“There is no city on Earth quite like Charleston. From the time I first came there in 1961, it’s held me in its enchanter’s power, the wordless articulation of its singularity, its withheld and magical beauty. Wandering through its streets can be dreamlike and otherworldly, its alleyways and shortcuts both fragrant and mysterious, yet as haunted as time turned in on itself.”
― Pat Conroy
My God, do I love Charleston, South Carolina. The pride that its residents take in the city is unlike anything I've ever seen. Every home is immaculate, each walkway is charming. The buildings are colorful and the greenery is lush. It's impossible to not be drawn in by the loveliness of Charleston, with its impressive streets and welcoming inhabitants. It was, after all, just named the 2016 Friendliest City in the World by Conde Nast.
Apart from the allure of its people, Charleston appeals in its abundant history, stunning architecture, rich culinary scene, and easy walkability. There is so much for anyone to do in this tiny city. I've broken out recommendations on how to best enjoy Charleston into four categories: Eat, Walk, Drink, and Shop. See further suggestions for each below.
Charleston has an amazing farm-to-table restaurant presence. So many of the restaurants boast locally-source produce, meat, and fish, and you can taste the freshness in every bite. From upscale restaurants to no-frills dining holes to everything in between, Charleston has it all.
- Husk is my number one recommendation. The restaurant, in a beautiful old home on Queen Street, does not disappoint. The ambiance, service, food, and cocktails are out of this world. It's pricey, but worth it. Order the fried chicken skins and the pig ears. That might sound gross, but trust me, they're glorious. Just do it.
- Leon's Fine Poultry and Oysters is home to the best fried chicken I've ever had. The oysters aren't half bad, either (they're fantastic). Leon's is on the outskirts of town, but well worth the trek (just hop in an Uber from your downtown spot). I'm pretty sure it was built out of an old garage, and the decor of the place couldn't be cooler. The prices are friendly, too.
- Edmund's Oast is also slightly outside of town, but with its new outdoor seating area, extensive craft beer selection, and inventive menu, the location just doesn't even matter. Our meal here was outstanding. The cornbread (ohmyguh I want more of that cornbread), charcuterie board, pickled shrimp, burger, and, well, everything was delicious.
- Other recommendations are 167 Raw, Magnolias, Slightly North of Broad, The Ordinary, Lowcountry Bistro, and Rarebit.
- The residential neighborhoods of Charleston hold my favorite walking grounds in the entire country. You can feel the history in these streets. It wraps around you like the Spanish moss that entangles the branches above your head. I always like to take King Street south of Broad Street, walk a block or two away from the water, and then zigzag through the side streets and alleyways. I prefer to walk the neighborhoods in the morning, around 9:00, just as the city starts to wake up. There's nothing like taking your time to marvel at the beautiful, centuries-old architecture and the vibrant green gardens that everybody seems to have.
- King Street is home to all of the best shopping (more about that later), and every storefront is pristine. The street is delicate, sprinkled with cobblestones, and offers lots of places to pop into for a quick burst of air conditioning. Take it north and it will lead you right to Marion Square, which holds a great farmers market every Saturday morning from April through November.
- East Bay Street is lined with impressive mansions on one side and the harbor on the other. You'll get spanning views of the water, beautiful homes, and horse-drawn carriages. There's an elevated walking path along the water that will take you to Waterfront Park if you keep heading north.
- Broad Street boasts big, colorful buildings and churches. It's a great connector street, too, as it intersects with major streets like Meeting and King, and can also take you to the waterfront. After reading Pat Conroy's South of Broad (a great read), Broad Street has held a special place in my heart.
- City Lights Coffee is a delightful little coffee house that my husband and I stumbled upon years ago. It's tiny, always has wonderful music, and the staff is so pleasant (would you expect anything less in Charleston?). Right on Market Street off of Meeting Street, City Lights is a great place to duck into for an iced dirty chai when you're walking around.
- 5Church - holy hipster! I mean, what's more hip than a bar in a church, and an impressive church at that? Owned by tattoo artists, the decor is creative and fun, and the drink menu isn't too shabby, either. 5Church is also a restaurant, but we only stopped in for drinks, so I can't speak for the food.
- The Griffon is a divey hole in the wall with a good drink selection and dart board. All surfaces, except for the bar, tables, and chairs, are covered in $1 bills. This little pub is located right off of Waterfront Park on Vendue Range and is the perfect place to pop into for a beer.
- Other recommendations are to take advantage of Charleston's abundance of rooftop bars and bustling brewery scene.
- King Street, as mentioned above, is one of my favorite walking paths in the city. It also just so happens to be home to some of the best shopping, too. You'll find high-end stores (your Louis Vuittons, etc.), big-name brands (like Banana Republic), and tiny boutiques alike. My husband always likes to stop into M. Dumas & Sons for their Southern Tide collection, and I just like to stop in on anywhere that has air conditioning.
- The Charleston Farmers Market is a great place to pick up some local-grown goods. Their food stalls and juice shops offer good eats and refreshing drinks, both of which are always needed when in Charleston. The market is open on Saturdays from 8-2 between April and November. If you're renting an AirBnB in the area, grab some fresh ingredients here to make a beautiful home-cooked southern meal!
Well, other than a few more shots of Charleston below, that's it for now! I hope you get to visit Charleston soon, and I hope this post helps!