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The Best of the Best in Galena

The Top Historic Attractions in Galena!

Civil War enthusiasts and history lovers alike, this is your year to discover the delightful history of Galena! This spring, Galena will once again host the annual Civil War Reenactment during the US Grant Pilgrimage Weekend, an exciting time to learn more about the town’s Civil War history and spend some time visiting and learning about all the historic attractions in Galena, including the Civil War era Belvedere Mansion and Gardens.

Of course, the Belvedere Mansion is just one of Galena’s many historic homes and attractions. There’s also the famed Ulysses S. Grant Home and the Dowling House, not to mention the well-preserved 19th-century architecture that lines the streets of downtown Galena. We recommend taking a Galena Trolley Tour for a quick but brief overview of some of these historic attractions. When the sun goes down, you may also want to consider visiting another – darker – side to Galena’s history on one of the town’s Ghost Tours

Given that history has brought you here, why not add to your experience and stay at a Galena Bed and Breakfast with its fascinating local history? As our name suggests, our Galena Bed and Breakfast is in the county’s historic Jail. We bought it in 2015 and meticulously restored it to its present glory, leaving several of its beautiful, historic features intact. This includes 9-foot tall windows, original arched ceilings and beams, and prisoner carvings in various window sills. Dig into the history of this fantastic place and book your room at our Galena, IL Bed and Breakfast today! 

The historic Belvedere Mansion in downtown Galena

Tour The Civil War Era Belvedere Mansion

Of the many historic buildings and homes in the Galena area, one of the most magnificent is the Belvedere Mansion and Gardens. This stunning Civil War-era home was built in 1857 in the Italianate Style and was the first home of its kind in the Galena area. 

The Belvedere Mansion was owned by Ambassador J. Russell Jones. He began his humble journey as a shopkeeper in downtown Galena, later becoming a US Marshall, a congressman, and an avid supporter of President Ulysses S. Grant. 

Inside the Belvedere Mansion, you’ll find 22 lavishly decorated rooms, providing an extraordinary glimpse into the life of some of Galena’s wealthiest former residents. The mansion also houses several collectibles, including the famous green velvet drapes from Gone With the Wind. 

The Belvedere Mansion is open for public tours from Memorial Day Weekend through October 31. No reservations are required to tour the mansion – all you need to do is head out there and ring the doorbell, just as one might do their closest friends! Guided tours start about every 15 minutes and take approximately 30 minutes.

Apart from touring inside the Belvedere Mansion, we also encourage you to visit their stunning gardens. The formal gardens are filled with vintage and heirloom plants, befitting the historic grandeur of the home, though they were completed many years after its initial construction. The gardens can be enjoyed at your leisure and without a ticket so long as the Belvedere Mansion is open.

US Grant Home, like the Belvedere Mansion, is a fantastic piece of Galena's preserved histroy

More Historic Attractions to See in Galena

The Belvedere Mansion and its gardens are worth the visit, but there’s much more to see and do here than that. In fact, there are several more fantastic historic attractions in Galena worth seeing. All you have to do is walk down Main Street, and you’ll be treated to an incredible array of 19th-century architecture, most of which has been preserved on the National Register of Historic Places – 85% of downtown Galena, in fact. 

Though today, Galena stands as the second most popular tourist destination in the state, behind only Chicago, it was once the lead mining capital of the world and a major commercial port on the Upper Mississippi River. At that time, the population of Galena was a booming 14,000. In comparison, today, it stands at just over 3,200! However, the robust economy of this little town on the river is what we owe for the magnificent history you’ll find around every bend. 

One of the best ways to enjoy Galena’s history is by taking a walking tour through downtown Galena. Alternatively, enjoy the hop-on/hop-off tour with the Galena Trolley Tour. And, of course, don’t miss these other historic attractions in downtown Galena.

  1. U. S. Grant Home: This one-time residence of Galena’s most famous resident, former president U.S. Grant, is one of the most popular historic homes to visit. Here, you’ll learn about the President’s humble beginnings through to the post-Civil War era when he was granted this home during his hero’s homecoming. The house was thoroughly restored in 1955 and still contains many original furnishings.
  2. If you plan to visit the Belvedere Mansion, add to your ticket a tour of The Dowling House. Like the Belvedere Mansion, this is one of Galena’s oldest homes. It was constructed around 1826-27 for John Dowling, a trader who quickly became the largest iron dealer on the Upper Mississippi. The house was built of Limestone and was, at one point, the only trading post in the city.

If you’re interested in learning more, we’d love to talk history with you throughout your stay at our Galena Bed and Breakfast. We have a treasure trove of historic photos and documents pertaining to our own piece of Galena’s history! Otherwise, book your room and get ready for a fantastic walk-through time. 

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