Guide to Market Square in Knoxville, Tennessee
Staying true to its roots as a hub for buying produce, Market Square in Downtown Knoxville, Tennessee is a destination buzzing with activity for residents and visitors alike. Independent restaurant and retail options flank the well-appointed square that's as beautiful as it is busy. Enjoy outdoor activities year round, including the Farmers’ Market, festivals, concerts, and even ice skating! One visit is all it will take to understand why it is recognized as one of the Great Public Spaces by the American Planning Association (APA). Explore the best of Market Square and surrounding Union Ave below!
Breakfast, Brunch & Coffee
While most shops and restaurants in Market Square open mid-morning, there are a few that open early for the morning crowd. Hailing from New Orleans, but staying true to all things local, Ruby Sunshine is open for breakfast and brunch every single day. Grab a spot on the patio and order their seasonal beignets. On Union Ave, just around the corner from Market Square, enjoy breakfast at Knoxville's most famous diner: Pete's Restaurant! Since 1986, they've been whipping up some of the best home-cooking like biscuits and gravy, omelettes, burgers, pancakes, and more.
Brunch is a big deal in Knoxville, so you'll also find most restaurants serving a weekend brunch menu, including Oliver Royale, Cafe 4, Brass Pearl, Tomato Head, and Not Watson's. Bonus: Tupelo Honey is a super popular spot for every day breakfast and weekend brunch on the corner of the Square. You MUST order the cathead biscuits!
When you're ready to fuel up before an afternoon on the town, Market Square has you covered for lunch. Tomato Head has been serving up fresh dishes for vegetarians and carnivores alike since 1990 – it's a local favorite. If you're looking for something quick and easy: dive into an original Petro® piled high with chili and toppings. The chain began at the 1982 World’s Fair, and kids love it!
On the other corner of the Square, Tommy Trent's boasts scruffy dogs, smash burgers, saloon fries, and more, to keep you full all afternoon. We also love Soccer Taco's patio, enjoy the Rocky Top and a midday margarita; or Kabuki's Asian fusion cuisine, like hibachi, sushi, and poke bowls. Most restaurants on Market Square are open for lunch, which can be a great time to dine without a wait.
And only a few steps from Market Square is The Lunchbox, a super popular spot with downtown employees. It hits the spot when you're craving deli sandwiches, homemade soup, salads, and cookies! If you're in a hurry, you can always pop into Subway on Market Square, the only national restaurant chain within the Downtown Knoxville central business district.
For a night to remember, there are several perfect options in and around Market Square. Emilia's homemade Italian food includes gnocchi, focaccia, and butterscotch budino smooth as silk. J.C. Holdway is an elevated choice with food prepared by James Beard Award-Winning Chef Joseph Lenn. Oliver Royale's candle-lit atmosphere, along with an ever-changing menu and creative cocktails, lends to a memorable experience. Brass Pearl is a fun, lively, and authentic raw oyster bar serving up fresh seafood. The charming atmosphere has a personality all of its own, just like sister restaurant Stock & Barrel. And just down Union Ave, you'll find Chesapeake's with lobster, oysters, crab...well all seafood, straight from the sea to your table with no in-betweens. You must try the Slower Deleware Pie.
If you're looking for something a bit more casual, Stock & Barrel is THE place to satisfy a burger and bourbon craving. Our favorite burger is "The Billy" with goat cheese, local bacon, bourbon onions, and tomato jam. Tomato pie more your thing? Fried chicken and southern comfort food await at Myrtles Chicken + Beer. Next door, Not Watson's has something for every palate, from steak and seafood to pasta and burgers. Last but certainly not least, Cafe 4 is famous for not only their patio, but their lobster mac-and-cheese, truffle fries, punchbowls, and warm pimento cheese dip!
If you're craving something sweet, stop by Coffee & Chocolate for an extraordinary selection of chocolate truffles and seasonal macarons. It's located next to the Downtown Knoxville mural, so snap a picture while you're there! For more sweet treats, check out Proper Popcorn's famous craft popcorn. With more than 50 flavors, you're sure to find something you love (we're partial to the Sea Salt Caramel). Then take a trip down memory lane with vintage candies and weird-flavored sodas at Rocket Fizz.
There's tons of local shopping in and around Market Square! Alice in Appalachia is a fairytale store with funky tea pots, mirrors, hats, jewelry, and pottery – you never know what you'll find here. Earth to Old City is a "scruffy little gift shop" with everything from clothes and accessories to soaps and notebooks. And they recently celebrated 30 years!
The bright and colorful hues of Fizz will draw you into their store, where you will find a large collection of handmade jewelry, and lots of fun hats and clothes. A couple of doors down, Fruit Jar Alley has the latest in home decor, classic women's clothing, and amazing giftables.
A short walk down Union Ave, you'll find Nothing Too Fancy, a unique boutique with locally designed hoodies, t-shirts, glassware, mugs, and stickers, plus timely merch for every occasion, sporting event, and local happening. You'll also find CitiFid-O for your furry friends, and Eddie's Health Shoppe for wellness enthusiasts. Pop into Union Ave Books for your next read – it's a charming spot. And don't miss Tree & Vine where you can sample olive oils, balsamics, and find gourmet foods and goods for even the most discriminating cooking enthusiast!
If you're a soon-to-be bride, you must stop by Vow'd, a different kind of wedding dress experience that makes shopping for your big day easy and affordable!
Just steps away from the hustle and bustle of Market Square is the historic Oliver Hotel. Built in 1876 as a bakery, candy factory, soda fountain, and luxurious ice-cream parlor, this historic building has been transformed into a boutique hotel, along with a restaurant and speakeasy. The design is unmatched, the building is alive with history, and it’s all in the heart of downtown. Fun fact: Author Elizabeth Gilbert completed her memoir "Eat Pray Love" while she stayed here in 2005.
A short walk from the north end of the Square, you'll find Crowne Plaza Knoxville. The full-service hotel is pet-friendly, perfect for business or pleasure, and offers a long list of conveniences including two-story fitness center, heated indoor pool, meeting spaces, lobby lounge, and exceptional onsite restaurant. It's a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city with many rooms and suites overlooking Market Square.
And if you're staying for a while, you may want to treat yourself to a spa day: check out Tree of Life Salon & Spa, a full-service salon on the Square. Or Smiley Aesthetics offering medical grade skincare and injectables on Union Ave.
Throughout the year, Market Square buzzes with concerts, buskers, hula-hooping, festivals, and more. Let's start with a crowd-favorite: everyone loves the Market Square Farmers’ Market! It happens just about every Saturday of the year with a brief break during the month of April, plus every Wednesday from May‑November. You’ll meet local farmers, discover Knoxville’s finest crafts, and go home with delicious homemade pastries. During the summer months, let the kids cool off in Market Square’s splash pads.
Art-seekers, take a walk through Krutch Park, an oasis that connects Market Square to Gay Street. It's home to Art In Public Places with sculptures that rotate annually. Another hotspot is Strong Alley filled with dozens of murals, including the famous Dolly Parton mural and the Downtown Knoxville seasonal mural. Strong Alley is one of the most Instagrammed places in town.
If you’re lucky enough to visit during the holiday season, Market Square transforms into a scene straight from a Hallmark movie, where you can ice skate the night away under the twinkling lights.
Libations & Nightlife
From hidden speakeasies to rooftop bars, and everything in between, Market Square holds the ticket to a good time. Romantic nightcap? Look for the red light in the alley beside the Oliver Hotel to find Peter Kern Library, an elegant and cozy speakeasy with craft cocktails. Drinks with a view? Head to the lively rooftop bars at Bernadette’s Crystal Gardens and Preservation Pub, as well as sister bar Scruffy City Hall. You'll find late-night libations and live music most every night of the year.
Beer enthusiasts? Night or day, Knox Brew Hub is always up for a good time! Tons of craft beer, board games, nightly events like trivia and singo, hosting podcasts, and watching sports. You gotta visit and have a bite from their Cajun kitchen, Fred Beans & Rice!
And not to be forgotten, Alice in Appalachia is a unique concept combining cocktails and shopping. On one side, Down the Rabbit Hole is an all-day bar serving coffee, tea, cocktails, and tea sandwiches, while the other side Through the Looking Glass is a retail space. It's a fun experience with delicious cocktails!
You will love exploring Market Square in Downtown Knoxville, Tennessee.
Market Square has so many of our favorite things – patio dining, funky shops, the farmers' market, and an all-around good vibe.
When you visit, tag us in your pictures using #LoveDowntownKnox!