, plan your trip in the spring or fall. The city also has special festivals during this time, including food trucks, art exhibits, and music events. 

farmers market in raleigh, fresh apples on a table

Where to stay in downtown Raleigh on a budget?

There are some places to stay in downtown Raleigh on a budget, but most places are expensive. Staying in the suburbs is more cost-effective. North Hills has some cheaper options as well hotels closer to the university. 

Where to stay in Raleigh for the weekend?

Staying downtown is by far the best choice if you have limited time in Raleigh. Although West Raleigh and Midtown Raleigh have some of the best things to see and do, staying downtown saves you transportation time. 

Staying downtown also puts you within walking distance of restaurants and bars. So, it’s a much really convenient place to stay. 

Where to stay in Raleigh near the airport?

If you’re only in Raleigh for a night or two, you might want to stay near the airport. There are many convenient hotels close to the airport if you have an early morning flight. 

Check out Comfort Suites Raleigh Durham Airport or Four Points by Sheraton Raleigh Durham airport. You might also be able to find an apartment rental or Airbnb that is close to the airport. 

Is Raleigh Safe?

I always felt safe in Raleigh, even on the days I ventured out alone. The city has an overall low crime rate and is rated as safer than other large cities in North Carolina. 

Like with all big cities, though, be especially careful walking around downtown at night.

The bus system seemed very safe the few times I used it, but I never took the buses in the evening or during the night. 

Always make sure you keep your bag close to you and be aware of your surroundings no matter where you are in the city. 

The Best Places to Stay in (and Near!) Downtown Raleigh Are Waiting For You!

Downtown Raleigh is an amazing place to visit. I love exploring the different boutique shops, museums, and restaurants. Raleigh is also full of rooftop bars where you can enjoy a beer and see the city below. 

Downtown Raleigh is big, so choosing where to stay can be a real challenge if you have never visited the city before. I hope this guide helps you plan your trip! 

Staying right in the middle of downtown is great to be close to all the must-sees. North Downtown and the district to the west of downtown are also great, as they are more affordable and well-connected to the heart of downtown. 

Have you been to Raleigh? What’s your favorite place to stay?

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