First Time Visitors Guide to Savannah
Savannah’s Historic District, covering 2.2 square miles, is one of the largest in the country. With Southern Hospitality everywhere you look, and General Oglethorpe’s ingenious grid layout keeping everything orderly, you can confidently grab your walking shoes and get ready to explore! Here’s a look at what the concierges of Historic Inns of Savannah recommend as a first time visitors guide to Savannah.
First Time Visitors Guide to Savannah: 3 Places You Must See
An absolute “must” on your first visit to Savannah is to explore the three main areas of the Historic District. We recommend guests use this map to locate their inn, and then identify places you wish to visit.
1. City Market
Four renovated blocks in the heart of the historic district really capture the authentic atmosphere and character of the city’s old open marketplace. Known as City Market, this spot is also one of the most-visited attractions in Savannah, GA—featuring artists working in their lofts and exhibiting finished works for sale. You’ll also find restaurants, open-air cafés, jazz clubs, and shops offering crafts, accessories, and gifts.
2. River Street
River Street and the Old Cotton Exchange were the center of commerce in 1887—when cotton was king. Iron bridges, cobblestone streets, and sidewalks tie together a unique multilevel collection of 19th-century buildings. Where there once stood old cotton warehouses, you’ll now find a multitude of bars, restaurants, and shops. Olde Harbour Inn is located directly on River Street, and East Bay Inn is across the street.
3. Forsyth Park
This 26-acre park, starting at the south end of the historic district, is especially beautiful in spring when the flowering trees and azaleas are in full bloom. The large ornate fountain dates to 1858. Joggers and walkers head here to make the mile loop around the perimeter of the park. Forsyth Park is the pride of Savannah, and fortunately, located just a minute’s walk from The Gastonian on Gaston Street and the Eliza Thompson House on Jones Street.
Next on Our First Time Visitors Guide to Savannah List
When you’re ready to branch out a bit more, we suggest these top sites be next on your list.
1. Colonial Cemetery
Colonial Park Cemetery—approximately six acres in size—is in the heart of Savannah’s Historic District at 201 Abercorn Street. The park-like cemetery has been closed to interments since 1853 and is the oldest intact municipal cemetery in Savannah. Previously known as the Old Cemetery, Old Brick Graveyard, South Broad Street Cemetery, or Christ Church Cemetery, the cemetery served as the primary public cemetery from 1750 to 1853.
2. The Mercer House
At Monterey Square, you’ll find Mercer House, built in 1860 for the great-grandfather of songwriter Johnny Mercer. Purchased in 1969 and restored by Jim Williams, Mercer House remains the principal subject of the book and film titled Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Scenes from the movie were shot here. Still privately owned by the family, the Mercer-Williams House Museum is open for tours.
3. The Vibrant Art Community of Savannah
One of the finest art colleges in the nation, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has made its home in the heart of the historic district. The diverse talent of SCAD’s student body is readily welcomed in many of the art galleries in the area. Our highly regarded art galleries and museums include the Telfair Museum of Art, the Jepson Center for the Arts, and the SCAD Museum of Art.
4. Savannah’s Squares
Savannah was originally built around four open squares in 1733. Today, 22 of the 24 historic squares remain intact. If you’ve got your walking shoes on, it’s entirely feasible to visit each one of the squares and monuments of Savannah in just one day. Most of Savannah’s squares are named in honor or in memory of a person, or a historical event. Several walking guides and tour maps of Savannah will help you chart your course for walking the squares.
Top Five Recommended Squares
When you have to pick and choose, our concierge staff recommends that you don’t miss these Savannah squares.
1. Ellis Square, featuring a Johnny Mercer statue and water feature
2. Reynolds Square, between the Lucas Theater and Olde Pink House Restaurant
3. Chippewa Square, statue of Gen. James Oglethorpe, founder of Georgia; and site of the “Forrest Gump” bench during filming of the movie
4. Lafayette Square, between the Andrew Low House Museum and Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home
5. Monterey Square, between the Mercer-Williams House and Temple Mickve Israel
Want more suggestions? Book your hotel stay with us at Historic Inn of Savannah, and you’ll have access to our concierge reservations and recommendations.