LW Guide to Charleston, South Carolina
From the notorious Southern hospitality to the charming Georgian homes, Charleston is one of those destinations that lives up to its reputation. Rich in history (it’s where the Civil War started), its old world charm is still very much in tact. Expect to find a vibrant food scene serving up classic Lowcountry cuisine — including BBQ and biscuits to freshly caught fish and fried green tomatoes. Post-dining strolls are a must to take in the picturesque sites and shop the local boutiques.
A historic building turned into a mid-century modern hotel, The Dewberry is full of style and charm, not to mention ideally located just a short walk from the city’s best shops and restaurants. We had a delectable breakfast at Henrietta’s and a decadent visit to their in-house spa. As of this year they have a rooftop bar, the Citrus Club, where you’ll find light bites, hand-crafted cocktails and ‘grammable views. Rates starting at $350US/night.
The Gibbes Museum of Art
This beautiful beaux arts building is home to over 10,000 works of fine art with many pieces having connection to either Charleston or the South. It’s a wonderful place to learn about Charleston’s history and see pieces from the key periods including the Colonial period and the Charleston Renaissance. Admission is $12US/adult (they offer a discount when ordering online). Visit gibbesmuseum.org to learn more.
It’s not a visit to Charleston without visiting the row of iconic pastel-hued Georgian houses. Found on the corner of Tradd St. and East Bay St. be sure to add this stop on your walk through the picturesque streets.
Another stop to add on your stroll around town is the Waterfront Park. Overlooking the Charleston River and the Cooper River, come here when you want to slow down your pace. You can see the famous pineapple fountain, sit under a shaded bench or head over to the boardwalk and relax on one of the porch swings.
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens are the oldest public gardens in America. The stunning 60 acres of gardens bloom year-round, so there isn’t one perfect time to visit, instead depending on the time of year you’ll see a different variety of local plants and flora. In addition to the gardens, the original plantation house is open for tours. The 30-minute tour will take you through the beautifully restored house, originally built by the Drayton family prior to the Revolutionary War. History buffs should also consider adding the award-winning “From Slavery to Freedom” tour which explores the African-American experience at the plantation from slavery to the Civil Rights movement.
Candle lovers need to visit Candlefish — a beautifully curated candle and gift shop. The highlight is their candle library that boasts over 100 candle scents from their in-house brand. It’s a tad overwhelming, but their staff can help you narrow down the fragrances you’re most drawn to. If you have time (or plan ahead!) you can book one of their candle making workshops where you can blend your own signature scent.
A beautifully curated shop with designer brands including Loeffler Randall, Ulla Johnson, Marni and Ganni, to name a few, this Vogue and Goop favourite boutique is a must visit for the fashion forward shopper. They also have a waiting lounge with TV and a fully-stocked bar, so if you’re with a shopping adverse partner, you can be certain they’ll be happy too.
Historic Charleston City Market
Open every day of the year, minus Christmas, the Historic Charleston City Market has been in operation since the early 1800s. The market spans four blocks and is home to over 300 vendors selling everything from art and jewellery to food and souvenirs like the region’s famous sweetgrass baskets. Look for the “Certified Handmade Authentic” seal if you want to go home with something that’s 100% locally made.
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
Arguably the best biscuit in town, this mom of three has found major success since opening her first little bakery in 2005. You’ll find two Charleston locations, including one in the City Market. Whatever time of day you go, expect a line, as they’re a favourite amongst tourists and locals alike. With both sweet and savoury options, you’ll find plenty to choose from (our favourites were the cinnamon and cheese & chive). Visit calliesbiscuits.com for details.
We needed to balance out the BBQ and biscuits with some lighter options, so were very excited to discover Basic Kitchen. The name is misleading as there’s nothing basic here — instead expect to find a fresh spin on and healthy, conscious food. Think local produce, whole grains and sustainably-raised meat. We also love there are plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans alike.
The Darling Oyster Bar
A visit to Lowcountry isn’t complete without dining on its most quintessential fare — seafood. What else would you expect? Charleston is oceanside. We decided on one of the prettiest in town — The Darling Oyster Bar. Aesthetics aside, the food is delicious with a standout raw bar menu (oysters a plenty). and classic Southern accompaniments like hush puppies and grits.
For the most part the main downtown of Charleston is very walkable, but for those restaurants or sights that are just a bit too far to walk (or it’s too hot), we suggest using a car service or taxi (no need to rent a car).
It’s high season in spring (March-May), but temperatures are also cooler and more comfortable than in the summer. Alternatively, fall is also a lovely time to visit (September to November).