Charleston, South Carolina is packed full of enriching history, incredible food, and so much to do! It is one of my favorite cities to visit, and from North Carolina, it’s an easy drive to do for a weekend trip. The port city was founded back in the late 1600s, and you can still see that history on every street. The city is filled with cobblestone streets, pre-war pastel houses, and has rightfully become a top tourist city in the southeast USA.
Charleston is a very walkable and easy-to-get-around city. Parking in the city can be tough to come by, especially in the busy seasons. Unless you plan to take a drive out to the beach, the city can be easily walked from place to place. I recommend walking from your hotel or find a parking deck (most are very reasonably priced but could run you up to $18 a day) and walk from there. If you walk too far from your car and don’t want to walk back, the Pedicabs wander the city at almost all hours. If not, Uber is a great back up.
Where to Stay
Bed & Breakfast/Inn’s are a charming way to spend a night (or more) in Charleston. Some of the most notable ones are
There are also several chain hotels like Marriot and Hilton brand hotels that are a good option. A few that I would recommend are the
If you want something a bit fancier, these are a few of the top-rated places to stay:
All of these hotels have great locations and make it easy to walk around the city from there! There are also a number of AirBnb’s in Charleston that is a great way to get a local feel!
Where to Eat
No matter where you eat in Charleston, you can’t go wrong. No matter your budget, taste, style, etc. there is something for you! These are some of my favorites!
Poogan’s Porch ($$) – Named as Charleston’s “oldest independent culinary establishment, with a fresh approach to Lowcountry cuisine,” this well-known and well-loved restaurant can’t be missed!
Fuel Cantina ($$) – Fuel is a great Caribbean restaurant on Rutledge Ave with weekday happy hours and an island-inspired menu.
Fleet Landing ($$) – A Charleston classic, Fleet Landing is the perfect spot for a mix of traditional seafood with local specialties and the best waterfront dining.
Hyman’s Seafood ($$) – Hyman’s is one of my absolute favorite places to eat in Charleston. The food is delicious, service impeccable, and always a great time! If you’re lucky one of the Hyman brothers will stop by your table! Don’t forget to grab a jar of the Holy City Hand and Body Salt Scrub on your way out!
Peninsula Grill ($$$$) – If you’re looking for something more upscale, this is it. The charming and intimate setting is a great place to celebrate or just enjoy a high-class meal.
What to Do
Walk along the harbor to see amazing views of the water, boats, and if you’re lucky, dolphins! If you want to grab a bite to eat down by the harbor, I recommend Fleet Landing. Its right on the water, so you can have a view while you eat! Just a short walk from the restaurant is the pier and pineapple fountain at Waterfront Park. Even further down the harbor you will pass Rainbow Row and get into the Battery area and White Point Garden.
Charleston City Market
Sitting at the corner of Meeting and Market streets, the City Market is one of the most iconic things in Charleston and the #1 most visited attraction. It is open 7 days a week and hosts over 300 daily vendors. It spans 4 blocks, opening up right near the water at the tail end. The market has a ‘Great Hall’ that is home to several permanent shops and food options, as well as several restrooms. On either side of the Great Hall is the open-air part of the market. This is where vendors come in in the morning and leave by the evenings.
The market has everything from clothing and jewelry, crafts and collectibles, sweet treats and edible items, fine art and photography, and so much more. The city market is a great place to get a souvenir, gift or just shop for yourself. It can get crowded, especially during holidays and weekends, and it is not a very large pathway through the center. So if you want to avoid the crowds, aim to go in the mornings.
Wander Around the City
The historic downtown district of Charleston is not very big and is extremely walkable. The city is full of charm and every street you turn down you will see the historic beauty Charleston has to offer. Plan in some time to just wander and see where the city takes you. Another great option to explore the city if you don’t want to walk as much, rent a bike! Bikes are usually a pretty inexpensive, yet fun and efficient way to wander around the city!
Shopping on King Street
King Street is the main street that runs right through the city and the shopping hub of Charleston. It is home to a wide variety of stores with everything from Victoria Secret, to Forever 21 to Gucci and Louis Vuitton. There’s also a number of quaint boutiques unique to Charleston. No matter what your style or what your budget, there’s something you’ll love! Even if you’re not a big shopper or trying to save your pennies, take a stroll down King and window shop!
Rainbow Row is the iconic row of 13 pastel-painted, historic homes that line East Bay street. These houses once sat across the street from the Cooper River, but the land was eventually filled in. This charming row of houses is one of the most photographed places in the city. Stroll by to see the magnificent beauty and history held in these still occupied houses.
Patriots Point is a naval and maritime museum in Mt Pleasent, just across the Cooper River from Charleston. Hop aboard the USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier, visit the Medal of Honor Museum, see a now-retired submarine, and more! This is a great place that the whole family will enjoy!
Tour a Plantation
There are several historic southern plantations in and around Charleston. These plantations offer beautiful views and gardens, historic houses and tours of the properties. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Middleton Place, Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens, Drayton Hall, and McLeod Plantation Historic Site are some of the most notable in the area.
If the spooky history of those who once lived is your cup of tea, Charleston is home to a ravishing number of ghost tours. These tours will take you around the city, exploring the most haunted locations including jail cells, cemeteries and more.
Walk Across the Ravenel Bridge
This rather new cable-stayed bridge over the Cooper River runs 2.5 miles long and connects Charleston to Mt Pleasant. It accommodates almost 100,000 passengers daily and has dedicated lanes for bicycles and pedestrians. Walk across this bridge (even just part of the way) for stunning views of the Cooper River, Patriots Point, and downtown Charleston.
Take a Day Trip to the Beach
With the city sitting on the water, there are plenty of beautiful South Carolina beaches nearby to choose from for a day soaking up the southern sun. Although there are no sandy beaches directly in the port city, within a 30-minute drive you can be at one of a few beaches. If you leave the city going towards Mount Pleasant, you can quickly get to the towns and beaches Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island. Going the other direction from the city, you will reach Folly Beach.