To narrow down Charleston, South Carolina, to a handful of must-dos seems impossible, as one could spend weeks here and still not experience its bounty of incredible restaurants, chic wine bars, glamorous hotels, inspiring museums, splendid gardens and more. The Holy City celebrated its 350th birthday in 2020, yet travel writer Kelsey Ogletree says it’s never felt fresher. Part of the appeal is the rich history behind every place you visit here, and the locals are more than happy to share stories — so ask away!
Make this sleek and sexy boutique property your home base for exploring downtown. Peruse local goods in the lobby’s Keep Shop, kick back with a Negroni in the courtyard or take the house Mini Cooper out for a spin.
Known as Charleston’s art hotel, this boutique property in the French Quarter offers an immersive, artful experience. Housed in a collection of historic warehouses dating as far back as the 1780s, each space is decked out in pieces from emerging artists, the majority of which are available for sale. The rooms are plush and elegant, and the hotel’s rooftop bar boasts 360º views of the Holy City.
European-style boards listing each farm the kitchen’s sourced from that day reflect the true farm-to-table philosophy at this cozy, Parisian-inspired restaurant and bar on the ground floor of the historic Post House inn.
You’ll know it by the small crowd gathered around this tiny King Street spot. Trust us: local raw oysters, oven-roasted crab dip and the city’s best lobster roll are worth the wait.
Zero George, the iconic award-winning boutique hotel recently launched The Caviar Bar, an intimate culinary experience situated on Zero Restaurant + Bar’s picturesque piazza of the restored 1800s-era building. Helmed by Executive Chef Vinson Petrillo and beverage director Megan Mina, The Caviar Bar is an approachable à la carte accompaniment to the famed Restaurant + Bar’s program. Each reservation begins with Zero’s signature caviar presentation including .5 oz of Regiis Ova caviar and accoutrements such as brioche, soft egg, lemon, potato chips, and crème fraîche.
From the Charleston pitmaster John Lewis of Rancho Barbecue comes his latest venture: the El Paso-inspired Rancho Lewis. This spot claims to have the coldest margarita in town (they’re made with Japanese milk shakers for maximum frost). All of their cocktails are tequila-based, the most famous being the Rattlesnake Milk: “tequila, white rum, egg white, with a bite!”
Pop in for the country’s most prestigious mini portrait collection, rotating exhibitions like a gallery of witchcraft drawings (through June 2021) and a diverse mix of American art.
Esteemed guide Eric Lavender of Tours By Locals will have you feeling like a Charleston expert by the time you’re through with his afternoon walking tour, resplendent with ghost stories and pirate tales. Pop into Croghan’s Jewel Box, witness all the Southern-style mansions like the Aiken-Rhett House, and get your next Instagram at the hyper-Instagrammable Rainbow Row: a street lined with colorful buildings.
This historic market in downtown Charleston was established in the 1790s and spans four city blocks. Organized in a continuous series of one-story market sheds, the market has been a place for locals to gather, socialize, and support local farmers for centuries. Now, artisans have also set up their stalls to sell their handmade goods as well.
Joe Riley Waterfront Park
This eight-mile park offers expansive park spaces, ideal for laidback strolls. As a testament to Charleston’s hospitality, the pineapple motif is woven throughout every corner of the city; the largest iteration stands in the park in the form of the glorious Pineapple Fountain, created by design firm Sasaki.