Travel

City Guide: Nashville

City Guide: Nashville

We’re excited to announce the launch of our City Guide series, where we’ll be sharing insider tips about cool places around the United States and world. First up: Nashville, Tennessee. We enlisted art director Elise Joseph, who was born and raised there, to give us her tour…

City Guide: Nashville

Elise Joseph: I was born and raised in Nashville. We have a lot of exciting things going on in music, art and design, and the community feels so collaborative and supportive of one another. Spring and fall are magical — there’s nothing like the blooming willow trees, fresh breeze and rolling country hills.

City Guide: Nashville

City Guide: Nashville

Hattie B’s

WHERE TO EAT

For lunch, try Hattie B’s in Midtown or the West End. Nashville hot chicken — fried chicken with cayenne pepper, served with pickles over white bread — is becoming a thing on menus around the country, for good reason. I usually stick to a milder version, but you can go all the way up to “damn hot” and “SHUT THE CLUCK UP!!!” which comes with a burn notice (!). Come prepared to wait in line — this is one of Nashville’s finest.

For the best breakfast sandwich, head to the newly opened Proper Bagel. It’s located in the Belmont-Hillsboro neighborhood, a beautiful, residential part of town. You have to order the bialy sandwich, which comes layered with tomato jam, chive cream cheese, arugula and scrambled eggs.
They also have offbeat cream cheese flavors, like Nutella Peanut Butter and Lavender.

For dinner, try Rolf and Daughters in Germantown. The industrial space, in a 100-year-old factory, is cozy and charming, and they serve New American food to communal tables. Start with the sourdough and seaweed butter — it sounds boring, but I promise it’ll knock your socks off. I also love the heritage pork ragout pasta, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the clever dishes.

Little Octopus in East Nashville is also great for dinner. Their small plates are perfect for sharing with friends — each dish delivered to the table as soon as the kitchen prepares it. With spicy fingerling potatoes to avocado with crispy shallots, this place appeals to carnivores, vegetarians and vegans alike.

City Guide: Nashville

Robert’s Western World

WHERE TO HANG

Robert’s Western World. This small but legendary honky tonk features live country music from some of Music City’s best. It’s a grill during the day, but transforms after 6 p.m. into the ultimate Nashville hangout with dancing, cold beer, Moon Pies and fried bologna sandwiches. Always a good time.

Ryman Auditorium is one of the most beautiful places in Nashville. It’s best known as the original home of the Grand Ole Opry and still has the original wooden pews from 1892. Everyone from Bob Dylan to Patsy Cline to Coldplay has graced its stage. This hallowed hall makes any performance feel that much more profound. If you’d like, try to get tickets to a show while you’re in town!

Radnor Lake. Located just south of town, this peaceful oasis is my favorite getaway within the city. They have several quiet hiking trails, where I always happen upon deer, herons and turtles. It feels like another world.

City Guide: Nashville

City Guide: Nashville

Wilder

WHERE TO SHOP

Wilder. My married friends Josh and Ivy Elrod opened this amazing design store in Germantown. I’ve found such cool furniture and decor for our apartment, and look to them for my perpetual incense fix. They’re super friendly and have some of the best taste in town.

Elizabeth Suzann’s studio in Berry Hill. She’s a Nashville designer making waves in the fashion industry. Make an appointment at her showroom to shop in person (sounds intimidating, but the team is some of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet) and take in all the beauty. (How lovely is this dress?)

Grimey’s in Melrose. Named one of the “Top Record Stores in America” by Rolling Stone, this local music spot is a true Nashville gem. Flip through old vinyl albums to find a souvenir to take home.

Gas Lamp Antiques, Pre To Post Modern or the Downtown Antique Mall are great antiques shops if you’re looking for vintage pieces or just want to be inspired. Most of these places are willing to bargain with you on the prices, so haggle away!

City Guide: Nashville

City Guide: Nashville

The 404

WHERE TO STAY

The 404 is a five-room boutique hotel and restaurant in the heart of the Gulch, an artsy central neighborhood. The rooms have a beautiful mix of vintage and modern pieces and feature photography by local artists, like Caroline Allison.

The Hermitage Hotel. This luxury hotel, in a historic Beaux-Arts building, first opened its doors in 1910. Guests choose from a “pillow menu” — including buckwheat, memory foam and down options — and will discover sugar cookies in the rooms after the turn-down service. (Fun fact: Aziz Ansari stays here during the “Nashville” episode of Master of None!)

If you’d rather rent a house, book an Airbnb in East Nashville. This residential area contains amazing restaurants, bars, parks and shops. Have some tacos at Mas Tacos Por Favor, pop by Two Son for some shopping and finish with an Old Fashioned at Butcher & Bee.

City Guide: Nashville

FINAL TIPS:

Nashville neighborhoods are friendly and diverse, and each has something special to offer. It’s definitely worth exploring! Public transportation isn’t great, however, so it’s essential to drive (or ride a bike). Also, head’s up: More and more people are moving here every day, so the lines tend to get pretty backed up at all the hot spots. Make reservations, if you can!

Thank you so much for the tour, Elise! What else would you add? And please let us know if there’s a city you’d like us to cover in this series!

P.S. Our favorite places to sleep, eat and play in NYC.

(Fried chicken photo by Evan Sung. Photo of the 404 room via their website. All other beautiful photos by Zachary Gray for Elise Joseph. Graphic design by Miss Moss. Thanks to Stella Blackmon for editing this series.)

  1. i’ve always wanted to visit nashville so this definitely sparked my interest :)

    hammyta.wordpress.com

  2. Cande says...

    I would looove to see a Miami travel guide that is not all about shopping! (Although the subject shouldn’t be avoided either) Please write the Miami travel guide!!!

  3. Sarah says...

    Count me in for Houston! I’d love to see my city featured.

  4. Awesome guide! One of my top favorite cities in the U.S. Can’t wait to read more. I’d love to do Savannah for you!

  5. This is great! I’d love for you to do one on LA. I’m visiting in May & looking for ideas that aren’t the standard tourist stops.

  6. Julie says...

    The most frustrating part of city guides is the “places to stay.” Do most people spend $400-$1000 a night when they go on a weekend trip. Not just this one, I’m going to Nashville this year and can’t find a single city guide with a reasonably priced places to stay category.

    • April says...

      I live in Nashville (native, my great gandmother was born here in 1889) and I can tell you that the Hampton Inn on Elliston Place is in a good neighborhood. There is also one downtown as well as a courtyard marriot. Anywhere walkable is fine in my book. Trendy hotels are always going to be big budget. There is also a cool aLoft in midtown. But Uber is always an option too. Obviously, all of the places mentioned in this post are trendy and while lovely are not the end all be all of Nashville. I avoid lower Broadway like the plague. 12 South is great, East Nashville has its moments (Mas Tacos is the bomb, Lockeland Table will make you happy, happy, happy, and Boltons has great hot chicken). City House is one of my favorites and beats out Rolf and Daughters any day. 5th and Taylor has a great courtyard. Germantown is continuing to grow. Just come enjoy my awesome hometown.

  7. Amy says...

    Love the idea of City Guides. Would love to see you cover Tulsa! I love this place! One of the friendliest places in the States!

  8. Erin Butler says...

    I want to reintroduce PHX to my fellow Cup of Jo readers. My Roosevelt Row neighborhood is amazing! It’s a blossoming little art district in downtown PHX. We’re not just about golf and retirement anymore! :) Great eats, amazing music venues and lots of independently owned boutiques and shops. We even have a female owned brewery! Bad ass! Come visit girls !

  9. mary says...

    would LOVE to see a feature on Atlanta…there are so many unique things to do in the city and it’s really an interesting time in the city right now!! huge fan of this series!!

  10. Kylie says...

    Love these tips from a local! I lived here for four years and I always felt as if tourists missed out on the real Nashville :) This is a great list!

  11. Great pictures and ‘must see’ ideas about my hometown. There are SO many cool places to visit, things to do, restaurants to have meals in, bars to drink and dance at, and stores to pick up souveniers at than this post has space for so if you’ll be visiting Music City and would like more ideas drop me a line at contactthegreygoddess@gmail.com.

  12. Absolutely loved this post and this idea!
    If you are interested in highlighting Toronto, happy to help! :)

  13. Jules says...

    Oakland, California for sure. San Francisco is nice and all, but the real burgeoning art, music, and culture is in Oakland!

  14. My friend is heading to Houston and New Orleans, maybe a guide to either soon?

  15. I would love to see Asheville, NC covered! We’re going in May and this type of post would be so helpful for our planning!

    • I haven’t lived in Asheville for a few years now…and there’s all kinds of new things going on in the city I probably don’t know about, but I highly recommend the following:

      French Broad Chocolate Lounge for dessert
      Classic southern cuisine: Tupelo Honey, Early Girl Eatery (both located in the very walkable downtown)
      Southern BBQ: There is only one option. Gotta be 12 Bones (2 locations – River Arts District & South Asheville. They have kind of funny hours — check online)
      Shopping: Just spend the day downtown. Tons of boutiques and specialty stores. Also, 15 minutes or so from downtown is the best shoe store ever. It’s called Discount Shoe Warehouse. When you get there, you’ll think you’re walking into a bizarre cowboy boot store. It is SO much more than that. :)
      Beer: The Wedge Brewery (located in River Arts District), Green Man (Jack of the Wood carries these ales, which is an Irish pub. Check their calendar and go when they’re having a folk or Irish jam session)
      History/Top tourist attraction: Biltmore Estate. Splurge and tour with the headset. There’s several restaurants onsite, and a winery, too!
      Outdoors: Blue Ridge Parkway! Drive and take in the views, or do some googling for top hikes in the area. My favorite is Graveyard Fields, about 45 minutes away from downtown.
      Honorable mention: Asheville pizza and brewery. Solid menu. Good drinks…and they run movies you can purchase a ticket to for $2 or $3. These are movies that are heading out to DVD soon. Still one of the things I miss the most about living there. There are 2 locations. One downtown and one on Merrimon Avenue (5 mins. from downtown). The one on Merrimon is the one that shows movies.

  16. I think Madison, WI would make a great pick! It’s always getting ranked number one or close to the top of “Best City in America” lists, and it’s also a really beautiful (aka photo ready!), outdoorsy, lake-filled place.

    I helped Wes Verhoeve pick people and places to feature for his Madison One of Many (and appeared in his essay!), and I’d love to help you too if you’re interested. I’ve lived here for years, am actively involved in the community, and love showing off this great place.

    Have a great weekend!

    Rachel

    • Laura says...

      Agree! Love Madison!

  17. Mary Lou says...

    I would love to see Charleston, SC featured on your list of cool cities!! Lots to do there from history, beaching, shopping, and great eating!!

  18. Katy says...

    Ooohh! I’d love to see a few European cities covered. Prague would be great because it’s becoming such a cultural center of Europe We live here and we LOVE it! It’s a really exciting place to be right now. So many new cafes, shops and galleries are popping up all over the city. You know what else I’d love is for someone to cover Malta. We’re going for a visit soon and haven’t really found a lot of information on where to eat or shop.

  19. So glad you are exploring cities now! I’m a little biased, but I think you should add San Antonio and/or Austin to the list. Austin is an obvious choice, but my home town, San Antonio, is really making its mark lately.

  20. I’d be a big fan to see Brussels, Belgium here! It’s a little far but a really interesting place!

  21. I love this series. I 100% use blogs I trust whenever we’re planning a trip or exploring a new city. I’d love to help our with Minneapolis/St. Paul if you ever feature the Twin Cities. Cities I’m interested in: Detroit, Savannah, Portland (maine) and Jackson Hole.

  22. Stacey Van Diest says...

    Ooh ooh, St. Petersburg, Florida, please! There’s so much happening here, with a burgeoning restaurant and craft beer scene, art up the wazoo (the Dali Museum, Chihuly Collection, public murals, 2nd Saturday art walks), a fantastic open-air farmers’ market, and, of course, unbeatable beaches! Our downtown is situated right on the bay, with public parks spanning miles and miles of waterfront. We also have the oldest and largest shuffleboard club in the world! St. Pete is such a fantastic city and is still a bit under the radar. I love it here and would be happy to contribute…

  23. Would love to see you cover Prague!

  24. This is awesome!!! I would love to help you out with Seattle!! I lived there for 13 years, love good food/music and would love to provide you with any info you need :)

  25. Love this! I went to Nashville years ago on a college spring break and want to return. Looking forward to seeing other city posts. Hoping to see recommendations for Seattle, Santa Fe, and Austin. If you ever need a contributor on a city guide to Denver, I’d love to help out :)

  26. So exciting to see Nashville featured here! I live in East Nashville and second all of Elise’s recommendations. Mas Tacos for life! If you’re planning a trip, stay in our Airbnb — it’s just a few blocks from lots of East Nashville hot spots (including Mas Tacos!) I’d love to meet fellow Cup of Jo readers visiting Nashville!

    • Olivia! I think you need a copy of GOODNIGHT, NASHVILLE at your Air BnB! It has been on the bestseller list in The Tennessean since its debut three weeks ago and every sale supports local nonprofits. It could even be a fun gift for all of your guests! We could talk about discounts if you wanted to go that route. :) Regardless, so happy to know a fellow Nashvillian who also loves Cup of Jo!

  27. Pam says...

    I have to echo a few of the previous comments and mention Savannah, GA. We just spent a week there and fell in love with that city! We had our 4-year-old girl and 8-month-old baby with us and the city is so manageable with kids!

  28. Aisha says...

    Yay to see Nashville on here! I live here and would add Nolensville Road in South Nashville for some authentic ethnic food–lots of Arab, Persian, Mediterranean options: House of Kabob:try the yellow rice or green rice; Sulav market for great shawarmas. Latino options: Tacos y Mariscos Lopez food trucks all down this street for great tacos; Las Americas for the best pupusas. Taj for great Indian.
    King Market (in Antioch) for great Thai & Loatian. For the best pho try Kien Giang on Charlotte Pike (West Nashville).
    Definitely explore 12th South neighbourhood: great restaurants and boutiques. Also try Sinema restaurant:great food downstairs and an awesome lounge upstairs; then go next door to the Sutler for great drinks.
    I could go on and on there’s just so much to enjoy.