Charleston City Guide: 7 Amazing Things To Do in the Holy City

Charleston is one of the most popular cities in the South, and for good reason — it’s historic, it’s charming, and its food scene is exploding! Situated on the coast of South Carolina, Charleston, also known as the Holy City, is a small but action-packed destination offering coastal views, historical architecture, quaint cobblestone roads, and some pretty tasty BBQ. With so much to do and see here, planning a vacation to this southern gem can be difficult, especially if you’re short on time. That’s why I’ve compiled below a list of seven amazing things that you can include on your itinerary the next time you visit the Holy City!

Stroll Along Rainbow Row

One of the most famous landmarks in Charleston is, without a doubt, Rainbow Row. Situated near the waterfront on East Bay Street, Rainbow Row is a series of historic, Georgian-style homes that have been painted over in bright pastel colors. Built in the mid-1700s, these houses originally served as storefronts for members of the merchant class. Following the Civil War, they were purchased by local community members, who, for reasons unknown, decided to paint them all in vividly bright colors. Today, these homes have become an integral part of the city, attracting thousands of visitors each year. Any trip to Charleston wouldn’t be complete without at least a photo or two in front of these picturesque homes!

Visit the Historic Charleston City Market

If you’re looking to purchase Southern souvenirs to take home with you, then you’ll definitely want to stop by the Charleston City Market. Established in the early 1800s, the Charleston City Market is one of the oldest public markets in the nation. Located in the heart of the city, the market spans the length of four city blocks and is home to over 300 local artists and entrepreneurs selling handmade souvenirs and collectibles. The market is open every day of the week, with special night markets held on Friday and Saturday nights. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it’s still worth it to stroll through the marketplace just to take in all the sights and sounds of this historical complex!

Check Out the Views at Joe Riley Waterfront Park

One of the best things about Charleston is that it’s conveniently located right on the water! You can literally walk from downtown Charleston to the waterfront park and out onto a pier that leads you right into the middle of Charleston Harbor. Here you’re likely to see a variety of wildlife, including dolphins, turtles, and several types of fish and seabirds. The area around the waterfront park is also a delight to explore as it’s lined with lush gardens and large oak trees. And we certainly can’t forget about the Pineapple Fountain, which has become a staple attraction along the waterfront park.

Spend a Day at Magnolia Plantation & Gardens

There are several historical plantations in the Charleston area, each of them offering a unique glimpse into the city’s past. While you should ideally set aside time to visit as many of them as you can, not everyone is going to have enough time to check them all out. If you can only squeeze one of the plantations onto your itinerary, then you’ll definitely want to visit Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Founded in 1676, Magnolia Plantation is the oldest public garden in the nation. Having survived the American Revolution and the Civil War, Magnolia, a former slavery plantation itself, has paid witness to and participated in some of the most important and troubling moments in the country’s history. When you visit the plantation, not only will you have the opportunity to view its incredibly beautiful gardens, but you’ll also have the chance to learn more about its tumultuous past.

Explore Shem Creek

Located just across the river in Mount Pleasant lies Shem Creek, a waterfront district that offers panoramic views of the Charleston harbor and surrounding marshlands. Built directly on the banks of the creek, the district is home to a variety of lively restaurants and bars, as well as an expansive boardwalk. A favorite among locals, Shem Creek is a great place to unwind and sample some fresh, local seafood — most of which comes straight off the boats into the restaurants. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a dolphin or two as they follow the shrimp trawlers up the creek!

Grab Some BBQ at Swig & Swine

The South is known for its BBQ, and Charleston more than delivers on this front! While you’re sure to find several delicious BBQ restaurants in the area, there is one that seems to stand out from the rest, and that would be Swig & Swine. Located on Savannah Highway in West Ashley, this BBQ joint smokes all of its meat over an authentic wood grill. Cooked slowly, on low heat, the BBQ here is juicy, tender, and savory! Whether you order the beef brisket, the pulled pork, the smoked turkey, or maybe even a combination of all three, your taste buds are sure to thank you!

Try the Oysters at Leon’s Oyster Shop

Given its close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, it should come as no surprise to hear that Charleston serves up some truly incredible seafood! And the one item on most seafood menus that Charlestonians can’t seem to get enough of is oysters. Charleston loves its oysters, and as a result of this, several oysters bars have popped up around the city. One of the most popular oyster restaurants to set up shop is Leon’s Oyster Shop, an oyster bar loved by locals and visitors alike. Located on King Street in the heart of Charleston, Leon’s offers raw, fried, and grilled oysters, as well as a few other southern favorites, including fried chicken and shrimp rolls.

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