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An aerial view of downtown Detroit. There are multiple city buildings and skyscrapers.
Downtown Detroit from above
Michelle & Chris Gerard

Downtown Detroit's essential architecture: A walking tour

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Downtown Detroit from above
| Michelle & Chris Gerard

Lace up your walking shoes or hop aboard the People Mover: it’s time to take a tour of the best architecture in downtown Detroit.

Downtown you’ll find a variety of building styles—Beaux Arts, Art Deco, midcentury modern, postmodern—designed by a number of seminal architects like Albert Kahn, Minoru Yamasaki, C. Howard Crane, and more.

We didn't include all of our favorites, just the most recognizable. The Penobscot stands tall in the skyline, as does the Ren Cen and One Detroit (or Ally Detroit). While others, like the Guardian Building and the David Whitney, have some of the most beautiful lobbies in the city.

If you find yourself in Capitol Park or Harmonie Park, we have separate maps for those areas, which are both seeing a surge in renovations.

Time to head out and explore the city!

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1. Hart Plaza

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1 Hart Plaza
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 877-8057
Visit Website

No tour of downtown Detroit is complete without a walk along the surreal, unique, and controversial Hart Plaza. A site for numerous public events, the largely concrete space that contains several futuristic sculptures can also lead you to the riverfront.

A large stainless steel fountain that’s a ring supported by two legs. Below there’s a black granite pool on a concrete surface. A row of skyscrapers is behind the fountain. Photo by Michelle Gerard

2. One Woodward Avenue

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1 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48226

Designed by Minoru Yamasaki and opened in 1963 as the Michigan Consolidated Gas Company, One Woodward stands 32 stories high right across from Hart Plaza and houses offices (most recently home to Fifth Third Bank). Also look for the ballerina sculpture out front.

3. Guardian Building

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500 Griswold St
Detroit, MI 48226

Detroit's Cathedral of Finance. Opened in 1929, the Art Deco masterpiece got contributions from a number of major architects: Smith, Hinchman & Grylls was the lead architect with additional designs by Wirt C. Rowland and Donaldson & Meier. The Guardian is blessed with one of the most incredible lobbies in the world. Pure Detroit leads tours on the weekends, and it's worth stopping in any day to take in the multicolor Aztec designs.

4. Penobscot Building

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645 Griswold St
Detroit, MI 48226

Smith, Hinchman & Grylls and Wirt C. Rowl also designed the 47-story Penobscot Building, opened in 1928. Another Art Deco gem in the city, the building was the tallest in Michigan until the Renaissance Center. It's home to offices now, and we're hoping that red orb shines again soon.

The exterior of the Penobscot Building in Detroit. The facade is white with a red beacon on top. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

5. David Stott Building

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1150 Griswold St
Detroit, MI 48226

The 38-story Art Deco building, designed by Donaldson & Meier and opened in 1929, features sculptures by Corrado Parducci. It was vacant for a few years due to burst pipes and flooding. Dan Gilbert and Bedrock bought the building, and redeveloped it into 107 luxury apartments.

Tall, brick Art Deco skyscraper with a square base that narrows as it gets taller. A row of smaller buildings and a plaza is in the foreground. Photo by Michelle Gerard

6. The Westin Book Cadillac Detroit

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1114 Washington Blvd
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 442-1600
Visit Website

Designed by Louis Kamper and completed in 1924, the Book Cadillac was abandoned in the 1980s and then underwent a $200 million renovation in 2008. It's now one of the classiest hotels in town, with condos in the upper floors that are going for more than $1 million.

7. Book Tower

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1260 Washington Blvd
Detroit, MI 48226

The Italian Renaissance masterpiece designed by Louis Kamper saw its 13-story building open in 1917 and its 36-story tower open in 1926. Vacant since 2009, it was bought by Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock in 2015 and has since been undergoing renovations. It announced ODA as the architecture lead for the redevelopment and released some preliminary design plans. It’s expected to cost $313 million and be finished in 2022.

8. The David Whitney

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1 Park Ave
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 237-1700
Visit Website

Built in 1915 and designed by Graham, Burnham & Company, the David Whitney Building has one of the most spectacular lobbies in the city. It underwent a $92 million renovation that finished in 2014, restoring many of the original details.

9. Fox Theatre

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2211 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48201
(313) 471-3200
Visit Website

The Fox Theatre, designed by C. Howard Crane and opening in 1928, contains an eclectic and ornate mix of decorations in Egyptian, Far Eastern and Indian styles. The over-5,000-seat theatre built for the Fox Films chain became a National Historic Landmark in 1989.

The Ilitch family bought the building in 1987 and soon after completed a $12 million restoration, built a new marquee, and in 2006, added the multi-story and now iconic “FOX” tower with LED lights.

Shutterstock

10. Metropolitan Building

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33 John R Street
Detroit, MI 48226

Many thought the beautiful Metropolitan Building and its neighboring Wurlitzer Building would face demolition at some point. Now, both of these buildings have been renovated into hotels. A great way to visit would be on the Element Hotel’s rooftop bar.

Photo by Michelle Gerard

11. Old Wayne County Building

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600 Randolph St
Detroit, MI 48226

An ornate work of Beaux Arts architecture, the 44,625-square-foot, 18-court room Wayne County Building was finished in 1902. Though the county left in 2010, the building is still in good shape, unlike others on this list. Parts of the building have been restored over the years, most recently in 2018. 

A Renaissance Revival stone courthouse with columns at the front entrance and copper statues on the roof. Photo by Michelle Gerard

12. One Campus Martius

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1 Campus Martius
Detroit, MI 48226

The Compuware Building, or One Campus Martius, is owned by Bedrock and home to offices for Compuware, Quicken Loans, and more. Opened in 2003, the airy atrium has a huge water feature and bamboo.

13. First National Building

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660 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48226

This Albert Kahn–designed office building (built in 1922) has an updated lobby, with the Roasting Plant and Central Kitchen + Bar on the ground level. The building itself wraps around the block in a unique, irregular shape.

14. One Detroit Center

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500 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48226

This striking building, designed by renowned architects John Burgee and Philip Johnson, is undoubtedly Detroit’s greatest example of postmodernism. Opened in 1993, the building’s most notable features are its four Neo-gothic spires pointing to the sky. At 43 stories, it’s also one of the tallest buildings in the state.

Photo by Michelle Gerard

15. GM Renaissance Center

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Towers 100-600 Renaissance Center
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 567-3126
Visit Website

Designed by architect John Portman, the first phase of Detroit’s tallest building opened in 1977. It's still separated from the rest of downtown, but likely the most recognizable structure in Detroit. Get lost (literally) in its winding corridors and then finish your walking tour along the Riverwalk.

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1. Hart Plaza

1 Hart Plaza, Detroit, MI 48226
A large stainless steel fountain that’s a ring supported by two legs. Below there’s a black granite pool on a concrete surface. A row of skyscrapers is behind the fountain. Photo by Michelle Gerard

No tour of downtown Detroit is complete without a walk along the surreal, unique, and controversial Hart Plaza. A site for numerous public events, the largely concrete space that contains several futuristic sculptures can also lead you to the riverfront.

1 Hart Plaza
Detroit, MI 48226

2. One Woodward Avenue

1 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

Designed by Minoru Yamasaki and opened in 1963 as the Michigan Consolidated Gas Company, One Woodward stands 32 stories high right across from Hart Plaza and houses offices (most recently home to Fifth Third Bank). Also look for the ballerina sculpture out front.

1 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48226

3. Guardian Building

500 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226

Detroit's Cathedral of Finance. Opened in 1929, the Art Deco masterpiece got contributions from a number of major architects: Smith, Hinchman & Grylls was the lead architect with additional designs by Wirt C. Rowland and Donaldson & Meier. The Guardian is blessed with one of the most incredible lobbies in the world. Pure Detroit leads tours on the weekends, and it's worth stopping in any day to take in the multicolor Aztec designs.

500 Griswold St
Detroit, MI 48226

4. Penobscot Building

645 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226
The exterior of the Penobscot Building in Detroit. The facade is white with a red beacon on top. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

Smith, Hinchman & Grylls and Wirt C. Rowl also designed the 47-story Penobscot Building, opened in 1928. Another Art Deco gem in the city, the building was the tallest in Michigan until the Renaissance Center. It's home to offices now, and we're hoping that red orb shines again soon.

645 Griswold St
Detroit, MI 48226

5. David Stott Building

1150 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226
Tall, brick Art Deco skyscraper with a square base that narrows as it gets taller. A row of smaller buildings and a plaza is in the foreground. Photo by Michelle Gerard

The 38-story Art Deco building, designed by Donaldson & Meier and opened in 1929, features sculptures by Corrado Parducci. It was vacant for a few years due to burst pipes and flooding. Dan Gilbert and Bedrock bought the building, and redeveloped it into 107 luxury apartments.

1150 Griswold St
Detroit, MI 48226

6. The Westin Book Cadillac Detroit

1114 Washington Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226

Designed by Louis Kamper and completed in 1924, the Book Cadillac was abandoned in the 1980s and then underwent a $200 million renovation in 2008. It's now one of the classiest hotels in town, with condos in the upper floors that are going for more than $1 million.

1114 Washington Blvd
Detroit, MI 48226

7. Book Tower

1260 Washington Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226

The Italian Renaissance masterpiece designed by Louis Kamper saw its 13-story building open in 1917 and its 36-story tower open in 1926. Vacant since 2009, it was bought by Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock in 2015 and has since been undergoing renovations. It announced ODA as the architecture lead for the redevelopment and released some preliminary design plans. It’s expected to cost $313 million and be finished in 2022.

1260 Washington Blvd
Detroit, MI 48226

8. The David Whitney

1 Park Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

Built in 1915 and designed by Graham, Burnham & Company, the David Whitney Building has one of the most spectacular lobbies in the city. It underwent a $92 million renovation that finished in 2014, restoring many of the original details.

1 Park Ave
Detroit, MI 48226

9. Fox Theatre

2211 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
Shutterstock

The Fox Theatre, designed by C. Howard Crane and opening in 1928, contains an eclectic and ornate mix of decorations in Egyptian, Far Eastern and Indian styles. The over-5,000-seat theatre built for the Fox Films chain became a National Historic Landmark in 1989.

The Ilitch family bought the building in 1987 and soon after completed a $12 million restoration, built a new marquee, and in 2006, added the multi-story and now iconic “FOX” tower with LED lights.

2211 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48201

10. Metropolitan Building

33 John R Street, Detroit, MI 48226
Photo by Michelle Gerard

Many thought the beautiful Metropolitan Building and its neighboring Wurlitzer Building would face demolition at some point. Now, both of these buildings have been renovated into hotels. A great way to visit would be on the Element Hotel’s rooftop bar.

33 John R Street
Detroit, MI 48226

11. Old Wayne County Building

600 Randolph St, Detroit, MI 48226
A Renaissance Revival stone courthouse with columns at the front entrance and copper statues on the roof. Photo by Michelle Gerard

An ornate work of Beaux Arts architecture, the 44,625-square-foot, 18-court room Wayne County Building was finished in 1902. Though the county left in 2010, the building is still in good shape, unlike others on this list. Parts of the building have been restored over the years, most recently in 2018. 

600 Randolph St
Detroit, MI 48226

12. One Campus Martius

1 Campus Martius, Detroit, MI 48226

The Compuware Building, or One Campus Martius, is owned by Bedrock and home to offices for Compuware, Quicken Loans, and more. Opened in 2003, the airy atrium has a huge water feature and bamboo.

1 Campus Martius
Detroit, MI 48226

13. First National Building

660 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

This Albert Kahn–designed office building (built in 1922) has an updated lobby, with the Roasting Plant and Central Kitchen + Bar on the ground level. The building itself wraps around the block in a unique, irregular shape.

660 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48226

14. One Detroit Center

500 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226
Photo by Michelle Gerard

This striking building, designed by renowned architects John Burgee and Philip Johnson, is undoubtedly Detroit’s greatest example of postmodernism. Opened in 1993, the building’s most notable features are its four Neo-gothic spires pointing to the sky. At 43 stories, it’s also one of the tallest buildings in the state.

500 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48226

15. GM Renaissance Center

Towers 100-600 Renaissance Center, Detroit, MI 48226

Designed by architect John Portman, the first phase of Detroit’s tallest building opened in 1977. It's still separated from the rest of downtown, but likely the most recognizable structure in Detroit. Get lost (literally) in its winding corridors and then finish your walking tour along the Riverwalk.

Towers 100-600 Renaissance Center
Detroit, MI 48226