If ever there was a city complete with the perfect amount of things to do, food to eat, blocks to walk and sights to see, it would be Charleston, SC. Since its establishment in 1663, Charleston’s charm and appeal have only improved with each passing year. A city so rich with history, gorgeous architecture and culinary excellence — here’s 48 hours in Charleston.
What To Do
Charleston City Market
Make your first stop this four-block long market showcasing countless pieces of art, food items, handmade baskets, kitchen accessories, jewelry and more. The market is open 365 days a year, and is almost always crowded. The market is not only attractive for its size, but it’s the perfect way to chat it up with the locals. This isn’t your typical tourist trap – reasonable prices, quality products and interesting souls fill its grounds. Read about its rich history here.
Tip: Get there early to have your pick of everything that’s in stock, and of course, for the arm and leg room.
When you arrive in town, park your car and lace up your sneakers. As a peninsula, Charleston is home to a handful of beautiful, waterfront parks, one of its most visited being the cleverly named ‘Waterfront Park.’ Make sure your phone and/or camera is charged, because you’ll definitely want to take some photos of the gorgeous Charleston Harbor. With benches, picnic tables, and a gorgeous fountain featuring a giant pineapple, this park is perfect for a tranquil stroll during your 48 hours in Charleston. If your hankering to share your photos on Instagram — not to worry: this park offers free Wi-Fi.
Continue moseying through the waterfront seawall and feast your eyes on the breathtaking, historical homes directly facing the harbor.
The second must-see park in Charleston is the Battery, which can be reached by walking all the way along East Bay St. until you arrive at the corner of the peninsula. Surrounded by the Ashley and Cooper rivers, Battery Park (its unofficial name), offers a view of Fort Sumter and contains a number of old Civil War cannons and memorials. Take a seat on a bench beneath the towering oak trees or walk through the famous gazebo — a popular place for weddings, as you can imagine.
Walking through the beautiful city of Charleston is an experience in itself, but you’ll never understand the deep, interesting history of the buildings, trees, streets, restaurants without taking a carriage tour. After walking through Church St., seeing Waterfront Park, The Battery, I took a carriage ride where the route ended up being the exact walking route I had just taken (the routes are randomly chosen for the tour guides before each ride). Although I was initially disappointed, I quickly transitioned my mood after realizing that prior to this carriage tour, I had no idea what I was looking at besides stunning scenery. In a one hour carriage tour, I learned more American history than I had in my high school U.S. History class. Carriage tours run $20 per person. If you’ve got a birthday in your group, be sure to let your hotel know, they just might get you a free tour!
The USS Yorktown, the tenth air craft carrier to serve in the U.S. Navy, served many years in the Pacific and in the Vietnam War. In 1975, she became a museum at Patriots Point in Charleston and is now a National Historic Landmark. Simple entry into the ship with the ability to engage in your own walking tour through the ships rooms will cost you $20 per person. They do, however, offer tours complete with headsets that will guide you through a structured tour with speech providing history and facts coordinating with each stop. Make sure to make your way up to the upper deck to see the fascinating aircraft and a wonderful view of the city of Charleston.
Where to Eat
Charleston is extremely well-known for it’s food. It is home to many a James Beard award-winning chef and restaurants highlighted in such magazines as Bon Appetit and television networks like the Food Network. There are so many options, you might feel a bit of a system overload. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
Whisk (209 Meeting St.): Grab a quick juice or smoothie, indulge in a muffin or bite into a freshly toasted bagel smeared with cream cheese. You can also have your pick at a make-your-own parfait bar. Oh, and don’t worry. Your coffee also awaits you.
Toast (155 Meeting St.): The breakfast indulgence you really want. Throw back some bottomless mimosas or scarf down a biscuit the size of your face. This place has all of the low country eats you’ve been dreaming of.
The Daily (652 B. King St.): Locally sourced ingredients with offerings such as Stumptown coffee from Seattle, cold-pressed juices, breakfast sandwiches, pastries, other on-the-go options. If you suddenly find yourself craving a loaf of housemade bread, this is the place to go. This spot is owned by the owners of Butcher & Bee and Workshop. A trio worth experiencing.
Amen Street Fish and Raw Bar (205 E Bay St.): Traditional hushpuppies dipped in local wild flower honey, or an oyster po’ boy that’ll take you and your cholesterol to the high heavens. A gorgeous, luxurious interior with chandeliers made of fossil oyster shells – an indulgent experience worth every penny.
The Park Cafe (730 Rutledge Ave): A light lunch to prepare you for an evening feast – get your energy boost with a life-changing avocado toast and maybe a cocktail or two–We won’t judge.
The Macintosh (479 King St): I will recommend this restaurant for one dish: the rabbit starter with garganelli, delicata squash, maitake mushrooms, kale and ricotta salata. Enjoy it with a glass of red vino and finish it off with the duck breast and truffle fries. This menu will have you singing Hallelujah.
Husk (76 Queen St.): If you are going to Charleston in December, call to make a reservation in September, because chances are, you won’t get in. Husk was featured in Bon Appetit Magazine as Best New Restaurant in America in 2011. Sean Brock was the chef back then, and still is now. Need I say more?
FIG (232 Meeting St.): A true farm-to-table approach, FIG [Food is Good] offers quality, wholesome ingredients and a culinary experience catering to those who genuinely love food.
Edmund’s Oast (1081 Morrison Dr): You’ll have to hop in an Uber for this one, but it’s totally worth it. Liver parfait, epic charcuterie boards, in-house cured meats, the list goes on. A gorgeous, dark atmosphere makes for an unforgettable evening.
The Belmont (511 King St): End your night with a sweet dessert cocktail, your favorite classic or a modern take on a traditional drink. The bartenders at the Belmont might as well be labeled as artists – their drinks are their masterpieces. TIP: You must, MUST, order the housemade Nutella and banana ‘poptarts’.
Market Pavilion Roof Top Bar (225 East Bay St.): Enjoy your drink poolside – the rooftop bar at the Market Pavilion Hotel is a sight to be seen. A view of the city, the harbor, and not to mention, great drinks, get your happy hour in to catch the sunset while sipping a Cosmo.
Where to Stay
The quaint and cozy atmosphere in Charleston is reflected in its hotels and inns, each relatively close to all of the city’s action and sights. Park your car, unload your bags and use your legs the remainder of your stay.
The DoubleTree Charleston is situated right next to the Charleston City Market and only a few blocks from main, bustling streets, King St, East Bay St and Meeting St. A kind, caring hotel staff, unique accommodations and beautiful, comfortable interior made for a pleasant and convenient experience.
Cover image by Barry Peters CC BY
About the author: Christina Valenziano is a twenty-something foodie and fitness fanatic on a mission to live a healthy balanced life. She believes that living healthfully doesn’t mean sacrificing the little joys in life – follow her fitness journey on her blog, The Blissful Balance!