Charleston, SC is one of the most popular travel destinations in the country, and once you have seen it, it is not hard to understand why. Charleston is filled with vibrant neighborhoods and unique attractions, making it easy for you to find something that you will enjoy. This guide will show you where to stay in Charleston when you come for a visit!
1. Historic Downtown
The Historic Downtown area of Charleston lets you experience the rich culture of the oldest city in South Carolina. Founded in 1670 and housing nearly 1,400 historic buildings, the city has a long history that its residents are eager to share with you. You can explore the area via a horse-drawn carriage tour or take one of the many historical tours and ghost tours available by experienced guides.
Located just 20 minutes from the airport, the Historic Downtown area is home to many of the best bars and restaurants in the city, including speakeasies and rooftop patios. Dotted throughout the area are art museums, antique shops, and unique boutiques.
Points of Interest
- Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge – This 3-mile-long bridge connects downtown Charleston to Mount Pleasant over the Cooper River and gives you some of the best views around Charleston from its dedicated walking lane.
- Charleston Waterfront Park – This 12-acre park overlooking Charleston Harbor has park benches, a pier, and a Pineapple Fountain for you and your kids to splash in.
- The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist – Rebuilt in 1907 to replace a church that burnt down, this Gothic-Revival-styled church is the largest church in the Charleston area, seating up to 720 people for services.
- Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim – This house of worship is the oldest continuous-use sanctuary for the Jewish religion in America.
- The South Carolina Aquarium – This attraction is home to a wide variety of aquatic and marine life and includes a touch tank where you can safely handle some popular aquatic species.
2. French Quarter
The French Quarter, located near the center of the city, is a great place for you to start exploring the city. As part of the original walled city, the area was home to many French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution. You can see some of the city’s oldest churches and historic hotels.
If this is your first time visiting Charleston, making the French Quarter home base for your visit would be beneficial. Along its cobblestone streets are numerous cafes and restaurants for you to enjoy as well as heritage landmarks scattered among its colorful buildings. There is also a free trolley bus to take you to other areas of the city.
Points of Interest
- St Michael’s Church – Located at Broad and Meeting streets, this church is the oldest religious structure in Charleston, with an origination date of 1751.
- Charleston City Market – You can visit this 200-year-old open-air market to buy prints and paintings of the city as well as clothes, jewelry, spices, and other artwork displayed along its 4-block length.
- Dock Street Theatre – This 400-year-old theater has the distinction of being the first building designed for theatrical performances in the U.S. and was the host of America’s first-ever opera.
- Old Slave Mart Museum – This historical museum housed in a building constructed in 1859 shows Charleston’s role in the American slave trade.
3. South of Broad
Traveling to the neighborhood that is designated South of Broad will take you to the homes of many of the authors and creatives that have given the city its rich history. The Southern charm and eclectic nature of the neighborhood make it a good place for you to experience and explore.
Located on the tip of the Charleston peninsula, the South of Broad neighborhood is lined with historic constructions ranging from single houses to grand mansions. You can travel along brick-paved alleys between palatial Victorian homes to see some of the most interesting architecture in the city.
Places of Interest
- Philadelphia Alley – This pedestrian path between Queen Street and Cumberland Street is a quaint canopy-covered cobblestone delight to your senses.
- Battery & White Point Gardens – Visit these beautiful gardens that are perfect for you to have a picnic in nature and enjoy breathtaking views of Fort Sumter and Charleston Harbor.
- The Nathaniel Russel House – This historic house built by a wealthy slave trader/merchant in 1808 is considered one of the most important neoclassical homes in America.
- Rainbow Row – Take a unique selfie along this strip of 13 colorfully painted Georgian-style homes on East Bay Street.
- The Sword Gate House – This 17,142-square-foot home built in the 1800s is considered the oldest mansion in Charleston.
- The Heyward-Washington Home – This is the home of one of the South Carolina signers of the Declaration of Independence and is open for you to take a tour all seven days of the week.
4. Charleston Beach Area
At Charleston Coast Vacations, we have a wide spectrum of Charleston vacation rental experiences for you. Our accommodations on Folly Beach offer the perfect combination of island luxury and laid-back hospitality. Our exclusive vacation rental program on the Isle of Palms includes the very best homes and villas that the 1,600-acre resort of Wild Dunes and the family-oriented Isle of Palms have to offer. This beautiful beachfront area has a marina where you can rent a boat, scenic walking paths to explore, a playground for kids, and championship golf and tennis facilities. We have been creating beach memories since 1989 so sit back, relax, and let us help plan your perfect vacation experience on the Charleston Coast. While visiting don’t miss out on Folly beach, a 6-mile-long beach for swimming, surfing, and hunting for sharks’ teeth.
5. Mount Pleasant
Located in a suburban area east of the city, Mount Pleasant is the perfect place for you to experience the area’s rich naval history. The planners responsible for building up the area worked hard to preserve its cultural heritage and small-town appeal. Today, you will find it to be one of the fastest-growing parts of the city, with a wide array of neighborhoods and modern amenities that you will find attractive.
Situated by the Cooper River, this destination, once known as North Point, is home to many family-friendly activities and one-of-a-kind attractions. Notably, there are several retired warships and a Cold War submarine for you to explore amid the area’s naval bases. Mount Pleasant also has amazing dining and shopping opportunities for you to enjoy.
Points of Interest
- Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum – This attraction has several ships for you to explore along with a Medal of Honor museum, 28 historic aircraft, and a 3-acre Vietnam Experience.
- Fort Sumter National Monument – You can experience an important part of our history at this preserved military fortress where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired.
- Shem Creek Park – This large park has a variety of wetland landscapes, hiking trails, and boardwalks for you to discover and appreciate.
6. West Ashley
This residential suburb of Charleston is located at the junction of the Ashley and Stono rivers, giving it a unique waterfront landscape. The area has great historical significance and holds a variety of museums and preserved places for you to visit. You should definitely include this area in your exploration of the city and its suburbs!
One of the best things about the West Ashley area is the moss-draped oak trees that look like they have been standing in the same place forever. These trees give the whole area a sense of ancientness mixed with modernization as you discover the new shops, salons and restaurants that have popped up across the region. Many of the homes you will see here were built in the 1950s, with a large surge in growth occurring in the 1970s and 1980s.
Points of Interest
- Charles Towne Landing Historic Site – You can explore the site of the first successful English settlement in South Carolina.
- Magnolia Plantation – You can visit this preserved 464-acre plantation from 1676 and experience some of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the nation.
- Middleton Place – This museum takes you to a historic home, a rice mill, a spring house, and America’s oldest landscaped gardens, which were first planted in 1741.
- Drayton Hall – You can take a tour of this 1730s preserved plantation with the distinction of being the only plantation house to have survived both the American Revolution and the Civil War with no damage.
7. Kiawah Island
Kiawah Island is considered one of the most beautiful places in Charleston. Visit this waterside destination to see pristine sandy beaches, cozy cottages, and award-winning golf courses. The streets are lined with large oaks draped with Spanish moss, and beautiful magnolias that sway in the ocean breeze.
The developers of the island had a strong sense of preservation for the landscape, and that is reflected in every building and roadway. Because the area is so exclusive, Kiawah Island real estate is considered prime property. At the northeast end of the Isle, there is a 1,600-acre private resort and residential community that you should visit for an unforgettable experience.
Plan a Trip to Charleston, SC Today
If you have been wondering if Charleston, SC is a good place to live or visit, there is no question that it’s incredible. You can have many different experiences throughout the city and its suburbs. From historical monuments to trendy nightclubs, the city has many things for you to enjoy alone or with your family.