The striking Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta is well situated for artistic inspiration—it’s in the heart of Midtown, the city’s lively cultural hub. Within just a few blocks of the Hotel, you’ll find the iconic High Museum of Art, the beautifully laid out Atlanta Botanical Garden, and a wealth of design-driven shops and restaurants. You’ll also find art-inspired areas to explore elsewhere in the city, from the emerging retail and gallery districts on the up-and-coming west side to the venerable interior-design hubs in stylish Buckhead.
Although it helps to have a car when exploring Atlanta, you can park and stroll on foot in a surprising number of charming, pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods. Keep in mind such spirited dining and shopping districts as East Atlanta Village (Glenwood and Flat Shoals avenues), Little Five Points (Euclid and Moreland avenues), and downtown Decatur (West Ponce de Leon Avenue at Commerce Drive).
Bennett Street Design District, Bennett Street NW at Peachtree Road NE
Everyone from bargain-driven antiques hunters to contemporary art aficionados frequents this unassuming lane at the southern edge of fashionable Buckhead. Along this quarter-mile street you’ll find a few multi-dealer antiques markets (Interiors Market with 40 vendors, The Stalls with 60), plus a number of individual galleries and design emporiums. A centrepiece of the area is the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, whose permanent collection of nearly 900 works shows the contemporary (1940s to present) creative powers of more than 250 artists; rotating exhibits shine a spotlight on current notables in the Atlanta art scene.
Woodruff Arts Center, 1 404/733-4444, 1280 Peachtree Street NE
Midtown Atlanta’s pre-eminent performing and visual arts campus, the Woodruff is home to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Alliance Theatre, as well as a world-class venue for viewing art, the High Museum, which comprises an original building designed in 1983 by Richard Meier and a 2002 expansion by Renzo Piano. Just a five-minute walk from Four Seasons, the High is known for its many works by self-taught Southern U.S. artists, including Georgia’s late folk eminence Howard Finster, as well as pieces by international luminaries such as Claude Monet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andrew Wyeth, John Singer Sargent, Sally Mann, Gerhard Richter and Dorothea Lange. The museum is perhaps best regarded, however, for its travelling shows, including “Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis” (through Sept. 29), “Art of the Louvre’s Tuileries Garden” (Nov. 3–Jan. 19); and a poignant, ongoing photography exhibit documenting the Civil Rights Movement.
Castleberry Hill, Walker and Peters streets SW
A formerly downcast industrial neighbourhood, small but dynamic Castleberry Hill has blossomed into a district of edgy contemporary art galleries. The best time for a visit is during the monthly second-Friday Art Strolls, when studios buzz with activity until 10:00 in the evening. Combine your browsing with dinner or drinks at No Mas! Cantina (for Mexican food) or the quirky Lunacy Black Market wine bar. Notable galleries, which often feature large installations and provocative themes, include Besharat Gallery, Marcia Wood and Big House Gallery.
Virginia Highland District, Virginia and North Highland avenues NE
Across leafy Piedmont Park from Midtown, the convivial Virginia Highland neighbourhood was developed in the early 20th century as one of the city’s fashionable “streetcar suburbs.” You’ll spy countless restored Arts and Crafts bungalows and Tudor Revival homes along the many residential blocks. Festive neighbourhood taverns and wine bars, homey coffee houses, and diverting shops line a stretch of North Highland Avenue, the area’s main road. Look for such retail gems as Highland Row Antiques, which specializes in Mid-Century Modern through Post-Industrial furniture and collectables; and Urban Cottage, whose mix of throw pillows, kitchen towels, modern-rustic tables and art-minded gifts reflect the neighbourhood’s urban-country eclecticism.
Westside Provisions District, 1100-1210 Howell Mill Road
This hip, fashion-forward neighbourhood sprang up in the late 1990s in a largely vacant tract of late-19th-century mills and warehouses. Well-known chains such as Room and Board, Jonathan Adler and Anthropologie mingle with indie boutiques and design showrooms. Standouts include the hyper-local Atlanta Made and Bungalow Classic, as well as Switch Modern, which carries everything from Finnish legend Alvar Aalto’s wavy glass vases to French industrial designer Serge Mouille’s angular 1950s table lamps.
Arrive hungry—the neighbourhood supports some of Atlanta’s shining culinary stars, with beloved mod-American restaurant Bacchanalia leading the way. JCT Kitchen is also earning raves for its creative Southern fare. Westside Provisions is part of the larger—and still rapidly gentrifying—West Midtown Design District, which encompasses several more blocks of chic design shops and trendy eateries; it’s also home to the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, which is closed for renovation through mid-October, when it will resume its rotation of 6 to 10 art shows annually.
Atlanta Decorative Arts Center, 1 404/231-1720, 349 Peachtree Avenue NE
For years, only credentialed interior designers could explore this 550,000-square-foot (51,000-square-metre) leviathan containing some 60 showrooms filled with furniture, wall and floor coverings, bath and kitchen accessories, carpets and draperies, lighting, and every other decorative element you could imagine. This striking white building, anchored by a garden atrium, now eagerly welcomes consumers—just stop by the registration desk when you enter.
Fans of interior design and architecture could easily lose themselves in here for hours, admiring Richard Frinier’s Japanese- and Spanish-inspired chairs and tables at Century Furniture, exquisite Pierre Frey fabrics at Jerry Pair, and simple bathroom accessories at Ann Sacks. For sustenance, stop by the Hungry Peach, a cheerful café noted for its pimento cheese appetizer and peach-cobbler cupcakes.