Walking Tour: Downtown Nashville
Between the old landmarks and new developments, downtown is a perfect area to explore on foot with its late-19th-century historical buildings.
START: Riverfront Park at the intersection of Broadway and 1st Avenue.
FINISH: Tennessee State Capitol.
TIME: Anywhere from 3 to 8 hours, depending on how much time you spend in the museums, shopping, or dining.
BEST TIMES: Tuesday through Friday, when the Tennessee State Capitol is open to the public.
WORST TIMES: Sunday, Monday, and holidays, when a number of places are closed. Or anytime the Titans have a home football game, which makes traffic and parking a mess.
Start your tour at the intersection of Broadway and 1st Avenue, on the banks of the Cumberland River, at:
1. Riverfront Park
The park was built as part of Nashville’s bicentennial celebration and encompasses 5 acres, a boat dock, and an amphitheater.
Walk north along the river to:
2. Fort Nashborough
This is a reconstruction of the 1780 fort that was a forerunner to the settlement that would become the city of Nashville.
Continue up 1st Avenue to Union Street and turn left. Across the street is the:
3. Metropolitan Courthouse
This imposing building, which also houses the Nashville City Hall, was built in 1937. It incorporates many classic Greek architectural details.
If you now head back down 2nd Avenue, you’ll find yourself in the:
4. Second Avenue Historic District
Between Union Avenue and Broadway are numerous Victorian commercial buildings, most of which have now been restored.
This boutique hotel houses not only a restaurant that would make an excellent lunch stop (Gray & Dudley) but also an art museum in the basement that’s free and full of interesting, rotating modern exhibits.
Head southeast on 2nd Avenue North toward Metro Alley. Turn right onto Church Street to:
6. Printers Alley
For more than a century, this has been a center for evening entertainment with several restaurants, bars, and nightclubs featuring live music.
Head southwest on Church Street toward 4th Avenue North. Pass by Courtyard by Marriott Nashville Downtown (on the left in 92 ft). Turn right onto Arcade Alley.
7. Nashville Arcade
This covered shopping arcade was built in 1902 and is modeled after an arcade in Italy. Only a few such arcades remain in the United States, and, unfortunately, this one has yet to be fully updated. Still, there are several shops and restaurants worth checking out on weekdays.
Head southwest toward 5th Avenue North. Turn left onto 5th Avenue North.
8. Downtown Presbyterian
William Strickland, who also designed the Tennessee State Capitol in the Egyptian Revival style, designed this 1840s church that served as a hospital during the Civil War.
Head southeast on 5th Avenue North toward Commerce Street. Turn left.
9. Ryman Auditorium
The “Grand Ole Opry” was held here from 1943 to 1974. The building was originally built as a tabernacle to host evangelical revival meetings, but because of its unparalleled acoustics and large seating capacity, it became a popular setting for theater and music performances.
After leaving the Ryman, walk back down to the corner of Broadway and 4th Avenue.
10. Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge
“Grand Ole Opry” musicians used to duck in here after their shows at the Ryman. One of the more famous bars in Nashville, it offers live country music all day long with no cover.
Look across the street and you’ll see:
11. Bridgestone Arena
The Bridgestone Arena is a venue that also houses one of two downtown Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau Visitors Centers.
From this corner, head up Broadway, and at the corner of 7th Avenue, you’ll find the:
12. First Baptist Church
This modern building incorporates a Victorian Gothic church tower built between 1884 and 1886. The church’s congregation wanted a new church but didn’t want to give up the beautiful old tower, so they compromised.
Across 7th Avenue is the:
13. U.S. Customs House
Now leased as private office space, this Victorian Gothic building was built in 1877 and displays fine stonework and friezes. Note the imposing structure, with its soaring tower and arched windows.
Directly across the street is:
14. Hume-Fogg High School
Built between 1912 and 1916, the building incorporates elements of English Tudor and Gothic design.
Two blocks farther up Broadway, you’ll see a decidedly different style of architecture, the:
15. Frist Art Museum
This breathtaking art museum is housed in the historic U.S. Post Office building, designed with elements of both neoclassical and Art Deco architectural styling.
The post office shares a parking lot with:
16. Union Station Hotel
This Victorian Romanesque Revival building was built in 1900 as Nashville’s main passenger railroad station, but, in 1986, it was renovated and reopened as a luxury hotel.
Head back the way you came and cross over to the opposite side of Broadway at 9th Avenue. Here you’ll find:
17. Christ Episcopal Church
Constructed between 1887 and 1892, the building is in the Victorian Gothic style and is complete with gargoyles. This church also has Tiffany stained-glass windows.
Continue back down Broadway and, at 7th Avenue, turn left and walk up to Union Street and turn right. In 1 block, you’ll come to the:
18. Hermitage Hotel
This is Nashville’s last grand old hotel. The lobby exudes Beaux Arts extravagance, with a stained-glass skylight and marble columns and floor.
Across Union Street from the Hermitage Hotel is:
19. War Memorial Building
This neoclassical building was built in 1925 to honor soldiers who died in World War I. The atrium holds a large statue titled “Victory.” This building also houses the Tennessee State Museum Military Branch.
On the opposite side of the plaza is the:
20. Tennessee State Capitol
This Greek Revival building was built between 1845 and 1859. Be sure to take a look inside, where you’ll find many beautiful architectural details and works of art.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.