When visiting Atlanta, it’s easy to spend all your free time exploring downtown, its many attractions, and museums. But the city is really the sum of its neighborhoods, each with distinct identities, parks, and activities. Here is your guide to the top ten neighborhoods in Atlanta and what makes them so unique.
Old Fourth Ward
Located just east of downtown, OFW was the birthplace of Civil Rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Stroll down Auburn Avenue — the heart of what was once the wealthiest African-American neighborhood in the country and the site of King’s childhood home — as well as Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, a museum and memorial dedicated to King and his work. The neighborhood boasts a vibrant nightlife with bars like the irreverent Sister Louisa’s Church of the Ping-Pong Emporium and jazz club Cafe Circa as well as some of the city’s most celebrated restaurants, including Staplehouse, named the country’s best restaurant by Bon Appétit in 2016. The neighborhood is bordered on the west by the Historic Fourth Ward Park, home to a world-class skate park, athletic fields, a 2-acre lake, playground, splash pad, outdoor amphitheater and access to the popular Eastside Trail.
This eclectic and family-friendly city a few miles east of downtown is easily accessible via MARTA, the city’s mass transit system. Anchored by the Old Courthouse on the Square, Decatur Square is ringed by boutiques, restaurants, bars, specialty markets and one of the city’s most iconic music venues, Eddie’s Attic, where big names like John Mayer and Sugarland got their start. Little Shop of Stories, an independent bookstore dedicated to literature for children and young adults, is a can’t miss for young readers, while kids of all ages will enjoy the Indian Street food at Chai Pani and elevated Southern fare like mac n’ cheese, fried chicken and collard greens at former Top Chef contestant Kevin Gillespie’s Revival. Cocktail enthusiasts won’t want to miss Kimball House, an elegant oyster bar in a former train depot.
Also known as West Midtown, this former industrial district just west of Midtown and northwest of downtown is known for its shopping and dining.The popular Westside Provisions District boasts outposts of Billy Reid, Anthropologie, Room & Board and Warby Parker as well as locally owned shops like clothiers Sid and Ann Mashburn. Fuel your shopping with coffee from Brash, outfitted in an old shipping container, or one of the neighborhood’s notable restaurants, including French steakhouse Marcel, farm-to-table gem Miller Union, family-friendly Taqueria del Sol, or the Spanish-inspired Cooks & Soldiers. TV and music buffs will enjoy the Goat Farm, an artist community that has provided the backdrop to "The Hunger Games," "The Walking Dead" and other popular entertainment productions.
Considered Atlanta’s first suburb and approximately 2 miles east of downtown, Inman Park is home to sprawling Victorian mansions, stunning green spaces, community theaters, concert venues and one of the city’s most popular food halls, Krog Street Market. Catch a show at the Variety Playhouse, people watch or shop for vintage clothes in eclectic Little Five Points, dine in the cozy neighborhood Italian spot BoccaLupo, or take a walking or bicycle tour of the neighborhood and bordering Eastside Trail.
Located on the south side of I-20 just west of downtown, this historic neighborhood is a mix of tree-lined streets dotted with craftsman-style bungalows and Victorians, artist enclaves and lush green spaces. Don’t miss 350 original works from the African diaspora in the Hammonds House Museum or the Wren’s Nest, which preserves the legacy of Joel Chandler Harris, best known as the author of the Br’er Rabbit tales. The neighborhood’s Westside Trail features three miles of wide path for cycling and walking as well as colorful murals and easy access to local shops, distilleries, breweries, like ASW Distillery and Monday Night Brewing.
Located just north of downtown, Midtown is home to the world-class Woodruff Arts Center, which houses the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the High Museum of Art and the Alliance Theatre, the latter of which serves as an incubator for many award-winning Broadway shows like The Color Purple. Several blocks down the road is the historic Fox Theatre, which hosts traveling Broadway shows, concerts, dance productions and a summer film series that also features concerts on the “Mighty Mo,” the second largest pipe organ in the world. Visit the iconic Varsity, the world’s largest drive-in, for a chili dog and famous frosted orange milkshake, then stroll through Piedmont Park, the city’s largest green space, which borders Midtown on the east.
This northwestern suburb has become a sports, arts and recreational hub, particularly with the recent opening of SunTrust Park, home of the Atlanta Braves. But even in the off-season, the surrounding Battery entertainment district offers plenty of opportunities for dining, shopping and playing year-round, including the Coca-Cola Roxy concert venue and Punch Bowl Social. In addition to hosting a variety of popular authors, dance troupes, comedians and musicians, the nearby Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre is also the home of the Atlanta Opera and the Atlanta Ballet. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area and Silver Comet Trail, which extends all the way to the Alabama border.
This corridor, that begins just north of Midtown and continues northeast along Georgia State Route 13 past the Dekalb-Gwinnett County line, is home to one of the largest immigrant populations in the country. Sample global cuisine at the food court at the Buford Highway Farmers Market, shop at over 280 retail and specialty stores or enjoy the largest indoor playground in Georgia at Plaza Fiesta, slurp pho at Pho Do Lai #2, eat tacos Taqueria El Ray Del Taco and sample sushi at Kura Revolving Sushi Bar for a true taste of Atlanta’s diverse population.
No strip of the city juxtaposes old and new Atlanta like Poncey-Highlands, east of downtown wedged between Virginia-Highland and Inman Park. The old? Mary Mac’s Tea Room, a traditional meat plus three that’s been open for 70 years and the Majestic Diner, a near 100 year old Atlanta institution that’s open 24 hours a day and often the last stop for revelers in nearby neighborhoods. The old plus the new? The renovated Clermont Hotel, swanky French bistro Tiny Lou’s, and rooftop bar atop the old strip club Clermont Lounge; and Ponce City Market, an adaptive reuse project in the old Sears, Roebuck & Co. building featuring apartments, offices, shopping, a food hall, and a rooftop with an 18-hole miniature golf course, boardwalk-style games and ample seating to sip a cocktail while savoring the panoramic views of the city.
Between traditional malls like Phipps Plaza and Lenox Square and The Shopps at Buckhead, a six block development featuring high-end retailers like Dior and Jimmy Choo as well as several restaurants and boutique fitness studios, Buckhead is a shopper’s paradise. To learn the story of Atlanta from its indigenous inhabitants to its role in the railroad and Civil War to its modern incarnation as a home to Fortune 500 companies and the 1996 Olympics, visit the Atlanta History Museum. The museum has exhibits chronicling everything from Georgia native and legendary golfer Bobby Jones to the folk arts, the city’s Native American roots and barbecue. On Saturdays from early April through mid December, explore the Peachtree Road Farmers’ Market, which features produce, artisanal goods, live music and cooking demonstrations.