Charleston, South Carolina is a city like no other. Located in the heart of the South, Charleston is home to picturesque cobblestone streets, stately pastel mansions, and horse drawn carriages. Entering the city, I felt like I had emerged from a time machine, peering into a world of centuries past. If you’re looking for a destination that’s a “pinch me, is this even real” kind of amazing, then look no further, Charleston is it! Explore the top attractions in Charleston, South Carolina; whether you only have a few days or a whole week, the heart of Lowcountry has something to offer everyone.
1 | South of Broad
Many visitors say you can’t leave Charleston without seeing the houses South of Broad. East Bay Street, home to “Rainbow Row” may have been my favorite to photograph, but all of the houses have such beautiful detail. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore the old cobblestone streets and daydream about your future #housegoals. To learn some of the historical secrets behind Charleston, check out this Historical Walking Tour!
If you’re not up for tripping through cobblestone streets, a Horse and Carriage Sightseeing Tour might be your answer. You still get to see the city, and from the comfort of a carriage. I’m not sure you can get more southern than that!
2 | Pineapple fountain at Waterfront Park
Head over to Charleston’s popular Waterfront Park and visit the iconic Pineapple Fountain. Make a wish, and enjoy the views! Don’t be surprised if you see some kids jump in during the summer! Honestly, it was so steamy when I was there, I had to exercise all of my adult restraint not to hop in and join them! (If I weren’t wearing a nice dress, I would have been there in a second.)
3 | Shop King Street
Looking for fine dining, antiques, or high end shopping? Look no further than King Street in downtown Charleston. King Street is home to some serious fashion, and is definitely one of the top attractions in Charleston, South Carolina. All that shopping can work up an appetite for some good old southern cooking, so pencil in a Food Tour through Charleston!
4 | Shem Creek
Take a break from downtown, and head over to Shem Creek Bar & Grill. Enjoy views of the creek, home to shrimping boats and trawlers, while chowing down on some of the freshest seafood around.
5 | Angel Oak Tree
Angel Oak Tree is magnificent, there’s no other way to say it. It’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 years old and 65 feet tall. Honestly, the pictures don’t do it justice—this is something you just need to see in person. Bring a book, and chill for the afternoon.
6 | The Battery
This stretch of Southern style mansions cannot be missed. Overlooking Charleston Harbor, the views can’t be beat! I couldn’t help but love the little touches of Southern everywhere. By the end of my trip, I’m pretty sure the words “y’all” and “bless your heart” popped up a lot more in my vocabulary. This is definitely one of the must-see attractions in Charleston, SC.
If you’re up for it, take a Harbor Cruise of Charleston, and take in these views from the water!
You can find the historic Dock Street Theatre in the French Quarter section of downtown Charleston. The original theatre likely burned down in a fire in the mid-18th century, so the building you see there now was built in the early 1800s. It’s an iconic Charleston site, and the architecture is truly unique.
8 | Isle of Palms
I don’t know about you, but I can only handle so much history before I go crazy. Spend a day on the Isle of Palms, and take advantage of the laid back beach life.
9 | Bike the Beach
If you have the time, rent a bike and bike the beach. Early morning is ideal; it’s amazing to cruise down the beach and take in the sights with just the sound of the waves for company (or your mother, as I did here).
Exercise on vacation, you ask? Yes, but it’s totally worth it…you get gorgeous views like the pier below.
10 | Firefly Distillery
Firefly is located on Wadmalaw Island, and is home to some seriously strong drinks. I’m not kidding – do a tasting tour at your own risk. They’ll give you shots on shots of sweet tea vodka, Sweet Tea Lemonade (with vodka), and plenty of other things I was too tipsy to notice…
11 | Charleston City Market
This 200 year old market gives a glimpse into the life of the Old South. Some might call it a tourist trap (it is), but it’s worth a visit. They still sell the traditional South Carolina sweetgrass baskets and feature the same sense of chaos present through decades past. Fortunately, the market now has AC, and is a great spot to spend some time on a toasty summer afternoon.
12 | Cross the Ravenel Bridge
The Ravenel Bridge is one of the most recognizable attractions in Charleston, South Carolina. Walk or bike over it (or drive for the lazy folks like myself). That’s about it—cool site, but you can only do so much on a bridge.
13 | Trolley Ride to Tea Plantation
Another really unique thing to do in the area is take a trolley to Charleston Tea Plantation. The name is kind of a lie since the plantation is really on Wadmalaw Island, but don’t let it deter you. Take a trolley through the heart of Lowcountry, and learn how tea is harvested and made in the present day. I’m a huge tea lover, and enjoyed learning about the process!
14 | Nap on the Beach at Sullivan’s Island
Sullivan’s Island is only a few miles long, but boasts laid back beaches, cute little boutiques, and of course, a colorful South Carolina history. Rent a car and drive out to explore for a day. If you’re looking to stay out of the city, Sullivan’s Island is also a great alternative to the downtown B&Bs. I’ve never been mad to wake up to a fresh sea breeze.
15 | Sunset
Last but not least, I don’t think any trip is complete without a sunset. It’s important to slow down, reflect on your day, and just appreciate the natural beauty of South Carolina.
Where to Stay in Charleston: I’m still swooning over the gorgeous boutique hotels in Charleston. A couple good options for boutique hotels are The Spectator Hotel and the Dewberry. Both have beautiful decor and a great location. Another popular option, especially if you opt to stay out in Isle of Palms is to rent an Airbnb. Use my link for savings on your first stay! Since I was out at the beach and wanted a relatively quiet area, that was my preference for this week. However, if you’re just doing a weekend in Charleston, I’d recommend staying downtown!
Getting Around Charleston: For rental car deals, my go to is CarRentals.com. If you’re only planning to stay in the city, it’s not totally necessary. However, you’ll need one to get out to the beaches and enjoy the beautiful sunsets!
Tell me—have you visited Charleston, South Carolina and loved it as much as me? If not, what’s your favorite southern city? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I might make a little extra spending money, at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own and these products/services have been found useful during our travels and come highly recommended to you from yours truly!