Immerse yourself in Milwaukee’s history

Milwaukee is a city in the midst of a cultural renaissance. While there’s no shortage of things to do, here are a few suggestions for how to best spend your time in Wisconsin’s biggest city.

Milwaukee skyline. Image credit: Davel5957/iStock
Milwaukee skyline. Image credit: Davel5957/iStock

The name Milwaukee means beautiful or pleasant land in the Algonquian languages and visitors to the area are sure to be delighted by what they find. The state’s most populous city has undergone an urban revitalization in recent years, creating the perfect combination of celebrating the past and embracing the future. From traditional German restaurants and historic hotels, to hip cafes and microbreweries, Milwaukee has a little something for everyone.

Here are some suggestions for what to do and where to go next time you’re in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Grab lunch at the Milwaukee Public Market

If your stomach starts to rumble but you aren’t sure what you’re in the mood for, stop by the Milwaukee Public Market in the Historic Third Ward and let your senses lead the way. The market’s 19 different vendors offer a wide range of freshly-made artisan dishes including many inspired by Mexican, Thai, Middle Eastern, and Benelux cuisine. Grab what you’d like from the first floor and take it up to the second-floor dining area to enjoy your meal in this lively space.

Experience fresh, local produce at the Milwaukee Public Market. Image credit: Milwaukee Public Market
Experience fresh, local produce at the Milwaukee Public Market. Image credit: Milwaukee Public Market

Discover a new favorite place to work

If you have to get some work done while you’re in Milwaukee, don’t despair. The city is sprinkled with a number of great spots to work. Ward4 is a cozy coworking space in downtown Milwaukee where you’ll be able to book a desk for a day. For something a little more relaxed, check out Colective Coffee on the lakefront. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, the building the cafe is located in was built in 1888 and features high-vaulted ceilings, creating an open workspace with lots of light. If the weather is nice, the outdoor terrace is a great place to unwind after a hard day’s work.

Sip a pint in Brew City

In the 1800s, immigrants from Germany flocked to Wisconsin by the thousands and by the 1850s, one-third of Milwaukee’s population was German. These settlers brought with them many traditions from their homeland, including German-style beer brewing. As a result, Wisconsin developed a rich beer heritage. Founded in 1855 by a German immigrant, Milwaukee is home to one of the biggest breweries in the country, Miller Brewing Company. Join one of the regular tours taking place each day to learn more about the beer that has been brewed here for more than 160 years and enjoy a tasting.

While better known for its beer, Milwaukee also has a thriving distillery history that dates back to before the U.S. Civil War. For those who would prefer to taste and learn about the city’s hand-crafted spirits, a tour at Great Lakes Distillery is a must. The tour comes complete with a tasting flight and you can treat yourself to a cocktail after in the distillery tasting room.

Ward4Coworking has many light-filled rooms to work from. Image creditÖ Ward4Coworking
Ward4Coworking has many light-filled rooms to work from. Image credit: Ward4Coworking

Try the cheese Wisconsin is famous for

Known as “America’s Dairyland”, Wisconsin makes more cheese than any other state in the country and produces more than three billion pounds of it annually. There’s no better place to sample Wisconsin’s famous cheese than Clock Shadow Creamery, Milwaukee’s first cheese factory. Guests will have the opportunity to taste the freshly made cheese produced there daily and learn more about the process of cheesemaking by taking the factory tour. This is the place to visit if you’re dying to know why Wisconsin cheese curds squeak.

Visit the home of Harley-Davidson

Iconic American motorcycle company Harley-Davidson was founded in Milwaukee in 1903, and the Harley-Davidson Museum has since become one of the city’s top attractions. Guests will have the chance to get up close and personal with bikes from the company’s early years, interact with the latest models, and get an in-depth look at Harley-Davidson’s history. The museum is open every day of the year so you won’t have to worry about missing out if your trip coincides with a holiday.

Enjoy traditional German fare at Milwaukee’s oldest restaurant

Milwaukee was one of the most popular destinations for German immigrants in the mid to late 1800s and it’s estimated that 40 percent of Wisconsin’s population has German ancestry. As a result, a German influence can still be felt throughout the city today.

Mader’s German restaurant on Old Third World Street holds the title of the oldest restaurant in the city. Established in 1902, it has been serving traditional German cuisine for nearly 120 years and served the first legal stein of beer in the city marking the end of Prohibition. Whether for dinner or brunch, stop by for some of the best food in Milwaukee.

Have a drink at a haunted speakeasy

Milwaukee’s only licensed cigar bar, Shakers offers a truly unique nightlife experience. If walls could talk, this place would have sinister tales to tell. The bar offers nightly ghost tours that dive into the darker side of the city’s past. Featured on Netflix’s “Dark Tourist”, Shaker’s Cream City Cannibal Tour visits sites frequented by infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

Once owned by legendary mobster Al Capone, this 1920s speakeasy serves hand-rolled cigars and vintage spirits, including some of the best whiskey in town. Whether you believe in paranormal activity or not, Shaker’s is a must experience piece of Milwaukee’s history. Don’t forget to book a reliable Blacklane car service in Milwaukee to make sure you get back to your accommodation safely at the end of the night.

A stay surrounded by history

The Pfister Hotel lobby interior. Image credit: The Pfister Hotel
The Pfister Hotel lobby interior. Image credit: The Pfister Hotel

The Pfister Hotel is also steeped in history, dating back to 1893. Art lovers will be delighted to learn that it has the biggest Victorian-era art collection of any hotel in the world. If you’re looking for somewhere with a bit more modern touch, The Iron Horse Hotel provides luxury accommodation inside a hundred-year-old refurbished warehouse.

While Hyatt hotels are dotted throughout the world, Milwaukee’s Hyatt Regency is a historically significant site. Guests might be completely unaware of what occurred in 1912 at this elegant business hotel if they miss the plaque just inside the 3rd Street entrance. This was the site of an assassination attempt on former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt miraculously survived the shooting and gave his intended speech later that evening with the bullet still in his chest.


Victoria Borisch

Victoria Borisch is originally from Oshkosh, Wisconsin and loves writing about her home state. She has contributed to publications such as Fodor's, Huffington Post, Culture Trip, and Time Out.