With a historic centre full of immaculate red-brick houses and trees draped with delicate Spanish moss, Savannah is, hands down, one of my favourite cities in America. In fact, it’s probably one of my favourite cities in the world. This guide contains my top recommendations for things to do in Savannah, as well as some tips on where to eat, drink and stay.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way that many venues and tours operate. I recommend always checking the relevant website for the most up to date information and to book in advance wherever possible.
Savannah is one of the most historically important places in the United States, so it’s not surprising that it attracts a fair share of stories and legends. I fell hard for everything that Savannah has to offer, and was browsing real estate listings within thirty minutes of my arrival. Spoiler alert: I couldn’t afford any of those stunning brick houses!
If you’re anything like me, you’ll end up with a camera full of pretty historic buildings (potential new homes), gorgeous outdoor spaces (new local park) and a very happy belly (oh yes, that’s my local cafe). Oh, and you’ll probably be buying your very own copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (another house that’s out of my price range and not for sale. Rude).
So, we’ve established that Savannah is clearly the American city that I am most likely to move to. Now onto the business of telling you everything you need to plan your trip, and the best things to see and do in Savannah!
THINGS TO DO IN SAVANNAH | 11 INCREDIBLE SIGHTS, ATTRACTIONS AND TOURS
One | Learn about the city’s troubled past on a walking tour
When I was trying to find out the best way of learning about Savannah’s history I really struggled. There’s lots of information about the architecture and food, but it was hard to find tours discussing the city’s colonial past in an open and honest fashion.
That’s where Vaughnette Goode-Walker comes in. Her Footprints tour focuses on educating participants about the business of slavery in Savannah leading up to the Civil War. It’s a part of history that’s truly horrific, with the effects still very much in evidence in modern society. Vaughnette covers the city’s past in a way that often gets glossed over elsewhere, so if you only take one excursion then make it this one.
Cost | $25/adult
Hours | 10am daily
Book | here
Driving to Georgia? Check out my East Coast Road Trip Itinerary
Two | Tour one of Savannah’s historic homes
The beautifully restored houses in Savannah are definitely one of the best things about the city. I think that visiting one of them is a must-do, but there are so many to choose from that it can get a bit overwhelming. Here’s my pick of the bunch:
The Owens Thomas House & Slave Quarters
If you’ve only got time for a single house tour then this is the one that I would recommend. The museum’s goal is to really show the contrast between the lives of the wealthy white homeowners and the enslaved Black people who lived there. I found the museum to be incredibly informative in the way that they presented Savannah’s Antebellum history.
I’d recommend taking one of the docent-led tours of the property, as you’ll enjoy stories that you wouldn’t otherwise get to hear. If, however, you’d rather visit under your own steam then you can download an audio tour here and simply wander through the property.
Where | 124 Abercorn St
Cost | $20/adult
Hours | 10am-5pm, closed Tuesday and Wednesday
Tours | Run at 10-minute intervals – reserve onsite, and you should arrive early in order to ensure you get a spot
Book | here
TIP | A ticket to the Owens House also gives you entry to the Telfair Academy (19th and 20th Century art) and Jepson Centre (modern art and architecture). The ticket is valid for a week from the time of purchase.
The Mercer-Williams House
This is one for fans of The Book, which is what they call “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” in Savannah. The house is where Jim Williams lived. I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who don’t know the story, so I’ll just tell you that Jim was a millionaire antiques dealer and he ended up on trial for murder. He’s the main character of The Book.
If you’re here for the gory details though, you’re going to be disappointed, since Williams’ sister is the current owner and resident. If you’re not bothered about the book or the movie then I think it’s enough to just admire the beautiful building from the outside.
Where | 429 Bull St (the entrance is at 430 Whitaker, behind the main house)
Cost | $12:50/adult
Hours | Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11:30am-4:45pm, closed on Wednesday
Tours | every 40 minutes from approximately 30 mins after opening and reservations should be made online
Book | here
The Davenport Museum
This was the first home in the city to be restored by the Savannah Historic Foundation. Due to the nature of the foundation, a tour here is more focused on the architecture and features of the house than the people who lived here. You’ll also learn a little about the work of the Foundation itself as you’re wandering through the house.
Where | 324E State St on Columbia Square
Cost | $10/adult
Hours | Mon-Sat 10am-4pm, Sun 1pm-4pm
Visiting | You’ll need to purchase your ticket before contacting the museum to confirm a tour time
Book | here
The King-Tisdale Cottage
The Victorian-style cottage was built in 1896 for Sara King and Robert Tisdale who were part of Savannah’s entrepreneurial African-America class. The beautifully restored building is now home to a cultural museum of African American arts and crafts.
Where | 541 E Huntingdon St
Cost | $10/adult
Hours | Tues/Thurs 12pm-2pm, Wed/Fri/Sat – 12pm-5pm, closed Sunday and Monday
Book | Ticket link is about halfway down this page
Three | Wander through the iconic city squares
The historic district of Savannah is laid out in a nice neat grid, making a feature of the 22 squares. You can basically wander the streets from one square to another, enjoying the ambience. Some of the squares have fountains, some have lovely gardens, and they’ve almost all got the moss-festooned oak trees that give the city so much character.
Everyone has their favourites and must-sees, but if you’re short on time then these are the most recommended:
Reynolds Square – in the centre you’ll find a statue of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism
Johnson Square – the first and largest in Savannah
Wright Square – contains the Tomochichi memorial and the Gordon monument
Chippewa Square – the one made famous by Forrest Gump, where you’ll also find a memorial to James Oglethorpe, the founder of the colony of Georgia
Madison Square – the main draw here are the shops and buildings around the sqaure, including the famous E. Shaver bookstore
Monterey Square – home of the Mercer-Williams house, of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame
Orleans Square – the central fountain here is one of my favourites, and it’s a lovely shady spot to escape the heat
Read more | A Walking Tour of Savannah
Four | Hop on a Historic Trolley Tour
The trolleys wending their way through the historic district are one of the many things that make a visit to Savannah feel so much like you’ve stepped back in time. Taking a trolley tour is a great way to see the old part of the city whilst also hearing all about its history. We turned up on the day and paid, but you can also book online in advance.
I loved our trip with Old Savannah Tours (dog friendly too!) and we had the most delightful guide in the whole world. I think we kind of blew her mind when we said we were visiting from Australia and New Zealand.
Old Savannah Tours are locally owned and operated, so you’re putting your money right back into the local economy by taking your tour with them. The fun thing about their tours is the local characters that may suddenly appear on your trolley. We did the 90-minute tour, but they also have an all-day hop-on hop-off that’s really popular and a great way to spend more time in areas that take your interest.
Where | Tours start from the Savannah Welcome Center at 215 W Boundary St
Cost | $28-$35/adult depending on tour type
Hours | daily 9am-4:30pm
Book | here
Five | Meet the ghosts of old Savannah
Savannah regularly makes it onto lists of the most haunted cities in America, which is hardly surprising. The city was built on a Native American burial ground and was the largest port in the Atlantic Slave Trade. There have also been multiple outbreaks of Yellow Fever here, and more than a few murders.
Ghost tour lovers are absolutely spoiled for choice in Savannah. There are well over 40 tours to choose from, with Afterlife Tours highly recommended. At each site, you’re shown paranormal footage recorded there, and it’s basically guaranteed to freak you out. If you’re like me, you probably won’t sleep very well. Maybe do the tour and then immediately leave town…
Where | Tours start at Telfair Square
Cost | $29/adult
Hours | 8pm or 10pm nightly
Book | here
Six | Visit the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum
Documenting the city’s Jim Crow era and Civil Rights movement, this museum is small but full of interesting information, and it’s clear that it’s a real labour of love. The local staff are knowledgeable, and the video upstairs telling the story of Savannah’s desegregation from those who witnessed it first-hand is incredibly powerful.
The museum focuses on a piece of Savannah’s history that you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the city, and is an absolute highlight.
Where | 460 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
Cost | $10/adult
Hours | Tues-Sat 10am-4pm
Book | here
Explore | Where to Eat and Drink in Savannah, Georgia
TIP | Many of Savannah’s attractions are included in the Savannah Tour Pass so if you think you’d like to do several paid attractions then check them out to see if it works out cheaper (from $72)
Seven | Take a stroll through Savannah’s largest park
Forsyth park is 30 acres of green in the heart of the city, and you’ll probably recognise the iconic fountain in its centre. It’s the largest public park in the city, and a lovely place to while away an hour or two with a picnic or, alternatively, a glass or two from a local bar. This is also one of the best places in the city to find oak trees covered with Spanish moss.
Where | 2 W Gaston St
Cost | Free
Hours | 24h daily
Eight | First African Baptist Church
This is one of the most significant historical buildings in Savannah and the oldest Black church in North America. Inside, you can see an original pipe organ from 1832. The wooden pews were carved by enslaved Africans, which is a sobering contrast to the beautiful original details throughout the building. The church was part of the Underground Railroad and offers tours detailing the history of the site.
This church is also one of the stops on the walking tour by Underground Tours of Savannah, who offer a 90 minute excursion led by local Gullah Geechee. I’ve heard really great things about their guides and walks. The guides are all Gullah Geechee natives, born and raised in Savannah’s first African American communities. You can read more and book a tour here.
Where | 23 Montgomery St
Cost | $7
Hours | daily except Sunday and Monday – call or email to confirm times (previously Tues/Thurs 11am and 1pm, Wed/Fri/Sat 11am and 2pm)
Book | here
Nine | Wormsloe Historic Site Oak Avenue
Listen, although Savannah is chock full of history and incredible foodie experiences, I’d be totally remiss not to include this incredible photography spot. Your quintessential “moss-draped oak trees lining perfectly straight road” Instagram shot is basically guaranteed. You’re welcome.
A 15 minute drive from the city, this is actually the site of Georgia’s oldest plantation. You’ll find the ruins of the building from the mid 1700s made of “tabby”, a mixture of sand, water, lime and oyster shells. There’s a small museum here as well as a variety of walking trails through the site.
Where | 7601 Skidaway Rd
Cost | $10/adult
Hours | daily 9am–4:45pm
Tours | daily at 9:30am, 11am, 1:30pm and 3pm, free with entry price
Getting there | If you don’t have your own car then you’ll need to take an Uber/Lyft/taxi as there are no public transport links to the site at the moment
Book | here
TIP | Whilst I recommend visiting the entire site on one of the guided tours if you have time, you can currently visit the Oak avenue without paying the admission fee.
Ten | Browse the shelves at a truly independent bookstore
Who would I be without a book focused venue on this list? Clearly an imposter. Book Lady bookstore has jam packed shelves that have all been hand-selected by the owner. There’s cozy antique furniture for you to settle down in whilst you browse. They’ve got new books, old books, rare books and gift books. They’ve even got a rare books room and a little cafe. Basically, this is my idea of heaven.
Where | 6 E Liberty St
Hours | Mon-Sat 10am-5:30pm, Sun 10am-4pm
Website | here
Eleven | Visit Savannah’s Oldest Residents
Ok, so they’re actually dead, but bear with me. Bonaventure Cemetery is one of the best places to learn more about Savannah’s history which, other than the Spanish moss, is really the main reason for a visit to the city.
Tim, who runs Dash Tours, is a Savannah local and he’ll collect you from your downtown accommodation to take you to the cemetery, so his is a great option if you don’t have (or don’t want to take) a car. He’s actually a historian and his walking tours of the cemetery come without a lot of the tall tales you’ll get on other trips.
If you’d rather make your own way there and explore then you can download the Bonaventure Cemetery tour app or take in one of the tours led by volunteers if you’re there on a weekend when they’re running. Find out more at the Bonaventure Historical Society’s site.
Where | 330 Bonaventure Rd
Cost | Free
Hours | daily 8am-5pm
Getting there | There are no public transport connections, so you’ll have to take a car
Tour | $30/adult including collection from accommodation with Dash Tours. Approx 3h total (2h walking) and pet friendly
WHERE TO EAT IN SAVANNAH
Cha Bella | This is hands down my favourite place to eat in Savannah. I recommend it to everyone and it always gets a five star rating. It’s farm to table with almost all the ingredients sourced from within a day’s drive of the restaurant. As with many restaurants in Savannah there aren’t that many vegetarian options so call ahead if you have concerns. The food is seasonal with a changing menu and I recommend making a reservation so that you can enjoy your meal on the beautiful patio. Check opening hours (closed Mon) and more here.
The Grey | Mashama Bailey always gets rave reviews for the quality of both the food and service here. They’ve recently switched things up to offer three different prix fixe menus in the dining room and you’ll need to make reservations for the restaurant. You can still turn up and wait for a spot at the bar counter, which has a more relaxed vibe and smaller menu. Word to the wise – the salted fish croquettes are out of this world. Contact them in advance with dietary requirements. Hours, menus and bookings here.
Fox & Fig | This plant-based cafe serves a wonderful selection of food, and is a great option if you’re vegan/vegetarian. The coffee is locally roasted and delicious, and the cafe is open until 9pm. If you’re craving some plants amidst the sea of meat and fish, then this place is definitely worth a visit. Honestly, you should go for the coffee if nothing else!
TIP | Savannah has open container laws which mean you can take your drink to go and enjoy a cocktail whilst sitting in one of the beautiful squares. Highly recommended!
The Pink House | Regularly cropping up on recommendations of places to eat in Savannah, this restaurant is as much about the venue as it is the food. They serve traditional Southern fare and, again, veggie options are few and far between. You’ll usually get a little history lesson from your server as an added extra. If you have time then the bar downstairs in the basement is worth a visit in its own right. Hours, menu and reservations here.
The Sentient Bean | The ethos at this vegetarian/vegan cafe is one of community support and caring about the environment. All the coffee here is fair trade, and the majority of the products are locally sourced. Just a lovely venue run by lovely locals.
Leopold’s Ice Cream | This is as close as you get to a culinary institution in Savannah. Leopold’s has been serving scoops since 1919 and there’s usually a line out the door and going round the block. It’s definitely worth getting in line to taste it for yourself!
Pizzaria Vittoria Napolitana | I’m the fussiest person in the world when it comes to pizza – they’ve got to be thin crust, wood-fired, and none of those weird toppings like nachos. These guys keep it simple, traditional and bloody delicious. They’re situated in the funky Starland District which is built out of shipping containers. Well worth a visit.
OTHER TOURS IN SAVANNAH
Tours for the Foodies
Famous and Secret East Side Food Tour | This one mile foodie focused tour on the east side will give you a little insight into the history of the city whilst also allowing you to experience the food at up to six local eateries.
3-Hour First Squares Food Tour | Similar to the above, this tour visits six local specialty food stores or restaurants to give you a sample of everything that Savannah has to offer. Ask for the tour to be adapted for vegetarians.
Trips for the beach lovers
Tybee Island is about a 30 minute drive from downtown Savannah and a really lovely detour if you have the time. You can hire a bike at Fat tyre Bikes and head off to the beach for an afternoon. AJ’s Dockside serves great food, but you’ll probably need to make a reservation to be sure of a seat. You can either drive there from the city or take a shuttle which goes 3x daily Mon-Sat.
On the island, if you don’t have a car you can get around with Tybee Turtle Transit. The Tybee Island lighthouse dates back to 1736 and has really wonderful views from the top. It costs $10 to go up the lighthouse, and you’ll get stunning views over the island. I’ve heard that the sunset tour is particularly stunning. If you’ve got a little more time, then you can even take a dolphin cruise.
PLANNING YOUR VISIT | EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO ENJOY THE TOP THINGS TO DO IN SAVANNAH, GEORGIA
Where is Savannah?
Located on the East Coast of the USA, Savannah is tucked up at the top of Georgia, right on the Atlantic Coast. For those who have a slightly hazy grasp of the geography of the United States, Georgia’s the one right above Florida. I feel confident you’ll all know that as the one hanging off the bottom that looks like it doesn’t really want to be there.
It’s part of America’s “Deep South” with all that implies. The history here is complicated and fascinating, and Savannah bears the title of America’s most haunted cities, but don’t let that put you off. I found the city, and Georgia in general, to be full of the most welcoming people who are keen to share the state’s past.
You’ve got be strong to make it in this part of America, and some of the country’s greatest historical events – the American Revoultion, the American Civil War, the abolition of slavery and the rise of the Civil Rights movement – have started here.
When is the best time to visit Savannah?
Summer in Savannah is supposed to be hot and humid, which may put you off. I visited in late August and actually found the weather to be beautiful and not really humid at all. Of course, I also lived for several years in places where 90% humidity is the norm, so it’s possible that your tolerance may be less than mine.
If you want reliably good weather, less humidity and fewer crowds, then you’re best off visiting in November. October is beautiful from a weather perspective, but also very busy.
Spring is the most popular time of year to visit as the azaleas and dogwoods start blooming. St Patrick’s weekend in the city is insane, with an additional half million people descending for the festivities. March and April are definitely the busiest months, with the numbers easing off a little in May.
The cheapest months to visit are usually January and August. Make of that what you will.
The best places to stay in Savannah
As a well-established tourist destination, there’s no shortage of places to stay in Savannah, no matter your budget. Parking is often difficult to find in the historic district, but not impossible. If you’re prepared for a short walk then you’ll be able to find something reasonably priced near to your accommodation.
I would recommend staying as close as possible to the historic district, since that’s where you’ll find the majority of the sights. If you want to travel a little further afield then leave your car and use public transport or a ride-sharing app to get to your destination.
Savannah Bed & Breakfast Inn | This beautiful property dates from 1853 and is run by a local mother/daughter team. The Innkeeper, Mary, also ran the Rape Crisis Center in Savannah for many years. There’s a wonderful breakfast, along with afternoon tea and bedtime milk and cookies for a true home away-from-home experience. The parking here is onstreet and first come, first served, but the property will organise your 1 or 2-day parking pass for you. You can find the property on many booking sites, but I’d really recommend booking directly to ensure the owners get the full amount you pay – they’ll price match any deals. Check price and availability here.
Springhill Suites Downtown | This Marriott-owned property is steps away from the historic Downtown district and a great place to explore from. Although I believe there are better options if you’re opting for sustainability, this location is hard to beat. They offer free wi-fi and a pool. Parking is $29/day. Check prices and availability here.
Planters Inn Savannah | The real perk if you stay here is that you can get room service from the Olde Pink House, which is one of Savannah’s top rated restaurants. Reynolds Square is one of the prettiest in the city and is an easy walk to all of the sights. There is valet parking available here for $24/day. Check prices and availability here.
Foley House Inn | With wine and appetisers at 6pm, this historic inn is also situated in the heart of the action. As with most of the other properties in the historic district there’s no dedicated parking, but there are spaces available on nearby streets. Check prices and availability here.
Ballastone Inn | Another stunning home that has been converted into a B&B in the middle of the historic district. There’s a lobby bar, and each of the rooms has an open fireplace if you choose to head here in the winter months. Free wi-fi and a similar parking situation to the majority of the other historic district properties. Check prices and availability here.
The Kehoe House | This historic mansion is consistently rated as one of the best hotels in Savannah, although the emphasis is definitely on wedding and elopement packages. If you’re after a romantic weekend away and want to have your every need to be anticipated then this might be the place for you! Check prices and availability here.
5 BR Downtown | This is a truly local property, owned and run by a teacher. You won’t get the same service as one of the hotels, but there’s free parking outside and you can’t beat the local knowledge. Read the reviews to make sure that this is the right type of property for you. It’s only a 10 minute walk to Forsyth Park and about 30 minutes to the downtown centre. Check prices and availability here.
Best Western Central Inn | 4 miles from the historic centre, this is a reliable chain hotel. There’s free onsite parking and a trolley stop right outside the front door. This is a convenient place to stay if you’re on a budget and don’t mind missing out on the character that makes Savannah such a special place to visit. Check prices and availability here.
The Thunderbird Inn | At the upper end of “budget”, this pet-friendly property prides itself on their retro vibe. They provide free Krispy Kreme donuts, popcorn, moon pie pastries and sodas in the rooms. This is not the place to go if you’re trying to cut back on your sugar intake! It’s a really cute concept in a central area of the city. Check prices and availability here.
How to get to Savannah
The easiest way, hands down, is to drive there, especailly if you’re visiting as part of a longer road trip. There are good interstate connections from I-95 and I-16, and you can hire a car in Atlanta, reaching Savannah in under 4 hours. Atlanta is the busiest airport in America, with both international and domestic connections to just about anywhere.
Parking in Savannah
The city zones its parking by being either north or south of Liberty Street. North of Liberty, parking restrictions are enforced Mon-Sat 8am-8pm, and south of Liberty, Mon-Fri 8am-5pm. You can purchase a Visitor Parking Pass at $15 for 24h or $24 for 48h which allows you to park at any City parking for the time period of your pass.
Purchase your Visitor Parking Pass at either:
- Mobility and Parking Services, 100 E. Bryan St., 912.651.6470, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- Visitor Center, 301 MLK Blvd., 912.944.0455, Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m., Saturday – Sunday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- Some hotels (contact yours to enquire)
It’s worth noting that, particularly at the weekends, parking in one of the garages may work out cheaper if you simply pay the hourly garage rate, usually $5/day, except for the Whitaker Street Garage downtown which hikes its prices in peak season. More info on parking can be found here and you can download the Savannah Parking app here.
If you want to arrive at the home of the G-6 (yes, of “fly like a G-6 fame), then you can fly direct to Savannah Hilton Head international airport, which is 15 miles from the historic district. I do feel that I should issue a disclaimer since the only actual international destination served is Toronto. But if you’re in a hurry to get straight to Savannah (and why wouldn’t you be?), then you’ll find all the info you need to arrange your flight here. A taxi/Uber/Lyft from the airport to the historic district will cost about $25 and take 20-30 minutes.
Getting around in Savannah
The historic district is small, flat and you can easily explore on foot or by hiring a bike if the mood takes you! If you find yourself in need of a sit-down, then the Dot shuttle stops at 24 spots in the historic district and arrives at 10-minute intervals throughout the day. The best part is that it’s free.
Sales tax in Savannah
If you’re not from the US, then it can be pretty confusing when you’re asked to pay more than the price you see advertised. This is due to sales tax which is set by individual states. In Georgia, you’ll pay an additional 7%. Welcome to America.
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