I’ve only been to Charleston once, but I plan to return…and I plan to return often. I was not prepared for the beauty and charm this city has. I will admit I’ve not done enough travel in the US, but if there are at least 5 other cities as gorgeous as Charleston, Europe is in trouble. Charleston is clean, safe, beautiful, and most importantly, affordable. Why do I suddenly move into purple prose when talking about this city?
Charleston oozes Southern hospitality. Its people are gentle and genuine. I’m from New York, and most people think we’re rude…we’re not rude, we’re in a rush. We’ll help you, but we’ll expect you to figure out what we’re saying the first time around. In Charleston, people take their time when giving directions, they make sure you’ve got it right (and the’ll do it in the cutest accent you’ve ever heard). If you need to use the ladies’ room…a business won’t look at you weird if you ask. Cars will stop to let you through (even when the light is in their favor). I spent just 14 days in Charleston and “made friends” with the server at Bananas & Caviar, the bartender at the Wine shop, and the clerk at the corner deli.
Charleston’s Balmy Heat: The city is hot (very hot)…I write this in NYC, where we finally broke 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and I will take Charleston heat over NYC snow any time. The city’s weather lends itself to the lush vegetation that oozes romance. Even when it rains and the streets flood the city is gorgeous. Compare this to NYC after a snow. It is beautiful for about 10 minutes, then it is a mess of brown, grey and yellow slush. Oh, also, everyone dresses to impress. It does not matter if it is 103 and humid, people in Charleston look great. This also means there is some great shopping. It was hard not to purchase everything I saw in the windows of every boutique. Paris…watch out. Charleston is coming to get you.
Charleston’s Food. There’s a huge focus on farm to table, and a tradition of Low-Country cuisine that simply made my mouth water (and the scale tip towards the next weight class). You can get pretty much anything you desire in Charleston when it comes to food. Some places I recommend:
- FIG (Food is Good) - 232 Meeting St - If you’re into local, sustainable, incredible service and great wine; this is your place.
- The Grocery - 4 Cannon St – The Grocery also has a focus on local and sustainable. Their charcuterie boards are to die for and their cocktails are impeccable.
- Hominy Grill - 207 Rutledge Avenue – This was recommended to us by our taxi driver. Turns out the restaurant is a James Beard Award winner and serves kick ass food. Don’t go there worried about the calories.
- Husk - 78 Queen Street – At Husk it is all about the South and Low country cuisine taken to the highest level.
- McGrady’s - 2 Unity Valley – Southern fine dining in a historic building makes for a perfect night of romance in Charleston.
- Bananas & Caviar - Various Locations – It’s a gourmet market and delicatessen. You can pick up everything from wine, to cheeses, to gourmet chocolates. Their Kale salad is superb.
- Jestine’s - 215 Meeting Street – The locals will tell you it’s not real Charleston Low Country food…but for us Northerners, it’s fine and dandy. Beware it is quite touristy.
The Saturday Farmer’s Market on Marion Square - If you happen to have a kitchen, do not miss out on the amazing Marion Square farmer’s market. It is simply superb. You can buy your week’s groceries, cool off with a glass of iced sun tea, and recharge with a Bahn Mi from one of the food trucks while listening to some killer live music.
Charleston Itself: This is a gorgeous city. Every home seems to be expertly manicured with vegetation that seems savagely controlled. There is green all over the place. The homes are colorful and picturesque. Charleston was established more than 300 years ago and is situated between the Ashley and Cooper River. Charleston’s downtown neighborhoods are peppered with classic Georgia, Federal, Adamesque, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Victorian architecture (This PDF will give you basic info to know which style is which). You can set up a tour to check out the cities homes and gardens. I’m not a tour kind of girl, so if you decide to explore, make sure you don’t miss:
- Circular Congregational Church
- Hibernian Society Hall
- Fireproof Building
- Four Corners of Law
- White Point Garden
- The William Aiken House
- Lowndes Grove Plantation
- Waterfront Park
- Dock Street Theater
***Take a walk down to Murray Boulevard past White Point Garden. The homes on the water are simply stunning. In fact, just walk the city and you will run into gorgeous sites everywhere you go.
Charleston’s Water: You’re a fool if you don’t take advantage of Charleston’s beaches. The closest beaches to Charleston are:
How to get to Charleston
- Shuttle: You can take a taxi or a shuttle to downtown Charleston for at most $30 and be there in 10-15 minutes.
- Bus: You can take the CARTA 11 to get into town. The last stop is on Meeting Street/Mary Street.
- Car: Sure, you can rent a car…but you really don’t need to. Charleston is a walkable city. Just make sure to have comfortable shoes, the cobblestones and crooked sidewalks can do a job on your back.
Where to Stay in Charleston
I do long term travel. This means I require a kitchen, some space to work, and a washer dryer.
- Homeaway: I stayed at a gorgeous home I found on Homeaway. Our host was lovely, and the apartment was perfect. It had a full kitchen, a lovely outdoor area, and it had all the charm of the city.
Get yourself to Charleston and have some fun!