Charleston’s historic district lies on a peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. The city is steeped in history, from its early settlement in 1670 by the English to being a major Southern harbor city in the 1700s and the site of battles in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Aside from history, Charleston, South Carolina is also known for its friendly locals, pristine beaches, and delicious Southern cuisine. Curious about the city? Here’s your local’s guide to Charleston:
A Local’s Guide to Charleston: What to See and Do
Charleston’s Museum Mile, located on Meeting Street, has over a dozen museums and historic sites to explore. My favorites include the Gibbes Museum of Art, praised for having one of the best collections of Southern art, and the Aiken Rhett House, where you can see a rare surviving example of urban slave quarters. A trip to Charleston would not be complete without walking down Rainbow Row. This row of Colonial structures, painted cheerful hues of pink, blue, yellow, and green, is one of the most photographed places in the city. To visit a historic plantation, you’ll have to drive outside the historic district. If you’re interested in architecture, go to Drayton Hall. The house dates from 1738 and has been changed very little over the course of the last 200+ years (no indoor plumbing or electricity!). McLeod Plantation, a Gullah/Geechee heritage site, is a short drive from downtown and less expensive than others.
A Local’s Guide to Charleston: Where to Eat
We take brunch very seriously here in Charleston. Most places serve brunch only on the weekends. If you’re wishing to try a full Southern breakfast then head to Hominy Grill for the Charleston Nasty Biscuit—fried chicken, cheddar cheese, and sausage gravy. Magnolia’s on East Bay serves banana pudding French toast with peanut butter syrup and a Lowcountry Benedict with pimento cheese grits and blue crab. Want to try shrimp and grits? Check out Poogan’s Porch or Jestine’s, both restaurants specialize in traditional Lowcountry dishes. Looking for something international? Mama Kim’s on King Street is an institution, and Bon Banh Mi is a local favorite.
A Local’s Guide to Charleston: Where to Shop
The majority of Charleston’s shopping is on King Street. You’ll find American retail chain stores (Gap, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters) next to high-end antique shops and art galleries. King Street is closed to traffic on the second Sunday of every month, and restaurants set up cafe tables for al fresco dining. If you’re looking for a Charleston souvenir then go to the markets. Since the 1790s, people have been selling fresh produce and goods in open-air sheds along Market Street. Thankfully, some of the markets have been enclosed and have air-conditioning today. You’ll find everything from benne wafers to sweetgrass baskets there.
A Local’s Guide to Charleston: Where to Stay
As Charleston’s tourism has boomed in recent years, it seems like there is a new hotel here every few months. Prices tend to be high, especially during the tourist season (spring and summer). I would recommend browsing Airbnb (if you’re not already a member you can sign up through this link and receive a $40 credit). There are many listings in the area that can fit your needs, from historic carriage houses to beach cottages. If you want to stay in a historic hotel, sometimes you can find specials at the Kings Courtyard Inn or the Elliott House Inn. If you want to splurge, trendy Zero George Street and the lavish Wentworth Mansion are both top-ranked hotels. You can check current hotel prices in Charleston, find a great deal and book online here.
No matter what time of year you visit Charleston, you’ll have a great time exploring one of the South’s oldest and most charming cities. Whether you’re into architecture, shopping, history, food, or all of the above, you’ll find lots to do and see here. Y’all come!
Have you been to Charleston, South Carolina? What would you add to this list?
This guest post was penned by Ashley Darland. Ashley works in the museum field, and is also a freelance writer and blogger at Broke in Charleston, where she shares insider tips for visiting Charleston on a budget. You can also follow Ashley on Pinterest.
This post contains affiliate links, which mean that if you choose to make a purchase through these links, I receive a small referral commission at NO added cost to you. CC image from Flickr: On Rainbow Row by Spencer Means.
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