If you’re planning a trip and wondering what to do in Charleston, South Carolina, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve recently visited for the first time ourselves, and would like to share our experience with you.
Charleston is a beautiful and historic city, with cobblestone streets, incredible Georgian and neo-Classical architecture, and the beautiful coastline. There is so much to do and see when you visit this Southern city.
It also happens to be a paradise for foodies! Be sure to watch our food tour of Charleston’s French Quarter to see where and what Lowcountry cuisine to eat when you visit.
So without further adieu, here are 6 things to do in Charleston. All of them are conveniently located in or near the French Quarter (see what we did there?).
Established in the 1790s, the City Market is one of the most visited attractions in Charleston. Located downtown in the heart of the city, it is one of the oldest public markets in the country. Spanning four city blocks, from Market Hall to East Bay Street, it is home to over 300 vendors. You’ll find everything from food, arts and crafts, souvenirs, and plenty more, all with an emphasis on “locally made.” Keep an eye out for the “Certified Authentic Handmade in Charleston” seal! A point of note: do not confuse City Market with the Old Slave Mart (where slaves were sold). These are completely separate entities, and slaves were never sold at the market. A visit to the City Market is a wonderful way to meet locals and learn about the culture first hand.
Rainbow Row is a stretch of historic, pastel-colored Georgian Homes located on East Bay Street (between Elliot Street and Tradd Street). This is the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States. “Rainbow Row” was coined after the restoration in the 1930s and ‘40s, when the homes were painted in their now-famous pastel colors. It is one of the most photographed areas in Charleston and is a very popular tourist attraction.
Waterfront Park consists of eight acres and stretches approximately one-half mile, overlooking the Charleston Harbor and the Cooper River. It’s a perfectly romantic and relaxing way to slow down and take in the Chalreston scenery. The park has an ample amount of walkways, trees, grassy areas, benches, and flora to unwind with, but the Pineapple Fountain is a focal point. Pineapple motifs are common in Charleston and represent hospitality. The fountain draws many selfie-seekers, so just be sure to be patient and return the sentiment to others. Chances are, you’ll even find someone to take your photo for you!
The Old Slave Mart Museum is the first African-American slave museum, and it is often staffed by individuals that can trace their history to Charleston slaves. Little known fact: at one point, up to 40% of slaves entered the United States through Charleston. While somber in tone, this building is extremely significant in Charleston’s history. There is much to read and many lessons to be learned here, and it is well worth the couple of hours we recommend you spend visiting.
The Battery was originally built as a coastal defense artillery battery, and with its scenic promenade and historic parks, it is one of downtown Charleston’s top tourist attractions. It is lined with historic homes and has incredible views of Fort Sumter, Castle Pickney, and Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse. Stretching along the Charleston peninsula, it is bordered by the Ashley and Cooper rivers and this confluence forms the Charleston harbor. Even if you’re not so easily impressed with “Antebellum this” and “Civil War that,” a walk along the Battery is still a very enjoyable thing to do while visiting Charleston.
With all of the historic architecture, small town vibes, and old-timey charm around every corner, Charleston is not lacking in modern, high-end designer shops along its famous King Street. L’Occitane, Kate Spade, and Louis Vuitton – they’re all there. But there’s also plenty of local shops mixed in as well, like the cozy and intimate Blue Bicycle Books. Many of the other establishments have been in business for decades, if not a century or more, and are no less high end than their modern-day counterparts.
In conclusion, Charleston personifies the romantic notion of “the old South.” To some it is trapped in that history, and to others it has transformed into one of the most popular travel destinations in the states despite it. With its constant flow of horse drawn carriages, waterfront views, well-preserved historic homes, churches, and landmarks, there’s more than enough to explore help you form your own opinion. We hope we’ve given you some fun ideas of what to do in Charleston, South Carolina!
And if you’re looking for more itineraries, we’ve got you covered: