48 hours to experience Nashville

Photography by Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

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September 2017

Let friendly Nashville take you on a whistle-stop tour of its top sights. Hear the stories of local legends from Dolly Parton to Kings of Leon and try everything from hot chicken to cool boutiques. Spend 48 hours in Nashville and you’ll be calling out for an encore.

Day One

19:00 – Touch down for dinner

Book a direct flight from London Heathrow and arrive in the early evening in Nashville International Airport. Then it’s straight to dinner. East Nashville has plenty of restaurants which will set the pace for your evening. Two Ten Jack serves classy cocktails alongside Japanese food in a pub-style atmosphere. It’s lively, but dimly-lit enough to hide any traces of jet lag.

21:00 – See songbirds

Be sure to book ahead for a table in the tiny Bluebird Cafe. This unassuming venue is an intimate performance space for songwriters, where everyone from Taylor Swift to Faith Hill has sung on their way to stardom. Jam into a chair in the packed-out listening room, where the atmosphere will sizzle. Doors close late and then it’s back to the hotel, humming all the way home.

There’s an exhausting amount of live music every single night, often multiple bands on multiple floors, and you can shuffle along until you find a crowd and sound you like

Day Two

09:00 – Star spotting

After breakfast, it’s time for the big hitter. The Country Music Hall of Fame is massive and comprehensive following a recent renovation. Feel free to take it at pace, but stop to admire the architecture from outside – the windows are configured to look like piano keys and the whole design is roughly based on a bass clef. Just nearby is the Walk of Fame Park, where you can walk over Hollywood-style stars on the sidewalk until you spot Jack White, inducted in 2015, and Kings of Leon, inducted in 2012. As part of your ticket you’ll also have access to a far more intimate site: RCA Studio B.

10:30 – RCA Studio B

It may not look like much, but this is where Elvis recorded over 200 of his songs, and Dolly Parton wrote ‘Jolene’ and ‘I Will Always Love You’. There in the corner are a string of Christmas lights hung up to help the King get in the festive mood for a July recording of some Christmas songs. And there is the ancient piano he would use to warm up and record. Perhaps you’ll get your own flash of inspiration.

Book flights to Nashville

  • Interior of Rolf and Daughters restaurant. ©Rolf and Daughters.

    Meeting place

    Nashville is proud to be a friendly city (it often tops reader’s polls for the same). The streets are full of larger-than-life characters, and we don’t just mean the hen parties visiting for the week end.

    Where to eat in Nashville
  • View of the Hermitage Mansion. Home of President Andrew Jackson in Tennessee. ©Images-USA / Alamy Stock Photo.

    A bit of a character

    A former prisoner of war, a fanatic gambler and known for duelling with his enemies, Andrew Jackson was a fascinating man. Discover more, book return flights to Nashville from£999 pp

    Book flights
  • The Bluebird Cafe, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. The Bluebird Cafe is a renowned music venue on Hillsboro Pike, on the outskirts of Nashville. ©Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo.

    Did you know…

    A 15-year-old Taylor Swift came into the Bluebird Café to sing one day. Music producer Scott Borchetta was sitting over at table 20 and came for a chat. Shortly after, she was working with Music Row songwriters to produce her first album.

    Book a Nashville holiday

11.30 – A simple souvenir

Country Music isn’t just about the twanging guitars. Its image has been carved into woodblocks for decades at the Hatch Show Print. In its signature style, the press creates promotional posters for Nashville’s live acts. Visit to immerse yourself in the visual language of the city. These colourful posters are a great gift – especially if you know someone else named Johnny Cash.

12:00 – Downtown dining

You’re in Downtown, so it makes sense to lunch here, and there’s plenty to choose from. In the Stillery, not only can you try a portion of the world-famous Nashville hot chicken, but you can temper the spice with a slice of mac and cheese, too.

13:30 – Fifteen minutes of fame

Time for the encore. The Ryman Auditorium, birthplace of bluegrass, is worth a tour. Hear about its legendary performances. Originally a tabernacle, and still featuring pew seating, go backstage to the dressing rooms and stand on the stage where Helen Keller, Charlie Chaplin and W.C. Fields all stood before, and where the Grand Ole Opry once hosted its show – Hank Williams received six encores when he played the venue. The new show is at Opryland, just out of town.

15:00 – Pop idols

After country and bluegrass it’s time to expand your musical horizons. Visit the Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum and GRAMMY Gallery. Great for the star-struck, the gallery presents the victors of the GRAMMY music awards (U2 have 22, conductor Georg Solti has 31). There are plenty of interactive exhibitions, film props and instruments. You’ll want to take your time, whether you idolise the piano where Elton John composed, worship at the altar of Roy Orbison’s prescription sunglasses or long for a go on Santana’s Woodstock drum set.

Book a holiday in Nashville

  • Dolly Parton on stage at the Grand Ole Opry ©Grand Ole Opry.

    Hello, Dolly

    Seeing stars in Nashville is almost normal. Almost. Dolly Parton is the most honoured female performer in country music. Book flights, plus a seven night hotel stay from£999 pp

    Book flights and hotels

18:00 – Eat Italy

For dinner, you’re close to the humble suburb of Germantown, which has a reputation as a food district. Though it feels suburban, with old brick townhouses, there are great bars and eateries. Try Rolf and Daughters for Italian-American dishes that keep pace with the demands of the trendy neighbourhood. Pick a selection of classy small plates and cocktails, or twirl your fork through a whole bowl of fresh pasta.

21:00 – The night is young

Dinner should give you enough energy for the live music scene. The classic choice is the Grand Ole Opry. Book before you go and drive the eight miles out to the auditorium in Opryland, where the barn shaped stage awaits. You’ll normally see a mix of acts playing short sets. Look out for famous faces like American Idol winner Carrie Underwood and local-done-good Kelsea Ballerini. Get a taste on Opry.com, where it’s broadcast live.

Navigate the Honky-Tonks of Nashville on the aptly-named Honky Tonk Highway. There’s an exhausting amount of live music every single night, often multiple bands on multiple floors, and you can shuffle along until you find a crowd and sound you like. Look out for Brazilbilly – as the name suggests, it’s country with a Latino edge, or the giant, lit-up boot that symbolises Robert’s Western World. Pull up a stool.

For a break from tradition, visit Exit/In, where the big names from the underground rock world thrash it out in a building that’s painted entirely black. It’s not for everyone. But who said it was only about country music here?

Day Three

09:00 – Presidential premises

Time to explore beyond the city. Head out to Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. The seventh President of the United States has a driveway that’s shaped just like a guitar – Nashville’s influence is never far away, even out of town. When you get inside, you’ll discover his fascinating story – fighting the British at thirteen, orphaned at fourteen, raised to rank of general and finally President. Once in power, he fought for democracy and earned the moniker ‘People’s President’. Visit his garden tomb after a tour of the house.

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11:00 – A Parthenon in the park

From one grand building to another – you can’t miss the Parthenon, situated in Centennial Park. Make this a relaxed walk before lunch and pop in to see the largest indoor statue in the western hemisphere (a big, gold Athena). You can walk all around the park and build up a fine appetite.

12:00 – Grab a slice

In Midtown, try Two Boots pizza restaurant, which serves slices with Hattie B’s chicken on top. Brightly coloured with collages, plastered with pictures, it’s a level up from the tourist trail.

14:00 – Wine time

In the afternoon, the beautiful grounds of the Belle Meade Plantation beckon. A winery, former thoroughbred stables as well as a historic house, it makes a pleasant afternoon of sipping and strolling. Learn about horse racing and wine tasting from guides who take old fashioned hospitality seriously. They’re even in period dress. This is where Seabiscuit and Secretariat’s great grandsire was raised: trace back the bloodlines of two of the greatest horses in American history to the green, green grass of their home pastures.

15:30 – Treasure hunting

After wallowing in other people’s splendour, you may feel a little materialistic. Nashville has a great selection of unusual shops. Yes, there are cowboy boots a-plenty, but head to 12 South, a street that’s fast becoming the hippest in town. Reese Witherspoon, a Nashville native, opened Draper James here, purveyor of upmarket dresses in gingham and cotton. Imogene and Willie does a good line of denim. Hit White’s Mercantile for tasteful homeware, owned by local singer Holly Williams. There are also a few fun vintage stores. Coffee at the Frothy Monkey should keep your energy up before you prepare to tip your hat to Nashville and bid farewell.

Book a holiday in Nashville

Where to stay in Nashville

Millennium Maxwell House

The Millennium Maxwell House is well located and has a nice outdoor pool. One of the older hotels in town, it has good rates for a central location.

Book a stay at the Millennium Maxwell House

Omni Nashville Hotel

Omni Nashville Hotel is adjacent to the Country Music Hall of Fame: it doesn’t get more Nashville than that. The hotel is classy and modern, with a hipster sports bar, a chophouse, a spa and a pool. You’re in a perfect central location, with plenty of options for dining and drinking in the hotel, too.

Book a stay at the Omni Nashville Hotel

The Inn at Opryland

The Inn at Opryland is a modern three-star hotel by the Grand Ole Opry, the perfect base if you’re here for a show. Downtown is eight miles south and the hotel has a free shuttle and free parking, great for exploring further afield destinations like Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage.

Book at stay at the Inn at Opryland