If one thing’s for certain, it’s that there is an abundance of beauty in the Queen City. From Buffalo’s rich architectural history to the elaborate murals that provide pops of color in the streets, you can find public art in some form just about everywhere you look. If you’ve never spent at least a little time marveling at Buffalo’s historic buildings or mural-hunting on the weekends, there’s no time like the present to start playing tourist in your own city- just don’t forget to look up!
And no, we don’t mean just picking your head up from your phone to look at something IRL instead of through the Instagram story you’re recording (but yeah, that too). We mean literally, look above you- or you might miss some of the most beautiful ceilings in Buffalo. They’re well worth the neck strain, we promise.
65 Niagara Square, Buffalo, NY 14202 / Website
As the second largest city hall in the country behind Philadelphia, Buffalo City Hall boasts some truly amazing architecture inside and out. Intricate details can be found everywhere, from the vintage elevator frames in the lobby to the thoughtful patterns in the floor tiles- but it’s the ceiling murals on the first floor that truly steal the show. Pre-pandemic, Preservation Buffalo Niagara offered free City Hall tours every weekday at noon, elaborating on the symbolism within these murals as some of City Hall’s history. (Click here to find out the current status of the tours.) This is a must-do for true Buffalonians and visitors alike.
2. Buffalo Common Council Chamber
1405 City Hall Buffalo, NY 14202 / Website
There’s something truly magical about the way that light dances off of a stained glass ceiling on a sunny day, and Buffalo’s Common Council Chamber only proves this. Located on the 13th floor of City Hall, the meeting place of Buffalo’s Common Council holds one of the most magnificent stained glass ceilings in Buffalo, featuring a massive display of the solar system.
Preservation Buffalo Niagara’s free City Hall tour also includes a peek inside the Common Council Chamber, so you can easily knock these first two off your list no problem. Click here to find out the current status of the tours.
650 Main St, Buffalo, NY 14202 / Website
Right in the heart of the Theatre District on Main Street is Shea’s Buffalo Theatre, a National Historic Site and one of the most successful Broadway tour stops in the country. Lavish architectural elements can be found throughout the building- especially on the massive dome ceilings in the auditorium, which were hand-painted by a small army of volunteers to help finish out the theatre’s restoration initiative back in 2014.
Get a closer look at all of the theatre’s gold-detailed beauty inside and explore a few areas not typically open to the public on one of Shea’s historic tours, which are held by appointment on non-show days.
4. Blessed Trinity Roman Catholic Church
317 Leroy Ave, Buffalo, NY 14214 / Website
Blessed Trinity Roman Catholic Church sits proudly on Leroy Avenue in Buffalo with a rich history and, of course, breathtaking architecture. Originally built in 1928, the church is an architectural landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, boasting an elaborate, ornate interior that truly sets it apart from other churches in Western New York. Over 20,000 stained glass pieces with 300 different shades of color make up the church’s main skylight alone, with thousands of other intricate details and symbols lining the rest of the church’s ceiling and walls.
Individual or group tours of Blessed Trinity Church run by appointment, and can be set up using the contact form on the church’s website.
5. Our Lady of Victory National Shrine & Basilica
767 Ridge Rd, Buffalo, NY 14218 / Website
Our Lady of Victory National Shrine & Basilica sits beautifully in Lackawanna. This gorgeous church was built with the help of Father Baker after the original structure had been ruined in a fire. Created to mirror the churches of Europe, the Basilica is intricately decorated with oil paintings. From the arches of the walls up to the detailed carvings in the ceiling, the momentum of work put into this structure is truly remarkable. Inside the church you will also find a gift shop and the opportunity to take tours of the holy building on Sundays. If of course you cannot make a tour, the church is open to visitors to explore the massive space. For more information, check out the Basilica’s website.
6. M & T Center’s Gold Dome Branch
545 Main Street, (1 Fountain Plaza), Buffalo, NY, United States / Website
Not only is the Gold Dome exterior something to stare at and a focal point of Main Street, the inside of the dome is just as striking. According to buffaloah.com, the murals that can be seen on the ceilings of the dome today were completed in 1926 and include a quote from ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius, reading, “Virtue is the root, and wealth is the flower.” Additional murals depict the twelve zodiac signs and the passage of time. “The golden age of Buffalo is represented with four panels: Commerce, Industry, the Arts, and Power; displaying images of the Buffalo harbor, steel mills, Albright Gallery and Niagara Falls to depict these categories.” For more information on the branches hours visit the website.
This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated.