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Top 10 Things to Do in Charleston

by Travelbag on 04 March 2019, 09:03AM

Charleston, USA

America’s Deep South is peppered with historic cities, but Charleston is the jewel in the crown. This beautiful spot in South Carolina was named ‘Best City in the USA’ by Travel + Leisure magazine  for the sixth year running, beating Southern favourites Nashville and New Orleans. It even pipped New York and San Francisco to the post.

So, what’s all the fuss about? For starters, Charleston’s colonial streets ooze Gone with the Wind charm. Think boutique shops, grand houses – complete with giant porches and ornate balconies – and cobbled lanes. It’s hardly surprising that Charleston is a firm Hollywood favourite, featuring in blockbusters like Cold Mountain and The Notebook. To top it all off, this good looking city is a real haven for foodies. Get ready to tuck in to traditional Lowcountry dishes, and sip bespoke cocktails on a rooftop bar. Tempted? Read our tips on the top 10 things to do in Charleston.

 

1. See the colours of Rainbow Row

The affectionately-nicknamed ‘Rainbow Row’ is a must-see. Made up of 13 pastel-coloured houses on East Bay Street, this historic stretch shows 18th-century architecture at its best. There are several theories as to why the houses themselves are so colourful. One is that the walls were brightly painted to help drunken sailors find their way home, while others think that the contrasting shades were used for different trades.

Rainbow Row, Charleston

2. Buy local products at Charleston City Market

As the most popular attraction, Charleston City Market should definitely be on your list. It’s one of the oldest public markets in the whole of America – and it’s one of the best for local products. The entire market has a proud made-in-Charleston vibe, and you’ll see little seals of approval on most of the goods, proving their authenticity. You could easily spend an entire day browsing the 300 stalls. Or, why not drop by on Friday or Saturday evening and explore the night market?

 

3. Go for rooftop drinks at The Vendue

This warehouse-turned-hotel is dedicated to the arts. Naturally, the interiors are beautiful – but the rooftop bar is the real highlight. With sweeping views, it’s the perfect spot to admire Charleston’s church-dotted skyline. You can’t reserve a table, so it’s best to arrive early. Pull up a chair for lunch in the sunshine, or go for pre-dinner drinks – happy hour runs 4-7pm Monday to Thursday.

 

4. Enjoy Southern hospitality – and cuisine

Hailed as “America’s friendliest city”, Charleston prides itself on its Southern hospitality. You can expect to find welcoming bars, chilled-out porches and world-renowned chefs. Dining options range from traditional restaurants serving Southern fare – including the classic dish of shrimp ‘n’ grits – to laidback eateries cooking up crispy fried chicken.

Southern fried chicken

5. Book a horse and carriage tour

What better way to see Charleston’s impressive mansions and manicured lawns, than by horse and carriage? You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you gently trot past the city’s churches and parks. Your guide will be able to teach you a lot about Charleston’s history, too. You can opt for a general tour, or book a tour focussed on the American Civil War or the civil rights movement.

 

6. Browse the antique shops on King Street

If you love a trinket, spend an afternoon searching for treasure on King Street. This is the best collection of antique shops in South Carolina, filled with everything from jewellery to furniture.

 

7. Visit a plantation 

It’s estimated that around 40% of America’s African slaves came in to the country through Charleston Harbour – and the city doesn’t shy away from its history. There are several ex-plantations nearby, giving you a glimpse into the past. Tours provide insight into the lives of both the plantation workers and owners. Magnolia Plantation is the most popular one, but Boone Hall Plantation is hands-down the most photogenic. The house has starred in several films – and, with its oak-lined driveway and grand pillars, it’s easy to see why.

Plantation driveway

8. Catch a show at Dock Street Theatre

Completed in 1736, Dock Street Theatre was the USA’s first theatre. Having just about survived fires, wars and hurricanes, this ancient theatre was completely renovated in 2010 and is now good as new. Why not grab tickets to an evening show, and soak up the atmosphere?

 

9. Stroll along Broad Street

Cutting through the heart of city, Broad Street offers a snapshot of Charleston life. It’s the real business hub, with everything from law firms and banks, to boutiques and independent cafés – each with a cute shopfront. You’ll also find whitewashed St Michael’s Church here, which is the oldest in Charleston. Believe it or not, there are more than 400 churches in Charleston – hence it’s nicknamed “the Holy City”.

 

10. Hit the beach

Or, beaches – Charleston actually has five beach towns. Folly Beach is our pick of the bunch. Close to downtown Charleston, this family-friendly stretch has a stunning pier, rolling sands and great surfing. Alternatively, head to Seabrook Island for a spot of horse riding, or choose Kiawah Island for unspoilt natural beauty. Isle of Palms is famed for its fishing and golf, while Sullivan’s Island is the best place for water sports. Whatever you’re into, Charleston has a beach for you.

Folly Beach, Charleston

Be charmed by South Carolina with our holidays to Charleston. Or, explore further with our exciting tours through the Deep South.


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