Above: One of Charleston’s many charms is the beautiful classic architecture. All photos by Isadora Pennington.
Situated along South Carolina’s coastline, Charleston is a bustling hub of commerce with strong ties to the past. Known for its Lowcountry food, cobblestone streets and rich Southern history, the city was a focal point in the Civil War after the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter.
A mere five-hour drive from Atlanta, Charleston is the perfect setting for a long weekend. Set on the Atlantic Ocean, there’s plenty to do, see, eat and experience in the antebellum city.
Architecturally, Charleston is a delight. Ornate ironwork and grand churches line the streets. Mansions, such as the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and the Middleton Place Mansion, are reminders of the city’s grandiose past. Charleston’s downtown is comprised of colorful neighborhoods. One area of particular interest is King Street, a strip that features some of the city’s best walkable shopping and dining. Battery Park borders the harbor and offers breathtaking views, especially at sunset.
Don’t miss Rainbow Row — a street lined with colorful and historic homes — or City Market, an indoor market that stretches for four blocks and has been a mainstay since the 1790s.
Charleston Harbor is peppered with military sites and forts, including Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie and Fort Johnson. History buffs will want to visit the Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum, the H.L. Hunley Submarine and the Old Slave Mart Museum. There are more fascinating things to find, like alleyways and monuments, along the streets at every turn.
Foodies will delve into the city’s vibrant restaurant scene with its variety of elevated southern foods, no-nonsense diners and grills and great local seafood. Favorites range from the much-celebrated Husk, a downtown fine dining experience, to Prohibition on King Street, a modern American restaurant known for its creative cocktails and Jazz Age vibe.
There’s also The Griffon, an intimate English brewpub located near Battery Park, and Poogan’s Porch, a popular traditional southern restaurant operating out of a Victorian townhouse in the French Quarter.
Visitors can learn about Charleston’s rich history and enjoy its sights by signing up for a tour. Sightseers can choose from walking tours, ferry rides, ghost tours and historic carriage rides.
Below are some top suggestions for Charleston’s sights, military sites, restaurants and tours. Plan a visit and enjoy exploring!
- Battery Park, public park with views of the harbor: East Battery & Murray Blvd.
- Charleston City Market, historic downtown city market: 188 Meeting St.; 843-937-0920
- Dock Street Theater, America’s first structure built for theatrical performances: 135 Church St.; 843-577-7183
- Folly Beach, barrier island full of wildlife and beautiful beaches, featuring the Folly Beach Pier and surf shops along Center Street: Folly Island
- King Street Shopping District, long street known for dining and shopping: King St.
- Magnolia Plantation and Garden, historic house and gardens along the Ashley River: 3550 Ashley River Rd.; 843-571-1266
- Middleton Place Mansion, 18th century rice plantation 15 miles north of Charleston: 4300 Ashley River Rd.; 843-556-6020
- Nathaniel Russell House Museum, one of America’s most prominent neoclassical houses: 51 Meeting St.; 843-724-8481
- Old Slave Mart Museum, last surviving slave auction gallery in South Carolina; 6 Chalmers St.; 843-958-6467
- Rainbow Row, longest row of Georgian houses in the U.S., featuring 13 historic colorful houses: 83 E. Bay St.
- Fort Johnson, historic site located on the northeast point of James Island: 843-953-9301
- Fort Moultrie, a series of fortifications on Sullivan’s Island: 843-883-3123
- Fort Sumter National Monument, historic island fort where the Civil War began: 843-883-3123
- L. Hunley Submarine, the world’s first combat submarine: 1250 Supply St.: 843-743-4865
- Patriot’s Point Naval & Maritime Museum, home to three museum ships — USS Yorktown, USS Laffey and USS Clamagore: 40 Patriots Point Rd.; 843-884-2727
- 5Church Charleston ($$$), posh new American dining in a former church: 32b, 32 N. Market St.; 843-937-8666
- Barsa Tapas Lounge & Bar ($$), small plates featuring Spanish tapas, paella and cocktails: 630 King St.; 843-577-5393
- Butcher & Bee ($), hip vibe and adventurous and inventive eats: 1085 Morrison Dr.; 843-619-0202
- Charleston Grill ($$$), fine southern dining with a distinctive French flair: 224 King St.; 843-577-4522
- FIG ($$$), elevated southern bistro serving refined regional dishes: 232 Meeting St.; 843-805-5900
- The Griffon ($), intimate English pub featuring fish & chips, burgers and craft beer: 18 Vendue Range; 843-723-1700
- Hominy Grill ($$), relaxed eatery known for Lowcountry favorites and brunch: 207 Rutledge Ave.; 843-937-0930
- Husk ($$$), charming decor and a changing menu of local southern dishes: 76 Queen St.; 843-577-2500
- Poogan’s Porch ($$$), traditional southern meals set in a Victorian townhome: 72 Queen St.; 843-577-2337
- Prohibition ($$$), Jazz Age themed gastropub serving modern American dishes: 547 King St.; 843-793-2964
- The Tattooed Moose ($), upbeat dive bar serving elevated bar food and craft beer: 1137 Morrison Dr.; 843-277-2990
- All About Charleston, private tours: 446 King St.; 843-469-4458
- Charleston Culinary Tours, unique historical walking tours featuring Charleston’s tastiest eateries: 460 King St., Ste. 200; 843-259-2966
- Charleston Harbor Tours, see 75 historic sites and learn 300 years of history on board the Carolina Bell: Charleston Maritime Center, 10 Wharfside St.; 843-722-1112
- Charleston’s Alleys and Hidden Passages Tour, 2-hour walking tour of the city’s alleys and passageways: 45 Pinckney St.; 843-410-9688
- Chilling Charleston Macabre Ghost Tours, 90-minute tour of Charleston’s haunts: 843-518-1977
- Evening Private Carriage Tours, intimate carriages perfect for small groups: 8 Guignard St.; 843-723-8145
- Magnolia Plantation Tours, offers a house tour, boat tour, natural train ride, slavery to freedom tour and an Audubon swamp tour: 3550 Ashley River Rd.; 843-571-1266
- Morris Island Lighthouse Eco-Cruise, 2.5-hour charter boat tour of Folly Island’s estuaries and wildlife: 843-795-0330
- Old South Carriage Company, horse-drawn carriage rides: 14 Anson St.; 843-723-9712
- Tideline Tours, boat and kayak tours around Folly Beach and Morris Island: Sunset Cay Marina, 66 W. 9th St. Folly Beach; 843-813-5009