Nashville is a dynamic place, and if you stick to one neighborhood, you’re only getting part of the story.

When it comes to navigating Music City’s neighborhoods, think of Nashville as a flower – downtown sits at its center, and each of its adjacent neighborhoods blooms out like a petal. Downtown, the Gulch and 12 South make up much of the town’s tourism core, with tons of eating, shopping and partying opportunities.

Germantown and Wedgewood Houston appeal to those who are looking for a more relaxed vibe but with plenty of cultural flair, while East Nashville serves as the city’s rock ‘n’ roll hub.

Here are the Nashville neighborhoods you can’t miss.

Neon signs on Lower Broadway Area in Nashville, USA
The bright lights and raucous bars in Downtown Nashville are not for the fainthearted © f11photo / Shutterstock

Downtown

Best for partying hard

Nashville’s downtown is a raucous place packed with folks flocking to famous Broadway watering holes, events at Bridgestone Arena, and concerts at the Ryman Auditorium and Ascend Amphitheater. Its frenetic energy isn’t for everyone, but it’s the place to be if you’re looking to down some (okay, lots of) drinks and catch some country tunes all within a walkable radius.

On Broadway itself, we recommend hitting up Robert’s Western World for a true honky tonk experience complete with boot scootin’. If you’re looking to sample a little bit of what Nashville has to offer in the culinary sphere, head to the sparkling 5th & Broadway complex – downtown’s new food hall and an excellent place to grab a bite before heading to a show.

Set slightly away from the main drag you’ll find historic Printer’s Alley, home to gems like the long-running burlesque bar Skull's Rainbow Room and the electric Bourbon Street Blues Bar.

This is also where you'll find several of Nashville’s boutique hotels, which have become attractions in their own right thanks to thoughtfully curated bars and gorgeous rooftops. Downtown is home to the highest concentration of hotels – boutique and chain – in Nashville, but also some of the highest room prices. You pay a premium for location, but it lands you right in the middle of the action.

Germantown

Best for foodies

Located just north of downtown, Germantown is a cozy corner of Nashville that packs a big cultural punch. The neighborhood itself makes for an aesthetically pleasing walk thanks to a large number of historic homes and cobblestone sidewalks – Germantown was actually the city’s first residential subdivision – and it’s also home to some of the city’s best restaurants.

Stop into the atmospheric Rolf and Daughters for creative takes on pasta classics or tuck into inventive South Asian American dishes at Tailor. City House, one of the first to put Nashville on the map of high-end foodies, is another great bet, as is 5th & Taylor. Unsurprisingly, Germantown is also a great place to drink – don’t miss the cocktails at Mother’s Ruin and Le Loup, or the beers at Bearded Iris and Monday Night Preservation Co.

Accommodation-wise, Germantown has far fewer options than nearby downtown – the main highlight is Germantown Inn, a cozy stay in a historic home in the heart of the neighborhood.

A red and blue neon light sign that reads Nashville the Music City
East Nashville has some of the best bars offering live music in the city © ABEMOS / Shutterstock 

East Nashville

Best for local nightlife

When it comes to a night out, East Nashville is where the hip locals go. This expansive neighborhood has everything from dive bars to refined cocktail lounges to music venues to late-night restaurants – the biggest problem you’ll have is deciding how to fit it all in.

Music aficionados will delight in the number of varied venues. Head to the Basement East for indie, alt rock, and Americana acts in an intimate space, or bop over to The 5 Spot, a local favorite featuring everything from funk and soul nights to electronica DJ sets. Smaller venues like The Cobra and the East Room keep things eclectic, focusing on hyper-local acts and experimental rock shows and theater events.

Those looking for a more elevated sit-down food experience will love the menus at Lockeland Table, Butcher & Bee, and Two Ten Jack, while folks wanting something casual will find plenty of options at Hunters Station and The Wash (a local restaurant incubator initiative). Post-revelry, snag some eats at 5 Points Pizza or Dino’s.

It’s almost impossible to distill the East Nash bar scene into a paragraph, but suffice it to say you’ve got all your bases covered. Sample European wines at Authentique, sip award-winning cocktails at Attaboy, try East-Nash-brewed suds at Smith & Lentz, or keep it simple with a pickleback shot at Red Door Saloon.

Accommodation options outside of Airbnb are growing and doing so with panache. Stay at the concierge-less Russell or Gallatin hotels (part of your stay fee goes to benefit Nashville’s houseless community) or go glam at Urban Cowboy.

Wedgewood Houston

Best for the artsy crowd

This former industrial area has become a significant cultural hub over the past decade, playing host to Nashville’s thriving visual and performing arts scenes for years. Its appeal has attracted the eyes of developers, but despite the current construction boom, the neighborhood still maintains an undeniable joie-de-vivre that keeps the artists coming back.

Wedgewood Houston hosts a monthly gallery hop on the first Saturday of every month, though many of these galleries can be visited outside of that event – Zeitgeist, The Packing Plant, Julia Martin Gallery and more. Art lovers also shouldn’t miss the gorgeous interiors of the Flamingo Cocktail Lounge and Bastion.

This neighborhood has a small but diverse (and growing) food and drink scene. Grab Belgian brews from Fait La Force, enjoy classic Nashville beers at Jackalope, try creative ciders from Diskin Cider, or sip refined cocktails at PH Cocktail Lounge. If you’re feeling peckish, grab bar eats from Never Never, thin-crust pizza at Dicey’s Tavern, or charcuterie from Americano Lounge.

You probably won’t find much in the way of accommodation here outside of Airbnb, but luckily Wedgewood is just a short car ride from downtown.

A trio of spicy Nashville hot chicken sandwiches with coleslaw and pickles
You'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to food in 12 South and the Gulch © Joshua Resnick / Shutterstock

12 South & the Gulch

Best for shopping and brunch

Linked together by a long stretch of 12th Avenue, the neighborhoods of 12 South and the Gulch are a well-trodden thoroughfare of restaurants and shops perfect for a wander on a sunny afternoon.

If you’re a fan of brunch, you’re in the right spot. In 12 South, The Butter Milk Ranch serves a hot breakfast that just may be the best in town alongside croissants the size of your head, while playful concepts like Wanna Spoon Cereal Bar and Five Daughters draw on childhood nostalgia with inventive cereal creations and hundred-layer donuts. In the Gulch, snag a hair-of-the-dog margarita at Saint Anejo or sip mimosas at the gorgeous Mockingbird.

This is also a great place to browse urban-chic looks or buy souvenirs for friends, as boutiques and shops abound. The shopping in the Gulch has a distinctly metropolitan feel, hosting big-name clothiers like Urban Outfitters and Patagonia alongside local spots like Rustler Hat Co. and Paddywax Candle Bar. Over in 12 South, things skew a bit more down-home but still have that Nashville feel. Pick up a gift from White’s Mercantile or Serendipity, or try on candy-colored dresses at Draper James (founded by Reese Witherspoon).

The area around 12 South is largely residential, so you’ll have better luck with hotels in the Gulch. Plus, they’ll put you within walking distance of downtown.

This article was first published Mar 11, 2021 and updated Apr 13, 2023.

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