Where to stay in Nashville

Don't decide where to stay in Nashville before reading our guide to the city's hippest neighborhoods
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There's a joke about Nashville's real estate listings: In other cities, places are "two bedrooms plus office;" in Nashville that bonus room is a music studio tucked behind the garage… and your favorite album was recorded there. That's Music City in a nutshell. There are hidden discoveries and surprises at every intersection; the coolest bar may not have a sign; the best live music venue may be in an old barn. The following five neighborhoods are Nashville's most visitor-friendly, each with some of those unexpected finds. You can stay in these 'hoods and see much of what makes Music City sing without having to rent a car (a rarity in this city of sprawl).

Where to Stay in Nashville

Ryman Auditorium
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Sherry C.

Downtown

Downtown is Nashville’s economic and tourism hub, as well as the geographic center of the city. This is the heart of Music City’s beat. Some say Broadway has become another New Orleans' Bourbon Street, and, it’s true that Lower Broad is lined with honkytonks, 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 city’s biggest attrac­tions, Downtown is home to swanky hotels, restaurants and great views of the Cumberland River. This location appeals to tourists who want a walkable stay in Music City, no car needed.

 

EAT: Gray & Dudley's seasonal menu satisfies the appetite while its location inside the 21c Museum Hotel feeds the soul, with its challenging, innovative (and free!) art exhibitions.

 

DRINK: Downtown isn't known for neighborhood-y spots, but Black Rabbit is the exception. Grab a craft cocktail and chat with friends at the bar while listening to live music.

 

DO: Head to the second floor of the Nashville Public Library. That's where the Civil Rights Room details the important sit-ins and other protests that happened here and helped to desegregate the country.

 

STAY: Thanks to a great location, fun art (including epic designs on the room closets), the Bobby Hotel offers a little mystery, as you can use your imagination to figure out who Bobby is and from where his treasures came.

 

If you do just one thing: Catch a show at the Ryman Auditorium. Seriously, it doesn't even matter who’s playing, you just want to experience the sacredness and great acoustics of the space.

Urban Cowboy
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Marcy E.

East Nashville

East Nashville has a love-hate relationship with the “hip” moniker it’s earned over the years. This gentrifying (or gentrified) neighborhood just east of Downtown is home to stylish vintage boutiques and purveyors of handcrafted goods, not to mention many of the city’s tastiest restaurants and best watering holes. Nestled on its banks is Nissan Stadium, host to NFL football game and concerts. Leafy neighboring Inglewood is not as dense, but increasingly welcomes the same offbeat collection of eateries and vintage shops.

 

EAT: Wood-fired pizzas with edible flowers—that's the kind of twist on the ordinary you'll find at Folk, a seasonally focused restaurant inside the site of an old grocery store.

 

DRINK: Work your way to the basement-level space of The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club, and experience a speakeasy with a nod toward vegan and vegetarian tastes. 

 

DO: Hang with friends, have a drink and learn to throw sharp objects at BATL, East Nashville's friendly neighborhood axe-throwing hangout.

 

STAY: From the outside Urban Cowboy looks like any other well-maintained B&B. From the inside it is a hipster paradise, where design is the watchword.

 

If you do just one thing: Every Monday at the 5 Spot, a bar featured on TV's Nashville, is the Dance Party, the best place in the city to cut a rug.

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Thompson Nashville
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/ Thompson Nashville

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 when it comes to construction, with high rises and dense city living combined with retail space. It is walking distance to downtown, SoBro and Midtown, but chockfull of its own attractions, primarily shopping, eating and drinking (what else do you need?).

 

EAT: Celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman's local outpost, Adele's Nashville, doesn't have a celebrity feel—it is delicious and welcoming. The comfort-food menu will stick to your ribs.

 

DRINK: One of Nashville only bars with a West Coast slant, Gertie's Bar has an impressive spirits collection and a well-designed aesthetic.

 

DO: Shop at Two Old Hippies, a store with souvenirs, guitars, clothing and more. And, because this is Nashville, the store doubles as a live music venue (as seen on the TV show Nashville) five nights a week.

 

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 inside. 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 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.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Photograph: Courtesy of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation

SoBro

The moniker means "south of Broadway" and this Downtown neighborhood has changed dramatically in recent years. It is home to the hockey arena, the symphony, the convention center and much more. Like its neighbor to the north, it's a walkable area for tourists, but with a more off beat vibe.

 

EAT: It is not a trip to Tennessee without some tasty barbeque. Get your fill at Martin's Bar-B-Que. Follow the neon sign to your savory satisfaction.

 

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: This is the neighborhood to learn about country music. Both the Johnny Cash Museum and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum give you a deep dive into the genre's roots. Even if you think you don't love country, you'll be surprised by what you enjoy.

 

STAY: This all-suites hotel just south of downtown has kitchens (ask ahead of time and your fridge will be stocked), turntables and stereos and free parking, making SoBro Guest House a great deal with a mid-century modern aesthetic.

 

If you do just one thing: See a show at the city's best outdoor music theater, Ascend Amphitheatre, on the banks of the Cumberland River.

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Nashville Sounds
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jesse Z

Germantown

Historic Germantown is chockfull of boutiques, chef-driven restaurants and bars locals love to frequent. The adjacent Buchanan Street is in a bur­geoning district of restaurants, artists’ studios, galleries and shops. These leafy streets are perfect for a stroll, as is the practice of the many Nashvillians who call this renovated neighborhood home.

 

EAT: Browse the booths of locally grown goods, and then feast on foods made at the Nashville Farmers Market. Wood-fired pizza and barbeque are among the favorites.

 

DRINK: The patio bar at 5th and Taylor is a comfortable, clubby place to sip craft cocktails while making new friends.

 

DO: The city's minor-league baseball team, the Nashville Sounds, play from a stadium with a guitar-shaped scoreboard and a mini-golf course right off Jefferson street.

 

STAY: One of the oldest buildings in the neighborhood has been transformed into the Germantown Inn, a small hotel that is big on service and luxury.

 

If you do just one thing: Shop! The neighborhood is dotted with cute boutiques including Wilder for hip home goods and Peter Nappi, a hand-crafted leather store with a live music stage.

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