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Plan Your Trip to Charleston: Best of Charleston Tourism

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Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston delivers small-town charm in spades, from the shady courtyards and old Victorian homes to the horse-drawn carriages and six—yes, six—gorgeous beaches. But while the classic southern backdrop is a huge draw, this coastal stunner has plenty of big city attractions. So go ahead and do the historic sites—Middleton Place, Fort Sumter National Museum, the French Quarter, to name a worthy few—but work in time for checking out the city’s contemporary side. There’s the International African American Museum, 30-plus art galleries, and a dynamic, ever-evolving food scene, serving everything from Lowcountry staples (hello, fried chicken) to modern tapas.

Travel Advice

Essential Charleston

How to do Charleston in 3 days

Picturesque scenes, carriage tours, and so much to eat
Read on

My favorite must-eats in Charleston

In the almost two decades I've called this city home, there's one thing I can say for sure: Charleston may have deep roots but its culinary scene is always evolving. From classic soul food spots to some of the best local seafood and Carolina BBQ, here's my rundown of top eats.
Jai Jones, Charleston, SC
  • Jackrabbit Filly
    18
    I always recommend to go beyond the usual tourist map. One of my favorite spots is Jackrabbit Filly, a heritage driven Chinese-American restaurant in Park Circle. Get the O.G. chirashi rice bowl for lunch, or go for dinner with friends and order the entire menu—seriously. Karaage (Japanese fried chicken) and dumplings are always a good way to start off.
  • FIG
    2,400
    This neighborhood bistro is run by Jason Stanhope, a James Beard Award-winning chef who uses locally sourced ingredients to create his menu. Don't miss the classic chicken liver pate, followed by the ricotta gnocchi alla Bolognese. And for your main, make sure to order at least one fish dish (I love the steamed snapper).
  • Rodney Scott's BBQ
    648
    The South is known for whole hog bbq, and this is a top stop for good reason. Pitmaster Rodney Scott’s team smokes entire pigs right behind the restaurant, serving pulled pork, ribs, and more to fans. My go-to order? The 2 Meat Combo with mac & cheese + collard greens. If you're coming with a group, go for the Pitmaster Combo (whole hog, pork shoulder, chicken, turkey, brisket and ribs, alongside four classic sides).
  • Chubby Fish
    85
    Chubby Fish has been a local favorite since it opened in 2018. Chef James London's focus is all about locally caught seafood. I always recommend the whole fish (usually a b-liner snapper), yellowfin tuna crudo, and oysters. Come early to put your name down for a table since they don’t take reservations.
  • Hannibal's Kitchen
    160
    Soul food is core to Charleston—and the south in general. The 40-year-old Hannibal’s may look small and unassuming, but this family-run kitchen turns out incredible dishes like pork chops and crab rice.
  • Sorelle
    70
    Sorelle opened a few months ago and was an instant hit. The multi-concept experience includes the first floor Mercado, where you can stop for a morning coffee and pastry; a main bar with a wine room tucked behind it; and a dining room, with Southern-Italian dishes like ricotta tortellini (lovingly referred to as “Pillows of Gold”).
  • Daps Breakfast And Imbibe
    37
    Daps is a laid-back breakfast spot in downtown. Some of your childhood (or current) cereal favorites make an appearance, but not in the way you might think. The berry French toast is griddled in Fruity Pebble batter. Cinnamon Toast Crunch is baked inside a Hawaiian roll. If you're looking for something a bit heartier, order the breakfast club sandwich with coffee-rubbed turkey and bacon whipped cheese.

Charleston Travel Guide

Travelers' pro tips for experiencing Charleston

kiawahvilla

The Charleston CVB website is a great source of information.

KatieC

Charleston is the personification of Southern gentility, and the dress here reflects this. Leave your sweats and grungy tanks at home, and instead don dresses and skirts (ladies) and khakis with polo or button-down shirts (gents).

Laura M

The Annual Festival of Homes and Gardens runs mid-March to mid-April each year and is NOT to be missed.

KatieC

To get more bang for your buck, consider eating your big (expensive) meal at midday. Many swanky restaurants offer reduced-price midday menus.

KatieC

Charleston is a city that appeals to many different types of travelers. From exploring historical sites or strolling along the waterfront, to savoring gourmet southern cuisine or enjoying a cruise on the water, there's so much to enjoy.

angelaa

Charleston, South Carolina, is a gorgeous destination for a long vacation or even a quick weekend getaway. With its beautiful coastal location, the great outdoors just beg to be explored, boasting activities for the daring solo traveler and the adventurous family alike.

KatieC

Charleston is one of the most romantic cities in the South. You can stroll hand in hand through a park while cool breezes blow in from the water, cuddle on a carriage ride, and enjoy each other's company over dinners at some of the city's many wonderful restaurants.

What is the best way to get there?

flying

Charleston International Airport is around 12 miles northwest of downtown.

car

Drivers usually approach Charleston via the U.S. Highway 17.

train

Amtrak’s Palmetto and Silver Meteor lines between New York and Miami stop at The North Charleston Intermodal Transportation Center, 10 miles north of downtown.

Do I need a visa?

If you’re visiting Charleston from overseas, use the State Department’s Visa Wizard to see if you need a visa.

When is the best time to visit?

The most popular times to visit are spring or fall. Average highs are 61°F (16 °C) in September to 78°F (25 °C) from March through May and 82°F (27 °C) and 60°F (15 °C) from September through November. However, you should also consider a visit in the winter; it's less crowded and the temperatures (between 40 and 60 °F (4 and 15 °C)) are still very comfortable.

Get around

by foot

Charleston’s historic downtown area is very walkable.

car

If you are planning to venture farther than downtown, a car is a good idea. Parking, however, can be expensive.

bus

CARTA is the city’s bus network but it is little-used by residents and not especially useful for visitors. It also runs the DASH Trolley network of free streetcars that make three loops around downtown from the visitor center.

For more information, see here.

taxis

Taxis are generally inexpensive in Charleston but are often difficult to find outside of the downtown area. Call ahead of time.

bicycles

Holy Spokes is Charleston’s bike-share scheme, with 27 locations downtown.

For more information, see here.

ridesharing

Uber and Lyft are available in Charleston on your smartphone.

On the ground

What is the timezone?

Eastern Standard Time.

What are the voltage/plug types?

The standard voltage in the United States is 120 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz. The plug has two flat parallel pins.

What is the currency?

The U.S. Dollar.

Are ATMs readily accessible?

Yes.

Are credit cards widely accepted?

Yes.

How much do I tip?

Tipping is not obligatory in Charleston, however, a tip for exceptional service is always appreciated.

How much do I tip?

Bartender

$1 a drink or $2 for a more labor-intensive cocktail

Restaurant

15-20%

Bellhop

$1 to 3 per bag

Housekeeper

$2-$3 per night

Taxis/rideshare

15-20%

Shuttle driver

$1-$2 per person

Tour guide

10-20%

Are there local customs I should know?

Drinking

The federal legal age for buying and drinking alcohol is 21 years old.

Smile

Southern charm is alive and well in Charleston. When people smile, smile back.

Mind your manners

Charleston still maintains classic southern manners, so be sure to mind yours. "Please" and "thank you," "ma'am" and "sir" all go a long way.

Public Transport

Let passengers off before boarding. Offer your seat to elderly and pregnant people and to those with disabilities.

Walking

Walk to the right of the sidewalk and step off to the side of the sidewalk if you want to stop to check your phone, look up directions or want to take in a view.

Spitting

Spitting is considered rude in any public setting.

FAQ

Find more information about local customs and etiquette in the United States generally here.