Two cities, over 212 miles apart, both steeped in musical history, but if you have to just visit one city in Tennessee then which one should it be? Memphis or Nashville? At first consideration, there are certainly some similarities between these two cities. Let’s break it down!
Both are located near rivers. Both have huge (and yes we mean HUGE!) historic music scenes, defined foodie scenes, great museums and top-notch attractions, but when it comes down to a head to head – who will reign supreme?
When it comes to the battle of Memphis vs Nashville, there’s a multitude of factors to consider. But what are the most important factors? Is it the food? Are you more fried chicken or smoky BBQ? Is it just down to the music (both are huge draws for music fans after all!) Are you a little bit country or a little bit rock ‘n’ roll?
So when it comes to making your choice between Memphis vs Nashville, we round up the most important factors that will help you decide – which Tennessee city comes out on top!
Memphis vs Nashville - Music
Both are some pretty hitters when it comes to the music scene, especially in the American South, but whilst both Nashville and Memphis have often been described as the ‘Music City’ of the United States, we think that unless you are just about country music, that Memphis just about edges out its musical counterpart Nashville by just a smidge.
Whereas Nashville is known for country music, in Memphis it’s all about Blues, Soul and Rock & Roll.
Whilst Nashville is home to pretty stellar greats that have made their home there – Cash, Cline, Parton, Memphis has its own hard-hitting music heavy-weights in the shape of Aretha Franklin, Al Green, BB King and more.
Plus Elvis Presley called the city home for most of his life.
Memphis’ musical identity is celebrated during the annual summertime Beale Street Festival which takes place in Memphis every May.
If you can organise your visit to coincide with this festival – then so much the better.you’re in for a treat. Not only can you see some of the local talent but you can catch world-renowned acts like Snoop Dog, Erykah Badu and Kings of Leon too who all performed there historically.
Of course if you are an Elvis fan, then a trip to Memphis is an absolute no brainer – it’s full of exciting things to do
Result – A tie – it really comes down to personal choice.
Memphis vs Nashville - Food
Food is one of the most important factors when taking a trip right?
Luckily when it comes to Memphis vs Nashville, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to seeking out good ole Southern fare and expect a heady dollop of wonderful Southern hospitality too!
Both offer an incredible offering of truly authentic Southern comfort food.
So, how do you pick between Memphis vs Nashville? You could take it to the most basic level- what do you prefer? Fried chicken or BBQ?
Nashville is known for its speciality of hot chicken, while Memphis is undoubtedly the BBQ capital of the USA or even the world?!
Such is Memphis’ prowess on all things charcoal that this finger lickin’ city is host to the World BBQ Championships every year.
Nashville does have a slightly more sophisticated reputation when it comes to fine dining and has been noted as one of the best foodie destinations to visit, however Memphis doesn’t shy away from a blossoming culinary scene either with some exceptional restaurants that are swiftly hitting the ‘best restaurants in Memphis’ list.
Result – Nashville just about edges out Memphis when it comes to a flourishing foodie scene
Memphis vs Nashville - Museums and Galleries
Both cities have so much to offer when it comes to their cultural offering.
Both cities have a plethora of museums, galleries and top notch attractions, especially when it comes to immersing yourself in not only the history of the USA, but the history of the American South.
When it comes to museums, pitting Memphis vs Nashville is a pretty steady affair. In Nashville, you have important points of interest like the city’s Civil War attractions; which includes the 30-acre Belle Meade plantation, Fort Negley, or a tour of the location of the Battle of Nashville.
If you want to dig a little deeper when it comes to the Civil Rights Movement, Memphis is world-renowned for the highly educational and prestigious National Civil Rights Museum which is situated at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
Then there’s the music side of things… Memphis has Graceland; Sun Studio – which is officially the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, Rock and Soul Museum, The Blues Hall of Fame and The Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
Nashville is no lightweight when it comes to their own musical offering, it has the Grand Old Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Johnny Cash Museum and the Patsy Cline Museum too. Phew!
Result: So close, but we think that Memphis has it by a mere whisker!
As the pundits say ‘it’s neck and neck’, whilst it’s been a fiercely fought battle, we think that Memphis just about edges it when it comes to what you want to get out from a trip to the American South.
Not only is it the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, it’s also the birthplace of a pivotal moment in American Civil Rights history that shaped the USA. Plus, when it comes to music, we can’t think of a more deserving city to be awarded the moniker of ‘best music city’ than Memphis.
Which city will you pick?