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How to See Old Salem in Winston-Salem (A Living History Experience)

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on June 26, 2024.

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Old Salem is a famous historic district in Winston-Salem. It serves as an educational museum and showcase for those who want to come and learn about Moravians in North Carolina, who established the Central North Carolina community in the late 18th century.

One can easily spend a day or more visiting the various shops, historic buildings, gardens, and everything else that makes up Old Salem. Here are some tips for visiting Old Salem and background information on this one-of-a-kind living history museum!

Read More: 40+ of the Most Amazing Museums in North Carolina (for ALL Ages!)

What to Expect: Old Salem

Address: 900 Old Salem Rd, Winston-Salem, NC
Official Website

Moravian Star in Old Salem

Old Salem takes visitors through the lives and times of Moravians during the late 18th Century. While the historic district is free to walk around, you won’t be able to experience much of the history without a ticket inside the buildings. Tickets can be purchased at the Visitors Center, the Horton Center, Winkler Bakery, or online.

  • A self-guided tour of the Historic Town of Salem with a hands-on learning experience of living history and historic trade demonstrations
  • Frank L. Horton Museum Center (this includes the  Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts and the Moravian Collection).
  • Access to the Gardens of Old Salem.

Tickets are $30 per adult, $16 per student/child (undergraduate students must show a college ID), plus tax; free entry for children 0-3 years old.

Holiday Ticket Rates (November 15-December 30st): $36 per adult, $16 per student, and free entry for children 0-3 years old

Old Salem in the Fall

Old Salem invites a variety of groups to come and visit, too. Schools love to come here, but many adults also flock in unison.

They offer various tours and ticket packages for visitors, with an emphasis on getting behind the scenes at the museum.

Read more: Winston-Salem Breweries

When to Visit Old Salem

Old Salem 2023 pottery

Old Salem Museums and Gardens is open year-round except for January each year. The Visitors Center and Open Buildings are open Wednesday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. We recommend utilizing the full time they are open to really ask questions and explore all the open buildings.

The ALL-IN-ONE ticket grants you entry for two consecutive days. This is great if you live in the area or don’t want to do it all in one day.

Read More: The NC Museum of History in Raleigh (+7 Things We Love About It!)

Frank L. Horton Museum Center and MESDA

Old Salem 2023 pottery MESDA

Your ticket to Old Salem starts with entry to the Galleries in the Frank L. Horton Museum Center. Start upstairs at MESDA- The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.

MESDA includes curated decorative artifacts from eight Southern states and has the largest collection of Southern pottery in the US in one building.

Old Salem 2023 MESDA iron

Find some of the earliest American furniture, with some dating back to the 1700s. While access to MESDA is included in your ticket to Old Salem, visitors can upgrade and request a connoisseur tour of specific galleries.

Old Salem 2023 Moravian Collection

After walking around the upstairs galleries of MESDA, continue downstairs to the basement to walk around the Moravian Collection. These are decorative pieces and artifacts that are originally from Salem.

While Old Salem does a fantastic job of telling the story of the people, the Moravian Collection at the Frank L. Horton Museum examines the art and craft skills within Salem.

Read More: Visiting Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem

Scope Out the Old Architecture in Old Salem

Intertwined with all the history that you’ll learn while visiting Old Salem is architecture. There are some incredible buildings with varying influences. You’ll encounter Central European influences mixed with Greek Revival and other remnants of early American styles.

Even though cars are on the street while you walk around, it’s lovely to walk around Main Street’s cobblestone sidewalks and soak in Old Salem’s architecture.

Read more: Outdoor things to do in Winston-Salem

Learn About the Moravians

Your ticket to Old Salem invites you to experience life as a Moravian. But who are the Moravians?

Moravians are a Protestant denomination and followers of Jan Hus, a Czech reformer who opposed Catholic corruption. The Moravians fled the Czech Republic to Germany and then settled, most notably in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and then found the area of Wachovia in North Carolina. 

Old Salem was founded in 1766 and was a closed community. The church owned the land, and anyone living in the community must be church members.

Visiting Old Salem gives you a fantastic glimpse into what life was like as a church member and how the community operated. 

Tour Open Buildings

Old Salem 2023 pottery

Your ticket to Old Salem grants you access to the open buildings. There will be large signs outside of each open building and a short description of what you’ll find inside.

It is important to note this as there are private residences in Old Salem. Below are some short descriptions of those open buildings and what you’ll expect to experience.

  • Volger House: gives an excellent insight into upscale living in Old Salem as well as the stories and daily life of the enslaved. 
  • Timothy Folger Gun Shop: Here you can see the intricate work that went into crafting hunting riffles for the community. Craftspeople inside the gun shop continue to make commissioned riffles as they were historically made. 
Old Salem 2023 tavern
  • Salem Tavern Museum: This is one of (in my opinion) the most interesting buildings in Old Salem. The Tavern was the only place where people outside of the church stayed. Salem was a crucial place for industry, and so travelers would stay here at the Tavern while commencing in trade. George Washington even stayed here in the Tavern! During his stay, he worked to help ratify the Constitution and examine the Moravians running water system! 
  • Blum House Joinery: The Joinery was central to commercial trade during the 18th century. A joiner is a tradesperson who works specifically with wood, so these Moravians not only worked for their fellow Brothers but also made furniture for sale. 
  • Single Brothers House: This is one of the largest buildings open to ticket holders at Old Salem. This house is where all of the single young men (14-21) would live while they apprenticed a trade. 
  • Boys’ School: This is one of the best places to stop in with kids as it has lots of hands-on activities! This building was where young boys (ages 6-14) would learn. It is also the oldest boys’ school in America! 
Old Salem 2023 weaving
  • Miksch House & Garden: While the Volger House depicts upscale life in Salem, the Miksch House gives visitors a glimpse into what a typical family would experience. It was the first family house built in Salem, and visitors join interpreters as they cook, go through daily chores, and life in the garden in 1771. 

Dig Even Deeper into Old Salem’s Background

It’s just as important to learn about African-American contributions to Old Salem as it is to eat Moravian Cookies.

Their contributions to the community formed the backbone and beyond, as many Black Moravians were skilled potters, carpenters, and even translators for the bilingual community. Recent efforts are working to expand upon what’s presented to visitors at Old Salem.

Note: Initiatives like the Slave Dwelling Project and the Hidden Town Project are working to inform people about the legacy of Moravians better, regardless of skin color.

Read more: Black History Locations in North Carolina

Admire the Gardens

Old Salem NC Stores

Old Salem’s historic and sustainable gardens are admirable, not because they are flashy and full of beautiful flowers.

Instead, these individual plots are functional and sustainable and have been a part of the community since their inception in 1766. If the season is right, you’ll find spots like the Miksch Garden filled with various fruits, vegetables, grains, and more.

Read more: Day Trips from Winston-Salem

Old Salem gift shop

Eat, Shop, and Stay in Old Salem

(Note: None of the following shops require a ticket to enter!) While visiting Old Salem, stop by Muddy Creek Cafe and Music Hall. Located in the lower level of T. Badge Potter’s Workshop, Muddy Creek serves delicious sandwiches, soups, and a fantastic Mediterranean plate! If it’s a traditional Moravian Pie you fancy, they have that too! 

Old Salem 2023 Winklers

C. Winkler Bakery is a must-visit when in Old Salem. Established in 1807 by a Swiss baker, Christian Winkler, alongside his wife and six children, would live and work in the house. Generations of Winklers with continue working in the bakery. 

When you walk into Winkler’s Bakery, you’ll smell the freshly baked Moravian treats that are still warm from the early morning baking. Bring home some of the thin, crispy Moravian cookies, cheese stars, and (of course!) a traditional Sugar Cake. 

Old Salem 2023 shopping

If you are searching for Moravian stars or souvenirs, the Stockberger Supply is a great place to shop. It is located inside the Visitor Center and has a great selection of gifts. The second floor of Winkler’s also has some fantastic curated local gifts, toys, and books.

Did you know a bed and breakfast is located inside the historic district of Old Salem!? The Zeverly Inn is listed on the National Historic Register and maintains its mid-19th-century decor. 

Old Salem 2023 Zelvey Inn

Named for the mayor of Salem, Dr. Augustus T. Zevely, the house served as his office to see patients as well as an inn for travelers. It continued to be an Inn until the beginning of the 20th century when it became a private residence and then apartments.

Old Salem Heritage Bridge

It was restored in 1993 to bring it back to its 1844-1856 origins. Details can be seen in the millwork, flooring, and high-quality reproductions of original furniture. 

Read more: Where to eat in Winston-Salem NC

Find the Coffee Pot in Old Salem

Old Salem NC Coffee Pot Images

We’re nerds for landmarks like the famed Salem Coffee Pot. Found at the junction of South Main Street, Old Salem Road, and Brookstown Avenue, this 7-foot-tall tin pot is great for photos.

There’s also a cool backstory behind it. According to one source, the pot separated Salem from Winston, as the latter was viewed as a threat to young ladies’ virtue.

Stay Near Old Salem

Brookstown Inn Hotel Winston-Salem NC Image

We have stayed in Winston-Salem a few times, even at the Brookstown Inn Hotel, that’s very close to Old Salem. Its backstory, amazing service, and delicious breakfast are just a few of the reasons you should check out this hotel.

Brookstown Inn Hotel is one of a few historic hotels in Winston-Salem, all ready to serve your visit!

Old Salem Winston Salem NC

Ready to Explore Old Salem Now?

We love Old Salem and think it’s one of the best things to do in Winston-Salem.

Fun special events are happening throughout the year (check here) and there’s even a Cobblestone Farmers Market open Saturday mornings between April and November.

Have you ever been to Old Salem? What did you think of it? If you’ve never been, what’s the first thing you want to do there?

We’d love to keep talking about it in the comments section below. Don’t forget to share your Winston-Salem adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group.

More Things to Do in Winston-Salem

16 thoughts on “How to See Old Salem in Winston-Salem (A Living History Experience)”

    • That was some cream and made it taste like the most epic cream pie I’ve ever had. Thanks for stopping by, Charles! Hope you can check out Old Salem sometime!

      Reply
    • Awesome! Hope you can make it to Old Salem someday soon, Julie. The giant Coffee Pot awaits! Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

      Reply
  1. The coffee pot, originally an advertisement for the tinsmith, has had several locations over the years. At one point, the coffee pot was as far north as Salem College girls could venture without signing out.

    Reply
  2. My daughter currently attends Salem College, and I absolutely love strolling around Old Salem whenever I come for a visit. The Moravian chicken pie at the Tavern in Old Salem is fantastic, as well as the sugar cake at Winkler’s Bakery. Old Salem is especially beautiful during the holiday season, and I highly recommend taking one of the holiday candlelight walking tours. The decorations are so beautiful, and the tours are very interactive with the craftspeople and historic interpretors. And you have to take a peek at the Heritage Bridge lit up with Moravian stars.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Karen. We’ll definitely have to check out Old Salem during the holidays. Appreciate you stopping by and letting us know about it!

      Reply
  3. Home Moravian Church, founded in 1771, is open (the sanctuary) to visitors during the week free of charge (1:30 – 3:30 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday from March through mid-December). Home Church members welcome visitors and speak informally about the Moravian Church past and present while describing architectural features of the building. A trip to Old Salem should definitely include a stop at Home!

    Reply
  4. The tavern was such am asset and without that treat the trip seems dull and lifeless. sorry will pass this year in hopes of a more interesting future. It was the highlight if the trip in the past.

    Reply
  5. The tavern was such am asset and without that treat the trip seems dull and lifeless. sorry will pass this year in hopes of a more interesting future. It was the highlight if the trip in the past.

    Reply
    • I’m bummed, too, about the Tavern. I still think it’s worth walking around the streets and visiting Old Salem for the various events they hold. Thanks, though, for the comment. Have a wonderful day!

      Reply
  6. We were visiting family in Winston Salem a few years ago and stayed at the Brooks Town Inn. Had a beautiful room.
    We walked through Old Winston Salem but after reading this article we missed a lot. I just loved everything about the old town. Will have to go back to see it all.

    Reply
  7. I was born in Winston Salem and remember seeing the Old Coffee Pot and it seemed to be closer to the street back then Perhaps it was moved farther off street. I always liked the brick sidewalks and the old houses. My grandmother was born in Old Salem and she talked of it often. I live in Florida and needless to say, this is a totally different landscape. I truly miss Winston Salem, NC . It will always be my home; perhaps in the near future, I will visit again. I enjoy your web-site.

    Reply
  8. How handicap accessible is Old Salem? Would be a good day trip for us, however, a couple of people have mobility issues.

    Reply
    • Honestly, it is “accessible” but I personally don’t find it friendly for strollers or wheelchairs. The sidewalks are narrow and the streets are cobblestone. But it is a small area so if your party is patient it definitely can be done!

      Reply

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