Your Complete Guide to Exploring Charleston: The Ultimate Travel Companion

Our insider’s guide will help you make the most out of your visit to Charleston, the delightful Southern city.

Charleston, a small city in South Carolina, is often underestimated. However, it is a remarkable place that boasts an impressive history, vibrant culture, tantalizing food, and an undeniable Southern charm that is hard to resist. Despite its small-town numbers, Charleston is a titan in every way, standing out as one of the most beloved destinations in the U.S.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Charleston is its narrative, which is nothing short of captivating. Steeped in history, this Southern gem transports visitors through poignant chapters of American history, and onto the exciting pages of what’s still to come. As you explore the city, you’ll feel like you’re living in a bestselling novel, where the past meets the present in a harmonious way.

Charleston’s magnetic allure is hard to miss. While the city is known for its picture-perfect streets, sweet people, and delectable tea, there’s something much deeper at play. The city’s charm lies in the unique blend of time-honored traditions and trailblazing innovation. There are few places in the world where old and new blend together so seamlessly. Whether it’s the innovative cuisine at some of the city’s renowned restaurants or the fashion-forward boutiques, Charleston is a city that honors its past while constantly embracing new ideas.

2023 is shaping up to be a banner year for Charleston, with the grand opening of the International African American Museum set to steal the spotlight. This highly anticipated event promises to add another layer of depth to this already fascinating city, solidifying its status as a cultural titan.

In the end, whether you’re drawn to Charleston for its rich history, diverse culture, or mouth-watering cuisine, one thing is for sure: this charming Southern city will steal your heart and leave you wanting more.

If you’re a foodie, Charleston is a city that should not be missed. The city’s food scene is a culinary universe that’s bursting with star power and creativity. One of the best things about Charleston’s food scene is the variety. Whether you’re interested in hearty barbecue, fresh-off-the-boat seafood, or Lowcountry delicacies that elevate tradition to art, there’s something for every palate.

Venture to one of the trendy bistros, situated in historic mansions, and you’ll find yourself dazzled by their creativity. Or stroll through the picturesque cobblestone streets, and you’ll stumble upon charming eateries that serve up a slice of Southern paradise with every meal.

Charleston’s cuisine is a celebration of the city’s vibrant history, drawing inspiration from the city’s various cultural influences, from its African American heritage to its French and Italian roots. The result is a melting pot of flavors and dishes that are impossible to resist.

In short, whether you’re a foodie or not, Charleston’s food scene is an experience that you won’t forget in a hurry. From the Lowcountry delicacies to the modern cuisine, there’s truly something for everyone in this charming southern city.

Charleston is not only a city, but it is also a sensory experience that invites visitors to explore every facet of its fascinating narrative. The city is overflowing with architectural marvels, historical treasures, modern arts scene, and subtle street style.

To make the most of your trip to Charleston, be sure to plan ahead and create an itinerary to explore all the city has to offer. Start by taking a stroll through the various neighborhoods, each with its own unique character. From the colorful Rainbow Row to the charming cobblestone streets of the French Quarter, there’s no shortage of architectural wonders to explore.

Charleston’s history is another major draw for visitors. The city played a significant role in the Civil War, and you can walk in the footsteps of its past by visiting some of the historical sites such as Fort Sumter National Monument or visiting museums like the Charleston Museum or the Old Slave Mart Museum.

For art enthusiasts, Charleston’s thriving art scene is a must-see. Wander through the renowned Gibbes Museum of Art, stop at the Charleston City Gallery, or check out the various galleries dotted around the city.

Finally, don’t forget to indulge in the subtle street style that Charleston is known for. The city is the perfect place to snap some eye-catching Instagram photos, so keep an eye out for the colorful murals, picturesque alleys, and unique architecture that is a hallmark of this Southern gem.

In conclusion, a trip to Charleston is a sensory experience that should not be missed. Be sure to plan ahead, so you can explore the city’s architectural wonders, historical treasures, bustling arts scene, and the subtle street style that makes this city a true southern gem.

Where to Stay

Hotel Bennett

If you’re looking to indulge in the finer things in life, a stay at the Hotel Bennett is a must. From the moment you step through the doors, you’ll be transported to a world of luxury and decadence. The rooms themselves are more like plush personal kingdoms than just a place to lay your head. You’ll be pampered with amenities like high thread count linens, plush robes, and deluxe toiletries that are sure to make you feel like royalty.

The hotel’s spa is equally impressive, with a design so stunningly beautiful, you’d think Aphrodite herself had a hand in its creation. The spa offers a variety of treatments, from massages to facials, that will leave you feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.

The rooftop pool and bar are a true highlight, providing a beautiful retreat where the gods of relaxation unite over craft cocktails. You can enjoy a drink while taking in the dreamy panoramas of Charleston that stretch out before you.

But the true star of the show is the hotel’s signature restaurant, Gabrielle. Considered the belle of the Lowcountry culinary ball, this restaurant is a feast for the senses. You’ll want to try the Carolina Gold Rice risotto; it’s a signature dish that is sure to become a favorite. The restaurant’s culinary team is exceptional, sourcing the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients to create dishes that are both elegant and delicious.

In conclusion, a stay at the Hotel Bennett is an experience not to be missed. From the luxurious rooms and spa to the rooftop pool and bar, everything about this hotel screams romance, relaxation, and decadence. Don’t forget to make a reservation at Gabrielle, where you can indulge in some of the best culinary delights that the Lowcountry has to offer.

Wentworth Mansion

If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience of 19th-century grandeur, the Wentworth Mansion is the perfect destination. This architectural marvel turned luxury hotel oozes old-world elegance, and every corner whispers tales of a bygone era.

The 21 lavish rooms at the Wentworth Mansion are a study in luxurious perfection, each a masterpiece in its own right. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a period drama set, with every detail evoking a sense of the grandeur of the past.

The Mansion’s library and drawing room are perfect for some “me time” when you’re not busy exploring the city. The quiet sophistication of these spaces creates the perfect atmosphere for relaxation and reflection.

One of the real highlights of the Wentworth Mansion is the breakfast experience. The spread of gourmet omelets, homemade biscuits, and locally-sourced grits is a feast for the senses that will leave your taste buds craving more. Plus, the Mansion’s culinary team makes sure every dish is prepared with the utmost care and attention to detail.

In conclusion, if you’re looking to experience the grandeur and sophistication of the past, the Wentworth Mansion is the ideal place to stay. Every element of this luxurious hotel, from the lavish rooms to the gourmet breakfasts, is sure to leave an impression that will last a lifetime.

Zero George

This boutique hotel is a true gem, made up of four fascinating 19th-century townhouses and a pair of adorable carriage houses. The place exudes an understated elegance that is entirely free from the over-the-top decorations that often plague other high-end hotels. The overall decor of the 16 guest rooms is soothing and relaxing, achieved with a muted color palette consisting of cream, grey, and sage. Guests can’t help but admire the original heart pine floors and stunning vintage millwork that have been beautifully preserved.

A primary attraction of the hotel is its on-site Zero Restaurant, where Southern hospitality is alive and well. The kitchen is the heart and soul of the hotel, and Chef Vinson Petrillo is the man who makes sure that it continues to beat strongly. Chef Petrillo is a master of his craft, and he has a unique approach to cooking. Instead of covering up the flavors of quality ingredients with fussy sauces or complicated preparation techniques, he lets them shine with minimal intervention.

One of the standout dishes at Zero Restaurant is the royal red shrimp, which is cooked in good old-fashioned pork fat to add flavor and nuance to this classic seafood dish. The result is an elegant and memorable meal that highlights the beauty and simplicity of great ingredients. Chef Petrillo’s culinary philosophy is evident in every dish at the restaurant – each plate is crafted with care and consideration, using the freshest ingredients available.

In summary, this boutique hotel is a luxurious and sophisticated destination that provides a unique and unforgettable experience. With its historic charm, stylish decor, and exquisite cuisine, guests are sure to leave feeling pampered, nourished, and rejuvenated.

What to Do

The International African American Museum

The opening of the International African American Museum (IAAM) is a momentous occasion, marking over two decades of planning and preparation. The museum is set to open on June 27, 2023, coinciding with Juneteenth celebrations, and is located on Charleston’s waterfront, where Gadsden’s Wharf once stood. This historic location was the site where hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans were brought to America.

The IAAM is the brainchild of architect Henry Cobb and is designed to show respect and reverence for the enslaved Africans who once walked on this land. The museum is perched on 18 pillars, symbolically never touching the ground beneath it. This gesture is an acknowledgment of the difficult history and suffering experienced by enslaved Africans.

Beneath the museum, visitors can find a tidal pool and an “African Ancestors Memorial Garden,” filled with indigenous plants from West Africa, the Caribbean, and South Carolina’s Lowcountry. This garden highlights the museum’s connection to the land and to the cultures that have contributed to the African American experience.

Inside the 100,000-square-foot space, the IAAM houses nine unique exhibits that showcase the extensive African American narrative, from ancient African civilizations to contemporary issues. These exhibits offer a comprehensive understanding of the African American experience and are sure to be a valuable educational resource for visitors. Overall, the IAAM promises to be a significant addition to the cultural landscape and an important commemoration of the African American heritage.

Shem Creek Kayak Tour

A kayak tour of Shem Creek with Coastal Expeditions is a perfect way to experience the beauty of the water and the local ecosystem. As you paddle down Shem Creek, surrounded by tranquility, your guides will entertain you with enchanting stories about the local flora and fauna. Discover the golden marshes that shimmer under the setting sun and observe the playful dolphins that might just mimic your every move. The entire experience is visually stunning, from start to finish.

As part of the tour, you’ll stop on a sandbank where you can search for the elusive treasures of the Crab Bank Bird Seabird Sanctuary, fossilized shark teeth. It’s an exciting activity that adds another layer of interest to the already captivating tour.

Coastal Expeditions’ kayak tour of Shem Creek is much more than just a kayak ride. It’s the perfect opportunity to witness the beauty of nature, learn about local wildlife, and make priceless memories with your friends and family. So next time you want to get away from the land and start paddling in the water, make sure to go on a kayak tour with Coastal Expeditions.

Horse Carriage Ride

A horse-drawn carriage ride with Palmetto Carriage Works is an absolute must-do when visiting Charleston. It’s an experience that truly captures the essence of the town, much like savoring a serving of sweet tea-soaked shrimp and grits. Palmetto Carriage Works has been providing horse carriage tours since the 1970s, making them the original and most experienced tour company in Charleston.

During the ride, you’ll be transported back in time as you meander through the historic district with one of their knowledgeable and charming guides. They’ll regale you with fascinating stories and insights about the city’s past, its architectural wonders, and hidden gems that are often overlooked by visitors.

A carriage ride with Palmetto Carriage Works is a truly unique way to learn about Charleston’s rich history while enjoying the slow, leisurely pace of travel. It’s an unforgettable experience that is sure to be a highlight of any trip to this beautiful city.

A Day Trip to Folly Beach

Folly Beach is the ultimate relaxation destination, a peaceful haven just a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of Charleston. The cobblestone streets of the city are replaced by sandy toes and ocean waves, where you can surf, swim, or fish to your heart’s content. Keep your eyes peeled, and you might just spot a playful dolphin doing a backflip.

After a fun-filled day in the sun, it’s time to satisfy your appetite. Head straight to Taco Boy, an exciting eatery that promises to tantalize your taste buds. The Folly-Rita is a must-try; it’s the perfect mix of refreshing and invigorating, with a perfect blend of flavors.

Whether you’re a local or a visitor, Folly Beach is the perfect escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. Indulge in the easy-breezy vibes and let your worries slip away. Plus, with Taco Boy’s delicious food and cocktails, you’ll have everything you need to make the most of your seaside escape.

Where to Eat

Leon’s Oyster Shop

Leon’s is an iconic institution in Charleston that continues to delight locals and visitors alike. Once a garage, this eatery boasts a culinary game that is top-notch, despite its humble appearance. One item that stands out on their menu is the chargrilled oysters. Drizzled with butter and dusted with parmesan, these succulent oysters are the gateway to a delightful shellfish experience.

The chicken sandwich and oyster po’ boy are two other items not to be missed. Both sandwiches are perfect combinations of flavors and textures that’ll leave you wanting more. Leon’s may not look fancy, but their food is nothing short of amazing.

For those who love great food and appreciate the ambiance that comes with unassuming eateries, Leon’s is a must-try. With dishes like chargrilled oysters, chicken sandwich, and oyster po’ boy, the food is sure to leave a lasting impression.

The Obstinate Daughter

If you’re a food lover, then you simply must visit this beachside beauty on Sullivan’s Island. The restaurant offers a menu that takes you on a culinary odyssey, with dishes inspired by both land and sea. While there are many dishes you won’t want to miss, the Geechie Frites and the Old Danger pizza are two that stand out.

The Geechie Frites are a delicious twist on the classic French fry, served with a garlic aioli that is so good it might just be illegal. You’ll want to savor every bite of these crispy, golden fries.

The Old Danger pizza is another must-try dish, topped with pancetta, mozzarella, and a perfectly runny egg. The combination of the crispy crust, salty pancetta, and creamy egg yolk is simply sublime.

Whether you’re a beach-goer or not, if you love good food, this restaurant on Sullivan’s Island is a destination you don’t want to miss. From the Geechie Frites to the Old Danger pizza, the menu offers a range of dishes that will undoubtedly satisfy your taste buds and leave you coming back for more.

Circa 1886

Nestled in a historic carriage house, this restaurant is a true gem, seamlessly blending the past with the present in a way that’s nothing short of remarkable. The executive chef, Marc Collins, brings his passion for Southern cuisine to life with every dish he creates, making for a dining experience that’s simply unforgettable.

The menu is filled with Lowcountry-inspired dishes that are not only mouth-wateringly delicious but are also a culinary history lesson with a modern twist. One dish that stands out is the Plantation Rice, a flavorful blend of duck and sausage that’ll leave your taste buds dancing with delight.

The restaurant’s dedication to using locally-sourced ingredients ensures every dish is fresh, flavorful, and authentic. Dining here is not just about indulging in delicious food; it’s a complete experience that engages all your senses, from the beautifully designed dining space to the exquisite presentation of every plate.

Whether you’re a food enthusiast or just looking for a taste of true Southern hospitality, this restaurant is a must-visit. It’s a true celebration of the past and the present, all brought together in a deliciously harmonious blend that’ll keep you coming back for more.

Hannibal’s Kitchen

When it comes to soulful Southern comfort food, Hannibal’s Kitchen is the place to be. This family-run establishment has been in the game for over four decades and has become a true legend in the local food scene.

One dish that is an absolute must-try is the crab rice, a heavenly combination of fluffy grains and fresh crab. It’s a dish that’s so flavorful and tasty that you’ll find yourself daydreaming about your next visit before you’ve even left.

Hannibal’s Kitchen has perfected the art of Southern cooking over the years, offering a wide range of dishes that’ll satisfy any craving. From their delicious fried chicken to their expertly cooked collard greens, the food here is sure to leave a lasting impression.

For anyone looking for an authentic Southern dining experience, Hannibal’s Kitchen is the perfect destination. Their soulful food has earned them a loyal following, and it’s easy to see why. So, make sure to add this restaurant to your must-visit list and be prepared to indulge in some of the best food around.

Where to Drink

Doar Bros.

Charleston’s culinary scene is truly special, and at Doar Bros, star bartender Megan Deschaine takes the lead, rocking out incredible cocktails that are cleverly crafted and sure to impress.

One of her standout creations is the PSL Milk Punch, a boozy pumpkin spiced latte that’s perfect for grownups. Sip on this expertly crafted cocktail and let all your worries melt away. Pair it with the truffle mac and cheese for a decadent treat that’s sure to satisfy all your cravings.

At Doar Bros, everything is crafted with care and attention to detail, from the cocktails to the food. The cozy atmosphere and friendly staff make this spot a must-visit, especially for cocktail enthusiasts.

Megan and the team at Doar Bros are truly elevating the Charleston cocktail scene, pushing boundaries and creating new and exciting drinks that are sure to impress. So, if you’re looking for a cool spot with delicious cocktails and decadent dishes, look no further than Doar Bros.

Bar Mash

Bar Mash is one of Charleston’s coziest and most inviting drinking establishments, perfect for whatever mood strikes you. With its dark wood paneling, ambient lighting, and whiskey-fueled cocktails, this spot is the ultimate destination for anyone looking for a cozy drinking den.

The atmosphere at Bar Mash is lively and inviting, with indoor bocce, live tunes, and a killer happy hour that makes it a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. Whether you’re in the mood for a fun night out or a more relaxed evening, Bar Mash has you covered.

One of the standout features of the bar is its impressive whiskey selection, with an extensive list of whiskeys from around the world that will satisfy any connoisseur. The skilled bartenders are also experts in crafting the perfect cocktail, so no matter what your tastes are, you’re sure to find something to love.

Bar Mash truly has it all, from the cozy ambiance to the fun and games that make it such a unique and inviting spot. Whether you’re looking to unwind with a drink after work or let loose with friends, Bar Mash is the perfect destination for anyone looking for a good time in Charleston.

Blind Tiger Pub

This Charleston institution is a true gem, occupying an 1803 building that has a rich history as a speakeasy during prohibition. The backstory of this establishment is as fascinating as its extensive beer selection, offering a truly unique experience for anyone who visits.

The beer list is nothing short of impressive, offering a wide range of options that will satisfy any beer lover. But that’s not all that’s on offer here. The Nashville hot chicken sandwiches are a must-try, featuring a spicy kick that’s sure to wake up your taste buds. And for those looking for something a little stronger, the cocktails are spot-on.

Beyond the drinks and food, the spacious patio is the perfect spot for a lazy Sunday afternoon or a lively Saturday night. With its inviting atmosphere and prime location, it’s easy to see why this spot has become a go-to destination for locals and visitors alike.

Overall, this establishment is a true Charleston institution and is not to be missed. With its rich history, impressive beer selection, and delicious food and cocktails, it’s the perfect place to unwind and experience all that Charleston has to offer.


Prohibition is not just another bar to visit in Charleston, it is an experience. The venue is a feast for the senses, with live music throughout the week, delicious Southern cuisine, and a wide ranging cocktail list that includes the house favorite, the Bourbon Thyme cocktail.

The Bourbon Thyme cocktail is a bold and delicious blend that includes apple-infused Jim Beam, lemon, Aperol, thyme, honey, and orange bitters. It’s a must-try for anyone who loves bourbon cocktails or wants to sample something new and exciting.

But Prohibition is more than just a great cocktail bar. The venue’s menu showcases Southern favorites such as shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, and other delicious comfort food. No matter what you’re in the mood for, Prohibition is sure to offer something that will leave you feeling satisfied.

The live music scene is also an integral part of the Prohibition experience, with something happening most nights of the week. This creates a lively and inviting atmosphere that is perfect for a night out with friends or a relaxing evening with loved ones.

Overall, Prohibition is an experience that is hard to match, offering delicious food, great drinks, and a lively atmosphere that’s perfect for any occasion. So, if you’re looking for a spot that has it all, make sure to add Prohibition to your list of must-visit spots in Charleston.