Your Guide to Charleston: What to See, Eat, and Do in the Holy City

Don’t Miss These Chucktown Favorites

Cobblestone streets, palmetto trees, antebellum architecture—as the oldest and the largest city in the state of South Carolina, Charleston is as lively as it is beautiful. Enjoy Southern hospitality, centuries of history, and more when you take a trip to this coastal metropolis. 

Whether you’re staying for a while or just driving through Charleston, there are more than a few things in the city that are worth a stop. Don’t know where to start? Keep reading to find out . . . 

  • What to see — Breathtaking landmarks and city classics 
  • What to eat — Restaurants and local food 
  • What to do — Attractions and activities 

What to See in Charleston 👀

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge

Snap a Photo in Front of This Iconic Bridge

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge | Downtown // Mt. Pleasant |
Spanning two and a half miles across the Cooper River, the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge was once the longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere. Image courtesy of HDR

This magnificent suspension bridge connects Downtown Charleston to Mount Pleasant. Not only does it host eight lanes of traffic, but it also has a pedestrian walkway and bike path, Wonders’ Way. The Cooper River Bridge Run, an annual 10K,  is just one of the ways that locals enjoy the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. 

Walk, run, or ride your bike over this Charleston landmark for unrivaled views of the city, not to mention dozens of photo ops. You can also go beneath the bridge on the Charleston Water Taxi, which departs hourly from four locations (Waterfront Park, the Maritime Center, Patriots Point, and Charleston Harbor Resort). 

“If you have some extra time while in Charleston visit the bridge. You can walk over it and have great views of Charleston. Also offers the opportunity for great photos. I would recommend a visit during sunrise or sunset if you are looking for great photos.” -Brian D. on TripAdvisor

Joe Riley Waterfront Park 

Take a Stroll Around the Pineapple Fountain and Soak Up Some Charleston Sunshine

Vendue Range, Concord Street | French Quarter | 
Named after beloved Charleston mayor Joe Riley, Waterfront Park provides visitors with a scenic view of the harbor and free Wi-Fi. Image courtesy of the Post and Courier

Charleston’s French Quarter is packed with sights and attractions like the Charleston City Market, City Hall, The Pink House, and, of course, Waterfront Park. This delightful public space is a favorite of tourists and locals alike, and its cherished Pineapple Fountain is one of the most photographed sites in the city. 

Whether you’re there for a romantic date or a family picnic, Waterfront Park is the perfect place to sit down and take in all of the charisma of Charleston. Open sunrise to sunset, the park is a free attraction and a great way to enjoy the balmy Charleston climate. Make sure to come back at night to check out the fountain—it lights up!

“Conveniently located, this is a nice place in which to take a leisurely walk or sit on a bench and relax. It was fairly empty early in the morning and I was able to take a picture of the pineapple fountain without anyone in sight (unlike when we returned in the afternoon).” -Cheryl L. on TripAdvisor.

Angel Oak Tree

See This Legendary Tree, No Admission Required

3688 Angel Oak Road | Johns Island |
Angel Oak Tree and its accompanying park host over 40,000 visitors every year. Image courtesy of Charleston, SC

Standing at a height of 65 feet with a circumference of 25.5 feet, Angel Oak Tree is a majestic sight that you only have to go a little outside of the city to see. The tree is estimated to be a minimum of 300 years old and shades over 17,000 square feet with its massive canopy. 

See Mother Nature in all her magnificence when you take a slight detour to Johns Island to visit Angel Oak Tree. Considered to be the largest living tree east of the Mississippi, this enormous angel oak will renew your sense of wonder and awe. Admission is free to the public, but donations to maintain the park and preserve the tree are graciously accepted by the City of Charleston. 

“Just a little touch of heaven. The history that lives here—the love shown by everyone who visits this tree was amazing. Pictures can not explain what you feel when you are near this tree. Pure love.” -Shaya C. on TripAdvisor. 

What to Eat in Charleston 🍴

Breizh ‘Pan Crêpes

Authentic French Crêpes? Bien Sûr, S’il Vous Plaît! 

39 George Street | Downtown |
Open from 8 am to 2:30 pm every day except Sunday, this crêpe cafe in Downtown Charleston is run by two chefs who are husband and wife. Image courtesy of @emily_thompsonn on Instagram

If you’re looking for a place for breakfast or brunch, Breizh ‘Pan Crêpes is sure to help you start the day right. With sweet and savory crêpes, omelets, tartines, and croissants, this French cafe has a menu that won’t disappoint and a trendy atmosphere that might make you forget that you’re in Charleston, not France. 

The French influence in Charleston can be seen throughout the city (but especially so in the French Quarter!). While the Huguenot refugees might not have been munching on crêpes, the cultural significance of Breizh ‘Pan Crêpes extends far beyond the thin pancakes. 

“Authentic French! These crepes were the absolute best—Perfectly cooked and amazing flavors! I would recommend this place to anyone who travels to Charleston.” -Tyler C. on TripAdvisor

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167 Raw

Some of the City’s Best Seafood

289 E. Bay Street | The Boroughs |
This oyster bar is known for its lobster rolls, fish tacos, and, of course, its fresh oysters. Image courtesy of @lenaantaramian on Instagram

As a port city, Charleston is famous for its seafood, and 167 Raw is one of the best places to get it—especially if you like raw oysters, clams, and shellfish. Because it doesn’t take reservations, customers will literally line up down the block to get their hands on 167 Raw’s flavorful fish. 

This small but famed seafood restaurant is one you won’t forget: Enjoy local drafts and red, white, and rose wines along with your meal, and wrap it all up with some homemade key lime pie for dessert. 

“Terrific small restaurant close to the Market Pavilion Hotel featuring fresh, delicious seafood. My wife enjoyed a pastrami-flavored swordfish sandwich that she raved about. I had a shrimp po’boy that was easily the best I’ve ever had. Problem is, the word’s out, so expect a one hour wait, unless you get there very early, 11 am for lunch. But trust me, it’s well worth it.” -Joseph T. on TripAdvisor

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Bertha’s Kitchen

Homestyle Southern Soul Food 

2332 Meeting Street Road | North Charleston |
Bertha’s Kitchen’s blue house-like exterior is almost as famous (and loved) as its food—almost. Image courtesy of the Post and Courier

You can’t leave Charleston without digging into a hearty serving of soul food, and Bertha’s Kitchen is definitely the place to do it. Owned and run by women, Bertha’s Kitchen is a southern institution that revered far and wide—it was recently named an American classic by the James Beard Foundation. 

Even though it opened in 1981, Bertha’s Kitchen hasn’t changed much, which is part of the reason that locals adore it so much. Well, that and its affordable prices—and, of course, the food. (Fried chicken and fried pork chops are staples at Bertha’s Kitchen, as are lima beans and bread pudding!)

“Heard about this place from locals and wouldn't have found it otherwise. Totally lived up to the hype. The fish and grits were amazing and the sides . . . tried ALL of them. All were fantastic. Seek this place out! Service was great, too. Counter service with a few tables upstairs and downstairs. All of the employees were friendly.” -Dana C. on TripAdvisor

What to Do in Charleston 💥

The Old Slave Mart Museum

A Sobering Piece of History

6 Chalmers Street | French Quarter |
This property in the French Quarter of Downtown Charleston is the only remaining known place where slaves were sold in South Carolina during the pre-Civil-War era. Image courtesy of the Post and Courier

With a history that dates back to 1670, Charleston has far more than one story to tell—unfortunately, not all of those stories are good. Once the slave trade capital of the country, Charleston has deep roots in American slavery, and the Old Slave Mart Museum was one of the first places to address it. 

The Old Slave Mart Museum is packed with information and commemorates the hardships of America’s past. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, this stop on your journey through Charleston will change the way you look at the city—and, for that matter, the country. 

“This was fascinating and a well-compiled history of slavery and its impact. As a ‘northerner,’ we don't have access to this sort of museum, and I found it very eye opening and worthwhile. It is not an easy topic, but a very important one to understand.” -Betsy H. on TripAdvisor

Folly Beach 

Take a Break from the City with a Day at the Beach

101 E. Arctic Avenue | Folly Beach |
From boardwalk eats and shopping to surfing, fishing, and paddleboarding, Folly Beach is a spectacular sandy getaway. Image courtesy of Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. 

Only around a half-hour drive from Charleston, Folly Beach gives Charleston visitors a chance to get out of the city and into the sand. The closest beach to Downtown Charleston, this fun-filled paradise is a hotspot that you don’t want to miss. 

Take a walk down the pier, make your way to the historic Morris Island Lighthouse, hit Happy Hour at sunset, and do so much more when you take a trip to what’s known as “The Edge of America.” 

“What a great beach! Wide, clean, easy access—everything you want. Plenty to do on the beach, and then plenty of places to grab a bite within a couple of blocks of the beach.” -Jon S. on TripAdvisor

Pounce Cat Cafe + Wine Bar

Sip Coffee, Wine, or Beer with Some Furry (Adoptable) Friends

283 Meeting Street | Downtown |
Two friends and self-professed “crazy cat ladies” teamed up with the Charleston Animal Society to create this cozy cafe that’s crawling with felines who are up for adoption. Image courtesy of Charleston City Paper

For $15 a person, you can enjoy the company of dozens of kitties at Charleston’s only cat cafe. This downtown novelty hangout is a must-do activity for any animal lover, and the best part is that it’s for a great cause—Pounce has one of the highest adoption rates in the country

So, how does it work? Well, first, you book a reservation online (this is so the cats don’t get overwhelmed by too many visitors at once). Then, you show up to Pounce five minutes before your reservation time and grab your complimentary drink from the bar (one glass of house wine or craft beer or bottomless coffee, tea, lemonade, or soda)—then you’re free to enjoy your hour with the cats! 

“I have been here a few times now, most recently for a fun bingo event. I love this place. The staff is so friendly. The cats are well cared for and loved. The selection at the bar and gift shop is excellent. It is such a fun, cozy environment. Will be back again soon! If you are in town, make sure to stop by for a visit!” -Duncan B. on TripAdvisor

Experience the Charm of Chucktown for Yourself

There’s no shortage of things to see, eat, and do in Charlestown, and you’re sure to fall in love with the city’s remarkable blend of past and present. With hot and humid summers, the best times of the year to visit Charleston is during the spring from March to May and during the fall from September to November. These are also, however, the times that the city is most crowded, so keep that in mind when planning your trip!

Albion Skeldon

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