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Charleston, SC Travel Guide

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

Your guide to the best sights, stays, food, and activities in Charleston, South Carolina!

The city of rainbow colored buildings and iconic southern charm defines the city of Charleston. My last trip here was during the summer of 2017. I was driving up to North Carolina with my mom to visit my sister in North Carolina so it was a no-brainer for us to stop along the way in Charleston, which was also my mom’s hometown city. During our trip we explored, biked, ate good, southern food, and visited some of my mom’s friends, which added a personal layer of meaning to our trip. We had the best time so I wanted to put together a list of my favorite eats, fun activities, and must-see sights to share so that 1) I’ll remember for next time and 2) so that other people exploring Charleston can hopefully have just as an exciting and easy-to-plan adventure while there!

Let’s start with restaurants, because let’s be real we definitely planned our days around where we were going to eat…

Hyman’s Seafood – Charleston staple. Located right next to the Belmond on Meeting Street, this one is an absolute must if you’re looking for a true southern food experience. Their to-die-for hush puppies, multiple accolades, pictures of celebrities who’ve dined in lining the walls, and lines out the door credit this place with their high quality reputation giving them just another reason to check this place out.

Magnolia’s – A classy dinner affair. Located on East Bay Street, this restaurant has the perfect ambiance for date night or if you’re looking for a reason to wear your favorite dress (which I sure did!) for a fancy night out.

Caviar and Bananas – Don’t let google maps confuse you by their two locations: the pop-up shop in the market and storefront off of King Street. I suggest going to their storefront for the full experience and more options. This place is half gourmet store half restaurant. I highly recommend their zucchini ricotta sandwich – surprisingly delicious!

The Darling Oyster Bar – This was one spot on our list that my mom and I were really disappointed we never made it to. The ambiance looked like it would have been fun and the food looked delicious (and according to our family friends, it really is!). They open at 4pm and their happy hour looked awesome. Obviously, you should keep in mind that being an oyster fan is a must if you plan on adding this to your Charleston list.

Next, dessert


Carmella’s – This dessert bar located on East Bay Street is great for dessert any time of the day. It’s got a great feel inside if you want to sit at their bar and enjoy a cocktail with their ice cream panini’s or if you want to grab a table with a group of friends.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream – Located on King Street, this ice cream shop has some of the most unique flavors. They have something for everyone with their vegan and gluten free options, and are also extremely accommodating for people with peanut allergies.

Now for some fun activities

· If you get the chance to rent a bike from a stationary pick-up-and-go rack, or if the place you’re staying at offers them (like the Vendue), it’s a lot of fun to ride around the city. Especially on a hot day, being able to get a nice breeze from the bike can make sightseeing more enjoyable. But remember, with a lot of heat comes a lot of sweat and who knows who used those handlebars last. So if you’re germphobic like us, you’ll want to have these Goodwipes on hand to clean the handles, wipe your face, or to even use as a wet cloth after a restaurant. These wipes are biodegradable (yay for being eco-friendly) and I love having them whenever I go on vacation.

· While on the bike, or just walking, I recommend seeing Rainbow Row, the battery, and the pineapple fountain area in the park.

· We didn’t do a carriage tour this time, but apparently word on the street is that Palmetto Carriage Works is the most reputable in being a good tour and ethical with their horses.

· If you want to go shopping then King Street is a must! It has cute boutiques, unique shops (like an all honey store), and a few of your normal chains, but even those can be exciting to walk into because the architecture in Charleston is beautiful (i.e. the Starbucks on King Street).

· There is a small shop called Charleston Winery next to the market. There you can shop around and enjoy samples of three wines for $4.

· If you want an awesome view check out the rooftop at Market Pavilion. This place has a pool, a bar, and a great view! It’s on the corner of East Bay Street at the end of the market.

Breakfast spots that we ate at or just walked in to….

Poogan's Porch

Poogan’s Porch – We biked to this bright and cheery spot located on Queen Street. It’s an old, yellow house turned into a restaurant. Brunch is served from 10:30am (or earlier on weekends) - 2:30pm and they close until 5:00pm when they open again to serve dinner.

Eli’s Table – This restaurant off of Meeting Street seems like the fanciest option of the three. There’s indoor and outdoor seating with a dimly lit atmosphere and white tablecloths ready to go.

Toast! – The most casual out of the three options. Wooden booths and fast-on-their-feet staff are ready to seat you at this restaurant on Meeting Street.

Accommodations. We stayed at…

The Vendue

· Right when you arrive, the valet employees help you with your bags and give you a complimentary glass of champagne while showing you a tour of the hotel.

· Side Note: It’s also a museum! Every corner of this place features amazing artwork. If a certain piece is really up your alley you can even purchase it!

· If you’re early for check-in or ahead of the game for checkout, the employees have a safe spot to hold your bags while you continue exploring Charleston.

· Every day from 4:00pm – 5:00pm they serve wine and o’hrdourves in their coffee room.

· During late night hours you can find the absolute BEST warm & gooey chocolate chip cookies and milk by the front door entrance.

· Each room has a window ensuring a view of Charleston. The beds are comfortable, the sheets are soft, the cleaning staff are friendly and accommodating, and every time they change your sheets you can expect a chocolate candy waiting on your pillow for when you get back.

· They have a rooftop in which guests staying at the hotel have first access to when it gets crowded at night. However, I don’t recommend the food. It wasn’t the best quality and there are better places in Charleston to go for a great experience if you’re only there for a short amount of time.

· Our only caveat while there, besides the disappointing rooftop food, was the wait on valet. When checking out it took them 40+ minutes to get our car. We had even called ahead while walking on our way back from King Street thinking that we wouldn’t have to wait when we brought down our bags from the room. Thank goodness we weren’t trying to catch a flight.

· Overall, would 10/10 recommend staying here and would come back again.