Driving into the heart of downtown Charleston feels like something out of a Nicholas Sparks movie. Spanish moss drapes down from the tips of centuries-old live oak branches, wrapped green with Kudzu vines. Colonial-era homes stand tall but tilted just as they have for hundreds of years. At low tide, the smell of pluff mud lingers over exposed oyster beds and scrambling fiddler crabs, only to dissipate as the saltwater seeps back into the marsh, slowly filling all the trails it left empty amongst the reeds. Azalea bushes, brimming with pink blooms, pepper the parks and roadsides as the sidewalks start to fill with visitors from every corner of the country. It’s Springtime in the low country!
Your Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Shopping in CHS
Welcome to Charleston, South Carolina! We hope you came hungry. Don’t let this historic city’s tiny airport lead you astray; there’s more to do here than any sane visitor could fit into one trip. Behind the kitchen doors of innumerable restaurants, shrimp and grits are plated, oysters shucked, and hushpuppies fried. If your belly isn’t full while you’re in the Holy City, you’re doing something wrong. From morning coffee to nightcap cocktails, we’ve got you covered on where to get the best of the best.
Coffee Shops Worth Stopping at:
We’ll start your day with a coffee to-go and maybe a light pastry. Brunching here is a sport, so you will want to leave room for your reservation.
The Daily - Located on upper King, The Daily has excellent coffee and small bites/breakfast options. If you don’t have brunch reservations, add the breakfast burrito or a smoothie to your order. I suggest ordering ahead and picking it up!
Harken Cafe & Bakery - Harken is a coffee shop in the middle of downtown with great pastries. Easy to get to and close to the battery for a morning stroll down Waterfront Park or Rainbow Road.
Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer - Another easy stop is Kudu, with great outdoor seating and a slice of quiche that is to die for.
Now that the caffeine is kicking in, it’s time to do a little exploring.
Most shops on King don’t open first thing, so we suggest heading down to the Battery. Along the way, you can take pictures in front of the iconic homes of Rainbow Row. These historic, pastel houses are located on East Bay Street. Meander down the brim of the Battery on the elevated sidewalk overlooking the water and stroll through White Point Garden. The homes surrounding the Battery are some of the oldest and most expensive in Charleston. Make sure to stop and admire the stunning window box flowers!
Moving on to Brunch!
Post House Inn - It’s over the bridge, but it’s worth it! Hands down, our favorite brunch spot in Charleston is the Post House Inn.
Millers All Day - They’ve nailed down the ideal brunch experience, but everyone knows it. Make sure you show up early to put your name down – they don’t take reservations.
Park and Grove Cafe - Just above Hampton Park, this little neighborhood gem has a stunning brunch menu. Not to mention, their craft cocktails are delightful.
Opting out of brunch? Here are our favorite spots for lunch:
Leon’s Oyster Shop - This is first on the list for a reason! One of Charleston’s most famous spots for lunch or dinner, Leon’s is a must-try. We suggest getting the Leon’s Fish Fry for a taste of everything with a side of the Siam Salad, Black Eyed Pea Salad, and the Char-Grilled Oysters (they’re cooked!) for the whole table. Wash it down with frozé or frozen yogurt!
Basic Kitchen - Healthy, but it doesn't taste like it. Stop in for great bowls, salads, cocktails, and more.
Queen Street Grocery - Ideal for a quick and easy lunch break. We like to order my favorite sandwich on a crepe.
Hometeam BBQ - Hometeam is perfect for the whole family with its casual atmosphere and outdoor seating. Make sure to get a Gamechanger, but be careful… they’re strong!
Ellis Creek Fish Camp - Just over the bridge to James Island, you’ll get the full low-country, waterfront experience at Ellis Creek Fish Camp.
Saltwater Cowboys - This outdoor bar sits on Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant. Get the Trashcan Nachos, and keep an out for dolphins passing through.
Places to Shop + Jewelry to Pack
After filling up on mid-day meals, head to King Street to shop! Some stores we think are worth a walk-in include: Beckett, Buxton Books, Charleston Preservation Society, Half-Moon Outfitters, Hampden, Julep, Lake Pajamas, M. Dumas & Sons, Madison Matthews, Roller Rabbit, and Finicky Filly.
Blind Tiger- A Charleston staple for courtyard drinks and great vibes.
Shem Creek - Try any of the waterfront bars for drinks in the fresh, salty air.
Get Dressed up for Dinner
With a drink or two down, it’ll be time for dinner. Make sure you get reservations where they’re offered in advance– we’re talking at least 2 or 3 weeks in advance! Charleston is known for its food, and these spots fill up fast.
167 Raw - One of the most famous spots in town for dinner! Put your name down early and grab a cocktail nearby while you wait.
167 Sushi - You can make a reservation, but it’s tiny! 167 Sushi is an intimate spot for saké and fresh sushi made right in front of you.
Bar 167 - The Mediterranean branch of the 167 restaurants. Also delicious!
The Ordinary - Fine dining in an old bank building. Dress up, and eat well.
Stella’s - Best Greek food in town with a very cool atmosphere.
Felix - Fabulous French food at all times of the day, but the dinner menu is our favorite.
Husk Bar - This may be a hot take, but hear us out. Skip the restaurant and try your best to find a spot at the bar for dinner at Husk. The bar room has craft cocktails, fun bartenders, and the full dinner menu available.
Chez Nous - A hidden gem. The menu at Chez Nous changes every day and is given to you as a handwritten note. Order everything, and pair it with a fabulous bottle of wine.
Sullivan’s Fish Camp - Slightly more casual than the other dinner options, Sullivan’s Fish Camp is a delightful spot near the beach on Sullivan’s Island. This is one of our favorite restaurants for southern seafood.
Since 1670, this southern town, with its palm tree-lined cobblestone streets and flickering gas lanterns, has charmed those who pass through, and we hope you have time to do and see it all. Take a historical walking tour, shop until you drop, eat more than you thought possible, and lay out on the beach with a yeti full of rosé in hand. We have a feeling you’ll be booking your next trip back before you even leave.
Places to Stay
Here are a few well-reviewed hotels in downtown Charleston we highly recommend for your stay!