For your first visit you need about two full days to be able to appreciate the city and all of its major sights while keeping pleasantly unhurried pace.
Distances are all walkable in the city center.
Love its leafy squares.
Worthy attractions: Owens-Thomas House; Davenport House; Forsyth Park; Andrew Low House.
Left for another visit: Cathedral of St John Baptist (had a quick look in between services); Congregation Mickve Israel (not open on weekends); Old Fort Jackson (further afield); Oatland Island Wildlife Center (further afield); Ships of the Sea Museum; Georgia State Railroad Museum; other historic houses and churches.
Last visit: December 2015.
Savannah is proof that even something as inherently dull as a grid street pattern can be breathtakingly beautiful. There are delights at every corner, plenty of historic monuments, and a perpetually vibrant feel permeating the city.
Things to See
The 22 squares ♥♥♥ remaining from the original town plan are an undeniable highlight, each with its own defining features, each surrounded by impressive buildings. There will also be at least one street musician livening up the atmosphere on each square at practically any time of day or night. The streets connecting the squares are almost invariably very green, with spanish moss a prominent part of vegetation, and full of architectural delights.
River Street ♥♥ is a popular promenade for tourists and locals alike, with cafes, shops, statues, street entertainment, and a market at one end. From here, you can take a river cruise ♥ which provides a pretty good commentary but somewhat lacks in views; too little of the town can be seen from the river – aside from the riverfront, you see mostly parts of the port.
Trolley tour of the historic town is a popular activity offered by several companies. We rode with Oglethorpe Company ♥. The driver’s narration was very lively, with tons of information and stories that may or may not have been necessary. Probably got our money’s worth, but a bit of an information overload.
There are quite a few interesting historic mansions in the town center. Owens-Thomas House ♥♥ is probably among more impressive and the only one that has partially-restored service spaces on the ground level, in addition to grand rooms. The presentation by the guide was a bit too scripted, but still educational.
Davenport House ♥ offers many interesting architectural details and yet another story of a made-good resident of Savannah. We lucked into having a personal guide (near the end of the day in a relative off-season) who allowed our child to be photographed with the artifacts inside a child’s bedroom. In fact, this house is the only one that allows photography on the premises (no flash).
Andrew Low House ♥ was, on balance, the least impressive of the three mansions that we visited. Well-preserved and furnished, but the rooms on the upper floor can only be viewed from the landing.
We did not have particular luck with visiting places of worship in Savannah. Congregation Mickve Israel is not open on weekends, so we were only able to admire its exterior. Cathedral of St John Baptist fit into our plans only on Sunday morning, when we managed a glimpse of its greenish-marble interior in between masses; it definitely merits more attention on a future visit. There are other churches in town that might be interesting to step into, but we only walked by them.
We also left for another visit a couple of potentially interesting museums. Depending on your inclinations, you may consider Ships of the Sea Museum or Railroad Museum must-see.
Forsyth Park ♥♥, marking the southern boundary of the historic city center, is a handsome green space centered on an impressive fountain. There are several monuments, including a major Confederate Memorial, a mix of open spaces and shaded walkways, and a fantastic playground for younger kids.
City Market ♥ gets especially bustling in the evenings – there is frequently live music acts playing at its edge – but it is not a true market; rather, it is a couple of blocks of shops and galleries, impressive primarily for the concentration of the latter.
Places to Eat
TripAdvisor nowadays makes finding restaurant recommendations quite easy, so these vignettes are meant to offer no more than a starting point for your research. All places visited in the late fall of 2015 as a party of two adults and a child.
The Olde Pink House Restaurant ♥♥♥, on Reynolds Square, is a local institution, very busy, with constant traffic of people waiting for seats; we had to wait about 15 minutes for our reserved table. There are several dining room on different levels, but definitely go for the basement room – it is cavernous, atmospheric, with not too many tables and quite a lot of patrons mingling around the bar, and most importantly live piano music after 7pm. The menu is excellent and the food is quite exceptional. Southern sushi is worth a try among appetizers. Our damage: $190 including a bottle of wine and tips.
A.lure ♥♥♥, around the corner from the market on Congress, offers fantastic food and excellent service. There are two dining rooms, and both got completely full on a Saturday night. The back room is smaller and quieter until it gets full. Of our meal selections, special marks go to rabbit ravioli, Low Counries Boil, and duck confit. Our damage: $205, which included several drinks and tips.
Papilotte ♥♥ is a small French-style eatery on West Broughton. A good menu for lunch or brunch, with various specials. Proprietors are the nicest people and there is a small-place ambience that is hard to dislike. Our damage: $60 for several dishes, desserts and a glass of wine. We overheard that they were closing imminently on account of rent problems, so research first.
Hotel Marshall House ♥♥ is a historic building smack in the center of town. Reasonable-size room, large shower (no bathtub), pleasant decor in the common area, with live music at certain times. Very friendly staff, as is expected of Southern hospitality. In the evening, if your room comes out onto the inner yard, it may be noisy until 10pm or later; there are occasional weddings held in the hotel and its restaurant. Breakfast is uneven, only quiches for hot food one day, but eggs, bacon and sausages another; otherwise cereals, pastries and fruits. Last stay: 2015.