Charleston continues to rank at the top of the best travel destinations in the US – and for a good reason. It’s one of the most historic cities where you’ll get to explore many of the preserved landmarks that continue to attract tourists.
Whether you’re a history buff or looking for a unique place to visit, you’ll have plenty of things to strike your interest. You’ll soon discover what it is about the charming destination, from the historic district’s landmarks to the scenic views along the waterfront.
Check out some of the top things to do in Charleston, where to stay, and when is the best time to visit!
Things to Do:
- Explore the French Quarter
The French Quarter is a popular tourist area in Charleston. It’s one of the oldest districts, established in 1850, and now listed on the US National Register of Historic Places. While Downtown Charleston features lots of modern buildings in its skyline, the historic French Quarter maintains a lot of its original appearance.
The French Quarter is part of the former “walled” section of the city. Today, it’s a favorite walking neighborhood to appreciate its historical significance while browsing various art galleries, boutique shops, and restaurants.
Some of the notable buildings to keep an eye out for include the St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Dock Street Theatre, Old Slave Mart, and Pink House Tavern, one of the oldest houses in the state.
- Sightseeing in the Charleston Historic District
The Charleston Historic District is the founding district established in 1680. A majority of the district is considered a National Historic Landmark thanks to the preserved architecture. If you want a glimpse into the original city design, do some sightseeing around the area.
Walk the district’s tranquil streets to see preserved architecture from buildings and homes built in the 18th and 19th centuries. It showcases a mix of styles from Federal to the famous “single houses” that Charleston is known for.
One of the most famous sights is Rainbow Row, a set of colorful homes in a southern antebellum style. The best way to explore the historical district is by carriage tours to give you an authentic old town experience.
- The Battery
The Battery is a top tourist destination along the Charleston waterfront. It was the former seawall defense site used during the Civil War. Today, people can enjoy scenic strolls along the waterfront, sightseeing, or leisure in the White Point Garden.
The waterfront provides incredible views of the Charleston Harbor. Visitors can watch boats sailing in and out. Be sure to check out the famous Pineapple Fountain. The Pineapple is iconic in Charleston used as a symbol of hospitality. Other waterfront sights include antebellum homes lining the strip.
Spend some time in the White Point Garden, located on the coastal edge of the Battery district. It’s a public park with lots of greenery to experience nature. Locals and tourists enjoy relaxing in the park or sightseeing some of the landmarks like statues and cannons left over from wartimes.
- Take a tour of Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter is one of the most famous forts in the US – it’s the site where the Civil War began. The sea fort was built just off the coast of Charleston in the 19th century. In 1861, the first shots were fired at the fort to start the war.
Fort Sumter gives an excellent perspective of Charleston’s history. The fort experience starts at the visitor center located on the mainland. The exhibitions detail the Civil War, the battles that occurred at the fort, and information about slavery in Charleston.
After the visitor center, visitors take a short ferry ride to the fort to tour the site. It continues with a trip to Fort Moultrie nearby on Sullivan’s Island. It welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors every year to learn about the fort’s history.
- Shopping in the Charleston City Market
You can’t go on vacation without bringing back souvenirs to commemorate your trip. The Charleston City Market is one of the best places to shop in Charleston. The historical market was established in the 1790s, making it one of the oldest markets in the US.
Charleston City Market is a large market extending more than four blocks – the original outdoor market was relocated indoors. It hosts over 300 vendors selling various goods, including souvenirs, art, clothing, food, jewelry, and handicrafts. The Charleston Confederate Museum is also located inside.
The market is open daily, so you can stop by at any time during your trip. Whether you’re visiting to buy something or just want to browse, it’s an excellent place to visit for the local atmosphere.
Where to Stay in Charleston?
If you’re planning a trip to Charleston, you’ll have plenty of great options where you can stay. It has many distinct neighborhoods worth exploring on their own, and it’s also easy to navigate to other areas. Whether it’s your first time visiting, or a returning traveler, consider staying in one of these neighborhoods:
- French Quarter
- Mount Pleasant
Downtown is a favorite place to stay since you’ll be within walking distance to many famous local tourist attractions. With the historical and waterfront districts nearby, you’ll be able to check off several things from your bucket list. It’s also a bustling center for shopping, dining, and nightlife.
The French Quarter offers a unique stay in Charleston. You’ll get to experience a local ambiance in the characteristic district. There are several boutique inns and a welcoming tourist atmosphere when hanging out.
Mount Pleasant is a suburb outside of Charleston but has easy access to the city. One of the best reasons to stay in Mount Pleasant is making the daily drive across the Arthur Ravenel Bridge to reach the city. There’s also lots of local historical attractions to check out.
Best Time to Visit Charleston
Charleston is a favorite year-round travel destination. Every season has its own charm during your visit, from enjoying the summertime sunshine outdoors or delighting in the cozy southern hospitality.
Most people visiting Charleston come during the spring to the fall – the peak travel season is during the summer. You can enjoy the waterfront, city cruises, and there are always fun events happening around town.
Charleston also has many indoor places to visit during the winter to learn about its history, or even shopping in the city market that only closes for Christmas.