Downtown Knoxville Walk (Self Guided), Knoxville

Knoxville is home to many historic and cultural attractions, places of interest including World’s Fair Park, Market Square, Gay Street, stunning skyscrapers, the Convention Center and more. Take the following tour to become better acquainted with the best sites Knoxville Downtown has to offer.
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Downtown Knoxville Walk Map

Guide Name: Downtown Knoxville Walk
Guide Location: USA » Knoxville (See other walking tours in Knoxville)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 19
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.7 Km or 2.9 Miles
Author: Sandra
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Market Square
  • Tennessee Women's Suffrage Memorial
  • Old Knoxville City Hall
  • Knoxville Museum of Art
  • Victorian Houses
  • Candy Factory
  • Knoxville SunSphere
  • Knoxville Convention Center
  • St. John's Cathedral
  • Bijou Theatre
  • Andrew Johnson Hotel
  • Gay Street Bridge
  • William Blount Mansion
  • James White’s Fort
  • First Presbyterian Church
  • East Tennessee History Center
  • Tennessee Theatre
  • Gay Street
  • Knoxville Old City
Market Square

1) Market Square (must see)

Established in 1854 as a market place for regional farmers, Market Square has developed over the decades into a multipurpose venue that accommodates events ranging from concerts to political rallies, and has long provided a popular gathering place for artists, street musicians, war veterans, and activists. Along with the Market House, Market Square was home to Knoxville's City Hall from 1868 to 1924.

Market Square was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. A local newspaper once dubbed Market Square, "the most democratic place on earth," where "the rich and the poor, the white and the black, jostle each other in perfect equality." Market Square is currently used year-round as a venue for special outdoor events, including a seasonal farmer's market, the "Sundown in the City" concert series, and community band concerts. The bell from the old market house is displayed at the Union Avenue end of Market Square. Nearby is the Women's Suffrage Memorial, a statue created by sculptor Alan LeQuire to commemorate Tennessee's role in achieving Women' suffrage in the United States. An open-air ice skating rink is created in the square every winter.

"(The above description is based on Wikipedia under Creative Common License)"
Sight description based on wikipedia
Tennessee Women's Suffrage Memorial

2) Tennessee Women's Suffrage Memorial

The Tennessee Women's Suffrage Memorial is of a bronze statue of three life-size women representing the leaders of the movement. Erected in honor of the achievement in women’s right to vote in 1920 and the overall struggle for women’s rights in America, it was created by Nashville artist Alan LeQuire in 2006 with privately-donated funds.
Old Knoxville City Hall

3) Old Knoxville City Hall

Old City Hall is a complex of historic buildings, originally constructed in the late 1840s as the Tennessee School for the Deaf and Dumb (now the Tennessee School for the Deaf). The complex served as Knoxville's city hall from 1925 until 1980. Old City Hall has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey. It currently houses Lincoln Memorial University's Duncan School of Law.

The complex consists of five interconnected buildings - the three-story main building, completed in 1851, and four additions behind the main building, built between 1874 and 1899. The entire complex sits atop a wooded knoll. The facade of the central section contains a portico with four Ionic columns supporting a large pediment, and accessed by a marble staircase. One of the rear additions was designed in the Italian Renaissance style, and another contains Neoclassical elements. The buildings' interiors have been modified extensively over the years as the roll of the complex changed.

"(The above description is based on Wikipedia under Creative Common License)"
Sight description based on wikipedia
Knoxville Museum of Art

4) Knoxville Museum of Art (must see)

World's Fair Park has accommodated the Knoxville Museum of Art since 1990. Initially established by Mary Katherine Dulin Folger as the Dulin Gallery of Art in 1961, the building was designed by notable architect Edward Larrabee Barnes. This concrete and Tennessee pink marble structure is named after Jim Clayton, the principal sponsor for this construction. Containing five galleries, the Sculpture Terrace, Great Hall, Museum Shop, two outdoor gardens and other facilities for art exhibitions, it is devoted to progressive regional and international art. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and Sunday from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
Victorian Houses

5) Victorian Houses

This complex of Victorian Houses, located opposite the Candy Factory, were built in the early 20th century. Carefully restored for the 1982 World’s Fair, it is home to several curio shops, cafes, galleries of local art and antique stores. Visitors of all ages are sure to find something special here.
Candy Factory

6) Candy Factory

The Candy Factory was constructed at the beginning of the 19th century near the present World’s Fair Park. Established as a candy factory, it was closed soon after, serving as a warehouse until the 1982 World's Fair when it was restored. Today it houses the South's Finest Chocolate Factory, as well as changing monthly exhibits of local and regional artists.
Knoxville SunSphere

7) Knoxville SunSphere (must see)

The Sunsphere is an 81.07 m (266 ft) high hexagonal steel truss structure, topped with a 23 m (75 ft) gold-colored glass sphere that served as the symbol of the 1982 World's Fair. In its original design, the sphere portion was to have had a diameter of 86.5 feet (26.4 m) to represent symbolically the 865,000-mile (1,392,000 km) diameter sun. The tower's window glass panels are layered in 24-karat gold dust and cut to seven different shapes. It weighs 600 tons and features six double steel truss columns in supporting the seven-story sphere. The tower has a volume of 203,689 cubic feet (5,767.8 square meters) and a surface of 16,742 square feet (1,555.4 square meters). The tower served as a restaurant and featured food items such as the Sunburger and a rum and fruit juice cocktail called the Sunburst. The Sunsphere has been used as a symbol for Knoxville, appearing in postcards and logos.

"(The above description is based on Wikipedia under Creative Common License)"
Sight description based on wikipedia
Knoxville Convention Center

8) Knoxville Convention Center (must see)

Located on the site of the 1982 World's Fair, the Knoxville Convention Center was built in 2002. Containing a half million square feet of space on three floors and an underground loading dock, it possesses a 120,000 square foot exhibition hall, a meeting space consisting of fourteen rooms, a 27,300 square foot ballroom, a lecture hall, and 250,000 square feet of flexible space for service facilities. The contemporary Convention Center hosts weddings, conferences, meetings, commercial performances and many other large events.
St. John's Cathedral

9) St. John's Cathedral

Established in 1826, St. John’s Church was one of the congregations represented at the Primary Convention. In 1891, the original building was razed to make room for a larger facility, which was completed in 1892. The architect for the current building was J .W. Yost of Columbus, Ohio. The stone church is built in a Latin cross form, but the nave, transepts, and apse are minimal in size compared to the crossing, resulting in a large central space.

The architectural style is Richardsonian Romanesque. Features include a slate roof, turrets, buttresses, and rose windows. A devastating fire in the church building in 1919 destroyed many of the original stained glass windows, but the building was promptly restored. In 1963, extensive renovation created the undercroft under the nave floor.

"(The above description is based on Wikipedia under Creative Common License)"
Sight description based on wikipedia
Bijou Theatre

10) Bijou Theatre (must see)

Built in 1909 as an addition to the Lamar House Hotel, the Bijou Theatre has at various times served as performance venue for traditional theatre, vaudeville, a second-run moviehouse, a commencement stage for the city's African-American high school, and a pornographic movie theater. The Lamar House Hotel, in which the theater was constructed, was originally built in 1817, and modified in the 1850s. The building and theater were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

The Lamar House Hotel was built by Irish immigrant Thomas Humes (1767–1816) and his descendants, and quickly developed into a gathering place for Knoxville's wealthy. During the Civil War, the Union Army used the hotel as a hospital for its war wounded. Following the war, the hotel became the center of Knoxville's Gilded Age extravagance, hosting lavish masquerade balls for the city's elite. In 1909, the rear wing of the building was replaced by the Bijou Theatre structure, entered through a new lobby cut through the hotel building from Gay Street.

"(The above description is based on Wikipedia under Creative Common License)"
Sight description based on wikipedia
Andrew Johnson Hotel

11) Andrew Johnson Hotel

The Andrew Johnson Building is a high-rise office building in downtown Knoxville. Completed in 1930, the 203-foot (62 m) structure was Knoxville's tallest building for nearly a half-century. The building was originally home to the Andrew Johnson Hotel, and is now used for office space by Knox County. The building's eighteen stories consist of fifteen floors, a mezzanine, and a two-story penthouse. The building is rectangular in shape, with a recess running up the middle of the west facade. The ground floor extends out beyond the rest of the building to provide a base for the unique second story, which includes an open-air pavilion.

While most of the building's exterior consists of brick, the ground floor's Gay Street facade is sheathed in concrete cast to appear as rusticated stone. Most of the windows for floors four through fifteen are simple, rectangular windows, with the exception of the fourteenth-floor windows, which are topped by small arched pediments. Atop the building is the penthouse, which is seven bays wide, and is adorned with brick Ionic pilasters. In 1980, the Andrew Johnson Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

"(The above description is based on Wikipedia under Creative Common License)"
Sight description based on wikipedia
Gay Street Bridge

12) Gay Street Bridge

Gay Street Bridge, crossing the Tennessee River, at 461 meters long is an impressive element of Knoxville’s skyline. The fifth bridge in the city to cross the river, the first constructed around 1860 was a temporary pontoon bridge. The present arched steel cantilevered bridge is the oldest among the others linking downtown to the city’s southern region.
William Blount Mansion

13) William Blount Mansion

The William Blount Mansion, included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1966, is owned and operated by the Blount Mansion Association. Committed to the mansion’s preservation and a positive comprehension of national, regional and local history, it was built between 1792 and 1830 as the residence of William Blount, governor of the southwest governorship in the 1790s and signer of the U.S. Constitution. He was also instrumental in the inauguration of Tennessee as the sixteenth state. This graceful wooden building is a frame hall-parlor house with a single bedroom upstairs. The office behind the mansion was used as the capitol from 1792 to 1796. In this museum you will find stunning exhibits of 18th century antiques. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm and Saturday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
James White’s Fort

14) James White’s Fort (must see)

This fort was built in 1786 by Knoxville founder James White as the city’s first pioneer settlement. James White was a militia officer who had fought in the American Revolutionary War. Granted 1,000 acres for his service, he built this two-story log house. The trees surrounding the fort have been cut, and gardens and farms were developed on them. James White resided here until 1793. It was refurbished and opened to the public in 1970 to display original artifacts and depict the frontier lifestyle. Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm from April to November, and Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm from December to March.
First Presbyterian Church

15) First Presbyterian Church (must see)

The First Presbyterian Church, located on the site of the First Presbyterian Church Cemetery, was established in 1792 by Knoxville founder James White. The present neoclassical building was built in 1910, with an altar from 1903, the wings designed in the 1920s and the chapel in 1962. By the end of the 1990s the church had been extended and reconstructed, and today takes up an entire city block.
East Tennessee History Center

16) East Tennessee History Center (must see)

Located at the intersection of Gay Street and Clinch Avenue, the former Knoxville Post Office and Customs House, established in the 1870s, now accommodates the East Tennessee History Center. It houses the Historical Society, Historical Museum, the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection and the Knoxville County Archives. All foundations cooperate to preserve the history and heritage of the region. A non-profit organization, it is committed to collecting city artifacts, educating the public of the city’s history, keeping records of the region’s events, and developing publications, lectures, tours and other educational activities for its guests. You will also find the genealogy department of the Knoxville County Public Library here.
Tennessee Theatre

17) Tennessee Theatre

The Tennessee Theatre is a 1920s-era movie palace, located in downtown Knoxville at 604 South Gay Street. The theater first opened on October 1, 1928, and with nearly 2,000 seats in the auditorium, it was billed as "Knoxville's Grand Entertainment Palace". The theater was designed by Chicago architects Graven & Mayger in the Spanish-Moorish style, although the design incorporates elements from all parts of the world: Czechoslovakian crystals in the French-style chandeliers, Italian terrazzo flooring in the Grand Lobby, and Oriental influences in the carpet and drapery patterns. The theatre was one of the first public buildings in Knoxville to have air conditioning, and it also featured the beautiful Wurlitzer Organ. On April 1, 1982, the theater was placed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Gay Street

18) Gay Street

Gay Street is a street in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States, that traverses the heart of the city's downtown area. Since its development in the 1790s, Gay Street has served as the city's principal financial and commercial thoroughfare, and has played a primary role in the city's historical and cultural development. The street contains Knoxville's largest office buildings and oldest commercial structures. Several buildings on Gay Street have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Part of Charles McClung's original 1791 plat of Knoxville, Gay Street was a focal point for the early political activity of both the city as well as the State of Tennessee. By 1850, Gay Street was home to three-fourths of Knoxville's commercial activity, and in 1854, the street became Knoxville's first paved road. On the eve of the Civil War, Gay Street was the site of simultaneous Union and Confederate recruiting rallies. After the war, Gay Street saw extensive commercial development as railroad construction brought an industrial boom to Knoxville.

"(The above description is based on Wikipedia under Creative Common License)"
Sight description based on wikipedia
Knoxville Old City

19) Knoxville Old City

The Old City is a neighborhood in Knoxville, located at the northeast corner of the city's downtown area. Originally part of a raucous and vice-ridden section of town known as "The Bowery," the Old City has since been revitalized through extensive redevelopment efforts carried out during the 1980s through the present. Currently, the Old City is an offbeat urban neighborhood, home to several unique restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops, also is home to furniture stores, quirky boutiques and the like. In spite of its name, the Old City is not the oldest section of Knoxville. Most of the neighborhood was not part of the city until the 1850s, when the arrival of the railroad encouraged the city to annex the areas north of Vine Avenue. The railroad brought an influx of Irish immigrants, who established the Old City's first saloons and shops. By the early 1900s, Central Street was lined with saloons and brothels. In 1985, most of the neighborhood's historic buildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Southern Terminal and Warehouse Historic District.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Knoxville, Tennessee

Create Your Own Walk in Knoxville

Create Your Own Walk in Knoxville

Creating your own self-guided walk in Knoxville is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Art Walk in Knoxville

Art Walk in Knoxville

Art lovers will discover Knoxville full of creativity, with beautiful artwork on display at multiple galleries and the Knoxville Museum of Art. South Gay Street is home to several museums, art venues and shops specializing in local art. Take the following tour to explore Knoxville as eastern Tennessee’s cultural hub.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Kingston Pike Walk in Knoxville

Kingston Pike Walk in Knoxville

Since the 1790s Kingston Pike, located on Knoxville’s west side, has been the city’s major thoroughfare and commercial district, including many cultural, religious, food, entertainment and retail establishments. The following tour of Kingston Pike includes the thriving Bearden District, the center of Knoxville’s arts community.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.9 Km or 3 Miles
Places of Worship in Knoxville

Places of Worship in Knoxville

Knoxville is home to over 450 churches of many religious denominations. Situated at the core of the Bible Belt, many of them are Protestant. The following tour highlights the city’s most impressive religious sites, including Knoxville’s first churches and other historically significant ones.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Family Tour in Knoxville

Family Tour in Knoxville

Downtown Knoxville is the best place to take a lovely daytime stroll. The following tour of attractions includes children’s favorites the Candy Factory and Fort Kid and several other family-oriented landmarks and entertainment venues.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
University of Tennessee Walk

University of Tennessee Walk

The University of Tennessee in Knoxville, located in downtown’s west end, draws many visitors to the city. Founded in 1794 as William Blount College, nowadays it covers 550 acres, including over 200 buildings and a faculty of more than 1,400. Take the following tour to discover UTK’s best attractions.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Nightlife in Knoxville

Nightlife in Knoxville

Knoxville is home to many great bars and clubs to hang out, many of them concentrated in the Old Town district. Take the following tour to discover some of the most vibrant places in the city, including the Sapphire, Hanna's Café, Patrick Sullivan's, Preservation Pub and more.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles