For generations, Nashville’s claim to fame has been country music. Images of balladeers in cowboy hats singing about cold beer and love lost come to mind. While that heritage is still honoured throughout the city’s fibre, visitors are flocking to the Tennessee capital these days for much more than the music. Areas like 12th South, The Gulch and Germantown have been redeveloped and reimagined, highlighted by upscale boutiques and buzzedabout restaurants. The television show, Nashville, starring Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere, ended in 2018 after six seasons but helped to cement Nashville’s “It City” status.
Stay & Sleep
The Thompson Nashville in The Gulch is within walking distance of shops and restaurants and a fiveminute drive from downtown. The 12-storey, 224-room luxury boutique hotel has one of the best rooftop bars in the city, the L.A. Jackson. Listen to DJs spin, enjoy craft cocktails and take in the city lights.
Another of the city’s most popular boutique hotels, Noelle, is located downtown, on the edge of historic Printer's Alley. The 1930s Art Deco building has been completely rehabbed and renovated. In a nod to the area’s illustrious past, there’s even a speakeasy, aptly named Hidden Bar. It too has an impressive rooftop bar, named Rare Bird. Sit by the fire to enjoy a drink and the spectacular view.
The elegant, five-star Hermitage Hotel, which opened in 1910, is a Nashville landmark that has welcomed presidents and musical legends alike. Walk down hallowed halls to well-appointed rooms, just steps away from the heart of the city.
Eat & Drink
Folk | Emily Dorio
Right across the Cumberland River from downtown is East Nashville, home to many of the city’s most respected artists and indie musicians. While the area, particularly its commercial hub Five Points, has been known for its restaurant scene for years, some of the city’s best new eateries are renovating long-vacant buildings and historic old homes in its farthest corners. One such example is Folk in East Nashville’s McFerrin Park. Owner and celebrated Chef Philip Krajek pursues his passion for pizza (made with regional, organic, non-GMO wheat) and seasonal offerings. For brunch served all day, stop by Marché Artisan Foods and try the smoked trout crêpes with shrimp sauce or the fresh baked breads served with housemade jam and gianduja. For a sandwich worth writing home about, go by Mitchell Delicatessen. Try the turkey brie with jalapeño cranberry relish, honey mustard, brie and apples on a hoagie roll.
Henrietta Red by Andrew Thomas Lee | Andrea Behrends
In Germantown, the popular Henrietta Red, opened by Chef Julia Sullivan and her business partner, Sommelier Allie Poindexter, offers an extensive raw bar, natural wines and craft cocktails and entrées such as seared scallops with pepita salsa macha, served with butternut squash. City House, helmed by the James Beard Award-winning Chef Tandy Wilson, has an Italian influence with a Southern flair. Try the catfish with cornmeal crust, served with grits and cabbage ragù or the belly ham pizza.
See & Do
One of the areas favourited by tourists and locals alike is pedestrian-friendly 12th South. One highlight is Draper James, actress and hometown girl Reese Witherspoon’s popular and unashamedly preppy boutique. In addition to women’s clothing, there are canvas bags with the sayings “Totes Y’all” and “What Would Dolly Do?” Another must-see is White’s Mercantile, owned by Holly Williams, a singer-songwriter, entrepreneur and the granddaughter of country music legend Hank Williams. Fashioned as a modern-day general store, it carries soaps, candles, clothing, cowboy hats and a nearly endless array of gift items. Be sure to stop by imogene + willie for custom-tailored, made in the U.S.A. jeans; Emerson Grace for the latest from women’s contemporary clothing lines including L’Agence, Ganni and Mother; and Ceri Hoover, named after the designer herself, featuring women’s bags as pretty as they are practical. Want a little break from shopping? Satisfy your sweet tooth at the locally-owned Five Daughters Bakery, known for its croissant-style donuts, large enough to share; Las Paletas for homemade Mexican popsicles in flavours such as pistachio, coffee and banana cream; and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Be sure to try the brambleberry crisp or the brown butter almond brittle.
Want to grab a bite? Nearby is an equally apropos eatery, open for breakfast and lunch and fittingly called Biscuit Love. Try the Southern specialty with thick-cut bacon or jam.
When it comes to Southern specialties, Hattie B's Hot Chicken in nearby midtown is a Nashville institution. Order the spicy fried chicken on the mild side, on fire or somewhere in-between. Add greens and pimento mac and cheese for the full effect. If you’re now craving down-home cooking and don’t mind a little drive, Loveless Café, about a half hour from downtown, serves up biscuits, barbeque and plenty of charm.
Concert on Broadway | Courtesy of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp
Next stop, Lower Broadway downtown (or Lower Broad as the locals say). Probably the heartbeat of Nashville, it is lined with honky-tonks and boot shops. Even on a weekday, the street is bustling with pedal taverns and horse-drawn carriages while music blares from bars and restaurants.
Celebrating its 60th birthday in 2020, Tootsies Orchid Lounge is the most iconic of the honky-tonks. In recent years, numerous country stars have opened bars and restaurants on Broadway, complete with rooftops offering great views. There’s Blake Shelton’s Ole Red, Jason Aldean’s Kitchen + Rooftop Bar and Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row, just to name a few. It’s party central, so it’s no surprise that Music City has the distinction of being one of the best destinations in the U.S. for the ultimate bachelorette bash. Brides-to-be and their gal pals can be spotted in matching T-shirts all around town.
The Bluebird Cafe | Courtesy of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp
A stone’s throw away is the fabled Ryman Auditorium, a former home of the Grand Ole Opry. Explore its storied past during one of the daily tours and check the schedule for evening concerts. Don’t miss the Country Music Hall of Fame, just around the corner on Fifth Avenue South. Serious music lovers who want to try and spot a star-in-the-making might want to check out The Bluebird Cafe, in the residential Green Hills neighbourhood. Established singersongwriters as well as up-and-comers perform at the legendary listening room.