El Paso’s vibrant cultural scene is strongly influenced by its proximity to the border, its rich history as an Old West frontier town, its thriving communities of artists and creatives, and the tight-knit family roots of its people.
Each of the city’s neighborhoods makes its own unique contribution to this lively city vibe. If you’re looking for the best places to explore during a trip to El Paso, we’ve broken down the city by neighborhood so you know exactly where to go.
Las Plazas Arts District
Best neighborhood for culture
Las Plazas Arts District is El Paso’s main center for art, history and recreation. You can easily lose several days hopping from museums to entertainment venues to historic hotel bars. Spend your first morning learning about El Paso’s backstory at the El Paso Museum of Art and the El Paso Museum of History before roaming around the area’s historic plazas – the first part of the city to be formally laid out after the Texas Revolution.
If you need a break to rest your feet, swing by San Jacinto Plaza. This long-time hub of city life was recently renovated and it has a popular cafe, a splash park, built-in chess tables and plenty of benches – perfect for families who need to recharge. The city’s iconic alligator statue is a throwback to the days when live alligators roamed this corner of Texas.
Las Plazas is also home to some of El Paso’s best-loved historic hotels. The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park opened in the 1930s as Conrad Hilton Jr’s first high-rise hotel. The rooftop bar, which was once part of the penthouse of Hilton’s former wife, Elizabeth Taylor, is a great place to have a drink and watch the sunset. Another top hotel bar for sipping cocktails is the Dome Bar in the nearby Hotel Paso del Norte, which sits under an iconic 25-foot, Tiffany-style stained-glass dome.
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El Segundo Barrio
Best neighborhood for street art
El Segundo Barrio sits on the US-Mexico border and it has strong ties with communities on the Mexican side of the divide. The neighborhood was first established as an economic hub for Mexican immigrants crossing the border in the 1880s – as one of the main points of entry into the United States at the time, it gained the nickname ‘the Other Ellis Island.’
Today the barrio is a reflection of its bustling border culture. A shared Tex-Mex identity can be seen prominently in the large, colorful cultural murals that cover buildings all over the district. To best appreciate this vivid street art, visit in the cooler spring or fall and set aside an afternoon for a mural walk.
Start your explorations on Father Rahm Ave at one of the neighborhood’s most iconic murals. Painted in 1975 by artists Arturo Avalos, Gabriel Ortega, Pablo Schaffino, and Pascual Ramirez, the Segundo Barrio mural has striking Aztec influences, and it became a symbol of barrio pride as the area began the process of gentrification. La Virgen De Guadalupe on Ochoa St is one of several murals celebrating the city’s deep religious roots, while El Corrido Del Segundo Barrio on Florence St celebrates another vibrant facet of El Paso culture – the music of the Chicano (American-Mexican) community.
You’ll likely work up an appetite with all this walking, so stop by the Jalisco Cafe for authentic, homemade menudo (tripe soup) prepared by a family with deep roots in the neighborhood. If you just fancy a light snack, head to Bowie Bakery, where bakers whip up around 50 different varieties of pan dulce (sweet bread), along with flans, tres leches cake and more.
Best neighborhood for architecture lovers
Wealthy refugees fleeing the Mexican Revolution at the turn of the 20th century built mansions on the city’s northside. Today the district known as Sunset Heights sits conveniently positioned between downtown and the university. The neighborhood provides a home for an eclectic mix of professionals, working-class El Pasoans, artists, writers, new homeowners and families who have lived here for over a century.
For visitors, Sunset Heights is best known for its historically significant architecture. Artsy bungalows and stately mansions line the hilly streets, and tunnels dating back to the early 1900s have been found under many buildings. Historians believe these tunnels may have been used to smuggle in Chinese laborers, who were banned from entering the United States under the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
Start your day in Sunset Heights at Vyable Coffee, a bright, plant-filled coffee spot with tons of seating and flavorsome artisan coffee to help you walk those hills. For lunch, stop by Salt + Honey Express, order a grab-and-go salad or wrap and stroll over to Mundy Park for a picnic (the gazebo in this neighborhood park provides some welcome shelter from the sun on hot days). Lucy’s Cafe on the north side of the neighborhood is a great choice for lovers of Mexican food who have a hankering for chili con queso (chili with melted cheese).
While the neighborhood is mostly residential, you might want to stop by the free-to-visit El Paso Holocaust Museum on the east side. Holocaust survivor Henry Kellen founded the museum in 1994 to educate the public about the horrors of the Jewish experience during WWII.
Best neighborhood for shopping and street food
El Paso’s original shopping district, El Centro, sits right on the border. For 150 years, this neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, El Paso St, has acted as the hub of downtown activity for both Mexican and American residents. Today, open-air, market-style shops line El Paso St and on weekends Mexican music blares from speakers set up outside storefronts.
Setting the mood, shop owners stand at their doors calling out “pásale, pásale” to get the attention of passing customers, while families walk down the street slurping ice cream and munching Mexican churros, papas locas (topping-slathered potatoes) and elote en vaso (toasted corn).
More than 300 stores are packed into El Centro’s few blocks, selling everything from quinceañera dresses and handmade cowboy boots to bulk packages of costume jewelry. No trip to the district would be complete without a stop at Dave’s Pawn Shop – alongside traditional pawn shop goods such as gold rings and used guitars, the store sells all manner of oddities. If you fancy picking up a gold-glitter-covered accordion, a skull with bullet holes or the (alleged) trigger finger of Mexican revolutionary leader, Pancho Villa, this is the place to find it.
Best neighborhood for cold brews and cocktails
You’ll know you’ve reached Union Plaza when you can easily see the El Paso Union Depot – built for train travelers in 1905. This small-but-mighty neighborhood on the western edge of downtown is known for shopping, hip cocktail bars and a popular craft brewery.
If you want rock star boots, stop by the legendary Rocketbuster Boots. This funky El Paso boutique has made boots for Willie Nelson, Leon Bridges, Dwight Yoakam and more. While you’re here, you can take a selfie in front of the largest pair of boots in the world according to the Guinness World Records.
After hours, Deadbeach Brewery makes bold craft beers that don’t hold back on flavor. In addition to a large menu of sours, IPAs, hefeweizens and pale ales, they also serve wine and non-alcoholic drinks, ensuring everyone is catered for on their large outdoor patio. If you crave a fancy craft cocktail, head over to rustic-chic Later, Later on the east side of the neighborhood.