Iconic live oaks draped with Spanish moss surrounding tidy squares and shading expansive 18th-century homes. For most people, that’s the vision that comes to mind when they think of Savannah. The Historic District lives up to this vision and then some.
When I drove into the city for the first time, I was in awe of just how much Savannah lives up to that vision. It looks exactly as it should, a scene straight out of a period film – cobblestone streets, magnolia blossoms, historic architecture, and a sense of mystery.
If you’re looking for a true Savannah experience, you will find it first in the Historic District. Here are my top five reasons to visit or buy in the Historic District:
1. Quintessential Charm and History – The romance of this area tops my list for obvious reasons above. The Historic District is one of the largest in the country. Its boundaries correspond roughly with the original city limits outlaid by Savannah’s founder, General James Oglethorpe, extending south from River Street to Gwinnett Street and bounded by Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the west and Broad Street to the east. Twenty-two historic squares break up the quiet, tree-lined streets. Walking the squares in the evening, it’s easy to imagine Southern ladies in hoop skirts and gents in tails taking an evening stroll.
2. Walkability – If you’re looking for a walkable neighborhood, the Historic District should be first on your list. All amenities are within walking distance – groceries, coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques, salons, and, of course, the famous squares. If you work in the city as well, going without a car is even feasible.
3. Shopping – Broughton Street is Savannah’s main commercial corridor with shops, restaurants, and bars. Featuring typical retailers like Banana Republic and Lululemon, Broughton Street also offers a selection of smaller boutiques and specialty shops. Here are some of the best:
The Paris Market and Brocante – Visit The Paris Market and be transported to the Champs Elysees. This home goods shop also features a sweet café where you can sip a latte in your beret. Beyond home goods they also offer jewelry, handbags, clothing, and toiletries so you can look and smell the part.
Savannah Bee Company – Sample locally-made honey and mead at the Savannah Bee Company’s storefront. The specialty honey comes in flavors as classic as Tupelo and as unique as black sage. They also feature a line of natural, honey-based beauty products.
24e Design Co. – This eclectic home furniture shop has been filling the homes of Savannah with exclusive, one-of-a-kind pieces since 2000. They’ve garnered accolades like an Arts Award for “#1 Single Location Retailer in the Nation,” and they’re the only place in town you can find a coffee table made from an airplane wing.
Zia Boutique – Find jewelry, handbags, and home décor sourced from around the world – places like Kenya, Cuba, and Japan – at Zia Boutique. Owner Zia Sachedina loves to share tokens and trinkets from his extensive travels.
4. Dining – The dining scene in Savannah is changing for the better, and the Historic District boasts some of the best eats in town. Check out these top spots for an elevated Savannah dining experience:
The Grey – No Savannah dining round-up would be complete without this acclaimed spot. Chef Mashama Bailey was recently featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table. Located in a historic Greyhound Station, The Grey’s menu is inspired by Chef Mashama’s upbringing in Savannah. Keep an eye out for her signature palate cleanser – an authentic Savannah “thrill.”
Prohibition – This updated speakeasy features a classic cocktail list and an upscale menu where you can find bone marrow and beef tartare. Come in for a drink and stay for a delicious meal.
Olde Pink House – This Savannah staple offers up traditional Southern cuisine with white tablecloth service. Built in 1771, this restaurant comes with its share of history and hauntings.
The Collins Quarter – The Collins Quarter has been mixing food of the southern hemisphere with food of the South in Savannah since 2014 (the owner is an Aussie). They have one of the best coffee bars in town along with one of the absolute best brunches on the East Coast. Get there early to avoid the wait.
Alligator Soul – Consistently named one of the best in Savannah, this eatery takes a modern approach to traditional Southern cuisine. And, yes, you can find alligator on the menu along with Southern classics like frog legs and shrimp and grits.
5. Historic Homes in Abundance – As a nationally-registered landmark historic district, even the new construction is required to meet certain aesthetic regulations to be built here. Since the 1950s preservationists have been on a mission to save historic homes and buildings, resulting in a revitalized downtown that has maintained its character. A few are open for tours like the Owens-Thomas House and the Mercer House, the setting for the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. And plenty are up for sale for the history-minded buyer.
While the average sale price for a home in the Historic District is about $600,000, the range starts from just under $300,000 for a small condo to upwards of several million dollars for a townhouse or stick built home. Since it is the city’s ultimate walkable neighborhood, one thing you can count on is paying a premium (by Savannah’s standards) for the location. Also, it is a wise idea to purchase and renew a $170 city resident parking pass so you can ignore the parking meters… you’re welcome. For home buyers looking for city life in a character-filled home or upscale condo, Savannah’s Landmark Historic District is a great starting point for your search.