Some cities seem to spring up overnight, going from virtually unknown to must-visit hot spots in what feels like a matter of moments—but that isn’t the case for Nashville. Tennessee’s iconic capital has long been one of America’s sweethearts, drawing travelers from around the world who come to experience the thriving music scene the city was built upon. The Music City moniker isn’t new, either, but a relic of the city’s colorful past, from the fiddle tunes of the earliest settlers to the birth of the first musical group to perform a world tour.
Music is undoubtedly the common thread connecting people and places in Nashville, and a hub of elevated, thriving culture has grown alongside it. What makes the city so remarkable is the seamless intersection of the old and the new, with a throughline of good music, interesting architecture, and increasingly elevated tastes. Strolling around Nashville, you’ll pass a world-class museum housed in a historic building on one block and an exciting new restaurant from a first-generation American featuring elements of his childhood home on another, weaving together the fabric of a city that honors its trailblazing past while continuing to move forward with enthusiasm and energy.
Here are a handful of must-visit places around Music City that help tell the complete story.
The hotel scene in Nashville is among the most exciting in the country thanks to the influx of visitors the city’s seen in recent years. For a luxury stay at an iconic historic landmark, there is no place quite like The Hermitage Hotel. When Nashville was a city on the rise back in the early 1900s, a group of businessmen sought to create luxury accommodations that would also serve as an iconic landmark in the up-and-coming Music City. The Hermitage was the city’s first “million-dollar hotel,” and the iconic Beaux Arts aesthetic is as timeless as the recent multiyear renovation, maintaining the first-class hotel experience that has won travelers over for over a century.
On the nouveau front is the luxury, sustainably minded 1 Hotel Nashville. With a well-deserved reputation for impeccably designed properties that put the natural environment first, the newly opened 1 Hotel offers a peek into the future of eco-conscious travel. Take, for example, the hotel’s lush ivory facade, which mitigates heat from the sidewalk to generate fresh air. With an ultra-central location directly across from Music City Center and thoughtfully designed guest rooms centered around conservation, the urban oasis has it all.
To fully appreciate Nashville’s burgeoning culinary scene, one must first take a look back at the chefs and institutions that put Music City on the foodie map. Prince’s is one such place where the beloved Nashville Hot Chicken got its start. As the story goes, Thornton Prince, a well-known ladies' man, provoked his partner’s fury with his deceit. To get revenge, she cooked him a super spicy fried chicken breast intending to set his taste buds aflame. In the end, Thorton devoured the dish and decided he should sell it to the masses.
These days, Nashville is home to Michelin-starred restaurants and a slate of up-and-coming culinary talent. At Tailor, first-generation South Asian-American chef Vivek Surti has created an intimate, dinner-party-esque experience in a beautiful space modeled after his family home. The multi-course meal is elevated with high-touch service and thoughtful design details like the massive crystal chandelier lifted straight from Surti’s family home and a Rajasthani sword mounted to the wall.
One of the most architecturally interesting things about Nashville is the way the city has repurposed historic buildings into world-class art institutions. Such is the case with Frist Art Museum, housed in the magnificent Art Deco building that served as Nashville’s main post office for decades. Having no permanent collection, the Frist team curates rotating exhibits from some of the world’s more predominant artists, meaning there is always something new to see. The Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive stations, inviting guests to engage further by becoming participants in the experience by creating their own original works of art.
Music City’s newest museum, the National Museum of African American Music, is the only museum solely dedicated to preserving and celebrating more than 50 genres and styles of music that were created or influenced by African Americans, from R&B to blues to soul to hip hop and so many in between. Though the museum is new, the history encompassed across its six galleries is rich and storied, linking American history with the history of music for an educational experience that will delight any music lover.
Nashville’s past and present are beautifully bound together by music, the thriving heartbeat that pulses at the center of the city’s culture. There is no shortage of live music venues in the city, but Ryman Auditorium is undoubtedly one of the most instrumental. The 2,362-seat venue has seen the likes of musicians who normally sell out stadiums thanks to its renowned 130-year heritage. Ryman’s stages have been graced by the likes of exemplary artists who have gone on to define musical excellence, from Charlie Chaplin and Dolly Parton to Jack White and Taylor Swift. Ryman is also a beacon for historic design—just before the turn of the century, local architecture firm HFR Design completed a rehabilitation project for the venue, preserving its structural integrity and adding modern elements to accentuate the original Gothic Revival style.
Another representation of the multi-genre excellence of Music City can be found at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, where the 14-time Grammy Award-winning Nashville Symphony serenades music lovers with both classic and modern work. In an average year, the symphony assembles for over 150 concerts each centered around a different theme, from the Black Panther soundtrack to unique collaborations with local Nashville artists and composers. The Schermerhorn Symphony Center itself is considered one of the finest acoustic music venues in the world, boasting distinctive neo-classical architecture and intimate interior design.
For the culture-obsessed, the music lover, the foodie, and the design aficionado, Nashville checks every box. Explore more and begin planning your trip at visitmusiccity.com.