The Ultimate Travel Guide to Charleston, SC Personal

Okay, ya’ll…IT’S HAPPENING!!! I’ve lived in Charleston for almost a year now (WHAT!!!) and this post is already long overdue! I swear I get DAILY messages, comments and emails asking about my fave places to visit in Charleston…and I don’t blame ya’ll!! It is truly the BEST place to vacation and such a popular travel destination, ESPECIALLY for photographers looking to capture pretty things!! I am by no means a Charleston expert, and may update this with more things as I find them…but this blog post is going to be a MASSIVE guide of all my current Charleston favorites!!!

So, for anyone who hasn’t been to Charleston before, it’s a unique spot to visit because there are so many surrounding towns/areas that are just as charming as downtown Charleston itself. I live in Mount Pleasant (a more residential area right over the bridge from downtown) but Johns Island, James Island, Folly Beach and Isle of Palms are just a few of the surrounding towns that are within driving distance and TOTALLY worth a visit. So, some of the spots in this guide will be in the heart of Charleston – and some may be in a neighboring town. But they are ALL worth a visit!!

 

These hotels will range from affordable chain hotels to boutique luxury options – and they are truly all amazing! I’ve stayed in almost all of them myself, and any others are Charleston “staples” that come highly recommended!

Hampton Inn Historic District: This is typically one of the more affordable hotel options that is in the heart of all the goodness downtown! It’s where I used to stay the most often when traveling to Charleston. 

The Dewberry: My personal FAVORITE place to stay in Charleston! I’ve splurged and stayed here 3 times now and it is incredible every single time. The aesthetic, customer service, incredible rooftop bar, location and overall experience make the Dewberry an AMAZING place to stay. Depending on the time of year, prices may be a splurge – but it’s worth it if you’re looking for a luxury experience! 

Hotel Bennett: One of the newer luxury hotels in downtown Charleston, Hotel Bennett is STUNNING! I have not personally stayed here, but I have gone to the famous pink champagne bar and it is to-die-for! The location is also right on King Street – which means you walk out the front door and you are right in the middle of all the action! 

The Mills House: One of the classic places to stay! If you’ve seen any iconic Charleston pics taken in front of a bubblegum pink wall, that was outside the Mills House 🙂 I’ve stayed here myself and it is gorgeous! 

Francis Marion Hotel: I have not personally stayed here, but it is another traditional luxury option here in Charleston that is in the middle of all the good stuff! It has a ton of amazing history and has been in Charleston for 96 years! 

Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina: My family and I stayed here when we came to visit to tour homes for the first time (SO special!) and we loved that it was more of a “beachy” vacation vibe! It has a gorgeous pool, is right on the marina and has a ferry that takes you right to downtown! It was super unique compared to the typical “downtown” feel of most Charleston hotels. 

Airbnb: It may feel silly for me to include Airbnb on this list…but there are SO. MANY. GOOD ONES. I’ve hosted quite a few events in Charleston and have found a wide variety of BEAUTIFUL options each time. If you are looking for a super affordable and unique option, or you are hosting an event for a large group, Airbnb is a great resource here! Try looking specifically for “Airbnb Plus” listings and “super hosts”. 

 

PLACES TO EAT:

Ya’ll, this section is going to be the longest. Charleston food is INCREDIBLE. I’m going to break it down by meal so you can have a better idea of when to visit each spot! But, just plan to come to Charleston on an empty stomach…and prepare to cheat on your diet.

Miller’s All Day: One of my favorite breakfasts spots! Known for their biscuit flight and mimosa options – it is DELICIOUS. The only downside is that they don’t take call-ahead seating, so be prepared for a bit of a wait. But it’s worth it (and it’s breakfast all day!) 

*MUST TRY: The daily biscuit flight, cinnamon roll + biscuits and gravy!

Poogan’s Porch: One of the most popular spots for brunch in Charleston! My FAVORITE thing on the menu is their pulled pork eggs Benedict – it is TO-DIE-FOR! If you are visiting Charleston for the first time, Poogan’s Porch is a MUST! (Careful not to book the wrong Poogan’s – there is also a Poogan’s Smokehouse, but you want Poogan’s Porch!) 

*MUST TRY: Fried green tomatoes, pulled Pork eggs Benedict, chicken and waffles

Grace & Grit: Located in Mount Pleasant but has SO many yummy Southern staples! We go often for their grits flights (YEP you read that right) and their mimosa flights for brunch! 

*MUST TRY: Any grit flight (I love blueberry!), She Crab Chowder, shrimp & grits (I also love “the Azaela” brunch cocktail!)

Vicious Biscuit: Everywhere in Charleston has the best biscuits…just prepare yourself. This spot is also located in Mount Pleasant and has some seriously delicious biscuit options! The portions are large and SUPER fun and unique – totally worth a stop! 

*MUST TRY: The “Vicious” Biscuit, the “sweet puppies”

Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit: There are multiple locations throughout Charleston + a food truck – and it’s an iconic Charleston must! They have biscuit flights and tons of flavors – we even buy them frozen to bake in our house because THAT’S how much we love them (this is a grab & go spot – not a sit down restaurant!)

*MUST TRY: Literally anything! The blueberry biscuit is our family fave!  

Vintage Coffee Cafe: Also located in Mount Pleasant, this is my mom and I’s fave! They have delicious light breakfast/lunch options as well as yummy drinks (it’s my go-to iced chai!) It’s a great spot to sit and work on their wifi and they have an adorable outdoor area for nice days. 

*MUST TRY: The iced chai, grown-up grilled cheese, acai bowls

5 Church: A REALLY neat spot downtown Charleston (near the market) that is an old church converted into a restaurant! Their dinner is also delicious, but they have something called the “Holy Sh** Breakfast” that it made for a group and SO. YUMMY. and SO MASSIVE.  Also have a delicious mimosa flight!

*MUST TRY: Mimosa flight, biscuits, fried chicken

 

 

Basic Kitchen: This is a great healthy + vegan spot for lunch! The inside is SO cute and everything on the menu is delicious! 

*MUST TRY: Cauliflower wings, vegan nachos, crispy potatoes, rice bowl with chicken

Five Loaves Cafe: Me and my family’s FAVORITE lunch spot in Mount Pleasant – and there’s a location downtown, too! We LOVE their sandwiches and soups (as well as their brunch) and they have so many gluten free options for me! 

*MUST TRY: FLC Caesar salad, hot ham & brie sandwich, any of their daily soups (or eggs benny for brunch!)

Monza: One of my FAVORITE spots for pizza downtown! Super authentic brick oven taste and crispy crust. They also have yummy wine + apps! 

167 Raw:  A downtown spot that is famous for their lobster roll! I’ve also had their tacos and they are YUMMY.

*MUST TRY: Lobster Roll

Chicken Salad Chick: A Mount Pleasant spot that is my mom’s personal favorite! She LOOOVESSS chicken salad and this is the jackpot of options!

Poe’s Tavern:  A “locals” favorite on Sullivan’s Island! Famous for the burger, Poe’s Tavern is a DELICIOUS spot that is perfect for a day after the beach!

*MUST TRY: Bacon cheese fries, fish tacos and pretty much any of their signature burgers!

The Co-Op: Last spot on Sullivan’s Island, and our personal favorite frozen rose in Charleston!!! Such a good stop for french fries + drinks! We got the frose delivered for our entire quarantine – haha!

Coastal Crust Pizza: Our family’s favorite pizza spot in Mount Pleasant! It is the CUTEST spot (tucked behind Vintage Coffee Cafe!) and has the best authentic wood-fired pizzas!

 

 

Vendue Rooftop: SUCH a gorgeous view of downtown Charleston! We go here often for happy hour and before dinner reservations. It gets busy in the summertime but so worth a quick stop, even if just for the view! It’s the #1 rooftop bar in Charleston so, I mean…do what you wish with that information! 

*MUST TRY: Spring rolls, nachos, crack fries, and literally any cocktail!

Parcel 32: A gorgeous and super aesthetically-pleasing spot for drinks and light snacks! I went for Galentine’s Day with my friends and we had the BEST time.

*MUST TRY:  Hush puppies, cheese boards, crushed potatoes 

Citrus Club: I have not had a chance to visit Citrus Club yet…but I’ve heard raving reviews! It’s a bar located at The Dewberry hotel that normally gets full very quickly and hotel guests get priority access. But, it’s ADORABLE and worth a visit!

Uptown Social: This is definitely the place to go if you are looking to party 🙂 It’s got live music and late night dancing, plus a food menu until 2am! If you are looking for a place to dance all night and then eat greasy chicken fingers on your way out…this is it! My favorite local band plays here on Sunday nights from 7-10pm and you can almost ALWAYS find me there – haha! 

Saltwater Cowboys: This spot is in Mount Pleasant located on the water at a spot called “Shem Creek”! If you follow me on Instagram and seen me post the famous “trash can nachos”…this is the place to get them! It’s a gorgeous spot for drinks and food right on the water. I go here ALL the time to watch sporting events on TV and day drink/snack with friends. It’s one of my all-time faves! 

*MUST TRY: “Trash can” nachos – I always get them with pulled pork! They also have a famous frozen Tito’s vodka lemonade that’s amazing!

Market Pavilion: Another great rooftop bar option downtown! I haven’t personally been to this one, but it’s a hit that I hear about often!

 

 

Felix: This is probably the spot I post on Instagram about most often…it’s my personal favorite!!! It’s a French-inspired spot that is famous for their Raclette burger and cocktails. My friends and I go here ALL the time to order a ton of small plates and spend a few hours snacking and chatting before finishing it off with their amazing burger!! It’s located right on King Street and I can’t recommend it enough! 

*MUST TRY: Raclette burger, Soupe à l’Oignon (french onion soup), Fromage Fort (crispy bread with cheese dip and fresh honey), lobster deviled eggs and “dealer’s choice” cocktails – they make you a custom cocktail based on your preferences!

Magnolias: I grew up coming to Magnolias after church on Sundays when I lived here growing up! It is a traditional Southern spot that is a little dressier and more expensive. But, if you splurge for one dinner out, this should be it! Every meal is DELICIOUS and I could eat here every week and never get tired of it! It’s a Charleston must! 

*MUST TRY: fried green tomatoes, fried chicken (get mac & cheese instead of collard greens!), brussel sprout salad, pecan pie

Poogan’s Porch: I mentioned Poogan’s in this post already as a brunch spot (which is my fave time to visit Poogan’s), but they also have amazing dinner options! If you are looking some super Southern comfort food, this is a great spot!

*MUST TRY: Shrimp & grits, beef short rib, sweet tea salmon

Hall’s Chophouse: Another Southern “fine dining” spot that is a staple downtown! It’s also a great brunch spot if you don’t want to splurge for dinner.

O-Ku Sushi: Our family’s fave sushi spot! A super fun, contemporary vibe with great drinks and awesome sushi. It’s another spot I could eat at every day and never get tired of!

*MUST TRY: Dumpling dim sum, spring rolls, and my two favorite rolls: Tuna Tataki and the Potato Roll

Papi’s Taqueria: The Taylor family could talk about this place for DAYSSSSS. We freakin’ LOVE Papi’s. It is located on Isle of Palms, so it’s a bit of a drive from downtown…but it is SO worth it. We’ve eaten here at least a dozen times already since moving here…and it’s truly one of our all-time-faves! The aesthetic, views, drinks and TACOS are to-die-for. We can’t get enough!

*MUST TRY: Chips & dips, Pelo del Perro taco, Tender Time taco, How ya Durin taco, classic margarita (called Big Papi – haha!)

Obstinate Daughter: This spot is located on Sullivan’s Island, but it’s another family fave of ours that we visit often! They have super unique (and amazing) pastas and pizzas (including GF pasta for me!) It’s a super well-known spot for the locals! 

*MUST TRY: Short rib ricotta gnocchi (i order it over GF pasta!), Fowl Language pizza, farro piccolo appetizer

 

Jeni’s Ice Cream: If you aren’t in the South and have never had Jeni’s…you MUST!!! There is a shop on King Street that is a must-visit – and you literally can’t go wrong with any flavor! But my faves are “Gooey Butter Cake” (it’s GF!) and “Brown Butter Almond Brittle”! Try as many as you can while you’re there! 

Candy Shops: The area surrounding the market is sprinkled with tons of local candy shops that we LOVE stopping into! Try some fresh made pralines or caramel turtles – you won’t regret it 🙂 

Carmella’s: I haven’t had a chance to eat here yet…but I hear about it ALL the time!!! It’s a cafe + dessert bar that has TONS of yummy goodies!  

Kaminsky’s: Another dessert cafe I haven’t had the chance to try but I am DYING to!! The menu looks DELICIOUS!

 

This section could be it’s own entire blog post – haha! I am a HUGEEE shopping lover, and Charleston does NOT disappoint with shopping options. There are new spots opening often, so I recommend just walking King Street with some spending money – but I’ve highlighted some faves below! The majority are in downtown Charleston, but a handful are closer to Mount Pleasant (and TOTALLY worth the drive!)

The Skinny Dip: This spot on King Street doubles as a boutique + a rooftop coffee shop (that also has frozen rose!) The shopping is AMAZING and they have a wide variety of pieces and price points including everything from dresses to jewelry to CHS ball caps. 

**Be sure to go upstairs for the CUTEST Instagram-worthy patio!

Two Cumberland: There is a location downtown + in Mount Pleasant, it’s one of my go-tos! They have the best affordably-priced pieces and TONS of cute gift/souvenir ideas! 

The Shops at Charleston Place: This is more of a “window shopping” spot, but the shops at Charleston Place is a mini “mall” that has all of the name brand designers! It’s super fun to walk through and see all the pretty things! 

Julep: A cute local shop that has great unique pieces + accessories that you won’t find anywhere else! 

Hampden: This spot has more high end/designer pieces – but perfect to find something for a special event! 

House of Sage: Another spot with a location downtown + in Daniel Island – my mom and I love to come here for cute sundresses and maxis! 

Candlefish: A great spot to stop downtown, especially if you’re looking for gifts or souvenirs! They have all of the candles + cute local gifts you could dream of! 

Mulberry and King: Potentially my personal fave in Charleston -I can’t come here without buying something! It’s located in Mount Pleasant, but definitely worth the drive – it’s right next door to Vicious Biscuit (so you can stop at both while you’re here!)

Maris DeHart: This spot is near the market (right next to Vendue rooftop) and SUCH a gem! They have great statement pieces + unique outfits – perfect for events/wedding guest looks!

Sweet Jessamie’s Flower Truck: I stinking love this truck!!! It’s so unique and BEAUTIFUL for Instagram pics – haha! I get fresh flowers here as often as I can!

Las Olas: My all-time fave spot for bathing suits! It’s pricey, but it’s a go-to here in Charleston and the suits are high quality and last forever!

 

 

There are SO many fun things to do in Charleston! One of the things I always say I am most surprised by about moving here is that there truly is ALWAYS something to do. Whether you want the perfect Instagram-worthy spot for photos, live music and drinks, gorgeous sunset views on the water, tons of history…there are options galore! I’ve included some faves (including my fave spots for photography + instagrams!)

RAINBOW ROW: One of the most iconic spots in Charleston! This area is located at 83 E Bay Street and includes multiples blocks of gorgeous, colorful historic homes! I could photograph portraits here every single day and never get tired of it. It’s the perfect place to get all of the iconic Charleston pictures! 

THE BATTERY: Right around the corner from Rainbow Row is a strip called “The Battery” – it is the a landmark defensive seawall where you can walk right on the water. It is also views of gorgeous, multimillion dollar homes that line the waterfront – the perfect place to stroll after lunch! 

KING STREET: This is the main strip of shopping + eating downtown Charleston! It’s where you will find the majority of the popular shops and eateries – it’s also just a gorgeous street to walk up and down to take in the views!

HISTORIC CHARLESTON CITY MARKET: Located at 188 Meeting Street, the market is an AMAZING central location that features dozens of local artists, shops and vendors who sell their products here each day! It is such a cool experience to walk through the market and see all of the products, and it’s bordered by a few of the restaurants + candy shops I’ve mentioned in this post (like 5 Church, Market Pavilion + a popular candy shop for pralines)! 

SOUTH OF BROAD: A photographer’s playground! This area of downtown Charleston is known for it’s beautiful architecture and picture-worthy locations! This area includes Rainbow Row, but it’s worth walking around all of the surrounding blocks – because they are gorgeous! 

HAMPTON PARK: This park is located near the Citadel in downtown Charleston, and one of my favorite local parks for photography! Spanish moss and blooming flowers galore!!! 

MAGNOLIA PLANTATION & GARDENS: One of my family’s favorite plantations to visit – Magnolia is absolutely gorgeous! It is known for the gorgeous gardens and Spanish moss, and is the perfect spot to get lunch and walk around or do some tours of the property! 

BOONE HALL PLANTATION: Some of the classic “Notebook” movie was filmed here!!! Another beautiful and super popular plantation – known as the #1 plantation to visit in Charleston, SC! They are more strict on photography rules here….but it’s totally worth a stop!

ROOFTOP BARS: Charleston is very well-known for it’s bar scene – specifically the variety of rooftop bars (because the weather is always so gorgeous here!) Some of my favorites were listed above, but they are all definitely popular spots and worth a visit while you’re here! 

SHEM CREEK: As someone who lives in Mount Pleasant, this is my FAVE go-to spot!! Shem Creek is a body of water that flows through Mt. Pleasant and is surrounded by tons of amazing waterfront spots to eat and drink. SaltWater Cowboys is my fave spot for weekend afternoons – the views, drinks and food are all amazing!

LOCAL BEACHES: There are SO many beach options surrounding Charleston including beaches on Folly Beach, James Island, John’s Island and Isle of Palms! Personally, we love going to Isle of Palms most – but Folly Beach is a much more “tourist-friendly” and party vibe if that’s what you’re looking for!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also love:

Updated Charleston Home Tour

Charleston Girls Trip (48 Hour Guide to Charleston)

Golden Hour Anniversary Session in Downtown Charleston  

POSTED

April 29, 2020

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I'm Hope Taylor, an international Senior Portrait and Wedding Photographer based in Charleston, SC. I'm also an educator, international speaker, and the host of multiple sold-out workshops each year!

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