Colorful Charleston Townscape at dusk

Exploring the History and Southern Charm of Downtown Charleston, SC

Colorful Charleston Townscape at dusk

Exploring the History and Southern Charm of Downtown Charleston, SC

From cobblestone to horse-drawn carriages, see what makes charming, historic Charleston the perfect backdrop for your next vacation.

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With its Spanish moss-laden trees, gorgeous fountains, and waterfront views, Charleston, South Carolina, is a city with postcard-worthy scenery, a skyline filled with steeples, and vibrant backdrops perfect for vacation photos. As you tour historic plantations and meander the cobblestoned streets with the clopping sound of horse-drawn carriages in the background, you can’t miss the historic charm that is impossible to resist. Add the mouthwatering aromas wafting from cafes and restaurants, and the experience is complete.

Experience History

Fountain at dusk in downtown Charleston, South Carolina

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear all the stories and legends about hauntings, pirates, and the Civil War on one of the city’s walking tours. As one example, Charleston Strolls takes you on a two-hour tour of spots where carriages and cars aren’t allowed, giving you a unique vantage point for exploring the city’s nooks and crannies, including private gardens and alleyways. If walking tours leave you breathless — and not in a good way — try one of the city’s carriage tours, which let you sit back, relax, and immerse yourself in the city’s narrative.

Marvel at the Architecture

Historic houses along Battery St in Charleston, SC

Practically any building you visit downtown has its own story and unique charm, but when you want to see some of Charleston’s most gorgeous mansions, head over to The Battery, a 12-acre park on the waterfront where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Charleston Harbor, the beauty of Southern-style mansions, access to White Point Gardens, and great views of Fort Sumter. Although many of the oldest plantations and homes are located outside downtown, you can get a good feel for the city’s lavish history when you visit the Nathaniel Russell House Museum, one of the grandest antebellum townhomes. Built at the turn of the 19th century, this museum features guided tours of its lush gardens, lavish furnishings, and a spiral staircase that keeps visitors talking.

Discover Reimagined Landmarks

Two bridges over water leading toward Charleston skyline under blue sky

Old meets new at iconic landmarks like the historic Charleston City Market and Dock Street Theatre. The market has operated for centuries and is easily one of the city’s most recognizable attractions, but its recent renovation and the addition of air conditioning gives it modern appeal. Likewise, Dock Street Theatre in the city’s French Quarter is housed in a building erected in 1809 but recently renovated. Pick up tickets to a touring Broadway production to experience the magic of one of the longest standing theaters operating in the country.

Indulge in Some Retail Therapy

Charleston South Carolina skyline with colorful buildings at dusk

Check out the high-end shops on the ground floor of the luxurious Belmond Charleston Place, or head over to King Street, the epicenter of the downtown shopping district. The street often closes to cars and traffic to transform into an open-air mall where you can bop along to live music, do some people watching while sipping wine from one of the cafes, or simply enjoy the festival. Buy something special or just do a little browsing, but do try to hit some of the most distinctive spots, including Worthwhile for funky fashions, Mac & Murphy for paper goods, and Blue Bicycle Books for literary gems.

Enjoy a Taste of Charleston

Large angel oak tree in Charleston South Carolina

From classic eateries to nouvelle cuisine, Charleston serves up some fabulous fare. Some of the city’s established and renowned eateries include 82 Queen, one of the first to serve low-country cuisine like fish and grits and jambalaya. Charleston Grill offers fine dining with live jazz and an innovative menu divided into four categories: Southern, Pure, Cosmopolitan, and Lush.

Some of the newer restaurants are nestled along Upper King and the surrounding area. Indulge in Asian fusion at Xiao Bao Biscuit and Parisian inspiration at The Dewberry. For a Bloody Mary you can make a meal out of, dine at Darling Oyster Bar, where they serve this classic cocktail topped with a lobster tail, king crab leg, spiced shrimp, pickle, and a hush puppy.

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