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Charleston city guide

An insider's guide to the Holy City

With an intoxicating blend of history, southern charm and culinary appeal, Charleston has long been a travel destination darling. But there’s more to this city than good grits and ghost tours. From a burgeoning boutique hotel boom to a growing craft beer industry, innovative cultural heritage projects, and hot new arts and music festivals, the city continues to evolve even as it marks its 350th anniversary. Whatever the diversion you’re after — be it beach days, antebellum architecture tours, or soft-shell crab crawls — the past is always present in the Holy City. Once you've toured the local must-dos, make sure you check out the local sites our four notable locals frequent in town.

Words by Kinsey Gidick

South of Broad

The oldest, most exclusive, and most expensive neighborhood on the Charleston peninsula, South of Broad (or S.O.B., as locals like to call it) is home to some of the city’s most impressive architecture. Tucked between the Georgian, Federal, Neoclassical, and Gothic Revival homes, historic sites such as the Heyward Washington House are open for tours. Take a stroll down Church Street and grab some provisions at the goat.sheep.cow. wine and cheese shop before taking harbor views at White Point Garden.

Photography courtesy of Explore Charleston

Park Circle

While not technically in Charleston proper, the nearby city of North Charleston is home to this up-and-coming neighborhood known for its growing craft brewery scene and sought-after restaurants. James Beard Rising Star nominee Chef Shuai Wang and his wife, YA author Corrie, recently opened American Chinese eatery Jackrabbit Filly. Nearby, cult favorite EVO Pizzeria sits on Montague Avenue, and neighbors meet for beers and bocce ball around the corner at Commonhouse Aleworks. Cider tasting room Ships Wheel Hard Cider is a neighborhood newcomer. More affordable than downtown Charleston, Park Circle has become an artists’ hub where the area’s creative class works and plays.

Photography courtesy EVO Pizzeria

Cannonborough Elliotborough

This residential neighborhood has evolved into a vibrant hub of small boutiques and restaurants, like the Spanish tapas spot Estadio and cupcake haven Sugar Bakeshop. Pick up flowers at Flowershop or Tiger Lily and don’t be surprised to see groups of women in matching outfits headed toward King Street for a night out.

French Quarter

Home to The Dock Street Theater — the oldest continually operating theater in the country — and Queen Street Playhouse, the city’s drama scene is alive and well in the French Quarter. This historic mish-mash of art galleries, restaurants, and boutiques, located between the harbor and the bustling shopping center of King Street, makes for a gorgeous evening stroll after dinner to nearby hotels on East Bay Street.

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Fine Dining


(843) 805-5900, 232 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401, United States

There’s a reason FIG has earned three James Beard awards. You won’t find this level of locally sourced fine dining anywhere else. Serving dishes like baked golden tilefish blanquette and Murasaki sweet potato and Époisses tart with Benton's bacon, Chef Jason Stanhope changes the menu daily and reservations must be booked at least one month in advance.

Photography by Andrew Cebulka


(843) 577-0025, 155 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401, United States

McCrady’s intimate 20-set, 12-course tasting menu is a one-of-a-kind experience. The AAA Five-Diamond award-winning restaurant is under the meticulous eye of Chef Ben Norton, whose exacting attention to detail delivers remarkable flavors found nowhere else. Think Magnolia blossom ice cream or nostrale, a rice dish that traces its Charleston roots to 1748.

Photography by Andrew Cebulka

The Grocery

(843) 302-8825, 4 Cannon St, Charleston, SC 29403, United States

Chef Kevin Johnson is a master of exploring seasonal southern ingredients and elevating them to their ultimate potential. Case in point: his Lowcountry seafood pilau. Carolina Gold rice, field peas, clams, shrimp, and crispy fish form a bowl that gets at the heart and soul of Charleston and its foodways. Perfect for a multi-course meal or cocktails and snacks at the bar, The Grocery is a must-do for locals and visitors alike.

Slightly North of Broad

(843) 723-3424, 192 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401, United States

A Charleston institution, S.N.O.B. (short for Slightly North of Broad) has been the spot for power lunches and family dinners for more than 20 years. Now under the ownership of the Hall family —of Halls Chophouse on King Street—the menu skews classic American with dishes such as the New Bedford scallops and Carolina flounder. The all-important Lowcountry shrimp and grits dish is also thrown in for good measure.

Zero Restaurant + Bar

(843) 817-7900, Left Side, 0 George St, Charleston, SC 29401, United States

You’ll be forgiven if you’re tempted to photograph every dish at Zero George. Chef Vinson Petrillo’s plates are works of art. Here, even bar snacks such as the deviled eggs get the decorative treatment. Topped with pickled ramps, Spanish chorizo, fennel basil and lavender flowers, this dish looks so pretty you may hesitate to eat it. Dig in anyway. You won’t be disappointed.


Home Team BBQ

(843) 225-7427, 126 Williman St, Charleston, SC 29403, United States

Head to one of this smoked meat eatery’s three locations for chicken wings or boozy brunch. Then order a Game Changer cocktail if you know what’s good for you. Home Team’s take on a Painkiller made with Caribbean Gold Rum, Sailor Jerry spiced rum, pineapple juice, OJ, cream of coconut, and a little nutmeg for garnish, is a must.

Photography by Andrew Cebulka

Lewis Barbecue

(843) 805-9500, 464 N Nassau St, Charleston, SC 29403, United States

When Lewis Barbecue opened in 2016, the line for the restaurant’s tender brisket wrapped around the block. The city’s enthusiasm hasn’t waned. If anything, it’s gotten more intense as Lewis Barbecue has expanded its menu with daily specials, chicken fried steak and prime rib dinners to complement cult favorites like the Texas hot guts sausage, cowboy pinto beans and green chile corn pudding.

Rodney Scott 's BBQ

(843) 990-9535, 1011 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, United States

Rodney Scott is a master of whole hog barbecue, a skill he learned from his parents at Scott’s Variety Store and Bar-B-Q, their Hemingway, South Carolina gas station and pool hall. Smoking whole hogs became the family’s calling card and BBQ aficionados sought out the rural spot for years before Scott decided to open a second restaurant in Charleston. Now he’s the owner of a line of barbecue joints with additional locations in Birmingham and Atlanta. Visit his King Street spot for real deal Carolina ‘cue.

Gullah Geechee

Nana's Seafood & Soul

(843) 937-0002, 176 Line St, Charleston, SC 29403, United States

For seafood made with soul, there’s no better place than Nana’s. Operated by mother-son duo Carolyn and Kenyatta McNeil, the restaurant serves finger-licking good garlic crabs, shrimp and deviled crabs, fried blue crabs, fried chicken gizzards and much more. Be sure to ask about Nana’s Everything Sauce. You’ll likely want to buy a bottle to go.

Raw Bars

The Ordinary

(843) 414-7060, 544 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, United States

A three-tiered shellfish tower is pretty impressive in itself, but nowhere is the power of stacked seafood more awe-inspiring than at The Ordinary. Chef Mike Lata’s tiny raw bar on upper King Street is home to the region’s best oysters, deviled crab toast, and a $31 lobster roll special that’s worth every penny.

The Darling Oyster Bar

(843) 641-0821, 513 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, United States

If you can’t snag a seat in front of this raw bar’s team of oyster shuckers, a booth over brunch is just as good. Don’t forget to order a Bloody Mary at the bar. Garnished with shrimp, a crab leg, lobster claw, two olives, and a hush puppy, it’s fit for Poseidon himself.

167 Raw

(843) 579-4997, 193 King St, Charleston, SC 29401, United States

Once a tiny 15-seat restaurant on East Bay Street, the recently reopened 167 Raw now operates in a gorgeous King Street space complete with an open-air central courtyard and generous raw bar. But take note: this no-reservations restaurant continues to be in high demand with throngs of people queing up for its pastrami’d swordfish, daily crudo and scallop po’ boys.

Rappahannock Oyster Bar

(843) 576-4693, 701 E Bay St #110, Charleston, SC 29403, United States

What do Richmonders and Charlestonians have in common? A deep appreciation for bivalves. That’s why the Lowcountry outpost of this Virginia brand made perfect sense when it opened in 2017. Tucked into a corner of Charleston’s Cigar Factory building, it makes for a quiet escape from the more touristy areas of the city, but it offers plenty of cosmopolitan charm with a circular bar where guests can watch staff shuck oysters right in front of them.


(843) 352-7969, 201 Coleman Blvd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464, United States

There are French chefs and then there are members of the French Culinary Academy (l'Académie Culinaire de France). Nico Romo, owner of NICO, is the youngest-ever U.S. member of the acclaimed organization, one of just 66 French Master Chefs in the country, and the only recipient in South Carolina. He applies his pedigree to create wood-fired entrees such as escargot, Mussels “Vin Rouge” and traditional French classics including chicken cordon bleu and bouillabaisse de Marseille.


The Living Room at The Dewberry

(843) 558-8000, 334 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29403, United States

With a design that feels straight out of Mad Men, Charleston’s mid-century modern hotel, The Dewberry, is also home to one of the chicest cocktail bars in town, The Living Room. Helmed by bartender Ryan Casey, spirits get a playful twist with drinks as balanced as they are entertaining. Casey’s Panic Button, for instance, is a whiskey forward cocktail served in a coupe glass centered around a perfect sphere of ice. As the cocktail menu teases, “try not to freak out.”

Lowlife Bar

(843) 633-0460, 106 E Hudson Ave, Folly Beach, SC 29439, United States

T.J. Lynch made his name with Manhattan bar Mother’s Ruin, but he seems right at home on the beach with his latest project, Lowlife Bar. In search of a place to nurse a sunburn, guests sit on the outdoor patio or inside for cheeky takes on classics such as the Eric Estrada, Lowlife’s piña colada; or the Pluff Mud Slide, a caffeinated blend of rum, cold brew coffee, banana cream rum and coconut milk.

Craft Beer

Edmund's Oast

(843) 718-3224, 1505 King St #115, Charleston, SC 29405, United States

Its big brother restaurant, Edmund’s Oast, was once called one of the “best beer bars in America” by Food & Wine, and Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company isn’t far behind. More casual than the Oast, EOBC pairs its signature suds with a menu that appeals to both nearby tech workers and families alike. Five creative pizzas (including a white clam and nduja option) are offered alongside pork fried egg rolls and homemade hot dogs. Put simply, this is where the foodies go to watch the big game.

The Barrel

(843) 732-2337, 1859 Folly Rd, Charleston, SC 29412, United States

Charleston’s bar scene is relatively dog-friendly, but The Barrel’s entire concept is predicated on the old dating profile: Must Love Dogs. Walk through the barrel-shaped door and enter a small bar with dozens of beers on tap, then take your pooch outside where they can run and chase balls or swim in the marsh creek while live music plays and a rotation of food trucks serves local eats.

Holy City Brewing

(843) 459-2948, 1021 Aragon Ave, Charleston, SC 29405, United States

One of the original breweries that paved the way for Charleston’s brewery boom, Holy City recently celebrated a mega expansion and now welcomes visitors to its brand new 10,000-square-foot taproom in Park Circle. Take a seat along Noisette Creek and enjoy one of the 40 beers on tap or kick back inside at the 100-foot-long bar with five big screen TVs and a full kitchen.

Commonhouse Aleworks

(843) 471-1400, 4831 O'Hear Ave, North Charleston, SC 29405, United States

The keys to running a great brewery are fairly simple: offer fantastic beer (a no brainer), serve it in a fun space, and throw in a little live music and great eats for good measure. Commonhouse Aleworks takes this formula to its maximum potential. An outdoor space filled with picnic tables and a stage is fenced off to keep the little ones safe, while a climate controlled taproom fills orders for beers including the 2019 U.S. Open Beer Championship gold medal-winning Wise One Hefeweizen.

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Luxury Hotels

The Dewberry

(843) 558-8000, 334 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29403, United States

In today’s hectic world, attention to detail often gets lost in the shuffle. That’s not the case at The Dewberry, which owner John Dewberry took eight years to design. That same focus now extends to guest services, where front door greetings are just as well-thought-out as the cocktail garnishes at the Citrus Club, The Dewberry’s jewel box of an eighth floor rooftop bar.

Hotel Bennett

(833) 313-1798, 404 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, United States

If you’re looking to stay in the heart of Charleston, you can’t go wrong with Hotel Bennett. Located on Marion Square — the site of many of the city’s annual festivals — one only needs to walk out its front door to become immersed in King Street’s many restaurants and boutiques. The gilded hotel also maintains its old school glamour even as it offers all the modern amenities of an international chain.

Planters Inn

(843) 722-2345, 112 N Market St, Charleston, SC 29401, United States

Planters Inn’s charm isn’t limited to its four-star accommodations — its history is equally compelling. The building was saved after Hurricane Hugo swept through Charleston in 1989. The hotel later went on to earn the distinction as the sole Relais & Châteaux hotel in South Carolina. Located on Market Street, it’s ideally located for a stroll through Charleston’s historic neighborhoods.

Boutique Hotels

Hotel Bella Grace

(843) 990-7500, 117 Calhoun St, Charleston, SC 29401, United States

Just one block away from Charleston’s Marion Square, Hotel Bella Grace is one of the newest boutique accommodations to open in the city. Equidistant between the South Carolina Aquarium, vibrant King Street and boats to Fort Sumter, the contemporary space makes for a welcome respite after a busy day touring the Holy City.

The Restoration

(843) 518-5100, 75 Wentworth St, Charleston, SC 29401, United States

The Restoration offers many enticing amenities including a gorgeous restaurant with views of the city’s steeples, in-room spa services and an on-site coffee bar. But you can’t beat the rooftop pool — a rarity in Charleston — that’s exclusive to hotel guests. Take a dip, then walk one block over to King Street for a night on the town.


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King Street

King St, Charleston, SC, USA

Charleston’s main artery is defined by world-renowned restaurants and a variety of retail spots, including both big name brands and boutiques alike. Beginning at the intersection of Broad Street, shops like Billy Reid and OOBE sit beside antique stores and classic local jewelers. Further up King, you’ll find J.Crew, Anthropologie, Gap and Victoria Secret, before the street gives way to more restaurants and bars.

Photography courtesy of Explore Charleston

Historic Charleston City Market

(843) 937-0920, 188 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401, United States

If you’re in the market for a sweet grass basket — the artisan craft of Gullah Geechee descendants — head to the Historic Charleston City Market. Here, descendants of the African diaspora weave these stunning pieces of art next to stalls selling a variety of tourist paraphernalia, pralines and souvenirs.

Cultural Landmarks

Photography courtesy of Explore Charleston

Fort Sumter

(843) 722-2628, 340 Concord St, Charleston, SC 29401, United States

To truly understand Charleston, you have to engage its past. That includes the American Civil War, which started here on April 12, 1861 when the first shots were fired on Fort Sumter. Hop on the ferry at Liberty Square and cruise over to the island fort where National Park Rangers describe the events leading up to America’s bloodiest conflict.

Libby Williams Photography

Gibbes Museum of Art

(843) 722-2706, 135 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401, United States

The Gibbes Museum of Art has been displaying artwork in Charleston since its founding in 1858, and it shows. Its permanent collection is home to one of the most extensive groups of miniature portraits — locket size paintings — in the United States. In addition, the Beaux Arts building — which recently underwent an $11.5 million renovation — asserts Charleston’s vital role as the home to some of the country’s earliest art collectors.

Photography courtesy of Explore Charleston

Charleston Museum

(843) 722-2996 ext. 264, 360 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29403, United States

One of the oldest museums in the United States, the Charleston Museum was founded in 1773. Today, its collection is housed on Meeting Street where staff detail the city’s 350 years of history from its 1670 founding to the present day.  Highlights include the full skeleton of a whale found in the harbor in 1880, a mummy sarcophagus and 10,000 textile objects including 8,000 costumes and 200 quilts.


Photography courtesy of Explore Charleston

Folly Beach

Folly Beach, SC, USA

If you like your beach vibes super laid back, there’s no better option than Folly Beach. Here, the “far out” atmosphere extends past the sand to Middle Street, where a collection of chill bars and restaurants await. Visitors can also make a detour down the island's side streets and hit up funky cafe Chico Feo for live music, or grab a bowl of ramen at Jack of Cups.

Photography courtesy of Explore Charleston

Sullivan’s Island

Sullivan's Island, SC, USA

Families love Sullivan’s Island for its long coastline of white sand beaches, watersport rentals and happening downtown area with charming restaurants and bars including Obstinate Daughter, Beardcats Gelato, Poe’s and Home Team BBQ. Parking can be a challenge, but if you can claim a spot, you’re in for a perfect day of sun and sand.