Guide to Savannah's Historic District

A visit to Savannah is a trip back in time to the pre-Revolutionary and Civil War eras


The city, founded in 1733, is as graceful and Southern as a ghostly drift of Spanish moss. It’s a pedestrian city, with plenty to take in as you walk by the pretty green squares ringed by architectural gems, hear scary stories of resident ghosts and tour the waterfront that helped define the city. Go explore a city riddled with history!

Savannah Squares

Take a hop-on, hop-off trolley or a horse-and-carriage tour of Savannah’s historic squares. The city is a grid of green mini parks surrounded by graceful old homes and civic buildings. Plan your historic house and museum tours around the squares, with plenty of breaks to stretch your legs or refuel with a boxed-lunch picnic. The Savannah Chamber of Commerce website has free maps of the city squares, architecturally significant houses, popular attractions and restaurants. Customize your own walking tour with a stop at Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace just off Wright Square. Picnic where Forrest Gump sat, with his box of chocolates, in Chippewa Square.

Historic Homes

Savannah’s historic homes date from before the Civil War, and their varied architectural styles turn this quaint city into a period movie set. Gingerbread trim, wrought-iron balconies, classic Greek Revival townhouses and ornate Italianate mansions are a preservationist’s dream—each one comes with its own colorful story. See the Civil War-era Mercer-Williams House, the setting for the baffling murder in the book and film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Explore the early-1800s Regency-style Owens-Thomas House, the home of a wealthy cotton merchant. The former slave quarters behind the main house are also open for touring.

To Market, To Market

Before the Civil War, Savannah’s City Market was a bustling commercial and social hub for farmers, traders, fishermen, blacksmiths and barbers. Today, the site of the original market comprises four blocks of restored warehouses, working artists’ studios, shops, street musicians—and Your Pizza. Choose your own pizza sauces, cheeses and toppings—no fuss, no fights, just one happy family. In December, City Market’s Christmas is a blow-out for the young and young-at-heart with cookie decorating, face-painting, holiday choirs, a petting zoo, photo ops with Father Christmas, ornament making and more. In July, pop next door to the Fountains of Ellis Square for summer heat relief in the very chill, synchronized spouting jets of water.

Sounds of Savannah

Savannah breaks out its bagpipes for the nation’s second largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, so wear something green. Stick around for the late-March kick-off of the internationally acclaimed Savannah Music Festival. More than 100 performances, from jazz to chamber music to kid-centric pop groups, fill every city venue for two-and-a-half nonstop weeks of sound. In October, the annual weekend-long Savannah Folk Music Festival celebrates a rich Southern heritage of blues, banjo, bluegrass and ballads in the City Market area and the renovated Roundhouse Railroad Museum. August’s Savannah VOICE Festival features two weeks of vocal performances: operas, concerts, master classes, musical theater and pop music acts—over 100 artists in 45 concerts, many staged in historic houses and churches.

River Walk

Go down to the river—literally down a few steps from Savannah’s historic district on the bluff to waterfront River Street. The Savannah River is the reason the city exists. It’s always been an economic driver and transportation hub, lined with rice and cotton warehouses then, and art galleries, brew pubs, antique shops, trendy boutiques, jumping nightspots and restaurants serving up Southern fare now. Feast on a blackened shrimp “faux” boy sandwich while taking in the boat traffic on the river. See Old Savannah from the water on a paddleboat cruise. Book a weekend stay during First Friday, which features monthly fireworks at night over the river and First Saturday, a day of arts and crafts and live entertainment along the waterfront.

Forsyth Park

Don’t leave this Southern city without a stop by Forsyth Park, 30 acres of green oasis at the southern tip of the Historic District, known for its famous fountain. The white, cast-iron sculpted spout is modeled after the one on Place de la Concorde in Paris, but Savannah’s has dreamy, camera-ready approaches framed by arched live oaks with curtains of gray-green Spanish moss. On Saturday mornings, find fresh local produce and homemade foods at the Forsyth Farmers’ Market. On St. Patrick's Day, the city ceremoniously dyes the fountain water green—arrive early for a good vantage point.

Best Boos

Many old cities have ghosts, and Savannah’s ghouls are just below the surface. Spook yourselves silly at Pirates’ House, a restaurant built in 1754 as a seafarer's inn. Below decks is a haunted tunnel, from the rum cellar to the river, where drunken patrons were tricked into joining ships' crews only to come too far out at sea. Upstairs, the restaurant is haunted by the ghost of Captain Flint from "Treasure Island". Sit down to a meal of fried Southern fare and listen as the costumed swashbuckler tells his tale. Day or night, haunted house tours—on foot, by trolley or in a converted hearse—are spooky fun in Savannah, which has been dubbed “America’s Most Haunted City.”

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