Athens, Georgia: A Guide to the Classic City’s Top Landmarks

Known as the “Classic City” for its antebellum architecture and deep ties to the University of Georgia, Athens has no shortage of exciting and interesting landmarks that reflect its vibrant history, arts culture, and college town energy.

From spectacular neoclassical buildings on North Campus to colorful downtown music venues, this guide will highlight 20 can’t-miss landmarks that help define Athens and showcase what makes it such a beloved destination in the state of Georgia.

North Campus

The northern portion of the University of Georgia’s sprawling campus features some of the most iconic and architecturally significant buildings in Athens. It’s like stepping onto the set of Gone With the Wind. Be sure to check out:


The Chapel is widely considered one of the finest examples of Federal style architecture in the South. Built in 1832, everything from its imposing Ionic colonnade to the copper-sheathed dome exudes neoclassical elegance.

Old College

As the oldest building at the university and one of the best-preserved examples of Federal-style architecture in the country, Old College is rich with history. It is one of three buildings that comprised the entire Franklin College when the university first opened in 1801.

New College

Constructed in 1823, New College completes the historic North Campus building trifecta. Ringed by stately columns and crowned with a meant-to-impress cupola, it now houses the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

College Avenue

Connecting the historic North Campus to downtown, College Avenue offers charming glimpses of Athenian architecture. Visitors can check out many of UGA’s fraternity and sorority houses as well as noteworthy landmarks like the Taylor-Grady House and Zion Baptist Church along this iconic thoroughfare.

Downtown Athens

Visitors will quickly discover that downtown Athens offers far more than traditional southern charm. Thanks to the university’s substantial student population, it also boasts a vibrant arts, music, dining, and nightlife scene.

Clayton Street

As downtown’s main artery, bustling Clayton Street features an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, music venues, and shops interspersed with quaint brick sidewalks and streetscapes. This is the place to soak up Athens’ quintessential college town vibe.

The Grill

A beloved greasy spoon diner and the epitome of nostalgic 1940s luncheonettes, The Grill has been feeding late-night crowds of students and music aficionados since the 1950s. A trip to Athens isn’t complete without trying this landmark restaurant’s steak sandwich or basket of famous fries.

Georgia Theater

After being gutted by a fire, the Georgia Theater underwent an extensive renovation and now hosts concerts and events in the heart of downtown. Originally built in 1978, bands like R.E.M., Widespread Panic, and the B-52’s frequently played here during the heyday of the Athens music scene.

40 Watt Club

Ask any serious music lover to name Athens’ most iconic music venue and they’ll likely say the 40 Watt Club. Opened in 1979, the 40 Watt was at the center of Athens’ emerging post-punk/alternative scene in the 1980s that spawned bands like R.E.M. and the B-52’s. It still regularly hosts concerts on its famous stage.

Prince Avenue

Recognized by many as one of the South’s most picturesque streets, Prince Avenue stretches from downtown to North Campus and provides a veritable showcase of 19th and early 20th century architectural styles.

Taylor-Grady House

This restored Italianate mansion built in 1844 was the wartime home of Robert Taylor and Henry Grady – both graduates of the University of Georgia. Grady went on to become an influential orator, journalist, and proponent of the “New South”.

Chase Park

Right off Prince Avenue sits this 10-acre public park featuring the Chase Street Elementary School complex, performance spaces, community garden, playgrounds, and wooded walking trails. Local cultural events are regularly held here.

Prince Avenue Baptist Church

Built in 1855, Prince Avenue Baptist Church is one of only a few antebellum structures spared when Union troops burned down Athens in 1864. Its lovely stained glass windows and sanctuary retaining a high degree of historical integrity make it among the most picturesque historic churches in Athens.

Beyond Downtown

In addition to its downtown core, Athens features several other commercial and cultural hubs offering culinary, artistic, and outdoor attractions. Among the highlights are:


Just down the road from Prince Avenue near downtown lies the emerging Normaltown neighborhood replete with boutiques, cafes, a cooperative grocery store, and the beautifully restored Ike and Jane Egan Gallery that serves as a vibrant arts community space.

Five Points

Marking the traditional divide between campus and community, the Five Points district began as one of Athens’ first streetcar commercial corridors. Anchored by brick sidewalks and mature trees, visitors can now enjoy an array of hip bars, ethnic restaurants, cafes, and specialty stores.

Athens Farmers Market

A Saturday morning tradition since the early 1800s, the Athens Farmers Market in Bishop Park brings together local farmers and artisans selling seasonal produce, flowers, baked goods, and craft items during weekend mornings. It’s a beloved community gathering space and soul of the Classic City.

Outdoor Spaces

From the North Oconee River greenway to verdant campus quads, Athens offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.

State Botanical Garden of Georgia

Spanning 313 acres adjacent to the UGA campus, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia represents the largest contiguous nature preserve in Athens.

Visitors delight in walking among the picturesque natural woodlands, meadows, and one of North America’s premier public gardens boasting exotic botanical collections.

Sandy Creek Park

Managed cooperatively between Athens-Clarke County and UGA, this 673-acre park features roughly 8 miles of woodland hiking trails, a lake, river access, sporting facilities, Sandy Creek Nature Center, concerts at Lake Chapman, and wooded picnic areas.

Veterans Memorial

Dedicated in 2019, this state-of-the-art park facility located downtown features multi-use courts, playgrounds, walking paths, performance pavilion, water features, and memorial plaza – creating an important community events space at the heart of Athens.

Botanical Gardens & Founders Memorial Garden

Those seeking a verdant, tranquil oasis on campus will love strolling the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden, Shade Garden, Rose Garden, and Founders Memorial Garden – the oldest of UGA’s garden spaces immortalizing deceased university presidents and faculty.

Culture & Museums

Athens has a rich cultural landscape showcasing regional art, music, history, science, and innovation. Major institutions include:

Georgia Museum of Art

As UGA’s official art museum, this resplendent facility houses a premier selection of American and European works with a focus on 19th and 20th century American art. The collection holds nearly 10,000 works of art.

Lamar Dodd School of Art

The Lamar Dodd School of Art holds classes and studios dedicated to drawing, painting, graphic design, print and paper arts, sculpture, ceramics, jewelry, metalsmithing, photography, glassblowing, and more. Both budding and established artists display their creations at galleries throughout the facility.

Science Learning Center

UGA recently opened this impressive center featuring interactive exhibits covering a range of science, technology, and research subjects – from veterinary medicine to genetics – providing educational entertainment for visitors of all ages.

Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries

As one of UGA’s main libraries, Russell Library houses renowned special collections that document social history, culture, and literary works connected to Georgia and the Southeastern U.S. Some 90,000 rare books are complemented by extensive archives and manuscript holdings.

Sports & Recreation

As a beloved tailgating destination, Athens has no shortage of favorite University of Georgia sports facilities and recreational spaces.

Sanford Stadium

Home to the Georgia Bulldogs football team, cavernous Sanford Stadium packs over 92,000 fans into what is one of college football’s most revered game day experiences during fall Saturdays.

Stegeman Coliseum

Stegeman Coliseum hosts the university’s basketball and gymnastics teams. At nearly 11,000 seats, it creates an electrifying environment for fans of these popular squads. Concerts and special events also occur at Stegeman throughout the year.

Foley Field

Overlooking Downtown from the UGA campus, Foley Field is where viewers can catch exciting Georgia Bulldogs baseball action during spring months as one of the top college programs in the country. Opened in 1966, it underwent a major renovation in 2018.

Ramsey Student Center

From indoor tracks to workout rooms to basketball courts, all UGA students and fee-paying members can access first-class athletic facilities, pools, gyms, and even a bowling alley at the Ramsey Center. Group classes are also available.

East Athens

While most visitors flock to central Athens, the eastern portion of town shouldn’t be overlooked.

Terrapin Brewery

Athen’s own Terrapin Beer Company offers brewery tours and tastings in their taproom located just east of downtown. Beer fanatics can learn about the beer making process and try award-winning craft beers like Terrapin’s famous Hopsecutioner IPA.

Athens Ben Epps Airport

Though small, Athens Ben Epps Airport serves as the main regional airport for Athens and surrounding towns. In addition to commercial airline service, visitors can book sightseeing flights that provide aerial views of Athens. The airport also hosts community events like airplane shows.

Outlying Neighborhoods

In addition to downtown and the UGA campus, Athens has several residential neighborhoods showcasing Southern living at its finest.

Boulevard and Cobbham

Historic neighborhoods directly north of campus like Boulevard and Cobbham offer charming examples of Victorian and Craftsman style homes inhabited by faculty and local families. Mature oak trees drape over the streets.

Milledge Heights

Tucked behind the main post office downtown, quaint Milledge Heights provides a hidden glimpse into a traditional Athenian neighborhood graced with cottage homes and gardens. Local lore maintains William Faulkner wrote portions of his novel Mosquitoes while renting a room here in the 1920s.

Local Legends & Lore

Beyond the bricks and mortar, Athens has its fair share of iconic residents and local legends that contribute to its distinct sense of place.

Tree That Owns Itself

Fronting the Dearing House in downtown Athens, this white oak tree legally owns itself and the surrounding 8 foot radius of land thanks to Colonel William Henry Jackson who deeded the tree property rights in the 1890s. The original tree fell in 1942, but residents have continually replanted new oaks in its place.

Michael Stipe

As lead singer of alternative rock band R.E.M which formed in Athens in 1980, Michael Stipe became an iconic face of the local music scene.

Though R.E.M. disbanded in 2011, the band’s summer concert series in downtown Athens during the late ’80s and early ’90s cemented the college town as a Southern music mecca.

So whether you want to experience antebellum architecture on North Campus, catch a show at the famous 40 Watt Club, stroll through idyllic neighborhoods, or simply soak up the college town spirit along downtown streets, Athens offers visitors plenty to see and do.

From scenic parks and gardens to historic homes and cultural attractions, the Classic City earns its nickname and remains a quintessential destination in Georgia.

Annual Events & Festivals

In true college town fashion, Athens hosts some wildly popular annual events and festivals throughout the year that highlight local culture.

Athens Christmas Parade

Kicking off the holiday season, Athens Christmas Parade takes over downtown streets in December as local marching bands, dance troupes, civic groups, and businesses celebrate with floats, balloons, and festive costumes. Spectators line the sidewalks sipping hot chocolate and apple cider.

Twilight Criterium

Taking place every spring since 1980, the Twilight Crit is a beloved bicycle race through the streets of downtown Athens. Over 100 Olympic and professional cyclists reach speeds of 50 mph whizzing through city blocks to compete in one of the country’s top criterium events.

AthFest Music & Arts Festival

Each summer, downtown Athens transforms into a vibrant open-air music festival staging over 100 live indie rock bands across multiple venues and stages. Local artisans also showcase their wares while food vendors line the streets to fuel the revelry.

UGA Traditions

Beyond landmarks and architecture, UGA has time-honored traditions that shape campus culture and foster a strong sense of community with every new class of students.

Midnight Breakfast

A few times every semester, the dining halls open at midnight right before finals to serve free breakfast food. At these raucous events, students in pajamas and costumes refuel with coffee, pancakes, eggs, and more courtesy of university administration.

Arch Photos

At the iconic main gate to campus, graduating students pose beneath the pillars and archway for photos adorned in caps and gowns. Friends and parents snap pics as new graduates transition to alumni status.

Football Tailgates

Game days during football season essentially shut down Athens as fans descend on campus to barbecue, play cornhole, sip cold beverages, and get pumped up for Bulldogs games.

Luxury vehicles line oak-shaded streets near Sanford Stadium. The Saturday tailgate ritual is practically a sport itself.

From the star magnolias blooming each March along historic North Campus to the sounds of crowds cheering at Stegeman Coliseum, Athens offers visitors a living legacy shaped as much by stately architecture as by promising students, eccentric locals, and established traditions.

Both the University of Georgia and the classic southern town it calls home continue evolving while paying homage to the pillars of history that underscore this special place.

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  • Head south on Prince Ave toward E Broad St/US-78 Trunk/GA-10 Loop. Continue to follow Prince Ave past GA-10 Loop/US-78 Trunk/N Lumpkin St. Turn left onto Smith St, then take the 1st right onto Roywood Dr. Make a slight left onto Prometheus Cir, then turn right. Turn left onto Smokey Rd/Woodstone Dr, then turn right to stay on Smokey Rd. Turn right onto Foundry St, then turn left at the 1st cross street onto Round Table Rd. The destination, 130 Round Table Rd, will be on the right.
  • rom the start point, take a left turn onto Franklin St. Turn left onto Dearing St, then continue onto Plaza Dr. Turn right onto Forest Hills Rd, then continue onto Smokey Rd. Turn right onto Foundry St, then turn left at the 1st cross street onto Round Table Rd. The destination, 130 Round Table Rd, will be on the right.
  • Take a left onto E Broad St/US-78 Trunk/GA-10 Loop and continue as it turns slightly right and becomes Gaines School Rd. Turn left onto Lexington Hwy/GA-10 Loop/GA-335/US-129/US-78, then take the 1st right onto Old Hull Rd. Take the 2nd left onto Smokey Rd, then turn right to stay on Smokey Rd. Turn right onto Foundry St, then turn left at the 1st cross street onto Round Table Rd. The final destination, 130 Round Table Rd, is on the right.