Historic buildings line the road in downtown Charleston.
local perspective

Five reasons why you should visit Charleston, SC

Sam Fulmer

Contributing writer

Planning a trip to Charleston? Here are our top picks...

Stay: Market Pavillion Hotel

Walking tour: Historic walking tour

Food tour: Undiscovered Charleston

Ghost tour: Charleston Terrors

Day trip: Magnolia Plantation

If you know anything about South Carolina you know that Charleston is the top-visited place in the state by locals and visitors from all over the world. It was voted the best city in the US for eight years straight and even won the best city in the world title from Travel + Leisure magazine.

Arriving in Charleston, you'll find a charming southern city filled with historic charm, beautiful architecture, and pristine beaches. The city is known for its culture, so you can spend your time in art galleries, touring Antebellum mansions and, of course, trying the excellent food.

If you have a chance to visit the southeast in the United States, you have to check out Charleston. Here are just a few reasons why.

Colourful, historic houses on Charleston's "Rainbow Row".

1. Charleston is more than a summer beach destination

While Charleston has incredible beaches, it also has a rich history that dates back to the early 1700s. One of America's oldest cities, it played a pivotal role in the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

Charleston is known for its well-preserved architecture, with many structures predating the Civil War, and for its distinctive culture, which draws from its English, French, and African heritages. It was also a major entry point for African slaves, and this has profoundly shaped its history and culture.

Charleston's history is visible today in its cobblestone streets, historic homes, and old plantations. And downtown Charleston has food tours, walking tours, horse-drawn carriages, and more available for visitors to get a feel for the city's history.

One must-visit destination is “Rainbow Row” where streets of beautiful colonial houses are maintained in perfect condition on the Charleston waterfront. These homes are owned by the Charleston elite, who pride themselves on keeping Charleston's history alive by keeping them in pristine condition.

Eating outside in Charleston, SC.

2. Charleston offers world-class cuisine

Charleston is renowned for its Lowcountry cuisine, which blends coastal, Southern, and African influences, as well as more contemporary food offerings. The city is dotted with both fine dining restaurants and cozy eateries, giving visitors lots of options to try traditional and modern food.

From traditional southern dishes like Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit to fresh and local seafood, Charleston has attracted world-renowned chefs to its downtown food scene. The Ordinary offers the highest quality seafood in town, while Chez Nous is a French restaurant with a handwritten menu and only six options that change daily. The quickest way to connect with Charleston’s culture is through its food.

The Old City Jail in Charleston, SC.

3. Charleston is haunted, and you should take a ghost tour

Charleston, with its centuries-old history and storied past, is often regarded as one of America's most haunted cities. The city's rich lore, filled with pirate legends, Civil War tragedies, and eerie Gullah folklore, lends an atmospheric and spectral quality to Charleston, captivating those interested in the paranormal.

Even if you aren’t a believer, by taking a local ghost tour at the Old Charleston Jail, or a walking tour at night you can discover with Charleston’s dark history. Charleston was the hub for the slave trade, and all of it took place at the heart of downtown at what is now the Charleston Market. You can also visit multiple graveyards where soldiers were laid to rest during the civil war.

Boone Plantation near Charleston, SC.

4. Charleston has many plantations worth visiting

The area surrounding Charleston is home to several historic plantations, which offer glimpses into the Antebellum South - and many still produce crops today! These are perfect places to learn more about what life in the South was like for the slaves who built the plantation and did the backbreaking work of farming cotton.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, founded in 1676, is home to America's oldest public gardens, while Boone Hall Plantation, with its stunning Avenue of Oaks, offers a comprehensive look at plantation life. Drayton Hall has been preserved rather than restored, and gives an authentic insight into history.

These plantations offer tours that educate visitors about their historical significance, often addressing the harsh realities of slavery, a crucial part of their past. The landscape is a perfect representation of the Lowcountry, with the massive oak trees covered in Spanish moss as you drive onto the property.

Shrimp and Grits being prepared at the Charleston Farmers Market.

5. You can try Southern food in Charleston

New to the south? Check out what its cuisine is all about. It’s not just fried food, it’s baked into southern culture - the cuisine in Charleston has a story to tell. From slaves reconnecting with their culture to survive imprisonment, to living off the sea and catching local fish and shrimp... the heart of Charleston's history is in its food.

Expect to try delicacies such as shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, and locally sourced oysters during your stay. Sample some of the city's best ‘soul food’ at Berthas Kitchen. Or eat at a restaurant where the shrimping boat is docked in the back yard at the Wreck of Richard and Charlene with a picturesque view of Lowcountry marsh on Shem Creek where boats buzz by. And of course, we can’t forget the best shrimp and grits there are at Poogans Porch.

Planning a trip to Charleston? Stay at Market Pavillion Hotel in the historic district.

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Sam Fulmer

Author - Sam Fulmer

Sam is short, sassy and has always dreamed of stepping outside the 9-5 life. She feeds every street animal she comes across during her travels. Her and her wife are currently saving for a campervan so they can hit the road with their three furry friends and travel across North America.

Last Updated 25 July 2023

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