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Updated: February 19, 2022
Where to Stay in Atlanta
Atlanta is increasingly becoming one of America’s hippest cities, with Donald Glover’s acclaimed TV show Atlanta, the movie studios of phenom Tyler Perry, a flourishing hip hop scene, and a host of culinary superstars adding cache to the heart of the New South. Today Atlanta is a sprawling metropolis of 6 million people, a patchwork of neighborhoods boasting everything from the headquarters of CNN and Coca-Cola to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park.
Atlanta is filled with great places to stay. Most options fall in the city center, but more choices are gradually springing up in Atlanta’s famously idiosyncratic outer neighborhoods. Most of the city’s top attractions are in the Downtown area, anchored by Centennial Olympic Park. World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights are all here. Just to the east, Sweet Auburn was the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr. To the north, Midtown is the artsy center of the city, with a selection of attractions including the Margaret Mitchell House. Beyond this lies Buckhead, northern Atlanta’s upscale business and entertainment district, with another spread of sights that includes the main history museum. Either side of this long central corridor, the neighborhoods of the Eastside and Westside feature indie shops, parks, bars, and cutting-edge restaurants.
While it’s relatively easy to explore Downtown on foot, driving or using Atlanta’s public transport system is necessary to explore the city fully. The MARTA subway ($2.50 standard fare) is pretty good, linking Downtown with Midtown and Buckhead, the West End, and a handful of neighborhoods on the west and east sides, but it doesn’t cover everything.
• Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is 10 miles south of downtown Atlanta. The cheapest way into the city is via the MARTA subway (15 minutes).
• The Atlanta Streetcar runs approximately every 10 to 15 minutes between Centennial Olympic Park, Peachtree Center, and the King Historic District in Sweet Auburn ($1 flat fare).
• Driving in Atlanta can be tough for first-timers – the road system is vast, complex, and often congested; Downtown is laced with one-way streets and locals tend to drive aggressively (at least for anyone not used to a big city). Try to avoid the peak rush hours if possible (Mon–Fri 7:30–9:30am and 3:30–7pm), though the interstates can be congested at any time.
• The “Perimeter” refers to the I-285 beltway that circles the core Atlanta metro area – locals tend to distinguish neighborhoods by being inside (ITP) or outside (OTP) the Perimeter.
We’ve covered our favorite neighborhoods to visit and stay in more detail below, but with more time, Druid Hills is also worth checking out. This relatively affluent area lies around 4 miles northeast of Downtown, home to the sprawling Emory University campus. For visitors, the chief draws are the Egyptian mummies at the university’s Michael C. Carlos Museum, the David J. Sencer CDC Museum which sheds light on the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention headquarters, and the excellent Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Kids will also enjoy the nearby Fernbank Science Center. Our favorite hotels here are the University Inn at Emory, Emory Conference Center Hotel, and Holiday Inn Express & Suites Atlanta-Emory University Area.
Best Places to Stay in Atlanta
- Best Luxury Hotels in Atlanta
Candler • Four Seasons • Grand Hyatt In Buckhead • JW Marriott Buckhead • Loews • Ritz-Carlton • St. Regis • Thompson Buckhead • Waldorf Astoria Buckhead
- Best Boutique Hotels in Atlanta
Bellyard, West Midtown • Burgess • Canopy Midtown • Glenn • Clermont • Indigo Downtown • Moxy Midtown • Colee – Buckhead • Wylie
- Best Cheap & Midrange Hotels in Atlanta
Aloft Downtown • Artmore • Highland Inn & Ballroom • NOHOTEL 2BR Buckhead • SpringHill Suites Buckhead
- Best B&Bs in Atlanta
Greenwood Bed and Breakfast • Inman Park Bed & Breakfast • Stonehurst Place • Sugar Magnolia Bed & Breakfast • Urban Oasis Bed and Breakfast
Best Neighborhoods in Atlanta for…
- Best Neighborhood to Stay for First Timers/Sightseeing: Downtown Atlanta
It makes sense to be based in Downtown Atlanta to be close to the city’s premier attractions, especially for families: World of Coca-Cola, Georgia Aquarium, and the Children’s Museum of Atlanta are all here. There’s also a good selection of accommodation and access to the heart of the city transportation network. There are plenty of good restaurants and bars Downtown, though the best of Atlanta is elsewhere. Note also that beyond the tourist perimeter of Centennial Olympic Park, much of the business district can get fairly quiet in the evenings and at weekends (Peachtree Street is the exception).
• Just north of Atlanta’s city center, Midtown tends to offer slightly better value in terms of accommodation than Downtown – it’s also a bit quieter.
- Most Romantic Neighborhood: Buckhead
Though Atlanta isn’t known for being an especially romantic city, it does offer plenty of romantic locations, restaurants, and hotels. Buckhead is a good choice; posh hotels like the St. Regis or Waldorf Astoria offer a slice of luxury and plenty of pampering for couples, while the neighborhood features plenty of deluxe boutiques, restaurants, and bars. Aria and Bistro Niko are perfect spots for a romantic dinner.
Alternatively, Midtown is home to Stonehurst Place, the city’s most luxurious and romantic B&B, as well as Piedmont Park and the Botanical Garden. It’s also close to the hip shops, restaurants, bakeries, and cafés of Virginia Highland, just to the east.
- Best Neighborhoods for Nightlife: Buckhead, Midtown, and East Atlanta Village
Nightclubs, comedy clubs, theaters, cocktail bars, and pubs are scattered all over Atlanta, but there are a few areas that stand out. Buckhead remains a solid choice for a night out and is perfect for bar hopping. Despite its high-end reputation, there are plenty of spots like Dive Bar Buckhead (a popular student hangout) in addition to nightclubs such as Havana Club ATL and glitzy cocktail bars like the St. Regis Bar. We also like the rooftop lounge at Whiskey Blue, the speakeasy-style Blind Pig Parlour Bar, and the sushi and cocktails at Red Martini.
Midtown offers a more eclectic nightlife scene, with cocktail bars and nightclubs alongside theaters and live band venues. Historic spots like Fox Theatre and performance centers like the Alliance Theatre and Center Stage Theater offer a variety of concerts and acts, while Laughing Skull Lounge serves up nightly comedy shows. We also enjoy the craft beers at Torched Hop Brewing Company, the retro tiki vibe at Tiki Tango, and local scene at no-frills Eleventh Street Pub.
Some of the best nightlife can be found in Atlanta’s outer neighborhoods. East Atlanta Village offers a good introduction, with a compact but lively scene focused on the intersection of Flat Shoals and Glenwood avenues. Check out gastropubs like Argosy. Live bands feature at the Earl, 529 Bar, and TEN ATL, with late-night dancing at The Basement.
- Best Neighborhoods for Food and Restaurants: Buckhead, Westside, and Decatur
The Atlanta culinary scene is incredibly diverse, and though amazing Southern food and barbecue is expected, international cuisines such as Filipino, Ethiopian, Indian, and Colombian are almost as common. Buckhead also rates highly in this category, home to some of the best fine dining restaurants and steakhouses in the city. Standouts include Atlas, the elegant New American cuisine at Aria, and modern Italian restaurant St. Cecilia. Meat lovers should check out Little Alley Steak.
For a more dynamic, cutting-edge scene, head over to neighborhoods such as the Westside Provisions District, where excellent spots such as Middle Eastern restaurant Aziza, Spanish specialist Cooks and Soldiers, JCT. Kitchen & Bar, Marcel steakhouse, Redbird, and West Egg Café are all within walking distance. A little further northwest in Blandtown are innovative restaurants like Star Provisions Market & Café, Bacchanalia, and Twisted Soul Cookhouse, as well as a series of superb craft breweries (Round Trip Brewing, Fire Maker Brewing, Steady Hand Beer Co, and more). There’s also the Chattahoochee Food Works food hall from celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern.
Another hotspot for foodies is Decatur on the east side of Atlanta. Highlights here include the New American dishes at Kimball House in the old railroad station, Japanese food at Brush Sushi Izakaya, the inventive dishes at the Deer and the Dove, tapas at Iberian Pig, Southern food at Revival, and a branch of local chain Victory Sandwich Bar.
• Downtown Decatur is linked to Downtown Atlanta (6 miles west) by MARTA subway. Good hotels here include Courtyard Atlanta Decatur Downtown/Emory and Hampton Inn & Suites Atlanta Decatur/Emory.
• If a car is available, check out the dining scene on Buford Highway, which runs through Northeast Atlanta and is lined with a vast selection of no-frills restaurants and markets from all over the world. We like Kategna Ethiopian Cuisine, Dish Korean Cuisine, Quoc Huong Banh Mi Fast Food, and Mamak Vegan Kitchen, a Malaysian restaurant.
- Best Neighborhoods for Shopping: Buckhead and Westside
Buckhead Village District is the city’s upscale shopping hub, home to designer boutiques like Christian Louboutin, Dior, and Hermes, as well as Lenox Square Mall, housing Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, and Macy’s, and Phipps Plaza, with another 100 stores (including Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom). Just to the southeast is Miami Circle, an enclave of over 80 antique shops, galleries, and boutiques, while central Buckhead is home to Peachtree Battle Antiques & Interiors and laid-back Andrews Square.
For a little more variety (and affordability), visit Atlanta’s Westside, where an eclectic selection of over 30 stores can be found in Atlantic Station. The Works, The District at Howell Mill mall, and the Westside Provisions District all offer plenty of retail experiences. For homeware, furniture, and antiques, visit the West Midtown Design District.
- Best Neighborhood for Local Vibe: East Atlanta Village
Atlanta is crammed with distinctive neighborhoods, but our favorite to escape the tourists is East Atlanta Village. Around 3 miles southeast from Downtown, it’s a compact, friendly place, anchored by the intersection of Flat Shoals and Glenwood avenues. There’s not much to see in the way of traditional sights here, but it’s a fun place to explore on foot, with the streets lined with indie stores, restaurants, and bars. We especially love Hippin Hops Brewery, Joe’s East Atlanta Coffee Shop, and the barbecue and drinks at The Glenwood. Check out locally owned furniture store Kaboodle for Atlanta arts, crafts, and homeware or Versus ATL for sneakers.
- Unsafe Areas of Atlanta
Most of the neighborhoods listed here are generally quite safe (Atlanta crime rates having fallen dramatically in the last 20 years, despite an uptick in the wake of the COVID pandemic), though the usual precautions should be taken at night. The neighborhoods posting the highest crime rates tend to be in south Atlanta (Oakland City, Lakewood Heights).
The 5 Best Neighborhoods in Atlanta for Tourists
Most visitors rightly begin their visit to Atlanta in Downtown, the city’s premier business district and traditional heart. Though Peachtree Street is the main drag, the focus for most of the attractions is Centennial Olympic Park, a legacy of the 1996 Olympic Games, just to the west. It’s especially popular with families and for good reason – the giant SkyView Atlanta ferris wheel, Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and Children’s Museum of Atlanta are all within a short walk of each other. Also nearby is the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and soccer’s Atlanta United. Adjacent State Farm Arena serves the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. Tucked inside the Downtown core, the Fairlie-Poplar Historic District is a compact sub-district of artist studios, galleries, restaurants, and bars, home to the Theatrical Outfit, Rialto Center for the Arts, and live venue The Tabernacle. South Downtown encompasses the Georgia State Capitol, with its gold-covered dome and free tours, while adjacent Castleberry Hill is home to more galleries (best experienced during the regular 2nd Friday ArtStrolls), public art, and the quirky Original Selfie Museum.
- There are plenty of eating, shopping, and drinking options in Downtown Atlanta, and a wide selection of accommodations, but exploring the outer neighborhoods is a must to really experience the best of the city.
- Best Hotels: Candler • Glenn • Indigo Downtown • Omni at CNN Center • Ritz-Carlton • Twelve Downtown • Westin Peachtree Plaza
- Best Midrange Hotels: Aloft Downtown • Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown • Hilton Garden Inn Downtown
Two miles or so north of Downtown, Midtown is best known as being the arts and cultural heart of the city with its cache of theaters, museums, and parks. Highlights include the historic Fox Theatre, High Museum of Art, Woodruff Arts Center, Center for Puppetry Arts, the Jewish history chronicled at the Breman Museum, and the SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film. Piedmont Park is the city’s premier green space, also home to Atlanta Botanical Garden. One of the perennially popular attractions is the Margaret Mitchell House, where Atlanta’s most famous author wrote “Gone With The Wind”.
- The hotels of Midtown usually make a slightly cheaper alternative to Downtown, with transport links almost as good. There are also plenty of restaurants here and a decent nightlife scene.
- West Midtown, especially around Atlantic Station, is a major retail hub, with the Westside neighborhoods nearby.
- Best Hotels: AC Hotel Midtown • Bellyard, West Midtown • Canopy Midtown • Element Midtown • Four Seasons • Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center • Georgian Terrace • Loews • Moxy Midtown
- Best Cheap/Midrange Hotels: Artmore • Residence Inn Atlanta Midtown 17th Street
- Best B&B: Stonehurst Place
Known as the “Beverly Hills of the East”, Atlanta’s most affluent neighborhood lies some 8 miles north of Downtown at the end of the Peachtree Street corridor. It’s a business and commercial district in its own right, best known for its high-end dining and shopping (with malls such as Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza) as well as a handful of sights: the Atlanta History Center and adjacent Swan House, LEGOLAND Discovery Center, Chastain Arts Center, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. The Governor’s Mansion is also up here (usually open for tours), as is Oglethorpe University’s Museum of Art.
- Buckhead is a self-contained city-within-a-city, with plenty to see and do, though staying here can feel a little removed from the rest of the city. The MARTA subway does link it with Midtown and Downtown, but more time is required if sightseeing throughout Atlanta.
- Hotels here tend to be high-quality but expensive, though there are exceptions, notably the NOHOTEL 2BR Buckhead.
- Best Hotels: AC Hotel Buckhead • Burgess • Grand Hyatt In Buckhead • InterContinental Buckhead • JW Marriott Buckhead • St. Regis • Thompson Buckhead • Colee – Buckhead • Waldorf Astoria Buckhead • Westin Buckhead
- Best Cheap/Midrange Hotels: Hilton Garden Inn Buckhead • NOHOTEL 2BR Buckhead • Quality Suites Buckhead Village North • SpringHill Suites Buckhead
Atlanta’s Eastside encompasses a range of diverse neighborhoods that effectively begin just across the I-85 overpass from Downtown. First up is Sweet Auburn, best known today for the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, preserving the birthplace and burial site of the venerated Civil Rights leader, as well as his Ebenezer Baptist Church and a museum dedicated to his life.
The adjacent neighborhood of Inman Park features Victorian homes and tree-lined streets, as well as the popular Krog Street Market. It’s also home to the annual Inman Park Festival and a section of the city’s beloved BeltLine, a multi-use rail trail. To the east is Little Five Points, a hip district of indie stores, bars, and restaurants, while to the north the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library is a fascinating memorial to the life and career of the 39th US president. The BeltLine continues north into the Old Fourth Ward, where Ponce City Market is one of Atlanta’s most exciting food halls.
Other Eastside neighborhoods worth exploring include Virginia-Highland, known for its local restaurants and boutique shops, especially on North Highland and Virginia avenues; compact East Atlanta Village, with its bars, restaurants, and live venues; and Cabbagetown, where the Historic Oakland Cemetery is the resting place of many famous Atlantans. Finally, Grant Park is home to family-friendly Zoo Atlanta.
- There’s not a lot of accommodation in Eastside Atlanta (most places fall in or near Inman Park and Old Fourth Ward), but it’s the best place in the city to seek unique bed and breakfasts.
- Staying out here can be a challenge if touring the rest of the city by public transport, but it will offer a much more intimate insight into Atlanta life.
- Best Hotels: Clermont • Wylie
- Best Cheap/Midrange Hotel: Highland Inn & Ballroom
- Best B&Bs: Greenwood Bed and Breakfast • Inman Park Bed & Breakfast • Peach House • Sugar Magnolia Bed & Breakfast • Urban Oasis Bed and Breakfast
The neighborhoods comprising the Westside of Atlanta tend to be a little edgier and artsier than the Eastside, with former industrial and warehouse districts transforming into cutting-edge shopping and eating locales. Some of the city’s best craft breweries are also here, including Atlanta Brewing Company, Monday Night Brewing, and Second Self.
Just west of downtown is the Atlanta University Center, where the city’s historically black colleges are located. The conjoined campuses make for pleasant strolls. In terms of sights, Clark Atlanta University Art Museum specializes in African and African diaspora art, while the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art is in part dedicated to art by women of the African diaspora. Nearby, the Beaux-Arts Herndon Home Museum preserves the home of Alonzo Herndon, a former enslaved man who rose to become Atlanta’s first black millionaire.
Southwest of the university district lies the historic West End, which contains Victorian cottages dating back to the 1830s. Attractions here include Hammonds House Museum, dedicated to artists of African descent, and the Wren’s Nest, former home of Joel Chandler Harris, author of the Brer Rabbit stories. The West End is also the start of the BeltLine Westside Trail. Further north, the Westside Provisions District is a major shopping and eating hub.
- Apartment rentals are ideal to stay in the Westside – otherwise, Downtown and Midtown are short rides away. Take the MARTA red or gold lines to the West End station.