We love Charleston, SC for so many reasons...the history, the culture, the charm, the beautiful old homes, the shopping, the historic district, the proximity to several beaches, the tours, the food, the nightlife. There is literally something for everyone!
This is our list of the top 10 "must do" attractions when visiting Charleston.
The City Market
The City Market is one of the nation’s oldest public markets and is located in the cultural heart of Charleston. The Market is open daily 9:30am-5:30pm except for Christmas Day. Parking can be found on the street, in metered lots, and in parking garages located nearby. There are many food options located in and around the City Market.
The City Market is a combination of open-air stalls and the more permanent shops of the Great Hall. We recommend starting at one end working your way to the other so you don’t miss anything!
The Historic District
North of Broad Street is known as Charleston's Historic District. The area is filled with stately homes, hotels, restaurants, history, and shopping. This area is completely walkable. However, there are also many tour options as well (see next point!) Not to miss photos ops in this area include:
The "hat man" - Painted in 1892 (and touched up throughout the years), the image was created using 16 hats!
The view of Broad St. standing on the steps of the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeons
The Tavern at Rainbow Row - the oldest liquor store in America
Rainbow Row - named for a series of 13 colorful houses located on East Bay St.
The Battery - a landmark defensive seawall and promenade famous for the historic homes.
The homes all throughout this area are beautiful! We just really love the side porches, lush gardens, and incredible architecture found literally on every street and at every house!
Beautiful park located in the Historic District and a short walk from the City Market. Night or day, the park is typically filled with visitors. There are several fountains, including the famous Pineapple Fountain, swings on the pier, grassy areas, shaded walkways, and beautiful views of Charleston Harbor. This is a great place to begin or end your day in Charleston. There is a wonderful gelato place on Vendue Range - perfect way to stroll along the water! We love to grab a coffee and pastry then stroll the park as the city begins to wake up.
We love a good tour! We always try to take a tour in each city we visit and have found the guides to be funny, interesting, and quick-witted. We believe this is a great way to learn the history and folklore only the locals know. Whether you want to walk or ride, we have links below to our favorites.
There are several plantation tours near Charleston. We really like the Magnolia Plantation for its history and beauty. However, there are several options - each at different price points linked below. If you want to make a day of plantations, there is even a tour that visits all five!
The Forts - Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie
The two forts stand at the entrance to Charleston Harbor. Fort Sumter is located in the middle of Charleston Harbor and is only accessible by boat. Fort Moultrie is located on Sullivan's Island and is accessible by car. The National Park Service staffs both Forts and park rangers are available to answer questions and/or provide insights.
Angel Oak Tree
The Angel Oak Tree is magnificent. Estimated to be 400-500 years old, this live oak tree stands 66.5 feet tall and measures 28 feet in circumference. From tip to tip its longest branch distance is 187 feet! The Angel Oak Tree is located outside of Charleston on John's Island. Admission is free but they do ask for a donation. Cash only for donations and in the gift shop.
America's First Museum, the Charleston Museum, was founded in 1773 "to preserve and interpret the cultural and natural history of Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry." Popular exhibits include Lowcountry History, Historic Armory, Charleston in the Revolutionary Way, "City Under Siege," The Bunting Natural History Gallery, Kidstory, and Historic Textiles Gallery. The museum includes two historic landmark homes. Tickets can be purchased for 1 location, 2 locations, or all 3. The museum is open Monday - Saturday 9am-5pm and Sundays 12pm - 5pm.
Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon
The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, also known as the Custom House and The Exchange, is a historic building at East Bay and Broad Streets in Charleston. Admission includes a self-guided exhibition and a 25-minute guided tour of the Provost Dungeon. The museum is open Monday - Saturday from 9am-5pm and on Sunday from 11am-5pm, tours are every half hour.
Charleston's proximity to five beach towns allows for a morning, an afternoon, or even a full day spent to be spent at the beach. Each town has its own unique sights and style. We love Isle of Palm and Folly's Beach. Both are relatively quick car ride from Historic Charleston, have easy access to sand and and the ocean, as well as fun places to shop and eat. Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island have great golfing options.
Our Daily Itineraries:
When to Go:
In our opinion the best time to visit Charleston is March to May or September to November. The temperatures are lovely - typically 60-80 degrees – without the humidity and heat of the summer months.
Is Charleston Safe?
Yes! Charleston is considered safe for visitors. However, Charleston is a city, so we recommend taking the typical city precautions – don’t walk alone at night, park your vehicle in well-lit locations, ensure valuables are stored out of sight, be aware of your surroundings.
We recommend using a rental car. For our adventures in Charleston, we loved having a jeep wrangler. It was a treat! Parking isn’t a problem if you know where to look. A full list of parking options can be found at Parking Information. This link includes parking locations, costs, as well as amenities like security or restrooms. We found both the Waze app and Google maps to be easy to use to navigate from one destination to another.
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