Charleston is one of those historic U.S. cities that had been on my bucket list for a looooong time. It’s an iconic city, whose history and preservation efforts are just as present as its modernity and culture.  There’s something about cities with cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages that give me an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, it’s a city that I had high expectations for and thankfully it did not disappoint. Charleston is a port city that was founded in 1670, dotted with pastel antebellum houses, and a few years ago was rated the #1 city in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine. This year (2017), it was rated the #1 city in the U.S. and #2 in the World by the readers of Travel + Leisure magazine, and it’s no wonder.  If you’re planning on going to Charleston soon, This Charleston City Guide should give you some ideas of what all you can see, eat, and do while you’re there.

Where to Stay in Charleston

Belmond Charleston Place: It’s little surprise Belmond Charleston Place is known as Charleston’s grand ambassador, welcoming friends and guests alike with a gentility that transcends the hotel’s newly renovated guest rooms and suites, award-winning restaurants and world-renowned rooftop spa. This grande dame is located at the very heart of Charleston — mere steps from the famous historic market, antebellum homes and James Beard-awarded restaurants.  Book your stay at the Belmond Charleston Place through me and receive VIP amenities like

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Full Breakfast daily for up to 2 in-room guests, served in restaurant
  • $100 USD Equivalent Food & Beverage credit, to be utilized during stay
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

Premiere King Balcony room, photo credit Virtuoso website

Zero George Hotel: This southern chic boutique hotel is made up of sixteen beautiful guest rooms and studios in three restored historic residences and two brick carriage houses that surround a private garden courtyard oasis.  The Zero George Hotel has one of the best restaurants in Charleston, and when we book your stay at this gorgeous hotel you’ll enjoy the following amenities:

  • Daily continental European breakfast
  • WiFi
  • Bicycles available
  • Evening wine and cheese pairing
  • 24 hour Miele coffee center
  • turn-down service
  • Wall Street Journal; New York Times (print and online)

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

The beautiful Zero George as seen from the interior courtyard. Photo credit: Zero George Hotel

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

Checking out Zero George Hotel

The Dewberry Charleston: I love the location of this hotel, and the historic federal building that it’s located in.  This hotel has one of the best hotel bars in the city with a rooftop option with refreshing cocktails and beautiful views.  This is a great option for couples or or girls’ or guys’ getaways. Lowe Luxury Travel clients also receiving the following perks

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily breakfast credit of $30 per guest (max 2 guests per bedroom)
  • Guests may choose one of the below amenities (please advise of selection at time of booking):
    • Complimentary round-trip private airport transfers from Charleston International Airport
    • OR Complimentary valet parking for duration of stay.
  • Early Check-In / Late Check-Out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Charleston City Guide | Lowe Luxury Travel

Superior King Room

Hotel Bennett: Located on the historic Marion Square, Hotel Bennett boasts a great location and stunning interiors, not to mention a much-coveted rooftop pool and incredible views. They also have a wonderful King’s Club that offers guests staying in the King Club rooms exclusive VIP treatments, including dedicated concierge service and food and beverages presented throughout the day by the chef de cuisine. Lowe Luxury Travel clients staying here will also enjoy the following VIP amenities

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Breakfast Credit ($30 per person up to two guests, per bedroom) daily served in the restaurant
  • $100 USD equivalent Resort/Hotel credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Early check-in/Late check-out, subject to availability

Charleston City Guide | Lowe Luxury Travel | Hotel Bennett

Hotel Bennett Deluxe King

The Beach Club At Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina: If you’re wanting to stay on the beach or close to the water, then the Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina is a fantastic option, especially if you have kids with you. The resort offers lush accommodations, an expansive list of amenities and activities, and a prime waterfront location. Book through me and you’ll receive

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Plated Continental Breakfast for two daily for duration of the stay
  • $100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Welcome amenity
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

Guest room photo credit The Beach Club At Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

Resort Pool Photo credit The Beach Club At Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina

What to See and Do in Charleston

Rent bikes and ride around the Battery, Waterfront Park, and admire the homes: Charleston is a small city, and a great way to get a good feel for its sights and sounds is on bike.  Unfortunately they don’t have bike lanes yet, but if you’re riding around the historic district traffic is slow enough (thanks to some of the horse carriages and people sightseeing) that you’re ok if you’re careful along the streets. You can ride your bike through the Battery (southernmost neighborhood along the water front) to Waterfront Park. Waterfront Park is a 10-acre park that initially was developed as a naval base in 1901.  The park has views of the Cooper River, an amphitheater, walkways, a fountain, and fishing pier. Ride your bike along the water and up East Bay Street to check out Rainbow Row, a series of 14 iconic pastel colonial-era homes. These homes were built between 1740 and 1790, many in the Federal brick style.

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

Museums: To get an idea of what antebellum life was like, check out the Aiken-Rhett House. The Charleston museum explores the cultural and natural history of the Low country from prehistoric times to the present, and includes artifacts like George Washington’s christening cup. The Confederate Museum includes a vast collection of Civil War weaponry (it has tons of swords) and the white handkerchief used by Charleston to surrender to the Union. The museum is operated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  Heyward-Washington House was built by wealthy planter Daniel Heyward in the late 1700s, and his son, Thomas, was a member of the first Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Fun fact: President George Washington stayed at the home during a tour of the 13 colonies in 1791. The Old Slave Mart Museum is the first African-American museum. The museum is housed in what was once a large auction complex where slaves were sold from 1856 to 1863. Here you’ll find documents, artifacts, photographs, and more information that shed light on the horrors of the trans-Atlantic and domestic slave trade in Charleston.

Plantations: There are countless plantations worth checking out in the area.  Some of the more notable ones are Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens, and Magnolia Plantation.  Boone Hall dates back to 1681 and has a beautiful avenue of Live Oaks that dates back nearly three centuries. Here you’ll be able to tour the Georgian-style mansion, gin house and slave cabins that house exhibits on the African-American experience. There are also beautiful gardens and a butterfly pavilion on-site. Make sure to also check out Boone Hall Farms to sample market-fresh local produce, wines, cheeses and other specialty items.  Magnolia Plantation has some of the most impressive gardens I’ve ever seen. The gardens are more than 300 years old, and the plantation also has a petting zoo, and a cypress and tupelo swamp. Middleton Place is another famous rice plantation that has beautiful english gardens, and you can enjoy watching costumed craftspeople demonstrate blacksmithing and weaving. Go hungry, as the plantation’s restaurant serves delicious Low country fare. 

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

Walking through the gardens of Magnolia Plantation

South Carolina Aquarium: If you love aquariums, this one is worth checking out.  It has more than 60 exhibits about South Carolina’s aquatic habitats, and has one of the tallest aquarium windows in North America. Don’t miss the large touch tank, where you can touch sea urchins, hermit crabs and stingrays.

Fort Sumter: Fort Sumter is the island fort that was fired upon by the he Confederate States of America in 1861, which marked the start of the Civil War. To get there, board a boat at Fort Sumter Tours from Liberty Square, located next to the South Carolina Aquarium, or from Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant.

Sullivan’s’ Island: You can get to Sullivan’s Island by taking a short 25 minute drive from Charleston through Mount Pleasant. It’s the entrance to Charleston Harbor, and is historically significant because it;s where the first slaves were brought. Other beaches worth checking out are the Isle of Palms, Edisto Beach State Park, and gated Kiawah Island has public beach access at Beachwalker Park. The rest of the island is made up of private residences and resorts.

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

Views of the Ravenel bridge from Sullivan’s Island

Check out Old City Market: This market is over 200 years old, and is made up of a covered-stall area with artisans selling crafts, jewelry, clothes, food items, estate silver, novelty items and sweetgrass baskets. Surrounding the stalls are tons of other shops, including State Street Market and Rainbow Market, which are in two buildings dating to the 1800s. Make sure to enjoy some delicious ice cream or home-made fudge, and enjoy samples that are found within the market.

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

Enjoying strawberry ice cream while checking out City Market

Where to Eat in Charleston

Oh gosh, where do I begin? You can’t think of Charleston food without thinking of Sean Brock, who helped put Charleston on the map as a foodie city.  He has a few restaurants (Husk, McCrady’s) that I absolutely recommend trying out, below is the list in no particular order, you can’t go wrong with any of these places (make sure to check out the map below so you can see where they’re all located). Because Charleston has had a boom in tourism, I highly recommend making reservations far in advance if you can.

  • Fig
  • Husk

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

Fried chicken at Husk

  • Poogan’s Porch
  • Slightly North of Broad Restaurant
  • 167 Raw
  • Darling Oyster Bar

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

  • Edmund’s Oast
  • The Ordinary
  • Leon’s
  • Zero Restaurant + Bar

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

One of the many dishes at Zero Restaurant + Bar

  • Trattoria Lucca
  • Indaco
  • Chez Nous
  • Hominy Grill (southern comfort food)

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

Shrimp n grits, fried green tomatoes, and snapper dish at Hominy Grill

  • The Park Cafe
  • Pearlz Oyster Bar
  • The Obstinate Daughter

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

Brunch at Obstinate Daughter on Sullivan’s Island

  • Lewis Barbecue
  • Pancito and Lefty
  • Rappahannock Oyster Bar
  • Ice cream from Jeni’s on King Street

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

Strawberry on top, goat cheese with sour cherries on the bottom

  • Stella’s
  • Le Farfalle
  • McCrady’s Tavern
  • McCrady’s

Charleston City Guide | The Hungry Chronicles

One of the many dishes from dinner at McCrady’s

Let me know what you think of this Charleston City Guide, and make sure to let me know what some of your go-to places are on my Charleston Instagram post.  When in Charleston, you can refer to the map I’ve created below, complete with pins on some of the best hotels to check out, restaurants, bars, and places for sightseeing and picture taking.  As always, I’m more than happy to help plan your trip to Charleston and will be happy to help make it an incredibly memorable one.