FULL OF HISTORY, PICTURESQUE SCENERY AND FOOD, Charleston, SC has so much to offer! Great for a girls weekend, a romantic getaway or a solo trip of exploration, Charleston has something for every traveler!
I loved the 4 days, 3 nights I got to spend in this southern city! While there are some awesome Charleston Guides already out there, I wanted to share my favorites from my trip to the Holy City. So check out my favorite eats, sees & must-dos in Charleston.
Rainbow Row – Take time to stop by the famous row of pastel-colored houses that sit along E. Bay Street. This is a great photo-op spot & if you’re looking for some pretty backgrounds for that perfect Charleston IG shot, definitely hit up this photo spot!
The Pineapple Fountain & Waterfront Park – This had to be one of my favorite photo spots! The fountain and park are right along the water. It was so nice strolling through and looking out over the water. It’s a nice place to hang out in the morning and sip some coffee or delight in a bit of gelato. Definitely a must-see and another great photo opp setting!
The Battery & White Point Garden Park – Another great row of home is down near White Point Garden Park. In Charleston they call this row of houses: Battery Row. The houses are beautiful to glance upon as you walk alongside the sea on the historic defensive seawall towards the park. The park holds a lot of monuments and a beautiful gazebo. Another beautiful place for photos & easy enjoyment.
Charleston City Market – One of Charleston’s oldest attractions, the City Market now hosts multiple vendors and artisans. Depending on how long you linger and the crowds you can spend anywhere from 20-30 minutes to an hour or so. Either way, it’s definitely worth seeing. I also encourage you to learn about its history as well!
Churchyard Cemeteries – As a city known for the amount of churches it has, Charleston also has almost as many cemeteries. I’m huge into history, so cemeteries always seem to intrigue me, especially older cemeteries. Charleston is filled with some beautiful cemeteries worth a stroll through if that’s your thing!
Carriage Tour – A big attraction in Charleston is their Carriage Tours. I took a tour with Old South Carriage Co. as recommended by Jean at Extra Petite. I really enjoyed the horse-drawn carriage tour through the city. In order to help alleviate any traffic, the city of Charleston runs a lottery for the carriage tours. This means that the tour guide won’t know what route they’ll get until they’re off on the tour. So you might end up with a different route each time! My tour guide was really informative and had fun, dry sense of humor that I enjoyed. Our horse’s name was Tom and he was a sweetheart. I’d definitely recommend going on one of these tours as you’ll learn a lot of history about the city!
Fort Sumter Tour – If you’re a history buff, I’d definitely recommend this tour! It was one of my favorite during my trip to Charleston. Your ticket gets you a ferry ride out to the Fort where you get to explore the grounds. I took the 11am tour, so I was also able to experience the flag raising at the Fort which was something beautiful and fun to see. You’re free to roam around the fort at your leisure and to check out the on-site museum. However, there are also Park Rangers there to answer questions and talk about the Fort as well. Our Park Ranger did a phenomenal job discussing the history of the fort while also touching on the importance of placing ourselves into the shoes of different perspectives–the wealthy merchant, the house slave, the slaves who build the man-made island & Fort and the soldiers defending and attacking the Fort. I really thought he did an excellent job making sure we value the diversity of America. After exploring the Fort for an hour, the ferry takes you back to Charleston. Definitely check out this tour if you can!
Nathaniel Russel House & Aiken Rhett House – I was lucky enough to tour both of these houses in Charleston. What I really loved about these historical homes is that you can take self-guided tours at any time throughout the day. This is such a great feature if you’re on a time crunch! I was able to tour both houses at my leisure. I just handed over my I.D. for one of their iPod & headphone sets and off I went exploring the houses. Another option would have been to download their app onto my personal phone and use my own headphones. Instead, I used my phone for photos.
The app included recordings on each room of the houses you got to visit. I found all the recording entertaining and informative! There were also bonus recordings if you wanted to delve more into a particular topic. I also found that the museums did a great job highlighting the lives of the African American slaves that lived within these homes, especially the Aiken Rhett House which has original slave quarters still in existence. The recordings during those locations made a point to bring to life the slaves who cared for the property and family–making sure to highlight their lives and give their names. They touched on how a lot of times historic sites gloss over or don’t go into depth about the lives of these people and that they wanted to share their stories and their lives–to focus where others might not. I really respected and appreciated that aspect of the tours/recordings.
You can purchase one ticket for both places or spend just $13 for one of the houses. If you save your receipt you can also get half off at the other house if you go back to visit at another time. I’d definitely recommend these house tours if you get the chance & if you are into history!
Candlefish Workshop – Another recommendation from Jean at Extra Petite was a trip to Candlefish on King Street–the shopping street of Charleston (see below). This store is unique in that you’re able to pick out candles to buy solely based on scent and not on labels or names. The women who work there can offer personalized recommendations for you to smell before deciding on one to purchase. What’s even better–this shop also does BYOB candle workshops! Perfect for a girls weekend trip into the city or for a group of friends or even for a date night with other couples, this workshop is fun all around! I was traveling solo and ended up actually having a one-on-one session since no one else signed up for the 6pm time slot on a Sunday that I chose. It’s $55 which seems a bit pricy, but I definitely felt it was worth it! You get to choose which sent you want to make and then your instructor walks you through the process. You get to make 2 full-sized candles to take home with you the next day (they have to cool overnight)! Definitely worth the trip into the shop at least if you don’t have time for the workshop!
Shopping on King Street – No trip to Charleston would be complete without a stroll down King Street. This street is all about the shops! Everything from high-end brands to local boutiques, King street is a shopper’s dream! I spent some time strolling up and down the street, but didn’t have as much time to shop as I’d have liked. I did end up making it to Blue Bicycle Bookshop (because…um…books lol) and I also stopped in a store called Dress Up Charleston because they had some cute looks and some sales. King Street is a must for any shopping lover!
On the List for Next Time:
Museum Mile: There’s a mile in Charleston filled with museums. These are some I’d like to see in future trips: Gibbs Art Museum, The Charleston Museum, Old Slave Mart Museum, Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon
Spa at Belmond – I’ve heard great things from a friend about this spa!
Breakfast & Brunch
City Lights Coffee ($) – This small coffee shop offers a great option to stop for a quick caffeine pick me up. I loved the small & unique atmosphere of the shop! It felt very much like a local joint which I always love to find in any city. The coffee shop also offers breakfast & lunch fares as well as some pastries. I only sampled their coffee as I was looking for the early morning caffeine boost before starting my early day. I can easily say that the coffee was great & just what I needed that morning!
Poogan’s Porch ($$) – Poogan’s was only about a 7 minute walk from my hotel, so I knew I definitely had to try it out! The restaurant is in a converted home that is super cute! I didn’t get a chance to see much of the interior as I opted to sit on the famous porch, but I’d definitely recommend the porch seating anyway. It was earlier than a typical brunch time, so it was a quiet morning. I enjoyed the ambiance of a quiet outdoor breakfast for one. The servers were super nice and helpful. The menu included a lot of southern favorites. I opted for their Down Home Breakfast & a small portion of their Biscuits & Gravy. I also ordered their Zoe’s Iced Coffee instead of the traditional Mimosa or Bloody Mary breakfast cocktails. The food & drink was absolutely delicious and I really enjoyed my morning there!
Hominy Grill ($$) – This place gave me hometown diner feels which I LOVED! I grew up eating in diners and always appreciate the ambiance of a local diner. Since I was traveling alone in a new city, I doubly appreciated the comforts this placed offered. Their menu also had some southern favorites. My waitress was super sweet and offered some menu suggestions and the day’s specials. I ordered the Charleston Nasty Biscuit which was super yummy and then I also ordered dessert (because why not, right?!)–a slice of their Hummingbird Cake which was so delicious and my first time trying that dessert.
On the List to Try Next Time: Bakehouse Bakery Café, Toast
Lunch & Dinner
The Griffon Pub ($$) – My first night in Charleston had me stopping by this place. I was traveling all day and just wanted some place I felt comfortable in, plus it was right across the street from my hotel! I enjoy a good pub just as much as a fancy restaurant, but 9 times out of 10 I’m at the more casual location. This pub was fantastic! I loved the $1.00 decor stapled all over the bar–it was certainly a unique décor choice! I tried a beer on tap – Tumbling Monk from Rusty Bull Brewing Co. (a local brewery)–and their famous Fish & Chips. Both were excellent! They gave you a lot of food for the price and I was super full by the end of the night. The staff was great and this place is definitely a must-see, especially if you like craft beer or unique dining locations!
Fleet Landing Restaurant & Bar ($$) – This place was recommended to me by the concierge at my hotel. It was less than a 5 minute walk from my hotel and right on the water. The restaurant is housed in a 1940s retired naval building which only adds to its charm! I went for lunch right when they opened and was able to grab a seat right on the porch/patio area right next to the water. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was able to relax by the water and see the ships going by. I also caught sight of a few dolphins! Water has always been a calming feature for me, so I was really able to relax at this restaurant. Since I was indulging myself, I ordered the spinach and artichoke dip as an app and then their fried chicken lunch special which came with collard greens and mac ‘n’ cheese. To pair with my food, I ordered their Julep Noir 9 cocktail. The food & drink were all delicious, but the location had everything beat! Definitely check this one out for casual on-the-water dining!
Bay Street Biergarten ($$) – Another great location for craft beer lovers! I like to try and sample some different types of beer when I’m in a new location. My dad and I bond over craft beers, so I started sampling them more recently over the past 3 years as a way to bond more with my dad. (I track all my beer tastings using the Untapped App if you want to follow). Biergarten had a great selection of beer and drinks as well as a good selection of food options. The inside décor had a good atmosphere and typical of a sports bar, but I really enjoyed the outdoor patio. Since I was soaking up as much sunshine as possible, I grabbed a table outside. My waiter was super helpful and nice. I ordered the BBQ Pork Sandwich without the bun and it was super super tasty. For my drink I tried the Palmetto Ambler another local beer from Charleston. It was pretty good. Overall, I really enjoyed the atmosphere here & recommend it for a casual bite to eat!
Magnolias ($$$) – Magnolias was a sweet spot near my hotel. It was only about a 5 minute walk. The dining room was a bit small, but I enjoyed the intimate feel. It is definitely a bit more of a business casual/dressier feel then the more casual places I visited before. I sat in the bar area since I didn’t have a reservation and because it was just myself. Their bar area offered the full menu, so that was another selling part. I ordered the Creamy Tomato Soup as a starter and then followed it up with the Buttermilk Fried Chicken dish. I’m not the biggest seafood eater so that’s why most of my choices have been chicken lol. I also ended the night with my favorite dessert of the trip–the Apple Cobbler Cake! I’d definitely recommend this restaurant for some southern upscale dining!
Husk ($$$) – Just about an 8 minute walk from my hotel, Husk was my favorite and most daring food experience in Charleston. I came here on the recommendation that they had a great whisky list which is right up my ally. So obvious I decided to really indulge at this restaurant. Luckily, I was able to grab a table for one 3 hours before my 9:15pm reservation. I was hoping they’d be able to squeeze me in before my reservation and the restaurant was super accommodating and was able to fit me in! I’m sure this was because it was late February and not full on tourist season, but I still appreciated the staff for assisting me. I started with a flight of whisky to try a few whiskies I haven’t had before. The waiter was spectacular and gave me whisky recommendations, starter and dinner recommendations. He was excellent in going over the menu with me. I ended up being brave and trying out the beef tartare as my appetizer. I’d never had it before, but I’m glad I tried it at Husk. It was actually pretty good considering what it was lol. Definitely for those with an open pallet. For dinner I ordered the Pork. Husk’s menu changes daily compared to the local ingredients that they get in. This place was definitely my favorite! If you’re traveling in heavier tourist times, definitely try and book a reservation as soon as you can! I’ve heard this place fills up super fast.
On the List to Try Next Time: Fig, The Darling, Charleston Grill, Chez Nous
Belgian Gelato ($$) – For a quick dessert while walking around the Waterfront park, try Belgian Gelato! I grabbed some vanilla cream gelato for a quick bite while strolling around the park on the day I had to travel home. It was the perfect, quick sweet treat for the day. Eat it fast though, because the sunshine sure does like to melt these colder treats!
On the List to Try Next Time: Sugar Bake Shop
Where I Stayed
I stayed at the wonderful boutique hotel: The Vendue. If you’d like to learn more about my stay & the hotel check out my previous post!
I hope you enjoyed my Travel Guide! Let me know below if you’ve been or planning to go to any of the location above! Also check out my Yelp Collection of most of the places I mentioned above!
Holly TruittJune 5, 2021 at 4:33 PM
Try Carmella’s for desert and a drink on East Bay Street. Its one of our favorite hangouts.
NicoleLynnSeptember 19, 2021 at 8:35 AM
Will definitely give it a go when I’m next in Charleston!
AmandaJuly 18, 2022 at 2:11 PM
How did you feel being solo in Charleston? I’m taking my first trip there in Sept by myself and hope I don’t feel too awkward. I’m keeping your list and will hopefully check some of them out
NicoleLynnJuly 19, 2022 at 8:45 AM
I’m so glad this post was helpful! Charleston was my first solo travel trip. It definitely took a bit to get used to being on my own but I still had a wonderful time! The museums weren’t crowded and I could use their audio tours and just walked around by myself so I didn’t feel awkward at all. During meals since I was solo I would usually be sat at the bar area if I didn’t have a reservation. If I had a reservation they sat me in the regular areas. That was the harder thing for me but I just treated it like going to a coffee shop solo and just read something on my phone and just enjoyed my meals. (The food in Charleston is soooo good!) All the waiters were super nice and I had some good convos with them! The horse carriage ride was nice. I was sat next to an older couple with a dog and they were sweet. The fort tour was very much an explore on your own so I didn’t feel awkward there at all. Everyone is really nice in the city and since it’s so walkable I enjoyed exploring the city and just put head phones in if I ever felt awkward walking but I really didn’t so I think you’ll be fine! but let me know if you have any questions! My friends go a lot and I was just out to Folly Beach so I can always get some more information if I don’t know the answer