Insider’s Guide to Downtown Charleston Neighborhoods
It’s no coincidence that Charleston has been named America’s Best City by Travel + Leisure for the past five years. With its urban amenities, quaint Southern style, and fascinating history, Charleston is a city that appeals to people of all ages and backgrounds.
Downtown Charleston has a variety of neighborhoods that each present its own unique charm. From the famous and historic South of Broad neighborhood to the lively neighborhood of Harleston Village, you can easily find your own slice of Lowcountry living in the Holy City.
Considered Charleston’s first suburb, Ansonborough is a historic neighborhood filled with elegant architecture and rich history. Although many tourists and commuters pass through the neighborhood as they head to the shopping district, Ansonborough is full of historic buildings and stunning views that beg to be admired.
Ansonborough is said to be named after Captain George Anson, who fiercely defended Charleston’s coastline from pirates. The neighborhood was first laid out in 1745-1746 and prospered until a fire destroyed the area in 1838.
Ansonborough was rebuilt, along with many of its now historic homes, including the William Rhett House—the oldest private residence in Charleston. Many of the buildings were rebuilt in a Greek architectural style, with grand columns and piazzas.
Today, Ansonborough has a reputation for its dedication to the arts. From ballet to opera to comedy, there is always some art form that is on display. This thriving neighborhood is also mere minutes away from shopping, restaurants, and entertainment.
What’s to Love: Ansonborough may be located in a bustling area, but the homes in this neighborhood are hidden under the shade of large oaks and palmetto trees. This diverse area includes both luxury condominiums and townhomes, as well as historic homes which are highly-sought after.
King Street Historic District
The King Street Historic District is a highly-sought after neighborhood — for good reason! You will find it all in this diverse, downtown area including dining, nightlife, shopping, and history.
This neighborhood is divided into three distinct areas: Upper King Street, which runs north of Calhoun Street, Middle King Street, which is known for being Charleston’s Fashion District, and Lower King Street, which is the Antiques District.
Although housing mostly includes condos and lofts above the storefronts in the commercial district, you will find historic homes in the King Street Historic District as well. Parking can be difficult in this area, so many residents don’t bother with cars and enjoy walking where they need to go.
What’s to Love: If you love being in the center of it all, you will enjoy living in the King Street Historic District. Young professionals are attracted to the area due to the modern amenities and upscale dining opportunities. You can’t go wrong with oyster bars, swanky cocktail clubs and local microbrews.
South of Broad
One of Charleston’s most notable neighborhoods, South of Broad is known for its famous historic homes such as Rainbow Row and the mansions overlooking The Battery. Located below Broad Street, this neighborhood offers history buffs the chance to step back in time and live in an area where horse-drawn carriages transported visitors across cobblestone streets.
With its elegant architecture and easy access to the Charleston Harbor, South of Broad is guaranteed to give you stunning views. It’s not surprising that so many people choose this neighborhood as their vacation home.
What’s to Love: It’s difficult to explore Charleston’s rich history in just one visit. By choosing to live South of Broad, you can take your time and uncover the Holy City’s fascinating history at your own pace. Even the locals haven’t experienced Charleston to its fullest, and you will learn something new with every outing.
Once two separate boroughs, the Cannonborough/Elliotborough was named after Daniel Cannon, a carpenter and mechanic who ran several mills in the area, and Colonel Barnard Elliot, a prominent member of the Provincial Congress. Considered a gateway to the Charleston Peninsula, it has transformed over the past decade, now considered as an up-and-coming neighborhood.
Today, Cannonborough/Elliotborough is home to a diverse mix of families and college students. Growth has exploded over the past decade, and commercial revitalization is taking over Spring Street and Cannon Street, leading to many unique and young businesses.
What’s to Love: You will find some great hole-in-the-wall places to eat in Cannonborough/Elliotborogh. Sugar, a bakeshop located on Cannon Street, is mere blocks away from Upper King Street and uses locally-sourced ingredients in their sweet treats. Trattoria Lucca has also made a name for itself as one of the best authentic Italian Restaurants around the region.
Besides the food, you will love how affordable the neighborhood, especially considering that it is located in downtown Charleston. Plus, the area has plenty of notable schools for families, both public and private.
Bordered by the Cooper River to the east, Broad Street to the south, Meeting Street to the west, and Market Street to the north, the French Quarter is “walled” within Charleston and is steeped in rich history. As you may have guessed, this neighborhood was named after the large number of French merchants who settled the area to escape religious persecution.
The French Quarter is distinguished by its Classic Revival style architecture, beautiful cobblestone streets, quaint theatres, and art galleries. Notable historic buildings include Pink House, the oldest stone house in Charleston (built in 1712) as well as one of the oldest buildings in South Carolina. You can explore Charleston’s rich military history at the Powder Magazine, the only remaining government building from the original Lords Proprietors.
This charming neighborhood is also home to Charleston’s Waterfront Park, which features plenty of fountains for the kids to splash around in and offers spectacular views of the Cooper River and Charleston Harbor.
What’s to Love: Along with its beautiful scenery and rich history, the French Quarter offers a place to live in relaxed luxury. One minute, you are strolling through the cobblestone streets and courtyard gardens, and the next minute, you are surrounded by modern amenities, including fashionable retail stores and fantastic dining opportunities.
This hidden gem of Charleston doesn’t have many single-family homes available, but there are plenty of condominiums in the French Quarter, some of which offer stunning views of the water.
This thriving and diverse neighborhood has something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you are searching for a historic home with Southern charm or a modern townhouse, you can find a healthy mix of both in this neighborhood.
Developed in the 18th century, Harleston Village is nestled along the Ashley River and bordered by Calhoun Street, Broad Street, and King Street. Residents enjoy being within walking distance to shopping and fine dining opportunities, as well as Colonial Lake, a pedestrian-friendly area where many locals go for morning jogs.
Although this neighborhood boasts its fair share of historic buildings and antebellum homes, it attracts many modern professionals and families due to its proximity to prominent schools. Harleston Village is home to Mason Preparatory and Charleston Day, which are two of Charleston’s most prestigious private schools. It is also near the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina.
What’s to Love: Harleston Village offers many rewards for families, young professionals, and students. The neighborhood schools are top-notch and while there are a large number of modern amenities, you will still spot historic homes with elegant Georgian and Italian architecture throughout the neighborhood.
Just north of Harleston Village is Radcliffeborough, a small yet vibrant neighborhood which, like Harleston Village, houses its fair share of doctors, students, and families. This dynamic neighborhood is home to Ashley Hall, the prestigious private school for girls, and is in close proximity to the Medical University of South Carolina and the College of Charleston.
Built in 1815, Radcliffeborough was originally farm land purchased by Thomas Radcliffe in 1786. Although Radcliffe was lost at sea in 1806, his wife, Lucretia, continued to develop the land.
Mrs. Radcliffe gave a large donation of land to the Third Episcopal Church, which was built in 1811. Now called the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, the beautiful church was nicknamed “The Planter’s Church” because it was largely used by the many rice planters in the area.
Many newly constructed homes share the same block with massive antebellum mansions, creating a unique neighborhood of history and modern amenities. Homes are generally more affordable in this neighborhood, compared to other downtown areas above Calhoun Street.
What’s to Love: Residents of Radcliffeborough enjoy strolling down to beautiful Marion Square, one of Charleston’s most beloved parks and home to the Charleston Farmer’s Market. Residents are also close to Upper King Street, which boasts some of Charleston’s best dining and nightlife.
Often called the Garden District, the Mazyck-Wraggborough neighborhood has more public green space than any other area on the Charleston Peninsula. This peaceful area is situated between Calhoun, Mary, East Bay, and Meeting Streets, named after John Wragg, who inherited the land in from his father in the 18th century.
Many of the streets are named after the Wragg descendants, such as Elizabeth, Charlotte, and Ann Street. The Wragg family later donated green spaces for public use, including the historic parks, Wragg Square and Wragg Mall.
Mazyck-Wraggborough was once a neighborhood for people who wanted to escape the busy city life, but much has changed since the 1800s. Today, the neighborhood attracts professionals, families, and students who want to live within walking distance of the finest Charleston eateries, the College of Charleston, entertainment, and easy access to Ravenel Bridge.
What’s to Love: Mazyck-Wraggborough residents enjoy the multiple parks and green spaces in the neighborhood. In addition to Wragg Square and Wragg Mall, the neighborhood is located near popular Marion Square, where residents can attend festivals or enjoy the balmy weather.
The neighborhoods in downtown Charleston are so unique and diverse that it can be difficult to choose which one is best suited for you. Whether you are searching for a nice place to raise a family, a lively urban hub, or a place surrounded by natural splendor, the neighborhoods of downtown Charleston offer generous options that will suit even the most discerning palettes.