Initially, you assume that this means you should live “downtown”. Perhaps you hail from Austin or Boulder or another city in which the downtown core is the happening spot, and everything else is suburb.
But when you arrive in Atlanta, you quickly realize that few people live downtown. Where can you live?
Here’s a guide to the densely-populated cluster of neighborhoods collectively called “Intown” Atlanta.
What is “Intown” Atlanta?
The City of Atlanta features several distinct neighborhoods that are close to each other.
Each neighborhood has a unique history, identity, vibe and scene, and this can make these areas feel like they’re worlds apart. In reality, though, the Intown neighborhoods cover a span of only a few miles.
If you’re looking for a “city-living” experience, the Intown area is the place to live.
There’s no strict definition of where Intown begins and ends — the subject is a matter of debate.
Everyone agrees that the following neighborhoods are Intown:
Midtown — Regardless of whether you’re looking for the glass-skyscraper experience or for the best city park/outdoor space, Midtown is your spot. Midtown is brimming with hotels, office buildings, restaurants, bars, and a diverse scene of late-night partiers alongside office workers and families. The nightlife centers on Crescent Avenue, where clubs that stay open until 3 a.m., and during the daytime, hundreds of people jog or bike in Piedmont Park, the “Central Park” of Atlanta.
Midtown is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Atlanta, and as a result, it also features homes built in the early 1900’s, situated a block or two away from modern skyrises. The harmony between “old” and “new” gives Midtown a universal appeal.
If you’re new to Atlanta, and you’re not sure which neighborhood will suit you best, rent a place in Midtown for your first year. You may never leave.
Virginia Highlands – Want to live in the heart of the city, but still enjoy a cozy, small-neighborhood atmosphere? Virginia Highlands borders Midtown (you could walk to Piedmont Park or Crescent Avenue if you’re feeling ambitious), but retains that quaint feeling of a small town. The intersection of Virginia Ave and Highland Ave features everything from frozen yogurt to a popular oyster bar to an upscale brunch spot, and the area becomes crowded at 2 a.m. on a Friday or Saturday night.
Old Fourth Ward – Until around 2010, Old Fourth Ward (O4W) was a lower-income neighborhood, but this spot has been rapidly gentrifying as a result of the Beltline, a pedestrian/biking trail that runs through every Intown neighborhood listed in this article, from Piedmont Park in Midtown through Cabbagetown and Grant Park. (Eventually, the Beltline will be a 22-mile loop.) New condo developments are springing up across O4W, a popular skateboard park opened in 2011, and the highly-acclaimed restaurant Two Urban Licks features a prominent role along O4W’s Beltline exposure.
Inman Park – Also conveniently located along the Beltline, Inman Park is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Atlanta and features historic brick buildings, stately mansions built with Queen Anne and Victorian charm, and its fair share of loft and warehouse spaces for the hipsters who have long occupied this neighborhood. Inman Park features some of the best restaurants in the city, including Barcelona, Kevin Rathbun, and Sotto Sotto.
Cabbagetown – This is a historic old cotton-mill neighborhood that exploded in popularity during the 1990’s. The area was destroyed by a tornado in 2008, but its residents banded together and revitalized the area, largely through grassroots, crowdsourced efforts. As a result, Cabbagetown residents tend to have a large degree of pride in their neighborhood. Most dwellings in this area are historic single-family homes or duplexes, and the neighborhood hosts the annual “Chomp and Stomp” chili festival, a perennial highlight among Intown residents.
Grant Park – Atlanta’s oldest city park is located in Grant Park, also home to the Atlanta Zoo and Atlanta History Center. This historic neighborhood features gorgeous houses, with the largest swath of Victorian architecture in the city. History Oakland Cemetery, the burial site of Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell, occupies a corner of Grant Park, and a line of popular restaurants and bars dot Memorial Drive, on the south side of Oakland Cemetery.
What City Neighborhoods Aren’t “Intown”?
Atlanta is divided into two regions: outside the Perimeter (OTP, the suburbs) and inside the Perimeter (ITP, the city.)
When OTP residents refer to the city neighborhoods, they may casually lump all ITP neighborhoods together as “Intown.”
But this isn’t necessarily the case.
Buckhead and Decatur aren’t considered “Intown” neighborhoods by most residents who live ITP. Both Buckhead and Decatur are located further away from the areas listed above, and they’re both large enough to “stand alone” rather than get clustered together with other neighborhoods.
You can enjoy a city experience in Buckhead and Decatur, as well as any of the neighborhoods listed above. Each area has a unique style and atmosphere. Spend some time exploring each area before you decide which one fits your personality best.