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Nashville neighborhoods guide: The best places to stay in Nashville

Not sure where to stay in Nashville? These are the neighborhoods to seek out, no matter the reason for your visit

Written by
Margaret Littman
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Deciding where to sleep is a hugely important part of planning any trip. That isn’t just about hotels, that means entire neighborhoods. Much will depend on the focus of any particular trip, and many visits to Nashville revolve around its reputation as one big neon honky-tonk paradise, where boot-scooting and beer-swigging last until the early hours. You’ll find plenty of that in Music City, of course, but this place is far more diverse and nuanced than that.

Every Nashville neighborhood offers something different, from famous attractions to live music, fabulous restaurants, and even family-friendly spots. Where to stay in Nashville? Let your guide do the heavy lifting; all you need to do is choose.

RECOMMENDED: The best Airbnbs in Nashville

Best places to stay in Nashville

Downtown
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1. Downtown

Downtown is Nashville’s economic and tourism hub, as well as the geographic center and home to Lower Broad. This is where you’ll find the honky-tonks, belting out Western swing music al­most any hour of the day. But this area isn't just for partiers; in addition to some of the biggest attrac­tions, Downtown is home to swanky hotels, restaurants, and enviable views of the Cumberland River. This location appeals to tourists who want a walkable stay in Music City, no car needed. 

EAT: Fifth + Broadway’s Assembly Food Hall is a collection of small eateries from the city’s best restaurants. Want hot chicken? Chinese comfort food? Red-velvet tacos? Kurdish food? Check, check, check, and check. It is all here at affordable prices, with amazing views of the Ryman Auditorium and Broadway. Free live music is an ongoing perk. 

DRINK: As discussed, there are many honky-tonk-style bars in downtown Nashville. Locals love Robert’s Western World because the owners hire great musicians to play world-class Western swing and country music ... and because they sell cheap beer.

DO: Head to the second floor of the Nashville Public Library. That is where the Civil Rights Room details the most significant events of the 1960s student-led sit-in protests that happened here and helped to desegregate the entire country. 

STAY: With a minimalist 1970s décor and a decidedly 2020s approach to service and amenities, The Fairlane Hotel is one of the best spots in town. Head here to lounge in velvety opulence, and take in city views from guest rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows. Grab breakfast from the Bagelshop downstairs before heading out to explore.

If you do just one thing... Catch a show at the Ryman Auditorium. Seriously, it doesn't matter who’s playing, you just want to experience the sacredness and fabulous acoustics of the space. If you can’t snag tickets, do a daytime tour to see the backstage magic.

Music Row
Photograph: Margaret Littman

2. Music Row

Music Row is where the business of Nashville gets done. Two parallel streets (connected by a roundabout sporting the joyful Musica sculpture) are lined with former houses converted into music studios and office towers. Scattered between these music-industry essentials are places to eat, drink, listen to music, and sleep.

EAT: With 32 seats around an open kitchen, The Catbird Seat provides a multi-hour culinary performance as much as it offers a mere dinner. Book in advance and watch the team make magic from local ingredients.

DRINK: Q: Is there anything more Nashville than drinking beer and listening to singer-songwriters tell tales of universal woe? A: No, there is not. The best of this Music City action takes place at Bobby’s Idle Hour Tavern, a beloved Music Row bar.

DO: Names like Elvis Presley wrote and recorded hit after hit at Historic RCA Studio B. The Music Row studio, preserved as it was then, is open for tours. Book your tickets and catch the shuttle here; tours depart from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

STAY: With its signature red staircase, popular rooftop pool, and extra-large guest rooms with great views, Virgin Hotels Nashville is the best way to stay in the center of it all.

If you do just one thing... Shop at Any Old Iron, designer Andrew Clancey’s temple to all things sequined. If it is good enough for Miranda Lambert, Lady Gaga, and Taylor Swift, all of whom have worn Clancey’s designs, it is good enough for you to take home (if you make it there, note that Clancey now has a line in Free People stores).

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The Gulch
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3. The Gulch

Named for the physical gulch that houses the railroad tracks that ran through this area, this is perhaps Nashville's most modern neighborhood in terms of construction, with high rises and dense city living combined with retail space. It is within walking distance to downtown, SoBro, and Midtown, but chockfull of its own attractions, primarily shopping-, eating- and drinking-oriented (but what else do you need?).

EAT: Celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan brings her take on Indian food, spices, and cooking to lucky Nashvillians at her flagship Chauhan Ale and Masala House. Order a selection to sample her fusion recipes, but don’t skip the hot chicken pakoras.

DRINK: If your idea of a good time includes playing duckpin (a type of bowling that doesn’t require rental shoes), bocce, pinball, or foosball, head over to Pins Mechanical. All these games, plus cocktails, beer, and wine (which are sure to improve your aim), are on the menu at the inclusive bar.

DO: Walk the Gulch Greenway to Frankie Pierce Park in Capitol View. This urban outdoor oasis is perfect for walking or biking an easy one-mile path along city streets, with views of skyscrapers and green spaces. There are plenty of outdoor murals to stop and admire en route.

STAY: A glass tower from the outside, the Thompson Nashville is a modern hotel with lots of interesting touches, including art elements made from reclaimed wood from the surrounding neighborhood. Don't skip a trip to the rooftop bar, L.A. Jackson.

If you do just one thing... Among all these high-rises is a simple cinder block building, which for decades has housed the best bluegrass music in the country. The Station Inn is a must for all visitors to Nashville, not just The Gulch.

East Nashville
Photograph: Margaret Littman

4. East Nashville

East Nashville has a love-hate relationship with the “hip” moniker it has earned over the years thanks to its high concentration of creative folks. This large neighborhood just east of Downtown is home to stylish vintage boutiques and purveyors of handcrafted goods, not to mention many of the tastiest chef-owned restaurants and the best tiny watering holes.

EAT: Melvil Arnt and his parents moved to Nashville from Paris, and that is evident in every part of Once Upon A Time In France,­ from the décor to the food to the wine list. The French bistro doesn’t take reservations, so plan to chat with locals over a glass of wine while you wait for a table.

DRINK: Order a tropical cocktail or two at Pearl Diver, a stylish lounge that brings an island vibe to its menu, its communal spaces, and its attitude. If you’ve only been to cheesy tiki bars, be prepared to be impressed by the thoughtfulness of this tropical experience.

DO: Browse in the small boutiques at the Shoppes on Fatherland and nearby at the Five Points Alley Shops. These collections of tiny storefronts house handcrafted goods, vintage finds, and more.

STAY: The Gallatin Hotel’s brightly colored hallways, front archways, and garden underscore the “Stay Joyful" mantra. In addition to the plethora of selfie spots, the hotel contributes to a local initiative that works with Nashville's homeless population.

If you do just one thing... Every single Monday at 5 Spot, locals cut a rug. They call it Motown Mondays, but in truth, it's just dancing to a bunch of good music, starting with Western swing. Lots of people who show up know their footwork, but you don’t need to be an expert to join in.

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SoBro
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5. SoBro

The moniker means "south of Broadway" and this micro-neighborhood separates itself from other areas downtown. It is home to the hockey arena, the symphony, the convention center, and a range of hotels, restaurants, and museums. Like its neighbor to the north, Sobro is a walkable area for tourists, but with a more offbeat vibe. 

EAT: It is not magic to make a restaurant that is fun and serves good food and drink, although sometimes it can feel like it. At House of Cards, you can eat some steakhouse-style classics (or a vegan surf and turf, if that’s your thing) and watch mentalists and magicians do their thing. Pack a sports jacket, as there is a dress code to get in on this fun.

DRINK: An amazing contemporary art collection (all of which is for sale, just ask to see the binder) is as good as the specialty cocktails on the menu at the hideaway called Bar Sovereign.

DO: While the honky-tonks have the flash, Nashville is a songwriter's town at heart. Hear their stories and acoustic sets by catching a low-key sit-down show at The Listening Room Café.

STAY: The luxury Joseph Nashville is stacked with one-of-a-kind experiences, from its world-class art collection (don’t forget to look down when at the rooftop bar) to its award-winning Italian kitchen and indulgent spa. Enjoy the views from the guest rooms out to the city below.

If you do just one thing... learn about country music. A trio of music-themed museums, the Johnny Cash Museum, the Patsy Cline Museum, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum give you a deep dive into the genre's roots. Whether an avowed country music fan or not, these are must-visits.

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