Considered by many to be the cultural capital of the South, the city of Charleston overflows with historic charm. Take a visit to this pretty South Carolina town and treat your eyes to scenes of cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, gardens blooming with magnolias and azaleas, and mansions reminiscent of Gone With the Wind.
The passing of time seems to have ceased altogether in this oceanside historic haven, making it one of the South’s best-preserved and most-loved cities. In fact, Charleston is often thought of as a living museum and you can feel the energy of times gone by as you stroll alongside old homes, cemeteries, and Civil War sites.
But don’t think you can learn everything there is to know about Charleston simply from the history books! The city is also home to trendy modern dining, shopping, and nightlife options. Our list of must-sees combines the best of both worlds and we have a feeling that after reading it, you’ll be ready to pack your bags and head toward the southern coast!
No, we’re not talking about New Orleans! Charleston has its own historic district by the same name, but the charm and culture of this neighborhood is no knock-off version. Gas lamps line the cobblestone streets and every home and building looks as if it jumped straight out of the pages of an 18th century oil painting.
Some of Charleston’s most iconic landmarks and sites lie within this scenic neighborhood, such as Market Hall – where you can shop an open-air market for handmade baskets, Southern spices, and other artisan gifts; the Powder Magazine, known as the oldest public building in South Carolina; and Dock Street Theatre, considered to be the oldest theater in America.
This self-guided walking tour from Explore Charleston will bring you to all of these sites and more.
Charleston is a world-class food city and being a southern coastal town, there’s no shortage of rich comfort food to be found in the numerous mom-and-pop restaurants. Creamy She-Crab soup is a regional staple, along with spicy shrimp and grits.
Of course, you can’t go wrong with southern classics like biscuits and gravy, fried okra, pulled pork sandwiches, hushpuppies, and pan-fried chicken. Whatever your dish of choice, wash it all down with with a glass of ice-cold sweet tea or if you’re looking for something a little stronger, a mint julep.
Check out Martha Lou’s Kitchen for hearty dishes like fried catfish, collard greens, and mac ‘n’ cheese, or Magnolia’s for an upscale take on Southern classics. Try their Charleston crab cakes or the fried green tomatoes appetizer.
King Street is a fashionista’s dream come true, stocked with a whole array of local boutiques and unique shops. Stumble across the latest women’s and men’s fashions, shoes, handbags, jewelry, lingerie, cosmetics, and more. Or, if you’re craving a bit more culture, check out the many antique stores, art galleries, book stores, and gift shops.
For a sampling of the available merchants, check out this guide to shopping King Street from Charleston’s Finest.
This historic seawall and promenade once served a strategic military purpose; but these days, it’s better known for its scenic charm and cultural significance. Some of the city’s most breathtaking antebellum homes line The Battery and it offers views of other historic sites, such as Fort Sumter, the official starting location of the Civil War; Castle Pinckney, a mysterious set of island ruins; and picturesque Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse.
White Point Garden is often considered to be the main focus of The Battery, so named for the white sand and sun-bleached oyster shells that once covered the ground. Original Revolutionary and Civil War cannons remain in the park, along with oak tree shaded walking paths and historic statues and memorials.
The “shag” is an up-tempo swing-style dance that originated in the Carolinas in the 1920’s among college students. Today, a version of this dance, known as the “Carolina Shag,” is the official state dance of South Carolina and it remains extremely popular with locals. Time your visit with one of the many public dance events hosted in the city,which often take place outdoors by the water in spring, summer, and fall.
Between the gorgeous antebellum homes, sweeping ocean views, flavorful local foods, and sweet Southern hospitality, there are countless reasons to fall head-over-heels for charming Charleston.
If you’ve found yourself swooning over this pretty coastal town, you’ll be happy to know that there’s still time to sign up for the March Hammock Pack. Treat yourself to a handful of carefully-selected Charleston goodies from the comfort of your own home!