21c Museum Hotel St Louis review: A Stylish Stay with Contemporary Art

Last updated on February 2nd, 2024 at 08:53 am.

On a recent visit to St. Louis, my husband Todd and I found ourselves amidst the artistic tapestry of the 21c Museum Hotel—a place where hospitality and art seamlessly coexist.

We explored the hotel’s immersive art gallery, marveling at the exhibits and soaking up the creative atmosphere. During our visit, we also dined at Idol Wolf and savored the flavors of tapas-inspired cuisine and hung out in their retro-hip game room for post-dinner fun.

lobby at 21c Museum Hotel St. Louis

In this article, I’ll be sharing my firsthand hotel review, shedding light on our stay, and, of course, letting you in on some of the other exciting excursions that filled our time in St. Louis. Keep reading for the full scoop!

21c Museum Hotel St. Louis

In the heart of downtown St. Louis, a beautiful 1926 building stands as a testament to the city’s rich history and a hub of artistic innovation. Formerly the home of the YMCA until its relocation in 2017, this ten-story gem now proudly bears the name of the 21c Museum Hotel St. Louis, etching its presence at 1528 Locust Street. Included on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014, this building is more than just a hotel—it’s a living piece of history.

At first glance you might think it’s just a hotel. But, in fact, it’s home to Idol Wolf restaurant and bar, a coffee house, gym, and free public art museum.

About the Hotel: An Overview

St. Louis 21c Hotel

The St. Louis 21c Hotel is the latest addition to 21c collection that includes hotels in eight cities across the United States.

The 21c Museum Hotel St. Louis is more than just a place to rest your head—it’s an experience. With over 14,000 square feet of museum exhibition and event space, it is an artistic playground. Whether you’re an art aficionado or a curious traveler, you’ll find inspiration.

The hotel offers 173 guest rooms, each meticulously designed to ensure your stay is a unique and memorable one.

The chef-driven restaurant, Idol Wolf, invites guests to savor delectable Spanish tapas. The Good Press coffee shop caters to those seeking a caffeine fix, and a 10,500-square-foot athletic and wellness center ensures you can stay in shape while indulging in art and culture.

The 21c Museum Hotel St. Louis is a living canvas where the past, present, and future converge, inviting you to explore and immerse yourself in the ever-evolving world of art and hospitality.

21c Museum Hotel St Louis review: A Blend of Art, Luxury & history

The Lobby: First Impressions that Work

From the moment you walk into the lobby, it’s clear that this isn’t just a hotel, it’s a museum hotel. Serkan Özkaya’s giant glass ball sculpture, O, is a transparent, water-filled orb that presents a world upside down. It is meant to activate the space and in turn visitors are then activated by the space. In addition, you can take fun photos through the sphere.

Everything from the deliberate placement of furniture to the art, sculpture, and even the Mirror Wall behind the check-in desk that moves to the music in the lobby is designed to create a full sensory experience before you even get your room keys.

Our Room

21c STL guest room

21c St. Louis has a variety of guest rooms to choose from, ranging from standard king and queen rooms to deluxe rooms, suites, and even bunk rooms. We stayed in a Corner King room; a studio suite with a king-sized bed and separate living and working areas.

21c living room space in suite

The furniture was funky and modern, and we had views in three directions from beautiful arched windows. One even had a glimpse of the Gateway Arch.

View from 21 guest room

The bathroom was light and bright. There was a European shower, stand alone tub and plenty of space for two to get ready.

21c bathroom

If you’re looking for a truly luxurious stay, check out the King Suite, a two-story suite with a living and dining area with fireplace, kitchenette, and a personal fitness loft.

No matter what room type you choose, you’re sure to enjoy the Malin + Goetz bath amenities and original artwork in each guest room. One of the small touches I loved was a light panel at the front door and our bedside where you could turn on or off any lights in the suite or simply turn them all on or off with one touch.

Do Not Disturb

Do Not Disturb door hanger

Even the “Do Not Disturb” door hanger is artistic, featuring Sock Garter, a 2009 work by American artist Timothy Cummings.

Building History

1528 Locust Street, St Louis outside architecture.

In 1926, Missouri architects LaBeaume & Klein lent their expertise to craft this elegant Renaissance Revival-style structure. Their portfolio also includes the design of the Kiel Opera House, now transformed into the Stifel Theatre.

YMCA building in St Louis

This limestone and brick building has a cool façade with ornamental balconies and a fancy crosshatched brick and terra cotta top floor. It’s worth your time to take a few minutes and walk around the outside of the property and take a look at the doors, stone work and carvings.

The Art and Galleries at 21c

21c is the only multi-venue museum in North America dedicated to collecting and exhibiting art of the 21st century. And it shows. From the moment you walk into the lobby, you’re surrounded by art.

Stairs and carpet at 21x STL
carpet at 21c STL

Even the historic stairwell has an immersive artwork installation; a collaboration with artists David Burns and Austin Young that feature the above carpet and wallpaper.

The museum space is on the floor above the lobby and is currently featuring “Revival: Digging into Yesterday, Planting Tomorrow,” a combination of looking to the past, the compression of time, and the complexity of religion and culture.

Ebony G. Patterson peacock installation

In the first space, there’s a video installation of Frederick Douglass, the most photographed man in the 19th century. It’s a great way to start your experience.

In this same room is a range of art that includes sculpture, photography, and mixed medium works. You also get a great view down into the lobby bar and an eye level view of the art in that space.

main gallery at 21c St Louis

The old YMCA basketball court and running track is considered the main gallery. The floors are shined to perfection, and the vast space allows the art on the walls to take center stage.

There’s a third gallery room on this floor with more conceptual pieces, including an art movie and a piece of art that looks different by the eye than in photos. Most of these pieces are meant to speak to the compression of time.

Here’s a fun and conversational way to explore the art at 21c St. Louis:

Start in the lobby and head to the stairs. Walk up a level to the galleries and explore at your leisure. Then head to the bar to get your cocktail of choice (and don’t forget to look up, because there are some beautiful large art pieces here as well).

Then, head to the patio area off the bar to check out Chandler Ahrens’ View Finder, an installation inspired by 17th-century catoptric viewing boxes. This interactive work combines art and architecture with active observation and distortion of perception.

outdoor patio at 21c STL

Looking into View Finder, a series of kaleidoscopic, reflective tubes highlight a selection of views of the surrounding environment, fracturing and flipping the imagery in a collaged tableau.

Chandler Ahrens' View Finder, installation

Then head to the game room, at the front of the hotel (just off the lobby) to see the art showcasing St. Louis-based artists Quinn Antonio Briceño and Yvonne Osei.

Find a cozy spot to sit down, enjoy your cocktail and discuss the immersive art experience you just had.

  • There are 21c museum events such as Artist Talks and Free Guided Museum Tours.
  • The museum is open to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Game Room

game room at 21c St Louis

The Game Room at 21c is a retro-hip space that feels like it could be in a mansion or old castle. It’s got shuffleboard, a pool table, and plenty of cozy sitting areas, perfect for a romantic nook or a group hang. The walls are covered in art, making it a feast for the eyes as well as the senses.

Idol Wolf Bar

Idol Wolf Bar at 21c

The horseshoe-shaped bar at 21c, part of the Idol Wolf restaurant, is an open, light, and hip space with a posh feel. They serve a fun array of cocktails, including a Saffron Mule and Chorizo Margarita, as well as Spanish classics like Sangria. The drinks are beautiful and oh-so-Instagram-worthy!

cocktails at Idol Wolf at 21c

You can have a casual dining experience in the booths here or sitting at the bar. Or, simply enjoy a cocktail in the midst of the two massive paintings that anchor the space.

Idol Wolf Restaurant

Idol Wolf Restaurant

At Idol Wolf restaurant, a penguin just might join you for dinner. In fact, we did have a penguin join us for dinner!

Executive chef Matthew Daughady (previously with Taste by Niche, Reeds American Table, and Juniper) leads the restaurant. Idol Wolf takes its inspiration from Spain with a tapas-inspired menu that includes serrano ham, warm Spanish olives, patatas bravas, seafood paella, and more traditional dishes like rib-eye, burger, and seabass.

It’s a fusion of Spanish and classic American options that is sure to make all diners happy. The restaurant leans towards high-end in its presentation and flavor profiles.

Endive starter

During our visit, we started with:

  • Endives filled with whipped goat cheese, oranges, spiced marcona almonds, and a cava vinaigrette
  • Potatas Bravas topped with Pippara and chile pepper aoili of chile pepper
  • Warm olives
  • Grilled octopus atop potato presse with chorizo spice, herbs, lemon aioli
Grilled octopus

For our main course, Todd went with the Grilled tenderloin served with garlic-roasted mushrooms, glazed pearl onions, and I enjoyed the pan-roasted Pacifico bass served with leeks, zucchini, squash, asparagus, peas, Serrano ham, and a beurre blanc.

My favorites were the octopus, sea bass, and endives. Todd loved the olives and the tenderloin.

For dessert, Todd ordered the Tarta de Santiago, an almond cake topped with powdered sugar and served with coffee ice cream, and I loved the gluten-free caramel flan.

Overall, Idol Wolf is a great option for a special occasion meal, a romantic dinner or a night out with friends. It is not the kind of restaurant where you rush in and out. It’s a place to savor the food, the company, and the moment. The food is delicious, the service is excellent, and the atmosphere is fun and lively.

Locust Street Athletic and Swim Club Gym & Pool

Locust Street Athletic and Swim Club

The Locust Street Athletic and Swim Club is a 10,500+ square foot athletic and wellness center that is available to hotel guests and as a membership to the local community.

It’s an ode to its past as a community recreation center, and it offers a wide range of amenities, including two high-tech workout rooms, a steam room, sauna, pool, Jacuzzi, and spa treatments. Personal and group training and swim lessons are also available.

The Good Press Café & Coffee Shop

Until We Meet Again by Nick Cave and Bob Faust

No matter where you are at 21c, you’re never far from art. One of my favorite pieces in the hotel is located in Good Press Café, a kaleidoscopic artwork called Until We Meet Again by Missouri native Nick Cave and Bob Faust. It’s installed on the domed ceiling of the café, and its bright, colorful imagery is meant to evoke joy and hope.

Beyond the art, Good Press Café serves up delicious breakfast and lunch. They utilize local roasters, growers, and purveyors, like St. Louis-based Big Heart Tea and Northwest Coffee. For breakfast, you can choose from smoothies, parfaits, overnight oats, a variety of cleverly created fancy toasts, and of course, a range of egg dishes.

For lunch, there’s a variety of salads and sandwiches. Of course they also have a wide range of coffee and tea options as well as fresh juices and morning cocktails.

Good Press Café is a great place to grab a bite to eat and soak up the creative atmosphere of 21c.

The Penguins

21c orange penguin

Each 21c hotel has a flock of penguins in a unique color. The penguins are a whimsical and artistic touch that add to the fun and uniqueness of the hotel. The penguins at 21c St. Louis are orange, and they are moved and rearranged throughout the hotel throughout the day and night. You may even find one joining you for dinner, in your room or in the elevator!

Fun fact: The 21c co-founders, Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, discovered the Red Penguin at the 2005 Venice Biennale, and they loved it so much that they brought the flock home to their flagship hotel in Louisville. Guests and visitors fell in love with the penguins, prompting 21c to keep them on permanent view and to commission new penguins in a spectrum of colors for all 21c locations.

Fun Things to Do Near the Hotel

The Gateway Arch

Gateway Arch in Saint Louis

The Gateway Arch, the most iconic landmark in St. Louis and Missouri’s only National Park, is just a 1.3-mile walk or quick car ride from the hotel. It’s definitely worth a visit to see the Arch up close and appreciate its size, height, and beauty. You can see it as you explore the city, but it’s not until you stand below it that you can truly grasp its scale. If you’re up for a thrill, take a tram to the top, which is the equivalent of 63 stories.

Address: 11 North 4th Street, St. Louis, MO 63102

Campbell House Museum

Campbell House Museum

Campbell House Museum, the home of renowned fur trader Robert Campbell and his family from 1854 until 1938, is one of the best-preserved 19th-century townhouses in America. It also happens to be next door to the hotel.

Built in 1851 in Lucas Place, the city’s then-ritziest neighborhood, this three-story townhouse was home to the family of Robert Campbell, an immigrant entrepreneur and one of the state’s wealthiest men during his life.

Following a $3 million restoration, the Campbell House has been returned to its high Victorian glory. Replica textiles, original lighting fixtures, authentic furniture, and lots of decorative arts create a scene of century-old opulence, offering a glimpse into St. Louis’s early days.

Docents on guided tours are incredibly well-versed in facts and stories about the furnishings, artifacts, the family, and the history of the home and time period. The Campbell House is a Victorian-era home, and the first house built in this ritzy area in the mid-19th century, pre-Civil War. It is the only house standing today from the era and has most of its original furnishings.

Address: 1508 Locust St, St. Louis, MO 63103

Breakfast at Latte Lounge + HG Eatery

When I was looking for things to do on this Saint Louis trip, I found a photo for Latte Lounge + HG Eatery on Instagram. My initial reason for visiting the restaurant was to check out the swings, but when I found out it was in walking distance of 21c, I had two reasons to check out. Beyond the very cute swings, the food was delicious and you can make a bouquet of flowers to take home!!

Todd had pancakes, eggs and sausage and I tried the I had the vegi scramble that came with a side of pancakes or waffles and to my surprise they had gluten free waffles, which was a huge treat! Another fun breakfast option I’d try in the future is the Cajun shrimp & grits. The crab & crawfish benedict also looked delicious.

Address: 2617 Washington Ave Suite A, St. Louis, MO 63103

Also walking distance to the hotel is the Schlafly Brew Pub flagship location (2100 Locust St., St. Louis, MO 63103). It’s a taproom that also servers a full menu of everything from spicy chicken wings and beer bread to English pub classics like fish & chips and Vindaloo curry. We didn’t get a chance to visit, as we found it as we were walking back from breakfast and they weren’t open yet.

Hotel Information

Check 21c Museum Hotels St. Louis reviews on Tripadvisor and best prices at Hotels.com or Booking.com.

Address: 1528 Locust Street St. Louis, Missouri 63103

Phone: 314-940-2333

Website: 21cmuseumhotels.com/stlouis

Bottom Line

If you are looking for a unique and stylish hotel experience in St. Louis, look no further than the 21c Museum Hotel. This boutique hotel is housed in a beautifully restored YMCA building and features a world-class contemporary art museum. Guests can enjoy spacious, stylish and sophisticated rooms, a delicious on-site restaurant, and a vibrant bar scene. The 21c Museum Hotel is the perfect place to stay for a weekend getaway, romantic escape, or business trip.


A huge thank you to 21c Museum Hotel St. Louis for their generous hospitality. We were guests at the hotel, but as always, all opinions are my own.

About the Author: Alexa Meisler is a travel writer living in Kansas City, Missouri. She specializes in uncovering the hidden gems of Missouri’s big cities and historic towns. Since relocating to Missouri in 2020, she’s shared her adventures and experiences through the Travel in Missouri website, offering a unique perspective on her new home state. Read Alexa’s full bio here.

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