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There are plenty of places to look near Providence for art and architecture. The main campus of Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) offer unique and interesting buildings and designs. However, Providence itself is not known as a city that is on the cutting edge of art and construction. There have been many attempts as of late to improve the city and the overall image. The downtown area has recently been redone and newer buildings have been put in in an attempt to revitalize the city. Still, Providence's main landmark that most people can recognize while driving through is the large Westin Hotel, which caters to rather wealthy patrons. Nonetheless, there are buildings throughout the city which are well known. One such is the Dunkin Donuts Center, the home of the Providence Bruins. Also, the relatively new Providence Place Mall gives a modern edge to a city with ties to colonial America. Still, there are narrow, one-way streets near downtown which give a classic feel to a modern city. Another notable mention is the Biltmore Hotel on the corner of Washington St and Dorrance St shows an example of mid-twentieth century architecture, which starts a trend of old brownstones in the area.
One has to visit the Arcade, a beautiful building, a shopping arcade built in the 1800's. It is chock full of eateries with great prices. One place to visit is either at the beginning of the Arcade or the end depending on which entrance you come in at. It is a little cafe serving sandwhiches and the cheapest and best coffee in town ($1.00). The tour de force of this eatery is its cakes, lots of them, and in mini sizes so you can experiment and not feel guilty about the calories. They make many of the desserts right there so you can watch expert pastry chefs designing elaborate icings on three layer cakes as you sip your coffee. There is a special feeling about this coffee shop, something different about the servers and the bakers performing pastry miracles before your eyes; this difference is that this cafe is run entirely by students from the well known Johnson's and Wales Culinary College. This cafe is a real hands-on class and the students running it all deserve A's! Well worth a visit!!
Another great part of town to stroll through and where you will find all sorts of nice cafes and beaurtiful architecture is on South Main St. Coming from the Arcade downtown area you walk towards college hill, crossing the river and taking a left on to South Main. You will find yourself face to face with the most incredible building; the Court House. The regal architecture makes it one of the most impressive government building I've seen in the US. Further down you come golden domed building from the 1800's, originally a bank, also very beautiful. Colonial and post colonial architecture in pristine condition line this street, now housing upscale law firms. Continue walking and you will see many beautiful 19th Century building now home to numerous boutiques.
At 257 South Main is Anne and Henri 's Cafe. This charming coffee shop has a view on the river.