Dubuque, founded in 1833, is the oldest city in Iowa. A port on the upper Mississippi River, it is situated along scenic bluffs facing the river, and has its roots in a mining and trading settlement established in the area by Quebec-born entrepreneur Julien Dubuque in 1788. The city's population is 57,686 (2000 Census), and the current estimated population of the Dubuque metropolitan area is 93,072.


Dubuque grew rapidly during the 19th century, due to its lead-mining, lumber-milling, brewing, metal-working, and river-trade-related industries. It was Iowa's largest city for most of the 1800s, and as a result contains many historically significant structures, many of which have been carefully maintained or restored.

Much of the city's character was established by heavy German and Irish immigration from the 1840s to the 1890s, with the Germans tending to settle in the "North End" and the Irish in the "South End." Large Catholic parishes associated with each group were established, and large, impressive 19th-century church buildings remain to this day. The large Catholic presence caused Dubuque to be elevated to the status of a Catholic archdiocese in 1893, and it is still the smallest US city to hold this distinction.

Noteworthy church buildings include St. Raphael Cathedral, St. Mary (with its jewel-like Bavarian stained-glass windows), Sacred Heart, Holy Trinity, Holy Ghost, St. Columbkille, and the Basilica of St. Francis in nearby Dyersville. St. Luke's Methodist Church contains a significant collection of Tiffany-designed stained-glass windows in a striking Romanesque Revival structure.

Dubuque, as a small industrial center, saw its economy falter in the 1980s as industries downsized or relocated. The city has made a concerted effort to attract tourists, with the establishment of historic districts, museums, a greyhound racing park, a casino, a riverside hotel and conference center, and a new (2003) Smithsonian-affiliated museum devoted to the history and biology of the Mississippi River. Recently, IBM named Dubuque one of its "Smarter Cities", and is currently in the process of moving 1,500 jobs into the restored Roshek building downtown.

Get in

By plane

Dubuque is served by the Dubuque Regional Airport (IATA: DBQ) , located 7 mi (11 km) south of downtown. Air service is provided by American Eagle, connecting to and from Chicago O'Hare. American Eagle has 3 flights per day to and from the city. To get downtown, just stay on U.S. Hwy 61 all the way in (a 15 min trip). There are 2 car rental agencies (Avis and National) with offices in the airport terminal.

By car

Dubuque is connected to most of the surrounding cities by 4-lane highways.

By bus

Dubuque is 183 mi (295 km) west of Chicago via I-90 and US 20, 90 mi (145 km) southwest of Madison, Wisconsin, via US 151, 70 mi (113 km) north of the Quad Cities via US 61, and 189 mi (304 km) northeast of Des Moines via US 65, US 30, and US 151.

By train

Currently, there is no passenger rail service to Dubuque. However, the proposed Chicago-Rockford-Dubuque passenger line recently received funding to proceed with plans from the Illinois state government. With upgrades to the existing line, a high-speed rail connection may exist within the next several years.

Get around

Once in Dubuque, most people travel by car as public transport is limited. There are a handful of major car rental offices in the city.

By bus

The City of Dubuque also operates a public bus system called The Jule (formally known as KeyLine Transit). The Jule operates 16 bus routes and a trolley route (in the summer) downtown. The buses generally operate in a east-west orientation, with major transfer stations downtown (W 9th and Main Sts.), midtown (N Grandview and University Aves.), and on the west side (Kennedy Cir./John F. Kennedy Rd.). Most buses operate on 45 min-1-hour long loops.

Bus fares are between 50¢-$1. Discount tickets are available for students, elderly, and the handicapped, available at +1 563 589-4196 or KeyLine office at 2401 Central Ave.

By taxi

Note: When driving around downtown Dubuque, be on the lookout for one-way streets because they are somewhat poorly marked. Also, take caution as many turn lanes become confusing with lanes simply ending or becoming turn lanes without advance warning.


If you build it, they will come.




Events & Festivals


There are thousands of students who attend colleges in Dubuque. The largest are the city's 3 liberal arts colleges: Clarke College, Loras College, and the University of Dubuque. Collectively, the schools are known as the "Tri Colleges" and enjoy a friendly rivalry with one another. Other students attend the various religious institutions in the city, or Northeast Iowa Community College, which has a satellite location downtown.







B & B's

Stay safe

Dubuque is a very safe city with a below-average crime rate. By and large, all areas of the city can be enjoyed day or night without fear of robbery or attack. Visitors are very common to the area, with the high number of tourist attractions and the presence of multiple colleges, and attacks on tourists are rare. The main tourist destinations and hotel locations are well-traveled and safe. However, as with any city of a certain size, there are some pockets of crime.

Stay healthy

Dubuque is home to two major hospitals, and is the region's center for health care. Mercy Medical Center (250 Mercy Dr; +1 563 589-8000) is a 263 bed hospital just west of downtown that was named one of the nation's Top 100 hospitals by Thomson Reuters last year. It also has received Magnet hospital designation by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. It handles 55,000 patient visits annually. Finley Hospital (350 N. Grandview Ave; +1 563 582-1881) has also been named one of America's Top 100 hospitals, and is the Tri-State's leader in cancer care.

Go next

Trips along the Great River Road afford an appreciation of the upper Mississippi River valley's natural splendor, as you travel through dairy and corn country, down into tree-lined valleys, along limestone bluffs, all the while getting glimpses of the majestic river itself. This is not prairie Iowa - there's a great deal of scenic variety and interest. The drive north of Dubuque to McGregor, via Sherrill, Balltown, and North Buena Vista, and the drive south through St. Catherine's, St. Donatus, Bellevue, and Sabula, are especially commendable.

Heading 19 mi (24 km) east on US Hwy 20 to Illinois takes the traveler to Galena, the "town that time forgot" and worth at least a day to soak up the atmosphere of a small town that attracts thousands of visitors each year. The historic former lead-mining and commercial center features numerous antique shops and restaurants, and the Ulysses S. Grant Home.

Routes through Dubuque

Waterloo Independence  W  E  Jct N Galena Rockford
Rochester Decorah  NW  SE  Dixon Joliet
La Crosse Soldiers Grove  N  S  DeWitt Davenport
Cedar Rapids Anamosa  SW  NE  Dodgeville Madison

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