When it comes to charming cities, Charleston always tops the list. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting this beautiful southern town on many occasions as it’s where Matt grew up. Every time we’re back, there are always new restaurants to try, stores to visit, and day trips to take. Along with my sister-in-law, who lives in downtown Charleston, I crafted a little Charleston city guide featuring our favorite must-visit places.
Eat and drink.
First and foremost, Charleston is a foodie’s heaven. There are always new (and amazing) restaurants popping up. Charleston chefs serve up the freshest, no-frills food. And don’t even get me started on the drinks. Cocktail, please!
Market Street Sweets – A must-visit. Go for the bear claws (the dark chocolate ones are my favorite) and the pralines. They also have amazing peanut butter cups.
Wildflour Pastry – The latte is amazing. If you’re feeling indulgent, the cupcake-for-two always look delicious.
Bay Street Biergarten – A beer garden with lots of beer on tap, including quite a number of local beers. They have a great outdoor area!
Rooftop at Vendue / Rooftop at Stars – These two restaurants have amazing rooftop patios. Soak in the sunshine while you enjoy a cocktail. The beauty of Charleston is that you can be outside all-year round.
Circe’s Grotto – Good sandwiches! The turkey melt is amazing and I’ve heard great things about their breakfast burrito. Crazy coincidence: they also have a location in Scituate, Massachusetts.
Fuel – Good brunch. They have bocce!
Park Café – Delicious avocado toast and other breakfast items. It is a small interior but a great place for morning date. Plus, their wall of plants is just so refreshing.
Five Loaves Cafe – One of the best meals in Charleston, in my opinion. They are known for their chicken parmesan, but I am a big fan of their veggie burger and kale salad. I don’t think you can go wrong at Five Loaves!
The Ordinary – Seafood towers galore! They also serve up amazing soup.
Xiao Bao Biscuit – Housed in an old gas station, XBB is one of the coolest spots. The Asian fusion restaurant serves up delicious rice and salad bowls. If you go, be sure to get their Japanese cabbage pancake. It’s what they are known for and you’ll see one (if not more) on every table.
Black Tap Coffee – Great coffee spot for pour over coffee and lattes. My personal favorite is the brown sugar latte – so good. They also serve pastries and have great light. Hello, window seat.
Leon’s Fine Poultry and Oysters – Delicious fried chicken and fried oyster sandwiches. They only have one item for dessert – soft serve ice cream! It’s a must. Leon’s also owns St. Alban, which is just down the street. St. Alban has amazing snacks (try the ricotta & tomato toast) and coffee. Matt’s friend, Ari Kolender is the executive chef at Leon’s and St. Alban and is a semifinalist for the “outstanding newcomer” James Beard award.
Shelter – This restaurant is in Mount Pleasant (you’ll need a car) has a great brunch with live music.
Warehouse – Great neighborhood bar. They have great salads, too.
Prohibition – The place to go to dance!
Bin 152 – The sweetest wine and cheese bar owned by a French woman and her husband.
I find shopping in Charleston to be expensive, but it’s always fun to look around. King Street is the place to go – with both big name stores and unique local shops.
Candlefish – Awesome candle and gift store that you could easily spend hours in.
Worthwhile – A unique clothing store with one-of-a-kind pieces
Hampden Clothing – A Charleston staple, well-known shop that is highly curated.
Get outside and explore.
Sullivan’s Island / Folly Beach – Escape to the beach! Sullivan’s Island is a bit more rustic (and a bit further from downtown) but would be great if you want to get away from it all or go out for a nice dinner. Folly has some awesome bars and you’re bound to have a good time. Don’t forget to stroll the beach and enjoy some boiled peanuts!
Botany Bay – I’m pretty sure that Botany Bay Plantation is my heaven. On this past trip, we visited Botany Bay on Edisto Island. It is about an hour drive from Charleston but absolutely worth the trek. Edisto is gorgeous and Botany Bay is a totally untouched beach covered in trees and shells. I’ve never seen anything like it! I’m dreaming of our next trip back.
Charles Towne Landing – Spend a day outside at Charles Towne Landing. We had a wedding here once and it was magical. The most incredible trees!
Cypress Gardens – Take a kayak tour! This is where “The Notebook” was filmed among many other films.
Walk around the Battery / White Point Garden – Beautiful waterfront park with some of Charleston’s most beautiful homes.
Charleston Walking Tour – A historic tour plus all the gorgeous homes you can take! Perfect for those that love taking photos and history buffs.
Rent a bike – Charleston is great to see on bike! You’ll notice a lot of bikes on the road – so it’s a great way to explore.
Music Farm / The Pour House – If you’re in the mood to see some live music, head to one of these great venues. I love the BandsInTown app, where you can see who is playing in what town that night.
Unless you’re looking for a pure beach escape (in which case, I’d recommend staying at Sullivan’s Island or Folly Beach since you’re still just a quick drive from downtown), I’d highly recommend staying downtown where you can walk – or bike – anywhere! It is always fun to rent a car for the day if you want to explore some of the finest low country spots. Since Matt has so much family in Charleston, we’ve never stayed in a hotel, although the B&B’s look amazing and are always winning awards. I’ve heard great things about Zero George, Planters Inn, and Wentworth Mansion. I would also look into renting an apartment – this one and this one look awesome! And something for the more adventurous!
Have you been to Charleston? What are your favorite things to see, do, and eat? xo
You can check out all my past trips to Charleston here.