Galena (Illinois)

Stores and restaurants on Main St.

Galena is a city in the Illinois Driftless Area 16 miles east of Dubuque, Iowa and 163 miles west from Chicago. It is known as "The City that Time Forgot" for its rich 19th century heritage. Named after the local lead deposits, the city was founded in 1826 and was a major port on the Mississippi River. Its fortunes changed in the 20th century as demand for lead dropped, but in the 1980s, the city reinvented itself as a tourist destination. Today, 3,600 residents form a community that is rich in history, claiming the home of the 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. More than a thousand buildings in Galena are listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the U. S. Department of the Interior. Many of the elegantly restored homes are now bed & breakfasts or open to the public for tours. Galena has become the third largest tourist attraction in Illinois next to Chicago and Springfield


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°F) 27 30 45 59 72 81 84 82 73 63 45 28
Nightly lows (°F) 9 14 25 36 46 57 63 61 52 39 27 16
Precipitation (in) 1.1 1.3 2.3 3.3 3.7 4.6 3.3 4.4 3.6 2.5 2.6 1.6

The name Galena comes from the word for lead sulfide, and indeed the very reason for the town's early growth was the abundant lead found in the area, mined since the times of the Native Americans. Galena grew to be the most important river port north of St. Louis (despite only being on a small tributary of the Mississippi) and in its heyday rivaled Chicago in size and importance. During the Age of Railroads, however, the town passed up a Chicago-Dubuque rail line in order to "keep the sanctity of the port", a decision that began Galena's decline. Floods and The Great Depression took their tolls as well, but soon enough people began to move back and restore the beautiful 19th century heritage. Now Galena has reinvented itself as a tourist destination, taking in its commercial and presidential history, beautiful setting among the hilly driftless region, and ample opportunity for outdoor recreation, becoming a popular weekend destination for Illinoisans, Iowans, and Wisconsinites.

Get in

By car

The vast majority of visitors to Galena arrive by car. Galena is intersected on the west end by US-20 (between East Dubuque and Chicago), which runs concurrently with IL-84. IL-84 branches off north of Galena to become WI-80 to Platteville. From Chicago, take I-90 west to Rockford and follow US-20. From the south (such as Springfield or the Quad Cities), take IL-84 north along the Great River Road until it intersects US-20 north of Hanover. There is ample free parking throughout the city.

By plane

There are no major airports near Galena. Dubuque Regional Airport (IATA: DBQ) is a small airport 23 miles away in Iowa, servicing American Airlines flights from O'Hare International Airport in Chicago and charter services. You will need to rent a car or take a taxi to reach Galena.

Despite the city's prominence as a northern Illinois tourist destination, there are no interurban bus or train services.

Get around

Map of Galena and environs

Galena is only two miles long, so the most convenient way to travel is to park and walk through town. However, be advised that there is a fairly steep bluff between Bench and Prospect streets, which may make northwest foot travel from downtown difficult. Most parking is free, although parking spaces in the downtown area (Bench, Main, and Commerce streets) fill up quickly. There is also a large pay lot on the south bank of the Galena river west of Grant Park. A few companies offer trolley services that stop at significant places in town, which can also be chartered.


A Bridge over the Galena River


Ulysses S. Grant's Home

Summer activities include an Alpine Slide, disc golf, mountain bike rentals, and Mississippi River cruises



The region boasts a selection of intimate bistros, world-class steak and chophouses, eclectic cafés and traditional diners as well as specialties including Chicago-style pizza, fresh seafood and authentic ethnic cuisine, from Mexican and Italian to Greek.


The rolling hills of northwestern Illinois

Stop in for a tasting and a tour at one of Jo Daviess County’s award-winning wineries or stay a while with a bottle of your favorite and some cheese and crackers.


Galena and Jo Daviess County’s unprecedented variety of quality lodging choices offer all the modern amenities expected by today’s traveler. Cozy, comfortable B&Bs; crisp, contemporary vacation rental homes; historic hotels, motels and nationally recognized resorts are all located in Illinois’ northwest corner.

Bed and Breakfasts

Go next

Routes through Galena

Dubuque Jct N  W  E  Stockton Rockford

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, February 21, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.