Wandering amongst the stunning architectural wonders and eating your way from one foodie hotspot to the next, it’s easy to fall in love with Charleston. Lounging on the golden beaches and catching wave after wave, you quickly realize that South Carolina is easily amongst the most underrated destinations in the US. Best of all, that good old-fashioned Southern hospitality will make you feel right at home from the moment that you arrive.
What to Expect in Charleston
Language: English, with that beautiful Southern accent.
Currency: US Dollar.
Credit Cards and Banks: Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, including the new parking meter system. Occasionally there are tiny cash-only spots, but downtown is lined with banks so it’s easy to swing by an ATM.
Climate: Like much of the coastal region of the United States, Charleston has a subtropical climate. This means hot summers and mild winters along with a relatively high humidity level all year. Expect summer temps ranging from 78 degrees F (26° C) to over 86 degrees F (30° C) while winters drop down to 47 degrees F (8.3° C).
Best Time to Visit: Come to Charleston from March to May, just before it gets sultry. When the intense heat is over and the summer tourists clear out, September to November is primetime again. Do be mindful of hurricane season and plan accordingly.
Travel Tip for Charleston
Plan plenty of time to soak in the history here! Charleston was the cultural hub and richest city of colonial America.
The first college, museum, golf club, and playhouse in the United States were opened right here, and these are just a few of the countless unique claims to fame you’ll find in their rich past.
Not really that into history? Find a festival on their packed events calendar that’ll give you a dose of modern culture.
Hotels book up quickly during holiday and festival weekends, so plan accordingly!
Where to Stay in Charleston
From the swanky architecture to the hidden gardens, Charleston is where history meets modern. What’s not to love about Charleston? I’ve compiled the best hotels in Charleston as well as my favorite stays below!
And if you’re interested in boutique properties or vacation rentals, be sure to check out my guide to The Coolest Airbnbs in Charleston.
VRBO has a variety of apartments and private flats at great prices! This is a good option for those looking to get an authentic taste of Paris life. Just be sure to read reviews and do your research before booking!
This place is an absolute dream! I honestly found myself not wanting to leave in the morning. That is more than a little rare for me, but this welcoming inn was a key part of what made Charleston so charming. Read all about my experience at 86 Cannon Historic Inn here.
An iconic inn set in a stately 19th-century property, this is the state’s one and only Relais & Châteaux Hotel.
This chic boutique hotel beside the Charleston City Market is an elegant hideaway in one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods.
Offering well-appointed residences with up to three bedrooms along with classic suites, this is an ideal home away from home in the heart of the city.
Where to Eat in Charleston
I ate my way through Charleston and I’d do it all over again! From fresh oysters to elevated comfort dishes, bakeries, and my favorite, pistachio cupcakes, they are operating on another level here. Far from your basic shrimp and grits, Charleston deserves a spot amongst the greatest gourmet capitals of the United States. I’ve listed my favorite restaurants in Charleston below, but check out my Ultimate Charleston Foodie Guide before you go!
Harken CafeCafe, French
With a welcoming country-chic atmosphere, come to this French Quarter fave for homemade baked goods and a good cup of joe.
Xiao Bao BiscuitAsian
This converted gas station is now serving up the best Asian cuisine in town and that’s saying a lot. In fact, I’m still dreaming about those okonomiyaki cabbage pancakes!
This raw seafood eatery has the best of best from the shores of the Atlantic, including favorites like the shrimp po’boys, lobster rolls, and swordfish.
Chez NousFrench, European
This pint-sized French foodie hotspot serves up a European-inspired lunch and dinner menu in a romantic setting.
Sample a wide range of refined Southern classics in a historic home. The chefs at this posh cafe will show you just why the love affair with regional cuisine never ends.
Husk CharlestonSouthern, American
One of the hottest tickets in town, reservations here are a must. After visiting both the Savannah and Charleston locations, I can confirm that the ever-changing locally sourced menu here is five-star.
Southern classics with a gourmet twist, this upscale bistro has all your favorites along with ricotta gnocchi that will knock your socks off.
Leon'sOyster Bar, Southern
This Southern-inspired oyster shop is serving up the catch of the day along with mouthwatering hush puppies and fried chicken.
The Obstinate DaughterItalian, Seafood
This Italian-inspired seafood spot on Sullivan’s Island has an eclectic menu and impressive craft beer list. Try the gnocchi or come in for a gelato break after exploring the beach.
In a city where you’ll find fresh seafood on every menu, this place takes it to another level. With a warm atmosphere and fabulous happy hour deals, this eatery is a must for seafood lovers.
Mercantile and MashCafe, American, Whiskey Bar
You can spend hours nibbling and exploring in this sprawling space at The Cigar Factory. Explore the gourmet food emporium, swing by the whiskey bar, perk up at the coffeehouse, then search for souvenirs in the wine and butcher shops.
Indulge in a delicious range of Italian classic dishes on the cozy patio of this local hotspot. Come for the cocktail and focaccia happy hour deals then stay for their famous duck agnolotti.
Callie’s Hot Little BiscuitSouthern
With four locations around town and packaged treats at all of the local grocery stores, it’s safe to say Callie’s is baking up some of the best goods in town. Sample those famous biscuits then sign up for a cooking class!
Church & UnionNew American
This century-old church is worth visiting just to soak in the gorgeous space. Read a copy of the Art of War that has been handwritten on the ceiling while you have a drink (and, at minimum, do come for a drink!). Try the fried chicken BLT then stay for s’mores.
The lemon curd cupcakes here are rumored to be the best in the South. Come decide for yourself if they live up to the hype.
What to Do in Charleston
After three nights of exploring the quaint city of Charleston, I found countless hotspots and hidden gems. While a few days in this South Carolina charming port city might not give you quite enough time to see it all, you can check a few essentials off your list. Whether you are a fellow foodie, an architecture aficionado, or a beachgoer, there’s something for everyone here. I’ve compiled the top things to do in Charleston below, and if you’re staying a few days or longer, be sure to read my 3-Day Charleston Guide for my itinerary.
This famous collection of 13 pastel homes creates the longest line of Georgian row houses in the country. From 79 to 107 East Bay Street, the waterfront neighborhood of Rainbow Row is an essential photo op. Visit in the early morning for perfect lighting and fewer crowds.
The iconic homes of Rainbow Row are just a few of the many historic properties that make this gorgeous area so special. Plan plenty of time for admiring the houses, then make a detour for the Pineapple Fountain at Waterfront Park.
This 19th-century plantation is now a historic cemetery set in a beautiful location. From bootleggers to revolutionary politicians, this is the resting place of some of the city’s biggest names. Join a tour group to take a journey back in time or just soak in the beauty of the space.
This old oak tree can only be described as ginormous. Grab your camera and take in the natural beauty of this lovely spot.
From original Picasso pieces to ancient Egyptian artifacts, this is one seriously impressive homestead.
While I found this on countless to-do lists and it is even listed as a historical site, I didn’t love this market. You can get souvenirs here but I was disappointed to see it was mostly imported trinkets from China rather than locally-made artisan pieces. Swing by to see the space if you have time, but don’t expect it to live up to the hype.
Explore this sea fort and see the precise spot where the American Civil War began.
To make the most out of your time, I’d highly recommend joining a Take Walks tour! Find the one that speaks to you! I’ve been on tours with Take Walks all around the world and am always so intrigued by what they have to offer—plus it’s a great way to see the city in a whole new light!
25 minutes north of Charleston, you’ll find 170 acres of preserved green space. In the heart of it all is an 80-acre blackwater tupelo swamp. Wander along the surrounding foot trail or explore the boat path
On the second Sunday of each month from 1 to 5 pm, get to King Street. With live music, outdoor dining, and sidewalk shopping, this family-friendly event (including the fur babies!) is a perfect place to have lunch and people-watch.