Watch CBS News

A Walking Tour Of Detroit's Downtown

They say that you can measure any good metropolitan area by the quality of the locale's major downtown scene. For the tri-county area of Macomb, Wayne and Oakland, and for much more of Southeast Michigan, that would be the city of Detroit. One of the oldest cities in the Midwest, founded back in 1703, Detroit was the bustling urban core of the country's midsection throughout much of the early and mid-20th century and during that time, it built up an incredibly diverse and historic downtown. The unique thing about Detroit's downtown is that unlike other modern downtown areas of the present, such as Chicago and New York, Detroit is still mainly comprised of the stunning early 20th century architecture that it showcased in the pictures of old times. While other cities were tearing down their old, historic buildings and starting over, Detroit was unable to do so due to hard times and now boasts a renovated and completely unique historic downtown with classic architecture that no longer exists anywhere else in the country.
The Guardian Building in downtown Detroit (Credit, Michael Ferro)

Guardian Building 
500 Griswold St.
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 963-4567

Perhaps one of the most iconic and legendary of the older buildings in Detroit's downtown, the Guardian Building is known around the world as the "Cathedral of Finance," due to its Gothic exterior appearance and interior. Inside, it actually feels like you're walking through an historic European Catholic church. The great company, Pure Detroit, which has a store location in the Guardian Building, gives free tours every weekend of this lavish and wonderful skyscraper, so anyone interested should be sure to stop in.

Fisher Building 
3011 W Grand Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48202
(313) 963-1440

Located on the furthest end of the outskirts of downtown Detroit, known as New Center, the Fisher Building has stood near the campus of Wayne State University for nearly 100 years. Completed back in 1928 by the legendary "Built by Fisher" Fisher Brothers architecture firm, this classic skyscraper isn't just tall, but is an overall massive building to behold. It has been called by some "one of the finest examples of Art Deco in the country." Pure Detroit also has a retail location here and offers free tours of this building on the weekends, as well. The guides are knowledgeable, friendly and the experience is like none other.

The Renaissance Center buildings in downtown Detroit (Credit, Michael Ferro)

GM Renaissance Center
100 Renaissance Center
Detroit, MI 48243
(313) 567-2622

One of the crown jewels of the Detroit skyline and the most instantly recognizable building along the river, the GM Renaissance Center isn't just home General Motors, but its center spire is also the tallest all-hotel building in the entire country. Located on the opposite end of Jefferson Avenue, the "Ren Cen," as it has become affectionately known, was completed in 1977 after four years of construction. Over the course of the recent economic downturn, even General Motors thought they might have to abandon the building for greener pastures in the outlying suburbs; luckily, GM and many other companies in the Ren Cen endured and the downtown area is all the more vibrant for it. Inside, there are shops, car showrooms, as well as dozens of restaurants, including the famed Coach Insignia, named one of the best restaurants in the city for its splendid rooftop views from the top floors.

Related:  A Day In Detroit's Popular Corktown Neighborhood

Campus Martius 
800 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 962-0101

When taking a walking tour around downtown Detroit, Campus Martius park might actually be one of the coolest things to stop and see no matter what time of year it is. In the spring and summer, sections of the park are filled with sand, beach chairs and volleyball nets so that downtown office workers can get a much-needed and very unique beach oasis break in the middle of a long workday. In the winter, this park has an incredible ice rink and Christmas tree display that rivals that of any other downtown, including Rockefeller Center in New York City. Even when there's not a special event going on, Campus Martius park is just a fun place to walk through and take in the urban environment.

The Detroit People Mover
535 Griswold St #400
Detroit, MI 48226
(313) 224-2160

In the midst of all that walking downtown, you're going to need to rest your feet for a bit. There's no better option to do so than with the Detroit People Mover elevated train system. Think of the Chicago "L" System, but only going in one direction. The People Mover may not have always been a raging success over the years, but with the city becoming an influx with younger residents who are more environmentally conscious and with a more "green mindset" coming into prominence, and folks moving away from automobiles to travel downtown, the People Mover is growing more and more popular every day. There's unique art in each of the People Mover's 13 stations throughout downtown, and with plans to connect it to the now-under-construction M1 light rail system in 2016, the Detroit People Mover will be more utilized each and every day.

Related: A Breakdown Of Detroit Neighborhoods

Michael Ferro is freelance writer and a graduate of Michigan State University where he majored in Creative Writing and received the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award. Born and bred in Detroit, he currently resides in Ypsilanti Township. Additional writing can be found at
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.