If You Love History, This Underrated State Capital Is A Must-Visit

Montana is a state with a fascinating history and those who want to discover more about it should head to the capital city of Helena. There is no shortage of history in this must-visit city as it was developed during the Montana Gold Rush after prospectors struck gold here. In four years, $19 million worth of gold was pulled out of the ground, making it one of the most fruitful mines in the state.

It was called Last Chance Gulch after the discovery site but was later renamed Helena and made the territorial capital in 1875. This was due to its economic and political significance in the area which is still true today. Within Lewis and Clark County, Helena has the largest number of properties on the National Register of Historic Places due to how many of its buildings have been preserved. Even a short walk around Helena's downtown will reveal some of this city's age-old secrets.

What to do in Helena

The best way to learn about the history of Helena is to go on a self-guided walking tour and take in all the sights. Start at the bottom of Mount Helena, where you can find Reeder's Alley which is still standing from the 1870s, making it the oldest part of the city. The alley was built by a stonemason and it is an opportunity to travel back in time and better understand the lives of those who settled here. It can also be combined with a hike up Mount Helena, for sweeping views of the city.

Close to Reeder's Alley is the mansion district, where you can view old mansions built during the Gold Rush. Then you can visit the Original Governor's Mansion to learn about the history of the city's people on a guided tour. A short walk away is the Holter Museum of Art, where visitors can take in contemporary art exhibitions. The skyline-dominating Cathedral of Saint Helena is close to the museum and can be visited at the same time. To see where decisions get made, end your tour with the Montana State Capitol building which is a few blocks away. Unsurprisingly, Helena has a thriving historical society that looks after its heritage and welcomes visitors with the same interests.

Where to stay in Helena

Stay in Helena overnight to really get under the skin of this lovely city as well as learn more about the state of Montana. If you really love history, you can stay in an old mansion, like Pope House which was built in 1886. This pink-colored house has a real personality from the era and tourists agree as one of its apartments has a 9.6 rating on Booking.com. It is also located within the historical downtown district.

More modern lodgings are also available and the Best Western Premier Helena Great Northern Hotel is rated as number one, according to its Tripadvisor reviews. Its visitors loved it for its excellent location, mountain views and tasty breakfast buffet. The second most popular is the Comfort Suites Helena Airport which has great facilities including a hot tub, pool and gym as well as clean rooms. At the end of a day of discovering Helena's history, there is nothing better than sleeping in this laidback city surrounded by incredible landscape views which have their own story to tell.