As the legal and political seat of rapidly growing St. Clair County, Belleville represents one of the most important St. Louis communities. The large neighborhood, located less than 10 miles due southeast of the Gateway Arch, bustles with small businesses that not only attract denizens of St. Clair County, but also draw in St. Louis-area residents from west of the Mississippi. Both gritty blue collar and urban white collar, Belleville offers residents one of the most diverse populations of any neighborhood in the St. Louis region.
With a strong public school system and several community colleges, Belleville keeps young people at home by providing them with the acumen to step out into the ever-changing professional world. The second-leading circulating newspaper in the area calls Belleville home. As an advocate for workers throughout the area, the Belleville News Democrat possesses considerable influence in determining the direction of east-side politics. Several members of the highly regarded St. Louis Post-Dispatch started their journalism careers at the Belleville News Democrat.
Restaurants & Nightlife
Wine connoisseurs do not have to travel to the St. Louis Central West End to enjoy an extensive wine list. Sitting just off Belleville's restaurant center on the main square, The Wine Tap specializes in a wine list that includes varietals from Australia, Chile, Spain and Argentina. The award-winning wine list has over 100 bottles of wine, as well as several wines by the glass, allowing diners to mix and match wines with their multiple-course dinners. The Wine Tap promotes the popular small-plate menu, with appetizers including cheese plates, flatbreads and hand-rolled aged pork.
Jefferson's Restaurant presents a more laid-back ambiance and features a menu that delivers mouth-watering burgers, fried oysters and the house specialty, chicken wings. Diners with a love for spicy Mexican cuisine have several highly rated restaurants on the dining list that include Mi Casa and Dos Gorditas.
Belleville promotes a small-town charm under the bright lights of a big city, and the entertainment options reflect that ambiance. Bars such as Crehan's Irish Pub and The Silver Creek Saloon and Grill promote a Cheers-like atmosphere that resonates throughout Belleville.
To attract young families and retirees, Belleville city leaders assiduously enforce strict noise and loitering ordinances that make it difficult for boisterous nightclubs to operate within city limits. Belleville residents typically travel to the Missouri side of the Mississippi River for nightlife, with the first stop on the waterfront at Laclede's Landing.
History & Culture
Founded in 1814, Belleville has undergone numerous cultural shifts while retaining its economic and political stability. Once an agrarian center for St. Louis residents, Belleville morphed into a manufacturing hotbed at the turn of the 20th century. For most of the 20th century, Belleville flourished as a blue-collar community that provided tax incentives for small manufacturing companies.
Celebrating Belleville's rich manufacturing history, the Labor and Industrial Museum offers visitors a comprehensive look at the men and women who made Belleville hum economically during the 20th century. Belleville hosts a large number of annual events that pique the interest of visitors who travel from as far away as Chesterfield, Missouri. Over 70 vendors participate in the annual Chili Cookoff held in the town square. On the more refined cultural side, the Belleville Illinois Art Show Festival highlights local and national artists who present their creations over the course of a weekend.
Belleville owes much of its small-town charm to the lack of a major highway slicing through the city. Interstate 255, which comprises the outer ring intestate for the St. Louis area, sits nearly 10 miles away from the Belleville main square. State Highway 15 acts as the primary road for Belleville residents to commute to and from St. Louis. The four-lane highway rarely bogs down during rush hour, giving commuters quick access to Interstate 255. Residents who work in Belleville enjoy spacious sidewalks and bicycle lanes on some of the busier Belleville streets. Because of its seclusion, Belleville does not see much business from the carpooling service, Uber. According to reviews, you may be better off walking than calling Belleville Cab & Taxi Service. Parking meters line the commercial center of Belleville, but residents and visitors park free on city side streets.
St. Clair County Transit provides the public transportation for Belleville residents. However, to reach St. Louis destinations, residents must carefully construct itineraries that include St. Louis bus routes. The best way to maximize the benefits of public transportation for Belleville residents involves taking the number 15 Belleville-Shiloh bus line to the Scott Air Force Base Metro stop. From there, riders have quick access to landmarks such as St. Clair Square and Busch Stadium.
The median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Belleville runs only $735, which falls nearly $200 below the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city of St. Louis. Belleville's cost of living ranks 19.1 percent lower than the national average, and people who make Belleville their new home enjoy a cost of living that falls almost 10 percent below St. Louis.
Bus fares run $2 for a two-hour period that includes one transfer. The cost of fares does not change regardless of where you hop on a bus or light-rail train. Belleville residents who like to relax over a frosty cold beer pay about the same for a domestic draft as they pay in other St. Louis neighborhoods. Happy hour draft beer can save a few quarters, with most of the bars located in Belleville charging $2 for a 12-ounce domestic draft. Since Belleville sits far enough away from an interstate, residents enjoy a 14 percent reduction in the cost of a gallon of gas compared to the national average.
Open every Saturday from late April to November 1, the Belleville Old Town Market allows residents to shop for everything they need to plan the weekly menu. Fresh produce trucked in from farms located just a few miles outside of the city competes in quality with any of the produce on display at Soulard Market in St. Louis. Vendors sell fresh fish caught the very same day at a local pond, and local artisans sell creatively designed crafts that enhance any Belleville home. In addition to the renowned Belleville Old Town Market, residents also have other grocery store options, including Schnuck's and ethnic specialty grocery stores such as La Gerezana.
The main square acts as the perfect venue for boutique and specialty stores that capitalize on the small-town atmosphere. Circa Boutique specializes in vintage women's fashion and novelty items that make popular gift choices during the holidays. You do not become a basket case when you shop at Basket Case, a specialty store featuring handmade woven baskets that provide you with both panache and functionality. Bronx Zoo Boutique brings out your green thumb by selling home and garden products. The closest high-end retailers take up shop at St. Clair Square, a large regional mall located in nearby Fairview Heights, Illinois.
Belleville city parks represent some of the best venues for playing in softball leagues and tournaments throughout greater St. Louis. Although the softball leagues and tournaments require a registration fee, residents who simply want to take a stroll through the paved paths that cut through city parks pay nothing to enjoy the fresh air and invigorating scenery.
As the most prominent park in Belleville, Citizens Park combines recreational fun with pristine countryside. Citizens Park also has a small area where your dog can frolic with his canine buddies. Belleville does not incorporate any exercise equipment into its park system design. However, the city hosts gyms and fitness centers for you to shed a few pounds.
Residents also enjoy Belleville parks for annual events such as the dynamic Fourth of July celebration and the holiday lighting display held at the beautifully designed National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows park.