When first-time visitors are trying to decide where to stay in Savannah, they often have a difficult time choosing which section of the city is best. There are so many pretty areas to explore, and each one has something unique to offer!
In this guide, I’ll break down the various sections of Savannah so you can pick a place to stay in the most convenient location for your budget. I’ve included the pros and cons for each area.
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PLEASE NOTE: Due to the pandemic, I currently advise against any unnecessary travel and hope you’ll stay home and stay safe. If you’re committed to traveling to Savannah, be advised that the city is under an active mask mandate and do your part to keep our residents — and yourself — safe and healthy.
If you’re new around here, first of all…welcome! I’m Erin, I live in Savannah, and I authored the Savannah First-Timer’s Guide. It’s where I combined all of my best insider tips about the city into one handy ebook.
Just so you know, I tell it like it is when it comes to Savannah, which means I share both the good and the bad about the city. I’m honest. This posts mentions crime statistics and gangs and homelessness, because those things all exist around here.
Where to Stay in Savannah
Before I do a deep dive into each section of the city, here’s a brief overview…
The most touristy areas of Savannah are River Street, Plant Riverside, Bay Street, City Market, and Broughton Street.
The southern portion of the Historic District has the most “classic Savannah” vibe.
The Victorian District, Starland District, and the area around Forsyth Park are very residential and have lots of SCAD students.
Tybee Island isn’t Savannah, nor does it look or feel anything like Savannah; it just happens to be the beach closest to Savannah.
1. Savannah Historic District
The Historic District is probably the most well-known district in Savannah. Many of the places visitors are most familiar with are located in the Historic District, including River Street, City Market, Jones Street, and the northern half of Forsyth Park.
It’s truly the heart of the city! The Historic District is where you’ll find beautiful brick-paved streets and Savannah’s many squares filled with iconic Southern oaks and Spanish moss.
I’m going to break the Historic District into a few zones, since the northern and southern ends are completely different from one another. If your budget allows it, I 100% recommend staying within the Historic District.
The boundaries of the Historic District are as follows:
- North: River Street
- East: E Broad Street
- South: Gwinnett Street
- West: Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
Historic District North Zone: River Street
So, what makes River Street unique? A couple of things…
River Street was the original warehouse district in Savannah. It was a center for trade, where ships docked and loaded up with cotton and indigo to export across the world.
The area retains much of its rustic roots — with souvenir shops, restaurants, and art galleries all still operating out of warehouses built hundreds of years ago. The history evident in this area is incredible!
While the rest of the Historic District sits high atop a bluff, River Street is the only street that sits below the bluff, just a few feet above river level.
Here are a few things to consider if you choose to stay on River Street…
Pros: There are plenty of restaurants and bars, and many stay open late into the night. The container ships that pass by regularly are fun to watch! There are often talented street artists performing on the plaza. Some of the city’s prettiest sunsets can be found on River Street.
Cons: It’s one of the most touristy sections of Savannah, so it stays consistently busy and tends to get loud. The restaurants are fairly high priced and aren’t always the best Savannah has to offer. Parking is scarce and valet fees can get expensive. It’s a riverfront area, so you might see rats scurrying around near the water late at night.
Homelessness: Members of the homeless community often choose to sleep along River Street. It’s common for them to request spare change or handouts from visitors in this area.
NOTE: If you’re looking for information on the Plant Riverside District, you’ll find that further below. It’s not technically located within the boundaries of the Landmark Historic District.
Related Reading: 11 Photos That Will Make You Fall in Love with River Street
VERDICT: If you love watching the ships go by, seeing sunsets over the water, and want to stay in a bustling area loaded with historical significance, then River Street makes a fantastic spot.
Click here to discover my favorite accommodations on River Street.
Historic District North Zone: Bay Street
Bay Street is the first street that sits high atop the bluff, 40 feet above the water. You’d think that would mean the hotels along Bay Street would have an incredible view of the river, but that’s only true for the uppermost floors. Tree canopies and the buildings on River Street block views from the lower levels.
Here’s are the pros and cons of this area…
Pros: The majority of the street level retail spaces along Bay Street are filled with restaurants and bars, so you won’t have to walk far for food or drinks.
Cons: Bay Street is a high traffic zone, so you might have to deal with some street noise. You’ll also step out of your hotel onto a congested sidewalk, since there’s a lot of foot traffic in this area. Like most of the remaining zones below, you’ll have to take steep, historic steps to access River Street. There’s only one public elevator available along the entire stretch of the river, located by City Hall.
Homelessness: There are a few areas where members of the homeless community sleep along Bay Street. The steps of the Customs House is a common spot. Otherwise, Bay Street is too busy and loud to make a great sleeping spot. It’s somewhat common for people to request spare change during the daylight hours.
VERDICT: Stay in this section if you want to be between busy River Street and City Market and able to easily access all the restaurants and bars in both areas.
Click here to discover my favorite accommodations along Bay Street.
Historic District North Zone: City Market & Broughton Street
Another tourist hotspot in the Historic District is City Market. These restored warehouses take up a two-block radius and offer shops, restaurants, and a thriving nightlife scene.
Visit by day to check out the galleries and many talented artists, and then stick around at night for the bars and live music. W Congress Street, which borders City Market, is known as an entertainment/bar zone.
Broughton Street is known as Savannah’s “shopping street,” so it’s a great place to buy clothes, gifts, and all kinds of souvenirs to bring back home. There are plenty of restaurants located on Broughton Street, and one of my favorite hotels in Savannah is located there, too.
Here are the pros and cons…
Pros: If you like being in the center of all the action, this zone is for you. If you love shopping, it also makes a great home base!
Cons: If you stay in a home rental located above a bar or business, be sure to read the reviews to ensure it’s not too loud at night. Parking is an absolute nightmare in this area. (Try the Whitaker or Bryan Street Parking Garages if you can’t find any metered spaces.)
Homelessness: It’s very common to find members of the homeless community sleeping in City Market, as well as adjacent Franklin and Ellis Squares. Franklin Square is a gathering spot during the daytime, too. Expect to be asked for a handout when you’re staying in this area.
VERDICT: Stay in this zone if you want to be in a touristy area loaded with a very high concentration of restaurants, bars, and nightlife.
Historic District South Zone
My love for this portion of the Historic District is no secret! Some of my favorite streets are located in this zone, and I feel like it’s one of the best areas to stay if you want to experience what it was truly like to live in Savannah “back in the day”. When I picture the Historic District with all its beautiful squares and mansions, this is the section of the city that comes to mind.
This area has fewer businesses and more homes, and the streets are shaded with beautiful Southern live oaks. It has a much more residential feel than the areas I mentioned above. There are only a handful of hotels, but there are plenty of beautiful B&Bs.
Pros: The historic homes are beautiful. The area is fairly quiet and residential. It’s one of the safest sections of the Historic District, if not the entire city. There are plenty of landmarks nearby to explore.
Cons: You’ll have a 15 to 20-minute walk to River Street from this area. The restaurants and shops aren’t as plentiful in this section as they are further north. You won’t find many parking garages this far south, so street parking is the main option.
Homelessness: There are very few members of the homeless community in this area. You might occasionally find someone sleeping on church doorstep, but that’s about it.
Related Reading: Is Jones Street Really the Prettiest Street in Savannah?
VERDICT: Stay in this zone if you want to be in a residential zone, further removed from the crowds. It’s a relatively safe area, where you can experience the city like a local. It’s not a party zone.
Click here to discover my favorite accommodations in the Historic District South Zone.
2. Savannah Victorian District
The Victorian District begins about halfway through Forsyth Park. It’s an incredibly beautiful area, although some still consider it transitional.
The Victorian District’s boundaries are as follows:
- North: Gwinnett Street
- East: E Broad Street
- South: Anderson Street or 31st Street (depending on the source)
- West: Montgomery Street
You’ll find lots of SCAD students living in this area. There are also a decent number of full-time homeowners. Many of the homes have been converted to home rentals, so VRBOs and Airbnbs are plentiful.
Pros: If you’re a fan of Victorian architecture, you’ll enjoy strolling around this area. It’s close to a few grocery stores and to Forsyth Park. Street parking is free! Accommodation rates are slightly lower than along River Street.
Cons: You’ll have a 15 to 20-minute walk to River Street from this area. That’s fine during the day, but you should probably take an Uber at night — especially if you’re traveling solo. There aren’t as many historic landmarks in this area as you’ll find further north.
Homelessness: There is homelessness in this area. While it’s somewhat rare to find people asking for handouts (most prefer to do that in the touristy section closer to the river), you will spot people sleeping on church steps or outside businesses that have closed for the night.
Safety: In general, this is a fairly safe area during the daytime. At night, most residents head indoors…or at least retreat to the relative safety of their porches. Some streets are better than others; it really just depends on the block. You might see gang signs, since gang members pass through these streets. Consult my Savannah Crime Map to view the latest crime trends.
NOTE: I have a post coming soon detailing crime in the downtown area!
VERDICT: I adore the Victorian District! The homes are stunning, and it’s easy to meet people in the park. Stay in this area if you want to feel more like a local than a tourist.
I’ve only added Forsyth Park as its own section on this post because many visitors wouldn’t know which zone to look in to find it otherwise.
The northern half of Forsyth Park is located in the Historic District and the southern half is located in the Victorian District, so read up on both sections to get a feel for the vibe around the park. Gwinnett Street is the dividing line. The homes and accommodations directly surrounding the park are very nice!
Pros: Forsyth Park is beautiful! It’s a great place to go for a stroll and meet people. It’s also a fantastic area to stay in if you’re traveling with a large dog that needs plenty of room to run. Street parking is free everywhere south of Gaston Street.
Cons: Accommodations overlooking the park are almost as pricy as accommodations overlooking the river. Traffic stays consistently busy on the two north/south streets bordering the park (Whitaker & Drayton Streets). You’ll have a 15 to 20-minute walk to River Street from the park.
Homelessness: You will find members of the homeless community throughout the park, both during the day and at night. They tend to keep to themselves and don’t interact much with others. As the sun begins to set, many gather and sleep near the tennis courts and the area directly south of the Fragrant Garden building.
Safety: I personally don’t cut through the park late at night, so I don’t recommend that visitors do so, either. Otherwise, the area is fairly safe. Use common sense and do all the things you would normally do in an urban environment, like keeping your car locked and valuables out of sight.
VERDICT: Stay near the park if you hope to assimilate with locals or are traveling with a dog that needs space to run around. The park is beautiful, and the homes surrounding it are, too.
Click here to see my favorite accommodations in the Forsyth Park zone.
3. The Starland District
I have quite a fondness for the Starland District, since it’s the area of Savannah I currently call home. Southern Living seems to think it’s pretty great, too! They named Starland’s Thomas Square as the #1 Neighborhood in the South for 2020. If they’d taken crime statistics into consideration they might not have bestowed such a high honor.
Crime issues aside, the area is quirky and fun. I like it say it’s the most diverse area in a city that’s already known for its diversity. It’s home to SCAD students, professionals, and residents who have lived in the area for 30+ years.
Some consider it a transitional area or claim it’s undergoing gentrification. I won’t argue that point — except to say I think it’s leaning towards the tail end of gentrification.
The borders of Starland aren’t clearly defined. Here’s a guideline:
- North: 31st Street
- East: Maybe Price St? Perhaps E Broad?
- South: Victory Drive
- West: Maybe Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd?
Pros: There are fantastic restaurants and eclectic shops in the area. It’s a hub for the arts community, so you’ll find unique murals, art studios, and galleries. There’s good nightlife, too! Street parking is currently free throughout Starland. The area is residential, not touristy.
Cons: There aren’t any hotels in this section of Savannah, but you’ll find some reasonably priced home rentals. It takes 20 to 25 minutes to walk to River Street.
Homelessness: It’s common to find members of the homeless community in Starland, especially near the mission on Bull Street and around the Bull Street Library.
Safety: Safety varies on a block-by-block basis, much like the Victorian District. It’s not uncommon to have a beautiful half-million dollar home next to an abandoned building. Gang members tend to pass through these streets, too. Here’s the link to my Savannah Crime Map.
VERDICT: Stay in this area if you want to feel like a local in a fun and artsy zone. It’s very LGBTQ-friendly (all of Savannah is!), and the accommodations are more affordable than the Historic District.
4. Plant Riverside District
The Plant Riverside District is the newly developed section along the far west end of River Street. It’s not technically part of the Historic District, since it’s located west of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. That’s why it’s considered its own “district” and separate from the rest of River Street. The majority of the businesses in the area opened in 2020 or plan to open in 2021.
Like River Street, Plant Riverside sits below the bluff and has excellent river views.
The district’s anchor business is the JW Marriott Plant Riverside, which is housed inside a former 1912 era power plant. The hotel’s lobby contains rare gemstones, fossils, and a plethora of unique art. It looks a lot like a museum.
If you like Vegas, the Plant Riverside District is about as close to that atmosphere as you’ll get in Savannah. It’s a very touristy area that stays consistently busy. The folks at Plant Riverside host numerous events to draw people to the area.
Pros: It has great views of the river! There are new restaurants, shops, and bars all within a short walking distance of the hotel. It even has a Starbucks.
Cons: It’s fairly expensive, and there’s not a lot of parking — although a new garage is currently under construction.
Homelessness: Security guards patrol the area, so you won’t typically find members of the homeless community sleeping in this section of the riverfront.
Safety: Plant Riverside is probably the safest area along the riverfront, if I had to venture a guess. (It sits on private property, so it’s difficult to know for sure.) Be careful late at night if you leave the district, since the surrounding areas don’t have as much security.
VERDICT: Stay here if you’re NOT on a tight budget and want to be in an area marketed as the “riverfront entertainment destination”. (Think Savannah with a hefty dose of Vegas thrown in, as you can see by the photo of the JW Marriott Plant Riverside’s lobby, above.)
Click here to check current rates at the JW Marriott Plant Riverside.
5. Midtown & Outskirts of Savannah
I don’t know how to describe Midtown other than to call it a typical suburban zone. It consists of a few beautiful neighborhoods, such as Ardsley Park, but it’s also full of busy streets and retail centers anchored by stores like Walgreens, Auto Zone, and UPS.
The neighborhoods are primarily filled with residents who live in Savannah full-time, so there aren’t as many VRBOs and Airbnbs as there are in the Historic District. In many areas south of Victory Drive it’s actually against city ordinance to run a short-term vacation rental.
Most visitors who stay in Midtown end up staying at one of the many hotels located on Abercorn Street. There are plenty of options! None are historic; they’re just modern-day, mid-range hotels.
Pros: Hotels in Midtown are cheaper than in the Historic District. Grocery stores, drug stores, and gas stations are plentiful. Parking is free. There’s no shortage of chain restaurants and fast food joints.
Cons: You’ll want a car to get around if you opt to stay any further south than Victory Drive. If you don’t have a car, be sure to factor in the cost of Uber or Lyft to get to the Historic District.
Homelessness: You might see individuals panhandling along the side of the road.
Safety: I’d expect tourists to stick primarily to the Abercorn corridor while driving back and forth to the Historic District, so the biggest safety concerns would be traffic-related.
VERDICT: The main reason to stay in this area is to save money on accommodations. If you’re planning a visit to see the Historic District, then it’s better to stay in the Historic District…or at least within walking distance of it.
6. Tybee Island
The vibe on Tybee Island is very laid back; it’s a fun beach town and makes a nice spot for family vacations. You’ll find plenty of casual restaurants and lots of souvenir shops on the island. You’ll also find a plethora of home rentals and hotels.
Tybee is an approximate 20-minute drive from the Historic District. On crowded weekends or when an event is taking place, it can sometimes take an hour and a half to get back and forth between the two.
The Back River Beach is probably the nicest area. It’s very residential and you’ll find homes there in the multi-million dollar range. Expect to pay a hefty price for vacation rentals in that particular area!
Pros: You’ll be at the beach!
Cons: Although it’s called, “Savannah’s beach,” it’s not in Savannah, nor does it feel like Savannah. Also, dogs are NOT allowed on the beach at Tybee!! You’ll pay a hefty fine for having a dog on the beach, so keep that in mind if you’re traveling with a pet.
Homelessness: I don’t know if there are homeless communities on Tybee or if there’s a lot of panhandling, since I don’t spend much time there.
Safety: Overall, Tybee is a safe little beach community. It’s fine to walk around most areas even after dark.
VERDICT: If you’re primarily a beach person and want to spend most of your vacation with your toes in the sand, then stay on Tybee.
Related Reading: When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Savannah?
Where to Stay in Savannah, Georgia
I hope this post helped to summarize the various sections of Savannah. Just remember, as a general rule of thumb, the closer you are to the river, the more touristy the area and the more expensive the accommodations.
If you have questions, feel free to post them below or join my private Facebook group about Savannah.
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