Making Downtown Asheville Shopping an Adventure
The hub of Asheville is its downtown district. It’s busy, vibrant and bustling with people shopping, watching street performances, checking out art galleries, dining in cafés and sightseeing. There’s no shortage of local, independent shops to explore, making downtown Asheville shopping a great way to find unique clothing, art, gifts, home decor, and more.
Out of town clients ask us for downtown Asheville shopping recommendations all the time, and what we’ve noticed is that despite a highly walkable downtown, many people will explore the Pack Square and Biltmore Avenue corridor, but never make their way over to the Grove Arcade or Lexington Avenue. That’s why when clients ask, we always recommend downloading the Asheville Urban Trail walking tour to learn about downtown while seeing everything the shops and galleries have to offer.
Downtown Asheville Shopping Made Easy
Since the trail is only a little over a mile and a half in length, you can spend a morning or an afternoon exploring downtown. With the map in hand or on your mobile device, we recommend picking a café like Old Europe for coffee and pastries or a popular lunch spot like Early Girl Eatery, which are located near trail stations, as your starting point. Then, follow the trail to the various areas that make up downtown to get the full downtown Asheville shopping experience.
The first trail station is in the heart of Pack Square, literally the high point of downtown Asheville. It’s home to the recently renovated Asheville Art Museum and French Broad Chocolate Lounge. The FBCL’s gift shop is a brilliant place to get locally made, divine chocolate treats to go as well as picking up tasty, unique gifts for loved ones. Now, follow the trail forward down Patton Avenue or backward down Biltmore Avenue to get the best downtown Asheville shopping experience.
Heading down Patton Avenue brings you to the Kress Emporium, which features local and regional artists’ wares. From jewelry to pottery to sculpture to wall art and so much more, you’ll find something to adorn your home or yourself in this store. Keep going to arrive at Pritchard Park, a triangle shaped park well known for its Friday night drum circle, which is a sight and sound to behold itself.
On the north side of Pritchard Park are a few clothing shops like Union and Spiritex to explore. Just around the corner is a sweet toy shop called Curio. The Miles Building is a throwback to an old school shopping mall. Turn down the quaint and cobbled Wall Street, marked by a huge iron. Here’s you’ll find an interesting Celtic shop full of authentic and historical Celtic art, clothing, and accessories. If you’re hungry, you’ll have several choices, including Laughing Seed Café, a long-time local favorite vegetarian restaurant.
Continuing along the trail will lead you to an architectural marvel – the Grove Arcade. It’s definitely worth exploring. Did you know the lion statues at the north entrances have names? And, every gargoyle face on the building is different. All hand carved, no two are alike.
Grove Arcade restaurants like Carmel’s spill out onto the sidewalks, offering shade and respite with good food and refreshing cocktails and cold beers. Be sure to check out the Battery Park Book Exchange. In fact, if you enjoy wine and books, you might get lost for hours in this incredible bookstore with aisles of books winding up and down two stories and seating areas tucked into inviting spaces where you can sit and stay a while.
If you keep following the trail, you’ll soon arrive at Haywood Street, home to many art galleries and local shops, like The Spice and Tea Exchange. This one-of-a-kind shop in Asheville sells spices, spice mixes and tea varieties from around the world. A little further down Haywood is Malaprops, which is one of Asheville’s original independent booksellers, the tasty Chocolate Fetish chocolate and candy store, as well as Earth Guild and the ever-popular Woolworth Walk. A converted Woolworth store, the Woolworth Walk is another indoor artist market featuring local artists. Incredibly enough, the old lunch counter is still operational, and it’s like an inside secret for a tasty, quick lunch among locals who work downtown.
Keep Walking for the Full Downtown Asheville Shopping Experience
At this point, you’re about half-way through the walking tour, and if you’re following the trail stations you’ve learned a lot about downtown Asheville. Make your way down Walnut Street toward Lexington Avenue and notice that there are a few shops tucked behind a parking lot just past Zambra. There’s a fantastic day spa among those shops, too.
Although Lexington Avenue was boarded up in the 1990s, it now bustles with eclectic shops and restaurants that boast an independent vibe. MTN Merch, at the corner of Walnut and Lexington offers an abundance of locally made items, from art, to clothing to gear and so much more. If shoes are your thing, do not miss T.O.P.S for Shoes. It’s huge, and you’ll find everything you can imagine for comfortable shoes, glamorous shoes, practical shoes, and work shoes. Make sure you check out the sales rack room. Serious bargains can be had.
Home good store Nest Organics is a cool shop to help reduce your carbon footprint in home goods, like dishes, bedding, baby accessories and more. Antique stores and gem shops also line Lexington Avenue. There’s a cool bead and yarn shop, Chevron Bead Company on the uphill side of Lexington Avenue that is worth a stop if you knit or make jewelry. Be sure to stop at Voltage Records for the record collector on your holiday gift list.
If you’re in the need for sustenance at lunchtime, check out Mela, featuring northern Indian cuisine. Mela is well known for its lunch buffet and lunch specials. However, in these pandemic times, regulations are ever changing, so the buffet may not be available.
Thinking about dinner? Check out Bouchon, an authentic French brasserie, for a great spot to dine. Word of advice: get on their list early. They do not take reservations, and sometimes the wait can be two hours. It’s worth it, so get on the list early, finish your downtown Asheville shopping and walking tour adventure, and go back for a delicious dinner.
Continue your walk up Walnut Street to Broadway, which features art galleries, antique shops and the ever cool, always interesting L.O.F.T gift shop. It’s jammed packed with awesomeness, and it’s a fun place to find memorable – and useful – gifts for everyone.
Follow the trail around to the Market Street area, home to the Asheville Community Theater. There’s also a sweet vintage clothing store worth checking out if you need some new, cool old threads. This area of town also serves the legal community, with a number of law offices and bond companies calling it home for its proximity to the county courthouse on the east side of Pack Square.
Eagle and South Market Streets
Yes, now you are back at Pack Square at McGuire Green. You can call it a day here, or you can keep going for a little bit longer to Eagle and South Market streets. Once the hub of Black owned businesses, the area is bustling with vibrate shops and restaurants. We recommend pausing for a while at the YMI Cultural Center to learn about the area’s history.
Still More to See as Part of Your Downtown Asheville Shopping Adventure
Now make your way to Biltmore Avenue, lined with some amazing art galleries, gift shops and restaurants. Head uphill to complete the tour, checking out the Ariel Gallery, Blue Spiral gallery and the Haen Gallery, as well as the much-loved Mast General Store. Olive This, a shop dedicated to olive oil, will open your palette to the wonders and flavors of olive oil.
So, you see, the urban trail walking tour is a great way to make a morning or afternoon adventure out of your downtown Asheville shopping ambitions, and you’ll probably have gotten in all of your steps for the day, too. Be sure to look up and look around. There’s so much to see in downtown Asheville.