Charleston, South Carolina continues to gain popularity as a travel destination in the south, particularly for special life events like bachelorette parties or couples getaways. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the historic city a few times now, and during each trip I find myself further impressed by the local charm, divine dining choices, and elegant hotel options. If Charleston is on your travel bucket list, I’m hoping this guide will help you narrow down your choices as you arrange accommodations, restaurant reservations, and map out the final details of your itinerary. Bon voyage!
This dreamy dwelling is comprised of just 16 guest rooms and studios complete with pine floors, pastel paint colors, and all-around delightful decor. Although the rooms have been recently revamped, they all pay tribute to the buildings’ 1804 architecture and design, adding true southern appeal throughout. Sip your morning coffee on the veranda, take a ride on the hotel’s complimentary bikes, then browse the shops and bakeries that line the street.
Photo via @zerogeorgest
Location, location, location! Planters Inn has a lot to show off, but perhaps one of the most compelling reasons guests book a room here is due to the hotel’s status as a landmark in the heart of Charleston’s historic district. Thoughtful interiors, like those featured in the St. Philip Suite (pictured below), flaunt high ceilings, exposed brick, and arched doorways. We’ve stayed here and I adored classic charm and incredibly kind staff.
Photo via @plantersinnchs
With suites overlooking Marion Square, a highly-desired rooftop lounge, and numerous spa treatments to indulge in, there should be no hesitation when it comes to deciding on The Dewberry as your hotel of choice. You’ll love the thoughtfulness behind every detail of your stay—like the carefully curated in-room bar with selects from the hotel’s head chef.
Photo via @thedewberrycharleston
Another pick with deep roots in history, the quintessential 86 Cannon hotel was originally a three-story 1860s house. Now fully restored and refreshed, guests rave about the picturesque marble bathrooms, cozy library, open air piazzas, and nightly cheese and wine delivery. Midcentury finishes and classic French influences create a glamorous vibe. Swoon!
Photo via @86cannonst
Local ingredients, superb service, and a creative menu land Fig a spot at the top of my must-eat list. Order a refreshing cocktail while you look over the menu and decide between an array of delicious options, like gnocchi or chicken and bow tie soup. Make reservations early as this is one of the most desirable restaurants in town.
Photo via @eatatfig
Conveniently located within the hustle and bustle of downtown, this small restaurant stands out from competitors by offering a two appetizer, two entree, and two dessert menu that changes daily. You’ll find yourself completely satisfied as you enjoy seasonal bites and good conversation at a joint that truly feels one of a kind. I love the classic French details.
Photo via @catherinepdv
Formerly a 1920s bank building, this high-energy oyster hall is known as Charleston’s best when it comes to seafood. Post up at the bar and enjoy oyster happy hour from 5:00-6:30 or opt for a seat outside while you savor a lobster roll. The bar is known for its impressive collection of rum, so be sure to try one of the twelve options from the cocktail list. It’s a great option for groups – we went here for dinner over my bestie Lydia’s bachelorette weekend and it was one of the highlight memories of the weekend!
Photo via @eattheordinary
The grand opening of this restaurant took place on the eve of Valentine’s Day in 1997, explaining its destiny as a romantic spot. Located inside the Planters Inn, the sophisticated atmosphere and inventive dining options make it a popular Charleston destination. Don’t leave without tasting the famous 12-layer coconut cake.
Photo via @peninsulagrill
Kick off your evening in the rustic Vintage Lounge, which is best known for its extensive wine list. Start with a glass of chardonnay at the bar before making your way out to the lush patio—the lounge’s hidden gem. You can also schedule a wine tasting or join the wine club if you’re looking for something beyond a simple drink.
Photo via @vintagechs
A dark ambience sets off a vibe of an old fashioned cigar lounge, yet trendy cocktails prove the club’s ability to keep up with the times. Sit back into a cool leather chair and watch as bartenders use a ladder to grab mixings from towering shelves stocked with liquor. If you’re feeling the need for a change in scenery, the bar has a rooftop terrace that’s equally as posh.
Photo via @cocktailclubchs
Although Graft is primarily a bottle shop, you can snag a seat and a glass of wine for an experience both locals and tourists adore. Here, shop employees are known for their personable attitudes and ability to fill visitors in on all things newsworthy in Charleston. With vinyl spinning in the background and customers filtering in and out to purchase wine, you’ll be exposed to good conversation in the most relaxing way possible.
Photo via @graftchs
The light and airy interior at this upscale bar is inviting for all. Their cocktail list is so lengthy you’ll have a hard time deciding between a sparkling cocktail, French classic, or American favorite. If you’re in the mood for a bite, Felix also has a broad range of lunch and dinner options. Because of the variety, this is the place to go if no one can agree on a spot.
Photo via @felixcharleston
An absolute must if you’re visiting Charleston for the first time, the owner of the tour company, Tommy Dew, personally walks you through the most impressive spots in the city. Learn the history of the local architecture, discuss the pretty landscaping, and get pointers on other good restaurants and bars. Tip: Book your tour at the beginning of your trip so you know what areas you want to check out more.
Photo via @tommydewswalkingtour
People gush over this small stationary shop, and after browsing through the company’s Instagram account, I can see why. Although their printed notecards take center stage, the store offers a variety of gifts that will serve as a dose of southern charm long after you’re gone.
Photo via @macandmurphy
Satisfy your sweet tooth by making a pit stop by Sugar Bakeshop. The bakery is just steps down the street from Mac & Murphy, making it easy to pop by. Try the lemon curd cupcake, chocolate bourbon pecan tart, or ginger molasses cookie—three options that are sure not to disappoint.
Photo via @sugarbakeshop
There are a ton of great museums in Charleston, but if you only have time to check out one, I’d recommend The Gibbes Museum. Their collection of art ranges from contemporary to colonial and will offer you a greater appreciation for both local and international art. Plan to spend between 1-2 hours here.
Photo via @thegibbesmuseum
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