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One Day in Savannah: Squares and Walking Tours

Only an hour and a half north of the Georgia-Florida state line, Savannah's exit signs get little more than a passing glance. The historic city is sadly ignored by millions of travelers as they rush-rush-rush along I-95, hoping to reach their destinations as quickly as possible.


Maybe it’s an American thing. We often focus on the goal so much that we forget to take the time to enjoy the journey. But let's be honest: Too many of our deadlines are self-imposed.

Case in point: Our recent trip to Charlotte, North Carolina to celebrate a holiday with friends. Our plan was to drive straight home after lunch the next day. We always share the driving, so 9-hour drives are no big deal to us.

But then we thought about it. What’s the rush? Would the world really end if we were to take an extra day to get home?

We recalled all those times over the years that we had said “We should visit Savannah” as we sped along the interstate. When, if not now? Is Savannah worth a day trip, or not?

Here’s what we found out.

Savannah, Georgia is a charming, Southern, Colonial American town

Exit off of the speeding interstate and you’ll find that Savannah is the antithesis of rush. This colonial Grande Dame is a slow, Southern drawl of a city, with canopies of tree branches shading its streets as they drip miles of lacy Spanish moss from their branches.

Its historic district is renowned for its beauty, peppered every few blocks with a lush miniature park that just begs visitors to “set a spell.” Indeed, no one, local or visitor, seems to hurry from place to place here.

Spanish moss drips from tree branches on a square in Savannah, Georgia

Each of the city’s squares (22 to be exact) is different, named for a notable person and surrounded with historic homes that are just as unique and just as enchanting. Some of the squares have fountains, others have statues, but they all have benches.

Plenty of people accept the benches’ unspoken invitation every day, enjoying the cool shade and watching frolicking children, as birds chirp overhead and horses clop-clop around the square. We were no exception and you won’t be either.

This is a long read, but Savannah is worth it. I’ll be your virtual tour guide on this Savannah walking tour itinerary and show you why.

How to visit Savannah in a day

It's pretty obvious that the best place to get accurate information is at its tourist center. Besides plenty of brochures and tips, a map of the main attractions is nearly always available, free of charge.

The Savannah Visitor Center is really easy to get to from the interstate. We arrived at 10:30 on a Sunday morning – later than we had planned – and left our car in the parking lot. Then we went inside to get our map and use the rest room before setting out.

Tip: Visit Savannah on a weekend for less traffic and free parking.

back of Savannah cycle tour guide's shirt on left. Horse and carriage on right. Both are used to get around Savannah, Georgia

The first and biggest question is, what's the best way to tour Savannah's historic district? For such a compact (1 mile-by-1 mile) area, I was quite surprised at the number of options we had to choose from:

  • Orientation trolley tours (one ride around town to see the sights, takes about an hour and a half)
  • Hop-on/hop-off trolley tours (tickets good all day)
  • Horse-drawn carriage tours
  • Bicycle taxi – not really a tour but they’ll take you wherever you want and tell you what they know
  • Segway tours
  • Walking tours
  • Self-guided walking tour

Savannah is full of historical sites, and probably most of them are worth touring. However, with such a limited time we agreed that it would be wiser to spend it in exploring on foot and just soaking up the city's ambiance. Anyway, besides enjoying ourselves in a someday-we-have-to-go-there place, our main goal was to give you, dear readers, some options so you can enjoy yourselves too.

Yeah. We rarely go anywhere without this website in mind. We want everyone to catch our travel bug.

With $5 invested in a walking tour book at the Visitor Center's gift shop, we set out on a tour that promised to take us through half of the Historic District in an hour and a half. In reality, it took longer because Dan had his camera, and Savannah is chock full of beautiful things.

By reader request, here is an Amazon link to the book we used for this walking tour. The author has done her research and shares far more information than you will read in our article. Her book includes other Savannah walking tours as well.


Looking back, the biggest mistake we made in trying to see Savannah in one day was in not reading up on all the Savannah attractions beforehand. It would have made our walking tour that much easier.

  • For one thing, we would have had our route mentally mapped out and not had to backtrack as much as we did, and
  • for another, it would have helped us avoid stopping all the time to read about what we were seeing.

at this

Walking tour through Savannah

As a city, Savannah is one-of-a-kind. It was laid out in 1733 by General Oglethorpe. His basic idea was to set up an easily expandable grid system: four open squares, each surrounded by four residential blocks and four civic blocks.

Anyone who walks through the historic district will agree that the original plan (now known as the Oglethorpe Plan) was absolutely brilliant.

The famous Oglethorpe plan for Savannah … made a unique use of the square in the design, nothing like it having appeared in a town plan before or since. Here, in Savannah, the square by frequent repetition becomes an integral part of the street pattern and creates a series of rhythmically placed openings which give a wonderful sense of space in a solidly built townscape.Paul Zucker

History oozes from every block of this city. Most of Savannah's squares are named in honor or in memory of a person, persons or historical event, and many contain monuments, memorials, statues, plaques and other historical mementos. Read on and you'll see what I mean.

Tip: Maintaining these sites is costly, thus the historic sites and museums charge admission fees. Budget roughly $10 per ticket. If you want to visit a few of Savannah's homes or museums, ask about combination tickets; they can offer considerable savings. Be warned, though: photography inside these buildings is often not permitted.

Savannah cemetery entrance

Orleans Square

Only a few short blocks away was our first stop: Orleans Square. It was laid out in 1815 and commemorates General Andrew Jackson's victory in the Battle of New Orleans that year. The fountain in the center of the square honors early German immigrants to Savannah.

With four two-story-tall Corinthian columns in front, the Harper Fowlkes House (aka Cincinnati House) is hard to miss. Its dramatic portico was copied from the Temple of the Winds in Athens, Greece, which I’d guess is why many people consider it to be one of the most unusual homes in the city. It is now open to the public.

Harper Fowlkes House, Savannah

Chippewa Square

Chippewa Square was named for the Battle of Chippewa in the War of 1812. In the corner of the square is a monument to James Oglethorpe, who founded Georgia in 1735 with the following rules: No hard liquor. No slaves. No Catholics. No lawyers. As you may have guessed, none of the rules stuck. A shame, particularly that last one, haha.

Statue of James Oglethorpe atop a concrete column

The square is known for its nightlife and entertainment, partly because of the Historic Savannah Theatre. The Savannah Theatre is the oldest theatre in the United States and still produces shows nightly. Nearby is the First Baptist Church, the oldest church building in Savannah, which welcomed troops from both sides of the conflict during and after the Civil War.

For some people though, Chippewa Square’s biggest claim to fame is that this is where Forrest Gump sat while eating his box of chocolates and telling his life story to anyone who would listen. (The bench was located on the north edge of Chippewa Square Park, at the corner of Hull and Bull Streets.) While the scene was being filmed, they rerouted the normally counterclockwise traffic so that passengers could step off in front of the bench. Sorry, guys, but there’s no bench there now.

Tip: If you want to see the actual bench from the movie, you’ll find it in the Savannah History Museum. It was actually just a film prop.

The bench has been replaced by a small garden.
The bench has been replaced by a small garden.

From Chippewa Square, we walked down Bull Street past Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace. The house was one of the first house museums in Savannah. We didn’t stop in but having been there before I can say that if you’re interested in historic homes, it is well worth your time. Also, if you were a Girl Scout, you should also visit the Andrew Low House, which is where she later lived.

Tip: If you have the time and interest, consider buying a Pioneers in Preservation Pass, a multi-site ticket which includes admission to the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, Davenport House and Andrew Low House. Pioneers in Preservation Pass is available at any one of the three museums for $21.

Three story house where Juliette Gordon Low was born
Juliette Gordon Low's birthplace

Wright Square

We quickly arrived at Wright Square, the square where the courthouse has always stood. A simple granite memorial stands in one corner as a tribute to Tomochichi, chief of the Yamacraw tribe, who became a good friend of General Oglethorpe and offered peace and cooperation with the settlers. This was his original grave site, but sadly, his bones were removed in order to erect a statue to William W. Gordon.

stone with plaque Memorial to Tomochichi
Memorial to Tomochichi

You can see the statue in the center of the square. Gordon brought immense wealth to Savannah by constructing a railroad which brought cotton into Savannah’s wharves from distant plantations. William Gordon was grandfather of Juliette Gordon Low.

Oglethorpe Square

Turning onto York Street, we found Owens-Thomas House at the next square. Our guide book said that architectural historians consider the building to be one of the finest examples of English Regency architecture in America.

Tree frames the lower floor and entry of Owens Thomas House

If you visit, you can also see the slave quarters in the carriage house, which contains items that were constructed and used by slaves. If you don't, you can still peek through a gate to see the home's beautiful garden.

garden at Owens Thomas House, as seen through a gate

Colonial Park Cemetery

Before our next stop on our tour we detoured to walk through nearby Colonial Park Cemetery, used from 1733-1850. It's now a peaceful city park.

Entry gate to Colonial Park Cemetery. D.A.R. is carved on the lintel and an eagle with his wings spread is atop the entry

The most famous person buried at Colonial Park Cemetery is Button Gwinnett. He signed the Declaration of Independence.

We saw a pile of headstones along one wall. The explanation: When General Sherman's troops camped there during the Civil War the soldiers found a unique form of entertainment: altering and moving gravestones. That pile is of the ones they could not relocate afterward. My tour book said that some of the dates now show that someone died before he was born!

gravestones at Colonial Park Cemetery
Wonder where the actual graves are for all these piled headstones? So do we.

Columbia Square

There’s a fountain in the center of Columbia Square, the next square on York. It came from a nearby plantation that was owned by the wealthiest man in Georgia colony.

Simple metal fountainshoots one stream of water directly upward. The pool around the fountain is made of brick
This simple metal fountain came from Wormsloe, a plantation near Savannah.

Standing nearby is Kehoe House, an 1892 Renaissance Revival mansion that was built as a residence for William Kehoe, his wife, Anne, and their ten children. Mr. Kehoe operated an iron foundry and when the house was built many of its details were made of iron. It has been exquisitely restored and is now a luxury bed and breakfast. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, each of the 13 guest rooms is appointed with elegant furnishings and antiques. No wonder guests have to be at least 21 years old to stay there.

romantic old brick inn in Savannah

Another remarkable house on the square is the Davenport House, which is open to visitors. It boasts some of the finest wrought iron in town. Even if you don’t go inside, look for the dolphin downspouts on each corner. Also check out the third step on the front staircase: there’s a boot scraper placed below a heart!

Tip: The Davenport House is included in the multi-site Pioneers in Preservation Pass (see above).

Davenport House

Greene Square

Laid out a short time after the Revolutionary War, this square was named to honor General Nathanael Greene, who was second in command to George Washington. (Greene, along with his son, is actually buried in Johnson Square. Go figure.)

Greene Square was once the center of Savannah's African-American community. On one of the adjacent lots is Second African Baptist Church. It was here that General Sherman read the Emancipation Proclamation and promised the newly freed slaves “40 acres and a mule.” A century later, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood here as well, and practiced his famous “I had a dream” speech before delivering it in Washington, D.C.

Second African Baptist Church

Washington Square

Washington Square was named for the first President of the United States, who had recently visited Savannah. It was the site of the Trustees' Garden, where they experimented with a variety of potential cash crops for the new colony. Most of these experiments
— including mulberry (for silkworms), hemp, olives, and indigo — were unsuccessful, but the peach trees prospered. Yep, that's the story behind those famous Georgia peaches.

One day taipei itinerary for a layover

By the way, as you walk around town you may notice the paving material, called “tabby.” Tabby was often used for both roads and buildings. It is a resourceful mixture of oyster shells, lime, sand, and water.

rough surface of tabby sidewalk in front of Savannah row houses
Look closely and you can see the tabby on the sidewalk

Pirate’s House

Walk to the end of Houston Street and look across Broad Street. The weathered building is the Pirate’s House, which began as an inn for visiting seamen. Pirate’s House was an inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson as he wrote Treasure Island. Indeed, Savannah is mentioned in the book more than once.

Now a restaurant, it has a shady history because, according to legend, a tunnel ran from the cellar to the river. Patrons of the tavern were given strong drinks and when they passed out they were carried, unconscious, to ships waiting in the harbor. When they awoke, they would find themselves at sea on a strange ship bound for a port half a world away.

Pirate's House, a landmark Savannah restaurant

Seems to me, though, that if there really is a tunnel under the city, there would be a tour or something. Wouldn't you think?

Warren Square

Warren Square was named for General Joseph Warren, a Revolutionary War patriot. He had been President of the Provincial Government of Massachusetts and was killed in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Several of the homes there were completely restored in the 1900s, but not all. A double house on the south side of the square was built in 1998.

We followed St. Julian Street to get there. This street has some of the oldest houses in the Historic District (from the 1700s). You can tell it because the architecture is completely different.

Yellow row houses on a Savannah street
Want to buy a house? These are for sale in Historic Savannah.

Reynolds Square

This square was named for Capt. John Reynolds, governor of Georgia in the mid-1750s. The bronze statue in the middle honors John Wesley, founder of Methodism. Wesley spent a few years in Savannah (1735–1738), during which time he founded the first Sunday school in America. He is shown preaching outdoors, just as he did when leading services for Native Americans.

Statue of John Wesley in Reynolds Square

Had it been open, Dan and I would have stopped for lunch at the Olde Pink House. Thanks to surviving a devastating city fire in 1796, it is the only surviving 18th century mansion. It earned its name because the soft native brick began to bleed through the white plastered walls, and the Habersham house turned Jamaican pink.

Even though it was closed, they let us take a look around. We shot as many photos as we wanted of the atmospheric dining rooms. I have to say that for such a pleasant ambiance I was surprised at how affordable the menu is. The chef was very creative with the menu options and is very willing to cater to special dietary requests, such as sugar- or gluten-free. Woo-hoo!

Olde Pink House, Savannah

Johnson Square

Remember Greene Square, named after Nathanael Greene? This is where his and his son’s remains are buried. The obelisk in the center of the square is a memorial to the general.

Memorial obelisk to Nathanael Greene

Also on Johnson Square are two fountains, as well as a sundial dedicated to Colonel William Bull, the namesake of Savannah's Bull Street. Bull surveyed Savannah’s original street grid.

Bay Street and a nice walk run along the Savannah River

Bay Street

Time to take a break from Savannah square-seeing. Instead, we ambled over to Bay Street, where the hundred-year-old City Hall stands, its pretty gilt dome glittering in the noonday sun.

Savannah's City Hall

It wasn't City Hall that interested us, though. Our goal was a close-up look at the historic Washington Guns.

Washington Guns

Sitting peacefully under an unassuming canopy near City Hall are two relatively nondescript “guns” (cannons?) that are fondly referred to as “George and Martha.” Tour guides will tell you that they were captured from the British during the American Revolutionary War and that they were a gift to the Chatham Artillery from George Washington when he visited in 1791.

Washington Guns
Is this one George, or Martha?

Cotton Exchange

After checking out the historic weapons, we continued past the Exchange Fire Bell. It may be old-fashioned, but it was once how they used to alert citizens of fire.

The bell got its name because of its location: near the old Cotton Exchange. Once upon a time, the world's daily price of cotton was set in this very building. The men who negotiated the rate were known as Cotton Factors. I'll tell you about that in a moment.

The fountain in front boasts a really nice-looking griffin in the center. Griffins are mythical beasts that were said to guard ancient treasure.

Factors Walk

The Cotton Exchange is not far from my favorite part of Savannah, Factors Row and Factors Walk, both of which sit atop a bluff along the Savannah River. Factors Row is a unique collection of huge red brick buildings, two or three stories tall, that were used in the cotton trade back in the day.

The top floors once contained the cotton factors’ offices, while the lower floors were used as warehouses and faced the river. A series of iron and concrete walkways, known as Factors Walk, connected the buildings to the bluff.

cobbled street leading down to the river

Look down between Bay Street and the Factors Walk, and you'll see a cobbled street and ramps leading down to the river. Their cobblestones were used as ballast when the empty ships sailed here from England. They were abandoned on the riverbanks as the ships were loaded with cotton.

These picturesque iron walkways aren't just photogenic, they have an interesting history. The Cotton Factors would stand on these bridges and bid on the loads, as wagons full of cotton passed underneath.

Factors Walk: Look carefully and you'll see the lower street, too.

These days, these historic buildings are occupied by pricey antique shops, historic inns, cafes, and exclusive offices.

Where to eat in Savannah

Anywhere you go in town, you can expect to find a lot of shellfish and pork on the menu. Welcome to the coastal South. Both are very popular here, to the point that some places don't offer much else.

Pity the vegetarians. This is one place where it pays to inspect the menu before you decide to sit down.

Besides The Olde Pink House and the Pirate House, two other well-known places to eat are:

  • Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room (107 W. Jones St.) began as a boardinghouse in 1943 and now serves its food family style. Eating here means lining up outside, then sharing a table-for-ten with other hungry visitors. There is no menu per se so it's hit-or-miss as to whether you'll like what's being served. Just like at home, they bring out the food in big dishes and soon your table will be crowded with traditional Southern specialties like fried chicken, cornbread dressing, sweet potato souffle, black-eyed peas, okra gumbo, corn muffins and biscuits.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, The Lady and Sons (102 W. Congress St.) has no lines because it requires reservations. Savannah natives Paula Deen — celebrity chef from the Food Network — and her two sons offer a buffet of Southern dishes as well as a varied menu for those who'd prefer to eat something healthier. (If you have an allergy, be aware that they cook with peanut oil.)

We didn't eat at either one because we were on a very strict diet regimen. Besides, we were hungry and craved immediate gratification. Playing it safe, we chose a place with a familiar menu: Outback Steakhouse (on Bay Street). We enjoyed a small sirloin steak cooked Pittsburgh style.

This didn't rival the Colonial dining atmosphere at the Olde Pink House, but it was a decent alternative. My nicely charred steak hit the spot.

Dining tips

  • If you're watching your pennies or saving room for dinner, Five Guys Burgers (on Bay Street near Ellis Square) is a good option. Both their burgers and hot dogs (Hebrew National brand) are prepared to order, and you can even get them served without a bun. Beware if you're counting calories, though: One order of their fresh-cut French fries is enough for two people.
  • If you want to eat at The Lady and Sons but forgot to make reservations, take the Paula Deen trolley tour. It includes VIP seating at the restaurant.

Ellis Square

Rested and refreshed, we were ready to tackle the rest of the city. Ellis Square marks one end of an area known as City Market. This has been an area for public marketing since 1755. The beautiful market building once located here was demolished in the 1950s so that they could build a parking garage on the site.

After years of complaints about its ugliness, Savannah finally caved and demolished it. The space is now a public square ABOVE an underground parking garage. The new public square features a bronze statue of songwriter-lyricist Johnny Mercer (“Moon River,” “Days of Wine and Roses”), and fittingly, has open spaces for public concerts.

There's also a small tourist office, which was staffed when we were there. In good weather, children romp and play in a spot where water spurts from the ground in patterns. The fountain was still running, as were the kids, when we were there on a warm mid-October day.

children romping in the Ellis Square fountain

City Market

Tucked between Ellis and Franklin Squares, you'll find a pedestrian shopping area known as City Market. Expect live music, boutiques, art galleries, sweet shops, bars and restaurants to vie for your attention.

Pedestrian area of Savannah city market, restaurant, sign and shops

Tip: This is also a good place to arrange for a bicycle taxi or horse-drawn carriage tour.

Franklin Square

Franklin Square was named for Benjamin Franklin, who had died the year before. In the middle of the square is a statue honoring the many Haitian soldiers who fought for America’s independence in the Revolutionary War. That Haitians had defended the Colonies was a surprise to me.

Haitian soldier statue in the middle of Franklin Square

First African Baptist Church overlooks the square. This still-vibrant church is the oldest African American congregation in the U.S. Much of the building’s features are original.

As a part of the “Underground Railroad,” members would hide slaves in the church before their flight north to freedom. They hid them on a finished subfloor four feet beneath the lower auditorium floor.

The church has a museum and offers tours. Check their website for details.

By this time we had worked up a good thirst from all our walking and the waterfront along River Street began to beckon us. What could be better than to enjoy the breezes along the water and a bit of refreshment as we rested our feet and watch the boats tooling along on Savannah River?

Telfair Square

By the way, I have no idea how I managed it (I was in charge of the map) but somehow we completely missed seeing Telfair Square. I only realized my error after we got home. (Dang, it was right nearby!)

I’m very disappointed actually, because Telfair Square contains tributes to the Girl Scouts of the USA, founded here in Savannah by Juliette Gordon Low. I have fond memories of my times as a Girl Scout, from Brownie to Senior.

Telfair Square was one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in early Savannah and it is the only square honoring a family rather than an individual. One of the original mansions on the square was owned by Mary Telfair. She deeded it to the city in her will and it opened as Telfair Museum of Arts and Sciences in 1886. I hope her kids weren't too upset when the lawyer read her will.

Heading to River Street

Always suckers for cobbled streets we walked back along Bay Street to Factor's Row and descended to the lower level. Now we were at the lower levels of the cotton warehouses, below Factor's Walk. Here we had a Choose Your Own Adventure decision to make: Do we:

  1. head down the cobbled ramp to the middle of River Street or
  2. follow the narrow street to the end?

Door #2 won.

It was a great idea in theory, but we quickly realized we'd have to pay attention to where we put our feet. Thise cobbles aren't smooth and it would be so easy to take a nasty tumble!

The waving girl

As we approached the end or the street, a trolley passed us heading down to the water. We followed its path to a park where a statue of a woman waved to passing ships.

This statue has long been a Savannah landmark. The real life woman, Florence Martus, had once lived on nearby Elba Island with her parents and brother. When their parents passed away, she became the housekeeper and her brother took over the duties as lighthouse keeper. From the age of 19 until her death, Florence waved to every ship entering or leaving the harbor. She became known as the “waving girl.”

Now felt like a good time to give our feet a break with a $2 bottle of Dasani at a table along the river.

The blazing sun couldn't reach us as we sat under an umbrella and a cooling breeze wafted over us from the river. We watched the passersby and marveled at the variety of trinkets for sale in a nearby shop. Why buy all that stuff? Likely all made in China, I thought, cynically. Same worthless dust collectors as every other touristy place, just with a different city\s name stamped on the t-shirts.

Okay, so I was partially wrong.

As sure as they had a lot of knick-knacks, the market had just as many craft stalls staffed by local artisans. One woman had some gorgeous silver earrings I almost succumbed to but, unfortunately in retrospect, didn't.

Serves me right, I suppose.

River Street

With the variety of unique nightspots, elegant inns and hotels, quaint brew pubs and fabulous restaurants, I would imagine that River Street glitters after dark. By day, though, it's the century-old cotton warehouses that tempt visitors, with all their antique shops, jewelry boutiques and galleries.

Actually, there is something for everyone along the cobbled street, including those made-in-China souvenirs. And of course, there is food galore, from grilled fish to cappuccinos to ice cream to hand-made pecan pralines.

Tell you what, I'd have liked to visit the honey tasting room we passed beneath the Hyatt Hotel. If it hadn't been for our diet….

Cruising the Savannah River

If the tang of the ocean in the air gets too tempting, you can board a boat for a daytime tour from the water or a sunset cruise. I guess you could do that if you're only in Savannah for a day, but it wouldn't be the best way to see the squares.

The other half of Savannah's historic district

Sigh. Time to leave the river. Here it was, mid-afternoon, and we'd only seen half of the historic district. We hadn't seen Forsyth Park or the eight squares on the other side of Liberty Street, and yet we didn't think we could manage a whole ‘nother walking tour. Nope, our feet were loudly complaining that they had had enough. So we found a way to finish our tour the energy-efficient way.

How about a pedicab?

Always eager for new experiences, we hired a pedicab at City Market. As soon as we learned that he could charge for a set amount of time we asked him to give us a half-hour tour so we could see the few squares we had missed that morning without making our feet complain. I told him he could take any route he wanted, but please make it a point to go around Lafayette Square and pass the fountain in Forsyth Park.

Tip: It really pays to check multiple resources before you start a trip. Aside from the Visitor Center, advice from locals, blog posts, and YouTube videos, try clicking “Images” in Google's search results. That's how we discovered that fountain.

Bicyle taxi in Savannah

Lafayette Square

Lafayette Square is a “don't miss” spot because it has three notable buildings on it:

  • Andrew Low House, built by Juliette Gordon Low's father-in-law, was where she spent most of her life and the site of the first Girl Scout headquarters.
  • Hamilton Turner Mansion, which was the inspiration for Walt Disney's famous “Haunted Mansion” and
  • Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, which rivals the sky with its brilliant blue steeples. Its stained glass windows were made in Austria and its wood carvings of the stations of the cross came from Bavaria.
View of two blue steeples for Savannah's cathedral
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

Temple Mickve Israel

We also wanted to see Temple Mickve Israel on our tour. The temple is remarkable for two reasons:

  1. It is the only purely Gothic revival synagogue in the United States
  2. It has the oldest Torah in the country
  3. The congregation received a perpetual charter from Governor Telfair in 1790, which makes it the third-oldest congregation in the U.S.

Had it not been a Sunday we would have taken a tour of the temple itself. We understand that the tour is very interesting. (Tours are available from Monday-Friday 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm.)
exterior of Temple Mickve Israel, Savannah, Georgia

If you visit and have more than one day, consider spending a while in Forsyth Park, too. It is large enough to occupy the space that two of Savannah's squares should occupy. We rode past its dramatic fountain but unfortunately, Dan's photos didn't come out.

Before we knew it our half hour ride was over and we were back at the Visitor Center. Time to get out and cross the street to our car.

Bonaventure Cemetery

Back on the road we soon found our way to Bonaventure Cemetery. Not that we like hanging around dead bodies: We usually avoid the morbid and eerie. However, three locals had recommended it so highly we figured we should stop by to see why. Once we arrived we understood.

Main gate to Bonaventure Cemetery (there's a Jewish gate nearby)

We drove through its gates at 5 pm with the late afternoon sun slanting through the branches and Spanish moss overhead. Here and there the rays cast golden light onto grave markers, birds chirped and shadows grew long. It was quite peaceful, and not just because there were only two or three cars in the entire place.

All we knew when we entered its gates was that it has a scenic bluff that overlooks the Wilmington River. We didn't know who were the famous people buried at Bonaventure Cemetery and we didn't care to look for their resting places anyway. We preferred to drive around aimlessly, which was a good thing since we didn't have a map, haha.

It wasn't long before we arrived at the bluff, where we found a convenient spot to park. We climbed out and found some dramatic grave markers nearby.
carved headstones
It would have served us right if we were locked in overnight. After all, we had entered at closing time and the cemetery hours were clearly posted on the gate. Still, a little time is better than none at all; it was certainly worth just the few minutes we were able to spend there.

Most of our “one day” experiences include dinner and evening activities, but this time we had to cut our visit short. Time to head home to Florida. A shame that we had to, because Savannah is full of inviting places to enjoy an evening meal.

There are so many things to do in Savannah that one day is not enough.

Inspired?

See more of Savannah

For more photos of this beautiful city, see our Savannah photo gallery.

Read more

This walking tour was based on the book, A Self-Guided Tour of Savannah by Maryann Jurkofsky.

Savannah tour tips

  • Excepting the hop-on/hop-off and bicycle taxi tours, most of the other organized tours last for about 1½ hours.
  • Prices vary, but if you budget $25 per person, you’ll be safe.
  • Many of the tour companies offer discount coupons in tourist brochures and magazines. Find them at the Georgia Welcome Center, many highway rest stops and Savannah Visitor Center.
  • Ask a ticket agent to honor a competitor's coupon. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Where to stay in Savannah

We recommend using HotelsCombined to make your lodging arrangements. You can check prices and ratings before you book. Very reassuring.

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Follow this itinerary for a walking tour that can be done in one day in Savannah, Georgia.

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages has inspired her to create As We Saw It with her husband Dan, a professional photographer. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

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15 thoughts on “One Day in Savannah: Squares and Walking Tours

  1. Where is a good place to stay, we want to see 22sq, historicdistricts, riverwalk. We don’t like B&B and we are Wyndham hotel members, just thought I would ask. Our first time to Savannah thanks

    1. DeAnna, we’d love to help but we don’t know of any Wyndham properties in Savannah’s historic district, just the ones along the highway. We suggest calling their 1-800 number and ask if they have any new hotels in the historic area. If they don’t have a property that fits your needs, you can check Booking.com and read the reviews. We’ve had good luck with that site – we use it a lot.

  2. Do you remember the book you used… also how long would you allocate … i know it said an hour and half, but based on your experience would you allocate more?

    1. Thanks for asking about the book, Lauralee. It was just the incentive I needed to seek it out and insert it into the story. I was happy to find it on Amazon…at the same price we had paid at the Visitor Center. We think it would be pushing it to expect to see everything in an hour and a half. I’d allocate at least 3-4 hours at a minimum, not counting break times for shop browsing, eating and resting your feet while people-watching. And of course, an hour or two of extra time if you decide to check out Savannah’s historical cemeteries; they’re quite beautiful and not at all depressing.

    1. Thank you. We agree: Savannah is beautiful. I don’t know of any other city quite like it. I hope you will be able to see it yourself some day, Shahid.

  3. I haven’t been to Savannah in YEARS, but somehow it is still one of my favorite places. So much history, Spanish moss on all of those trees and so close to the ocean. You’ve inspired me to consider making a day trip myself. We actually might have a chance to even move there! 🙂

  4. I really enjoy Savannah, I opted for the walking tour. There is so much history and southern charm everywhere! Thank you for the wonderful article 🙂

  5. We are also guilty of bypassing Savannah on our road trip in January. From your description though it sounds similar to Charleston, which we really enjoyed, but due to the polar vortex we froze and cut our visit a day short. Now that we’re based on the east coast, maybe we’ll get down south again and we’ll make a point of visiting Savannah. Have you read the book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil?” It’s set in Savannah, a good read!

    1. The statue on the cover of that book was a marker in Bonaventure Cemetery … I’ll cover our visit in Part 2 on Monday. Sadly, it’s been moved to a museum, so Dan wasn’t able to create his own dramatic shot of it while we were there.

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