Whether you like Aretha Franklin or B.B. King, Elvis, or Jerry Lee Lewis, or you’re fascinated by Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement — Memphis is the right place for you.
Located on the banks of the strong Mississippi, this city of more than half a million people is one of the most interesting and beautiful places in the southern United States.
If you want to find out where to stay in Memphis and what to do once you get there, make sure you keep reading — you’ll be glad you did. Let us be your guide!
The 4 Best Parts of Memphis
Memphis is on the eastern banks of the Mississippi and expands further eastward. There’s only one exception to that, and that’s Graceland, which is located to the south of the center.
That being said, every single area in our guide has something special and individual to offer.
One thing that you should know is that, as you go from the center to the east or to the south, the prices of accommodations, shops, and restaurants get progressively lower. In other words, the budget options are to be found to the east or to the south from Downtown.
- Downtown: Definitely the best choice for first-time visitors, mostly because of its numerous museums and restaurants and Beale Street.
- Midtown: Great choice for lovers of history, regular museum visitors, and architecture aficionados, but also great for festival-goers due to the Cooper-Young Festival.
- East Memphis: Located around 15 miles from the city center, it’s probably the most budget-friendly area in the whole of Memphis.
- South Memphis and Graceland: Home of Elvis Presley’s Mansion, some interesting museums about “The King” and music history, and a couple of great parks.
Where to Stay in Memphis: Best Areas & Hotels
Memphis is a really tourist-friendly city with a lot of accommodation options of all sizes and types. Whatever area or district you choose as your holiday base, you won’t make a mistake.
But, there are some significant differences between what the different parts of Memphis have to offer. Downtown has the largest number of accommodations in the city, but it’s also the most crowded and the most expensive.
Those who want to stay near the center but can’t find any available accommodations or they find the center too expensive should choose Midtown instead since it’s a perfect alternative.
Those who are looking for budget options can settle either for Midtown or East Memphis, with the second being the cheaper option.
That said, there are many cheap hotels in South Memphis and Graceland, too. Speaking of Graceland, it’s the obvious choice for fans of Elvis and the place where you’ll find his legendary colonial-style mansion.
There’s no better place to stay in Memphis — no matter if it’s your first or your 100th visit — than in the historic and lively downtown.
Located right next to the majestic Mississippi River, it offers you the most important and popular historical and cultural landmarks, a bunch of great restaurants, and plenty of accommodation options.
Before you start hitting the museums and the music venues, take a stroll down Memphis Beale Street — the absolute navel of the city. Created in 1841 and running for almost two miles, it’s always crowded with tourists.
It’s brimming with restaurants, salons, and cafes on both of its sides, and there are a couple of famous music venues, too, like the FedEx Forum and the New Daisy Theatre.
After you take the necessary stroll along the main artery of Memphis, it’s time to visit other important landmarks. The list of museums is quite long and covers both the rich musical tradition of the city and its civil rights engagement.
Whatever you do, you just can’t miss the following places:
- The National Civil Rights Museum gives a thorough account of the civil rights movement, right on the spot where Martin Luther King was shot.
- Memphis Rock N’ Soul Museum chronicles all musicians that gave shape to the specific “Memphis sound.”
- Sun Studio is usually considered the birthplace of rock n roll and where Elvis Presley recorded his first song.
We think we made it clear that there are plenty of other things to do or see downtown, but these are the backbone of the city.
Let’s just add that the center is the place where you’ll find all kinds of accommodations — budget, mid-range, or luxurious. Just make sure you make reservations upfront, and you’ll certainly have a great time.
Things to Do
- As Memphis is located on the banks of the Mississippi, the surrounding nature is also beautiful. If you love the outdoors, check out Mud Island, the small peninsula just opposite the center. There’s a fine BB King statue there, the Memphis sign, and a charming park called Mud Island Park. The Mud Island Riverwalk is the thing most tourists come for, but you can also cycle or just enjoy both nature and the city.
- Let’s reiterate — Memphis Beale Street is the main artery of the city, one that you just can’t miss, and it’s full of reasons why, be it venues, cafes, nightclubs, restaurants, or saloons. Almost all of them are great and famous, but one place stands out from all the others — the B.B. King’s Blues Club. Although there are four other B.B. clubs in the USA, this one is the oldest and the most famous. Aside from the great music, it also serves fantastic and very tasty Southern soul food.
- There are plenty of museums in Memphis, and the list we gave in the heading is far from complete.
- Memphis Music Hall of Fame, for instance, is an iconic place dedicated to iconic people that personified the Blues;
- The Cotton Museum at the Memphis Cotton Exchange, located in a 1939 building, tells the story of the cotton industry and the diabolical slave trade;
- Blues Hall of Fame Museum is a new place telling the old story and boasting a lot of unseen exhibits and memorabilia;
- The Fire Museum of Memphis is a kid-friendly museum dedicated to firemen and their equipment.
- Make sure you attend some kind of performance while you’re staying in Memphis. If you’re the type of person who cherishes music before everything else, your choices are practically endless.
- The New Daisy Theatre offers a rich history of performers like Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Nirvana, The Oasis;
- The Orpheum Theatre is more versatile, offering movies, plays, operas, and local art group exhibitions.
- If you’re looking for some basketball, make sure you go to the FedEx Arena and watch the NBA’s Grizzlies and their up-and-coming stars.
Where to Eat
- Flight Restaurant and Wine Bar is definitely one of the best eateries in Memphis, especially if you’re a fan of meat and fish. A seafood and meat restaurant that also boasts a 2022 Travelers’ Choice selection, it offers knowledgeable waiters and impeccable service.
- Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken is another 2022 Travelers’ Choice selection and your first choice if you’re looking for fried chicken in Memphis. It offers all kinds of fried chicken, prepared in various ways and combinations (especially different kinds of spicy), but also some very tasty pies.
- Itta Bena is a restaurant that offers an interesting combination of local, overall American, and Cajun cuisines. It’s also one of the best places in Memphis to have a drink. We recommend the avocado and crab appetizer, the filet mignon, and the caramel bread pudding.
Downtown Budget Hotels
- Hu Hotel Memphis is a relatively cheap three-star hotel located very close to the Memphis Riverboats and the Mississippi River. It offers free Wi-Fi, free parking, a restaurant and a bar on the premises, a 32-inch TV in every room, as well as a minibar and a small refrigerator.
- Courtyard Memphis Downtown is another generally cheap three-star hotel located right in the center of Memphis. It offers free Wi-Fi, private parking, and an iPod docking station — all of them available to all guests. There’s also a fitness center and a restaurant on the premises.
Downtown Mid-Range Hotels
- Comfort Inn Memphis Downtown is a three-star hotel that comes at a really decent price. Overlooking both the Mississippi and Mud Island River Park, it offers an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center on the premises, family rooms furnished with all the amenities, and a tasty breakfast in the morning.
- Hampton Inn & Suites Memphis-Beale Street is a very beautiful three-star hotel, offering qualities bordering on the luxurious. It has picturesque city views, pet-friendly premises, an indoor swimming pool and fitness center, professional room service, facilities for disabled guests, and a nice breakfast.
Downtown Luxury Hotels
- The Westin Memphis Beale Street is a very luxurious and quite expensive four-star hotel that’s particularly suitable for couples. It offers completely pet-friendly premises, on-site parking and free Wi-Fi, a restaurant and bar, rooms furnished in a modern way, and a nice breakfast.
- Hyatt Centric Beale Street Memphis is another great and expensive four-star hotel located in the center of the city, just 100 meters from the Orpheum Theater. The hotel has an indoor swimming pool, a fitness center, a restaurant, a bar, and facilities for disabled people.
If you haven’t had enough sightseeing, history, and landmarks downtown, we recommend that you move to the east and visit Midtown.
Just three miles from the center, Midtown is a lively neighborhood full of century-old mansions, interesting museums, and tasty restaurants. It’s also a suitable alternative for downtown if you’re having trouble finding accommodation.
The absolute center of Midtown is the beautiful, fun, and family-friendly Overton Park. It’s basically a huge park that boasts its own Zoo, a 126-acre forest, a museum, and two playgrounds.
This is a place where you can spend most of your days while staying in Midtown since its offer is practically inexhaustible.
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is probably the best art museum in the city, presenting artworks from the 18th to the 20th century, both from the Americas and Europe.
Memphis Zoo is a very large institution that boasts both land and sea animals organized according to their geographical specificities and types. The Victorian Village is the penultimate historical district in Memphis, located right between Downtown and Midtown.
It’s a perfect choice for lovers of beautiful architecture and history while also being a great strolling area. The Mallory-Neely House is the most important building in the area: it’s both on the National Register of Historic Places and an interesting museum.
Finally, lovers of music and culture should definitely adapt their schedules to visit Memphis while the Cooper-Young Festival is in progress.
Simply put, it’s the most important and popular festival of its kind in the wider area. It starts in the middle of September. The hotels, motels, and apartments in Midtown are significantly cheaper than downtown.
That means that this district is also quite suitable for budget travelers. The restaurant options are also great, with a lot of old and traditional soul food restaurants.
Things to Do
- Museum lovers are going to have the time of their life in Midtown, Memphis. There are plenty of them in the area, especially in the arts and history departments.
- The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art should be the first thing on your list;
- The House of Mtenzi is an interesting and unique history museum;
- The Mallory-Neely House is both a fantastic piece of beautiful architecture and an unusual museum that’s definitely worth your time;
- Finally, don’t forget Woodruff-Fontaine House Museum located between downtown and Midtown.
- Lovers of the outdoors, on the other hand, should gravitate more to the largest and most beautiful museum in Memphis — Overton Park. Sportspeople have no less than two great playgrounds to choose from, and the 126 acres of forest in the park are perfect for strolling, picnics, and biking.
- The Memphis Zoo deserves a mention of its own since it’s the prime family-friendly attraction in the area. It has many species and great surroundings, organized according to their type and geographical characteristics. You can find the rhinos in African Veldt; the nocturnal animals in the Animals of The Night area; the seaworld in the Aquarium; the lions in the Cat Country.
- If you’re a fan of festivals and large gatherings, make sure you organize your trip so you can arrive in Memphis, and specifically Midtown, in the middle of the fall (around the middle of September). That way, you can catch the Cooper-Young Festival. It’s considered the best arts and culture festival in the area, and its annual attendance averages around 130,000 (and it’s still growing in popularity). There’s no admission, and the festival is in the open.
Where to Eat
- The Beauty Shop is a great New American restaurant and bar that’s also famous for being the place where Priscilla Presley made her hair. The interior is made in the style of the 1960s, and the menu is interesting and quite unexpected, offering stuff like chicken wings and watermelon with sweet chile lime.
- Tsunami is a contemporary Asian restaurant that specializes in seafood, and it’s considered one of the best places in Memphis to have a drink. We recommend ordering the sea bass and taking one of the boardwalk tables from where you can watch the busy neighborhood.
- The Soul Fish Cafe Inc is an American seafood restaurant, particularly suitable for family lunches or dinners. Lovers of soul food are more than welcome to check out the fried catfish or the tasty lemon pie for dessert.
Midtown Budget Hotels
- Motel 6-Memphis, TN – Downtown is a very cheap two-star motel located on Interstate 240, just ten minutes from the legendary Graceland. Aside from the great location, it doesn’t offer much, but it has free Wi-Fi, free parking, cable TVs in all rooms, as well as desks.
- KINGS INN- Medical Downtown Midtown Memphis is a relatively cheap three-star hotel with an outdoor swimming pool. Less than two miles from Brown Park, it offers free Wi-Fi, free parking, and clean, non-smoking books. It also rents bikes if you want to explore the area on wheels.
Midtown Mid-Range Hotels
- Holiday Inn Express Memphis Medical Center is a great two-star hotel with an outdoor swimming pool, located on Interstate 240. Especially suitable for couples, it offers a buffet breakfast in the morning, a fitness, and a business center.
- Best Western Plus Gen X Inn is a decent three-star hotel and a perfectly suitable mid-range accommodation option, located just 15 minutes away from the historical Graceland. It also offers free Wi-Fi, free parking, a fitness center on the premises, as well as great breakfast in the morning.
Midtown Luxury Hotels
- Hotel Indigo – Memphis Downtown, an IHG Hotel is a great four-star pet-friendly hotel that’s particularly suitable for couples. Located very close to Downtown, it offers an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness center, rooms furnished with all the amenities, free Wi-Fi, and private parking.
- Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel is another luxurious four-star accommodation located in Midtown that’s completely pet-friendly and offers an unforgettable city view. It has a restaurant and a bar on the premises, a fitness center, and beautifully furnished family rooms.
3. East Memphis
One of the interesting things about Memphis is that the city stretches farther in width — that is, from west to east — than in length. That’s why our next heading takes us further to the east, into the large and interesting area simply called East Memphis.
No more than 15 miles from downtown, it offers a significantly greener atmosphere, a lot of tree-lined streets, a bunch of interesting museums, plenty of shopping options, and the cheapest accommodation options in the whole city.
All of them, in their own way, are representative of the rich cultural soul of this city, mostly known for its musical history.
They’re here to show that Memphis has more to offer than “just” museums about music and civil rights and legendary studios where Elvis or some other famous musician recorded a cult piece of music.
If, on the other hand, you’re a lover of the outdoors, of nature, and especially of domestic animals, make sure you visit Shelby Farms Greenline.
You can have a fantastic natural hike, fish, or even ride a horse. It’s basically a “recreational oasis,” much larger than the unforgettable central park.
Don’t let the distance from the center make you think that East Memphis is some kind of a rural and forlorn place — quite on the contrary. Some of the best and most versatile shopping options are located here, like the great Laurelwood Shopping Center.
East Memphis is also significantly cheaper than both Downtown and Midtown, and if you’re looking for a real budget option, this is the place for you. But, don’t expect any luxury: for that, turn your gaze to the western districts.
Things to Do
- Surprisingly enough, Eastern Memphis is a more than suitable place for museum lovers. We already mentioned the Memphis Museum of Science & History, the Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium, which are perfect learning options for those interested in the natural world and the stars. But don’t forget the Children’s Museum of Memphis, the Art Museum of the University of Memphis, and the David Lusk Gallery. Most of them are great family-friendly places to bring the younger members of your family.
- There are plenty of shopping options in East Memphis, and here’s a list of some of them:
- Laurelwood Shopping Center offers a variety of cheaper options and some upscale shops like Joseph and James Davis.
- Spruce is a place where you can buy both personal stuff and some unique designer things for your home.
- Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn are affordable outlets where you can bargain your price.
- If you’ve had enough of the city, the cars, the streets, and the noisy crowds, take a break in Shelby Farms, located in East Memphis, just 20 short minutes from the downtown of the city. A huge 4,500-acre park (five times the size of Central Park), it offers plenty of interesting options for hiking, biking, and relaxing. There are plenty of bodies of water in the park, too, where you can kayak or rent some canoes and stand-up paddleboards and enjoy yourself.
- Finally, if you enjoy nature but you want something more concentrated and organized, the Memphis Botanic Garden is the thing for you. Located inside the beautiful Audubon Park, it’s open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and offers plenty of educational programs both for kids and adults. The place offers 30 special gardens and a Level 4 Arboretum and receives more than 260,000 visitors annually.
Where to Eat
- Acre Restaurant is a rustic but contemporary American restaurant that offers tasty and unique recipes and some very interesting cocktails. We recommend that you order the grilled duck breast, the pork belly, or the braised angus beef short rib.
- Char Restaurant is a great American steakhouse that’s perfect for a relaxed yet nourishing and unusual family dinner. They offer great steaks, fresh seafood, and some of the best pasta in the city. The service is on as high a level as the food, and the mimosas are simply unforgettable.
- Ciao Bella Italian Kitchen brings the best, the sunniest, and the freshest recipes from the Mediterranean. It offers very tasty and innovative pizzas and pasta but also a lot of other interesting dishes from European traditions. The sausages, the brick sets, and the lobsters are also nice.
East Memphis Budget Hotels
- Staybridge Suites Memphis-Poplar Ave East, an IHG Hotel is a great but very cheap two-star hotel that has its own outdoor swimming pool. The hotel is also completely pet-friendly, offers free Wi-Fi, and free parking. It also has a fitness center on the premises and facilities for disabled guests.
- Extended Stay America Suites – Memphis – Germantown West is another cheap but quite beautiful two-star hotel that’s also pet-friendly. Aside from the free Wi-Fi, free parking and facilities for disabled guests, it also offers family rooms with tea and coffee makers and grab-and-go breakfast in the morning.
East Memphis Mid-Range Hotels
- Holiday Inn Memphis-University of Memphis, an IHG Hotel is a great three-star hotel, part of the famous Holiday Inn chain of hotels that — believe it or not — comes at a reasonable price. The accommodation boasts non-smoking rooms, a fitness center, and a restaurant on the premises, as well as facilities for disabled guests.
- Poplar Inn and Suites is a quite decent three-star hotel that’s not very expensive. It offers an outdoor swimming pool, free parking and free Wi-Fi, a fitness center on the premises, family rooms equipped with satellite TV and a kitchen, and facilities for disabled guests.
East Memphis Luxury Hotels
- DoubleTree by Hilton Memphis is a relatively cheap three-star hotel for what it offers — a luxurious experience. It has an outdoor swimming pool, a restaurant and a bar on the premises, a great breakfast in the morning, and nicely furnished family rooms.
- Hilton Memphis is another great three-star hotel that, again, offers much more than the number of stars it has. Aside from the outdoor pool, the restaurant, and the bar on the premises, it also offers flat-screen TVs in every room, ironing facilities, and a tasty breakfast in the morning.
4. South Memphis and Graceland
There’s one place to be in the world if you’re a huge fan of Elvis Presley, and that’s South Memphis and Graceland. Let’s be real: the downtown and the Midtown of Memphis attract myriads of tourists every year, but Graceland shuns them all.
Located around ten miles from the center of the city, the town where Elvis grew up is a thing you can’t miss if you’re visiting this part of America.
But what can you actually do while staying in South Memphis? The answer is: plenty of things, and most of them have to do something with the cult of Elvis.
The central place is Elvis Presley’s palace, which is actually called Graceland. We are talking about a 13.8-acre mansion where Elvis, his parents, his daughter, and other members of his family are buried.
A pilgrimage shrine to many of his hardcore fans, since 1991, the mansion was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2006, it was declared a National Historic Landmark.
Not connected directly to Elvis but still in relation to the rich history of music in Memphis, we recommend that you also visit the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. This interesting museum celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2023.
Other interesting things that South Memphis and Graceland have to offer are the not-very-large but charming Williams Park, located very close to the mansion, and the Southland Mall, which is a great shopping option, around five minutes by car from the same location.
The accommodation options are affordable in this part of the city, with a lot of one-, two-, and three-star hotels.
That makes it a great option for those who prefer a cheaper hotel or an apartment. But there’s still The Guest House at Graceland, which is one of the best hotels in the area.
Things to Do
- The first thing you should do while staying in this part of Memphis is to visit its most important attraction: the mansion of Elvis Presley. The huge palace built in the colonial revival style boasts the whole heritage of “The King,” including an interesting car museum (Elvis Presley Automobile Museum), his jets, numerous tours around the mansion, a lot of exhibits, and plenty of memorabilia. Finally, to make this pilgrimage complete, make sure you pay your respect to the grave of Elvis, which is located on the premises of the mansion.
- Aside from the mansion of Elvis, there’s one other interesting place in South Memphis, and that’s the relatively new but quite unique Stax Museum of American Soul Music. It’s a perfect choice for those who want to continue their educational tour from the museums of Downtown and Midtown and learn everything that can be learned about rock and roll, blues, and soul music.
- If you prefer the outdoors, this part of Memphis won’t disappoint. First, there’s the forest-like T. O. Fuller State Park, with its 1,138 acres and plenty of wildlife. For something more relaxed and urban, take a stroll down to Williams Park, a small green space located very close to the Elvis Mansion.
- Finally, if you prefer to do some shopping, again, South Memphis and Graceland have great shopping centers for you. First, there’s the legendary Southland Mall, which started working in 1966, becoming the first mall in this part of America. It boasts around 60 shops on the premises. There’s also Southgate Shopping Center, which is smaller and more contemporary.
Where to Eat
- Gladys’ Diner is an Elvis-themed restaurant located in the utmost heart of Graceland. The menu is quite various, but you better choose between the burger, the hot dog, the chicken sandwich, or the pizza for two. If you want to grab a drink, there’s an interesting variety of cocktails.
- Vernon’s Smokehouse is another restaurant very close to Graceland’s Mansion and a real magnet for tourists. A classical American restaurant and barbeque — named after Elvis’ father — it’s mostly famous for the fried catfish and meatloaf, but the brisket and the ribs are also nice.
- Rock ‘n Go, Shake Rattle & Go, Minnie Mae’s Sweet Shop is the perfect place to wrap things up and to have a nice dessert after all the burgers, ribs, and briskets. Named after Elvis’ grandmother, it offers all kinds of ice creams and sweats, but also a bunch of quick bites like croissants and sandwiches.
South Memphis and Graceland Budget Hotels
- Super 7 Inn is a very cheap one-star hotel located just 10 minutes from the Memphis Airport and a perfect choice for all visitors who want to spend their trip in Graceland on a budget. It offers free Wi-Fi, free parking, non-smoking family rooms with flat-screen TVs, and room service.
- Quality Inn Airport I-240 is a two-star hotel located around two miles from Gracelend. It offers an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center on the premises, free Wi-Fi, free parking, and a free airport shuttle. There’s also a microwave, a small refrigerator, and a coffee machine in every room.
South Memphis and Graceland Mid-Range Hotels
- La Quinta by Wyndham Memphis Airport Graceland is a great pet-friendly three-star hotel located around two miles from the Memphis Airport. It boasts an outdoor swimming pool, free Wi-Fi, and free parking. Finally, there’s a free airport shuttle available and a nice breakfast in the morning.
- Courtyard by Marriott Memphis Airport is a more than suitable three-star hotel, part of the famous Marriott chain of hotels. Located very close to the Memphis airport, it offers an outdoor swimming pool, a restaurant and a bar on the premises, free Wi-Fi, free parking, and free airport shuttle too, as well as facilities for disabled people and a tasty breakfast.
South Memphis and Graceland Luxury Hotels
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites Memphis Arpt Elvis Presley Blvd is a beautiful and luxurious three-star hotel located less than a mile from Graceland. Aside from the seasonal outdoor swimming pool, the fitness center, and the private parking, there’s a great breakfast in the buffet of the hotel, and facilities for disabled people.
- The Guest House at Graceland is definitely one of the best hotels in the area and the most luxurious hotels in all of Memphis. A four-star hotel, it’s located just five minutes from Elvis Presley’s Graceland Mansion, it offers an outdoor swimming pool, two restaurants on the premises, luxuriously furnished rooms, and a great breakfast in the morning.
So, Where Should You Stay in Memphis?
Downtown Memphis is the most popular and tourist-friendly area in the city, and it’s full of civil rights and music museums, as well as legendary studios. Memphis Beale Street is one of the most famous music, entertainment, and restaurant avenues in America.
|✅ Best Area to See Everything||Downtown Memphis|
|🏛️ Great for History Buffs||Midtown Memphis|
|💲 Most Budget-Friendly Area||East Memphis|
|🌳 Best for Nature Lovers||South Memphis/Graceland|
That being said, we think that the downtown area is the best option for every first-time visitor in Memphis. Midtown is located just a couple of miles from Downtown, and it presents a unique and interesting show for every lover of history and culture.
Some of the most beautiful old houses and mansions in Memphis are located here, and there are a bunch of great museums, too. The area is also a great accommodation alternative to downtown because of its proximity and prices.
East Memphis is a little further to the east of Downtown and Midtown (around 15 miles from downtown), and it’s the cheapest and the most budget-friendly area in our guide.
Aside from the great accommodation prices, the area offers some interesting science and history museums, a huge park, and plenty of shopping options. Finally, South Memphis and Graceland are an obvious choice for music lovers.
Located a few miles from the center, here you’ll find the legendary Mansion of the “king of rock and roll,” with his car collection, private jets, and grave. Aside from that, this part of Memphis has a couple of parks, shopping centers, and an interesting music museum.
So, with so much to see and do, and a great place to stay for all tastes and budgets, what are you waiting for — book you trip today to see all that Memphis has to offer. Happy travels!