The Holy City is best known for historical beauty, secret gardens, a steeple-rich skyscape, and outlying plantations predating the Civil War. Yet Charleston is much more than the sum of its picture-ready cobblestone streets, clopping horse carriages, and classical architecture. Much of the port city’s allure lies in constant reinvention and little surprises (like free-range guinea hens clucking up and down Legare Street, sous chefs flying by on skateboards heading into work, or Citadel cadets honking their bagpipes on sidewalks in summertime). T+L’s Charleston travel guide will highlight the city’s latest offerings alongside local haunts and time-tested classics.
If you haven’t made a visit to Charleston in the last decade, there are huge chunks of the city you would hardly recognize, particularly so-called “Upper King” (the stretch above Calhoun), which swarms with an ever-growing number of craft eateries, creative cocktail venues, thriving restaurants, and new hotels. Take a hard left on Spring, and you’ll stumble on charcuterie nook Artisan Meat Share, Asian fusion darling Xiao Bao Biscuit, or the stylishly retro ice cream and hot dog joint Parlor Deluxe. Charleston’s cultural and culinary scene has exploded citywide, giving way to cutting-edge new galleries, boutiques, bake shops, breweries, distilleries, and coffee shops, not just in downtown, but in suburban and beachfront venues, too.
King Street, the main shopping thoroughfare, regularly shuts off to traffic and becomes a walking mall, where locals stroll their pets (from poodles to miniature pigs), listen to live music, and sip wine on sidewalk tables. Winter brings oyster roasts, camellia blossoms, and January’s restaurant week. Spring brings the SEWE wildlife festival, Charleston’s annual Wine + Food Festival, and tours of houses and gardens, all amidst the heady scents of wisteria, jasmine, and magnolia blossoms. Spoleto (Charleston’s international arts and performance festival) kicks off summer with a bang, followed by barbecues, fried chicken, wine and art strolls, craft brew tastings on open patios, creekside shrimp and crab boils, and plenty of beach time. Fall ushers in horse and hound gatherings at Middleton Place, the Southern Ground Music and Food Festival, the Lowcountry Field Feast, and another semi-annual tour of homes and gardens.
There are so many facets to this thriving city: waterways, beaches, plantation retreats, cypress groves, bird sanctuaries, golf, and downtown venues. Even locals haven’t exhausted all there is to do here, so plan on returning again and again to make new discoveries and revisit favorites.
For those hoping to avoid the slight chill of winter, or the high humidity and mosquitoes of late summer, it’s best to visit Charleston in spring and fall, but truthfully, there simply is no bad time to visit.
The historic homes, galleries, and restaurants of Charleston’s lower peninsula can all be experienced on foot, but you’ll cover more ground by bike (either courtesy your hotel or rentals). Pedicabs are plentiful, and the Green Taxi is quick to respond.
July is the hottest month, with an average high of 91°F (32.8°C). January is the coldest month, with an average high of 59°F (15°C).
With Charleston’s culinary scene booming, be sure to make reservations ahead of time, especially for coveted spots like Husk, FIG, and The Ordinary. Otherwise, check the weather forecast and consider bringing layers if needed, sunscreen for balmy weather, bug spray for spring gnats or summer mosquitoes, and umbrellas for the occasional downpour.
Type A two-prong plug or Type B three-prong plug
United States Dollar ($)