Looking for things to do and places to go in Knoxville? Enjoy our Neighborhood Guide series where we share a part of town and cover food and drinks, nature and outdoors, arts and culture, attractions, and more!


The Dawn (and Dusk) of a New Day - Old City

While the Old City is a part of downtown, it’s often viewed as its own separate neighborhood – downtown’s edgier sibling with a focus on nightlife. The arrival of the railroad in the 1850s brought in an influx of Irish immigrants who established the Old City’s first saloons and shops. But there’s so much more here than bars and clubs, in fact, you may want to start exploring not too long after daybreak!

Bask in the morning sunrays filtering through the windows at Awaken Coffee, perk up with an expertly roasted cup and bakery bite at Old City Java, or get hooked on caffeine at Five & Hoek Coffee Co. For a more substantial nosh, Potchke has bialy, borsch, and blintz.

Read about Knoxville as “The Maker City” on page 56, then see it here in action. From the powerhouse that is Pretentious Craft Co. (possibly the only place in the world where one can drink a handcrafted beer from a handcrafted glass and watch the entire process), to Honeymouth (whose handmade leather handbags have been featured at Paris Fashion Week), just up Jackson Avenue to Glitterville (yes, of Oprah’s favorite things), there are many local artisans just waiting for you to discover their wares! Jackson and Central Avenues become a First Friday hot spot with shops and galleries like RED Gallery, Dogwood Arts Gallery, Rala: Regional and Local Artisans, Bettie Lou’s Fabulous Gift Store, Able Trade, and more.

For artisans of another craft, visit the Old City Performing Arts Center, owned and operated by the River & Rail Theatre Co. Expect a calendar full of performing artists from musicians to theatrical productions.

Hopefully we’ve proven there’s more than just bars and clubs, but honestly, the ones here are worth making the trip. From dive bars to nightclubs, the Old City has it all! Whiskey enthusiasts will look to Knoxville’s two stops on the Tennessee Whiskey Trail: PostModern Spirits and Knox Whiskey Works, both on Jackson Avenue. Sports fans will fit in at The Local Smokey and Old City Sports Bar, and wine connoisseurs need look no further than the Double S Wine Bar. Neighborhood bars and another stop on Knoxville’s Ale Trail include Urban Bar, The Public House, and Monkey’s Bar for the former and Balter Beerworks for the latter. Fine food and classy craft cocktails with artisanal ice await at STIR.

For the nightclubs, pop in and out of Hanna’s (80s, 90s, 00s), Southbound (Top 40, Hip Hop), Carleo’s (upscale lounge), and Wagon Wheel (country), all on Central. Live music can be found at concert venues like the humble dive that is the Pilot Light, on stage at Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria, or the Mill & Mine. Be sure to try The Green Room next door before a show.

A visit to Knoxville might not be complete without a trip to Boyd’s Jig & Reel. This Scottish pub features live Celtic music, Scottish fare like bangers and mash, and one of the largest whisky collections in the world – seriously, it’s over 1,000 varieties. Do the math…you could try a new one daily for over two and a half years straight and never have the same one twice!

From sunup to sundown, there’s so many ways to experience something new in the Old City!


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