Nashville's Best Free Historical Attractions

From museums to parks, there's something to be found for all kinds of history fans...even the most frugal of folks!

  • 01 of 10

    The Tennessee State Museum is one of the largest state museums in the nation. TSM is located in Downtown Nashville at 5th and Deaderick Street; look for the TPAC marquee. Local favorites at the museum include the Egyptian mummy, Civil War Exhibit, and the Frontier Display. Admission is free for all permanent exhibits.

  • 02 of 10
    The Tennessee State Capitol
    ••• Malcolm MacGregor / Getty Images

    Designed by architect William Strickland, the Tennessee Capitol building overlooks Bicentennial Mall. Construction began on the Capitol Building in 1844 and was completed in 1859. Strickland died during the construction in 1854 and is actually buried within its walls. The State Capitol building sits atop a high hill in downtown Nashville and offers a spectacular view of many areas around the downtown area.

  • 03 of 10
    Legislative Plaza, Military history Branch of Tennessee State Museum, War Memorial building, Historic Tennessee State Capitol building, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
    ••• Danita Delimont / Getty Images

    War Memorial Building was built in 1925 to honor soldiers who died in World War I and it is home to the Tennessee State Museum's Military Branch Exhibit. The centerpiece of this exhibit is a large statue entitled Victory, located in the atrium. The War Memorial Building is located across the street from the State Capital.

  • 04 of 10
    Wildhorse Saloon
    ••• Wildhorse Saloon, Historic Second Avenue. By Mx. Granger (Own work) [ CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

    Formally known as Market Street, Second Avenue was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and a few years later included in local historical overlay zoning. This area is Nashville’s oldest downtown district and encompasses somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 or so properties.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10
    Downtown Nashville music entertainment establishments
    ••• FangXiaNuo / Getty Images

    Lower Broadway encompasses some of the oldest blocks of the Nashville. Currently, Lower Broad is home to most of the local honky-tonks. Many of the buildings are still intact (with a renovation here and there) and several still stand just as proud as they did during the Civil War.

  • 06 of 10
    Nashville Arcade
    ••• Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

    The Nashville Arcade Mall was built in the late spring of 1903. Modeled after an arcade in Italy, it is one of few of its kind remaining in the country. It has an awe inspiring glass roof that goes from one end to the other. In the last decade, the Arcade has revitalized undergone a wonderful revitalization and is now filled with art galleries and other business that include the old peanut shop and even a few specialty stores.

  • 07 of 10
    Nashville Public Library
    ••• Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

    While there are plenty of grandiose things to see and do at the Downtown Nashville Library, the place for History Lovers to go is the Special Collections Section Located on the library's second floor; it is home to the Nashville Room, the Civil Rights Room, and the Nashville Banner Archives.

    This is where you can find everything that you ever need or want to know about Nashville. Special highlights include the Civil Rights Room that has a symbolic lunch counter and a timeline of national, state, and local civil rights events.

  • 08 of 10
    Bicentennial Capitol Mal
    ••• Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

    The Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, one of Nashville's hidden gems, is located in the northwestern part of in downtown Nashville between Jefferson Street and James Robertson Parkway - next to Farmer's Market. This 19-acre park was built in honor of Tennessee’s 200th year of statehood and offers visitors a serene and captivating look into Tennessee history at every turn.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Fort Negley was the largest fortification built by the occupying Union Army in Nashville, and the largest inland stone fort constructed during the Civil War. Though the fort was used as a Union Army centerpiece when declaring its superiority over Confederate forces, it was never actually directly attacked during the Battle of Nashville.

    Fort Negley now hosts a grand Visitor Center, just over 4,600-square-foot; it includes a multipurpose theater, exhibit space, meeting room, and an outdoor plaza.

  • 10 of 10
    Fort Nashborough
    ••• Danita Delimont / Getty Images

    Nashville was founded by James Robertson, when he led a party of early pioneers across the frozen Cumberland River to a place called the Cedar Bluffs, on Christmas Eve, in 1779. Here is where the city of Nashville was founded and Fort Nashborough was built, making it the first white settlement in the area.

    The Fort was named after the American Revolutionary War hero Francis Nash and, while the current Fort is a reconstruction, it is still worth a visit.