Charleston, South Carolina: Your 24-hour itinerary

By Jennifer Kelly Geddes, Jun 2020

Cityscape of the French Quarter in Charleston, South Carolina

There are many reasons why Charleston, South Carolina, consistently tops the lists of best tourist destinations in the United States. This true Southern gem boasts walkable boulevards, lovely weather (most of the year), excellent restaurants and fascinating history. Enjoying a day in this charming city will immerse you in its storied past and give you a taste of current trends, many of which started in this fair city.

Here's how you might spend a day in the Holy City.

Morning: cool coffee, clear water, classic architecture

Great coffee fuels every fun-filled sightseeing adventure, so walk directly to Kudu for your morning cup. This locally owned fan favorite sits right off King Street, Charleston's main artery, and it grinds its beans in-house. Grab a hot or iced coffee and a pastry, then head outside to find a bench in the sunshine.

Pineapple Fountain at the Waterfront Park in Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Stop by the pineapple-shaped fountain when you explore Charleston's 8-acre Waterfront Park.

The Charleston peninsula is bordered by the Ashley and Cooper rivers and Charleston Harbor, and it's home to Charleston's historic and valuable waterfront properties. To best enjoy these views and breezes, take a stroll along The Battery, once a defensive seawall during the Civil War but now a pleasant promenade at the city's southern tip. Check out Waterfront Park, an 8-acre green space known for pretty pathways and a unique pineapple-shaped fountain.

If you love beautiful architecture, take a house tour for a peek at the lavish furnishings and the rich history of the famous homes that dot Charleston's streets. Two to check out: the Joseph Manigault House, a stately brick mansion with a double porch built in 1803; and the Nathaniel Russell House, which boasts a gorgeous robin's egg blue dining room and a three-story staircase.

Shrimp and grits.

Savor shrimp and grits, a Lowcountry classic at one of Charleston's favorite eateries.

Afternoon: comfort food and haute couture

Take a lunch break at Cru Café, an adorable hidden spot just off of East Bay Street. Kick back and relax on the front porch of this historic house and tuck into fried green tomatoes with pork belly croutons, duck confit arugula salad and a side of four-cheese macaroni. If the seating is tight here, try Poogan's Porch, one of the city's oldest restaurants; it's named for a neighborhood pup who regularly sat on this lovely Victorian's front steps. Daily brunch is the fare, and the menu features Lowcountry specialties like she-crab soup, pimento cheese fritters, shrimp and grits, and biscuits and gravy.

Walk off your meal by wandering over to King Street, the historic thoroughfare that bisects downtown Charleston. This 300-plus-year-old street is a shopping mecca home to trendy boutiques, art galleries, antique stores and dozens of restaurants and bars. On the second Sunday of every month, a half-mile stretch of King Street closes to vehicles so that people can shop, eat and enjoy live music. There's also the Charleston Farmer's Market in Marion Square; the Saturday market is stocked with local produce and wares from artisans and vendors.

History buffs (and those who'd love a glimpse of the city from the water) might want to venture out to Fort Sumter in Charleston's harbor, where the first battle of the Civil War was fought. Catch the 30-minute ferry from Liberty Square, then learn the site's history on a self-guided tour or a tour led by a park ranger.

Evening: a fine meal, a final toast

Dinner in Charleston is an exciting experience; the number of outstanding restaurants can be overwhelming. Secure a table at FIG, run by James Beard Award-winning chef Mike Lata, and sample beef tartare with Périgord truffle, sweet potato and Époisses tart or swordfish with lemon, capers and collard greens. (Save room for the butterscotch pot de crème.) Or consider the inventive Southern classics at Husk, where recent offerings have included catfish with sea island red beans, shrimp and okra stew and a pecan tart with bourbon ice cream.

Don't end the evening too soon. Have a nightcap at The Cocktail Club, which oozes a speakeasy vibe and features creative and classic mixed drinks with fun names like the She Took Everything and the Dr. Feelgood. Or raise your final toast at Prohibition, which hosts live music six nights a week and serves a bacon-maple Old-Fashioned and a blackberry brandy concoction called the King Street Cobbler.

For balmy weather, amazing food and genteel hospitality, block off a couple of days in Charleston, South Carolina. Exploring this city is easy, and its famous Southern charm will keep you coming back.

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