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Things to do in Charleston

Things to do in  Charleston

Welcome to Charleston

Charleston is a jewel of the South, renowned for its beautiful mansions, magnolia-scented gardens, and heady mix of influences from as far away as France, Africa, and the West Indies.

Top 15 attractions in Charleston

Fort Sumter National Monument

A top historic attraction in South Carolina, Fort Sumter National Monument is famous for being the site where the Civil War began. Today, the sea fort, accessible only by boat, retains much of its original stone structure—plus a few lodged cannonballs—letting visitors experience a piece of American history firsthand.More

Charleston City Market

Smack in the middle of historic Charleston, the Charleston City Market is a central landmark for Holy City visitors. In addition to being one of the most visited historic attractions in town, the City Market—opened in 1807—is also one of the oldest continuously operating public markets in the United States.More

Charleston Waterfront Park

Waterfront porch swings, a giant pineapple fountain, and grassy areas perfect for lazing the day away make Waterfront Park feel like Charleston’s personal backyard. Watch the boats float by on the river, snap photos, and enjoy the park’s family-friendly amenities—they keep this park a favorite hangout spot for locals and visitors alike.More

St. Michael's Church

Towering above surrounding Charleston, the nearly 200-foot tall white steeple of St. Michael’s signals the site of the city’s oldest church. Inside, visitors and parishioners are transported back to the colonial era: alcoves shine with Tiffany stained glass windows, the original 1768 organ still pipes tunes and creaky wooden pews have seated centuries of worshipers including notables George Washington and Robert E. Lee. The central chandelier once blazed with candles, but has since been retrofitted with bulbs. Otherwise little altered, the church has survived tornadoes, an earthquake and even civil war bombings. The pulpit still bears battle wounds suffered in the 1865 Siege of Charleston Harbor. A table in the main vestibule along the western wall details the building’s long and storied history.Choral music still emanates from St Michael’s on Sundays, and, as a still-functioning Episcopal Church, it can be sometimes challenging to tour the inside. Still, the exterior is a highlight of many historic downtown tours. It's still possible to see the old colonial clock— though minute hands weren’t added until the mid-1800s—and tour the adjacent cemetery, the final resting place of, among several other notables, two signers of the US Constitution.More

Rainbow Row

This street of brightly colored homes in Charleston is easily the most photographed spot in the city, and it’s easy to see why. The 14 colorful Georgian row houses along East Bay Street date back to 1730, when they were built as merchant stores.More

Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon

The Old Exchange is one of the oldest structures in Charleston, a famous city landmark, and one of the most historically significant buildings in the United States. Once the site of important political events, the building is now open to the public for fascinating tours, including a walk-through of its haunted Provost Dungeon.More

The Battery and White Point Garden

The Battery wraps around the edge of Charleston’s peninsula, providing an elegant buffer between the city and the Ashley and Cooper rivers. Stroll and sightsee along the wide pedestrian paths, which pass by antebellum homes and historic sights, or perch beneath the live oaks in White Point Garden and watch the world go by.More

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

As the last large-scale Romantic garden left in the United States, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens seek to provide an escape from the struggles and stresses of everyday life. Unlike a formal garden that seeks to “control” nature, a Romantic garden cooperates with nature to create a peaceful landscape where people and nature exist in harmony. Magnolia’s are also the oldest unrestored gardens in the United States, and the historic house is one of the oldest in the South.More

St. Philips Church

Located in the historic French Quarter, St. Philip’s Church is home to Charleston’s oldest congregation and was the first Anglican church established south of Virginia. A National Historic Landmark, the beautiful stuccoed brick building features an impressive steeple, three Tuscan porticoes, and Corinthian columns.More

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge (Cooper River Bridge)

At 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) long, the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the United States. It connects downtown Charleston to the city of Mount Pleasant and the beaches beyond, plus it provides bike and pedestrian paths that lead to unobstructed views of Charleston Harbor and the city skyline.More

Circular Congregational Church

Founded in 1681 by an eclectic group of English Congregationalists, Scots Presbyterians, and French Huguenots, the Circular Congregational Church of Charleston is the oldest, continuously-operating house of worship in the United States. The unique meeting hall was designed and built in a circular shape to reflect the spaces’ open and free-flowing exchange of ideas.More

Middleton Place

The 65-acre (26-hectare) Middleton Place is a former rice plantation along the Ashley River. Visitors to this National Historic Landmark home—built in 1755 by the father of Arthur Middleton, who signed the Declaration of Independence—can explore the Middleton Place house, landscaped gardens, and the stable yards, where staff dressed in period clothing demonstrate weaving, blacksmithing, carpentry, and more.More

Joseph Manigault House

This historic Charleston home, now part of the Charleston Museum, is a well-preserved example of Federal architecture. Built in 1803 by architect Gabriel Manigault for his brother Joseph, a Charleston rice baron, the 3-story townhouse is now a National Historic Landmark, showcasing the wealthy family’s 19th-century lifestyle.More

Charleston Museum

As one of the oldest cities in the United States, Charleston is known for its deep history. The Charleston Museum, which marquees itself as America’s First Museum, is a great first stop for a broad overview of Charleston’s past, featuring exhibits ranging from Lowcountry dinosaur skeletons to niche Revolutionary War artifacts.More

Aiken-Rhett House

Charleston’s historic Aiken-Rhett House offers a rare glimpse into antebellum plantation life in South Carolina. The only surviving urban plantation, the 1818 townhouse complex remains largely intact, its rooms decorated with original wallpaper, fine art, and antique furnishings purchased by the owners more than 150 years ago.More

Trip ideas

A Spooky City Guide to Charleston

A Spooky City Guide to Charleston

Top activities in Charleston

Charleston Harbor History Day-Time or Sunset Boat Cruise
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Charleston Marsh Eco Boat Cruise with stop at Morris Island Lighthouse
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Charleston Harbor Sunset Cruise
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Charleston Harbor Sunset Cruise

Downtown Charleston Food Tour

Downtown Charleston Food Tour

Magnolia Plantation Admission & Tour with Transportation from Charleston
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2-Hour Guided Kayak Eco Tour in Charleston
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Recent reviews from experiences in Charleston

ilia_p, Apr 2023
Historic Charleston Walking Tour: Rainbow Row, Churches, and More
An excellent way to see the city.
Fun ride
Rcm2, Mar 2023
Charleston Harbor History Day-Time or Sunset Boat Cruise
Great way to spend a few hours around Charleston and a different way to see the city.
The guide was very...
KATHY_L, Mar 2023
2-Hour Historic Charleston Guided Walking Tour
Managed to see all the highlights if Charleston within the two hours.
Highly recommend Carriage Tour
Leo_U, Mar 2023
Charleston’s Old South Carriage Historic Horse & Carriage Tour
Very enjoyable and a great way to see the city.
Tasty memories!!!
Pat_H, Mar 2023
Charleston Farm-to-Table Food Tour and Chef's Challenge
Amazing to see how the Chef’s took 12 peoples ingredient choices and turned them into fabulous dishes for us to enjoy!!!
Great Experience
Kevin_F, Mar 2023
Charleston’s Old South Carriage Historic Horse & Carriage Tour
Great was to see and learn about Charleston.
Great historical Charleston tour
Joan_F, Mar 2023
2-Hour Historic Charleston Guided Sightseeing Walking Tour
It was a quick paced tour and hit the the top areas to visit while in town.
Awesome tour
Bernice_M, Mar 2023
2-Hour Historic Charleston Guided Sightseeing Walking Tour
She also give us some tips for what to do the next day.
Michelle_P, Mar 2023
Charleston Harbor History Day-Time or Sunset Boat Cruise
Also got to see dolphins .
Great Charleston Tour
John_B, Mar 2023
Charleston City Sightseeing Bus Tour
A nice way to see Charleston.
Springtime in Charleston
Diane_C, Mar 2023
Highlights of Charleston Guided Walking Tour
Beautiful with all the spring flowers in bloom.
This tour was a great way...
Angela_P, Mar 2023
Charleston See-It-All Sightseeing Bus Tour
This tour was a great way to learn about Charleston’s rich history and to see lots of areas of the city.
Charleston Ghost tour
Lillian_P, Mar 2023
Ghosts of Charleston Night-Time Walking Tour with Unitarian Church Graveyard
Got to see some cool sights in Charleston and learn a little dark history of the city.
My wife and I signed up...
Eric_I, Mar 2023
Charleston City Sightseeing Bus Tour
We wanted to get a “lay of the land” to determine what we wanted to go back and visit to see more.
Learning the city
Deborah_E, Mar 2023
Daytime Horse-Drawn Carriage Sightseeing Tour of Historic Charleston
We only had one day in Charleston and felt this was a good way to see the area and learn some of the history while we were there.
Beautiful horses! Great experience!
Stacy_O, Mar 2023
Charleston’s Old South Carriage Historic Horse & Carriage Tour
Great way to see Charleston.
Great tour. Very...
Christina_B, Feb 2023
Charleston's Hidden Alleyways & Historic Sites Small-Group Walking Tour
Great way to see a little more of the Charleston.
Great tour and food!
Brooke_W, Feb 2023
Charleston Upper King Street Food Tour
Summer was very knowledgeable and made the tour so interesting.
Girls trip
Caitlin_Z, Feb 2023
Charleston Haunted Boos and Booze Tour
We had a blast and it's a neat way to see the city and explore some bars that we otherwise wouldn't have gone in to.
A Must-Do Experience!
Eddie_J, Feb 2023
Downtown Charleston Food Tour
This was our first trip to visit Downtown Charleston and this food tour was 100% the right decision!
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All about Charleston

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People Also Ask

What is Charleston known for?

Known for its centuries-old mansions, magnolia-scented gardens, and palmetto palms, Charleston blends Southern hospitality with influences from France, Africa, and the West Indies. Founded in 1670, it was the original capital of South Carolina and served as a hub for trade, as well as the largest slave port in the US.

How many days is enough in Charleston?

Plan on spending three to four days exploring Charleston to experience its historical sites, shops, and dining scene at a leisurely pace. Get acquainted with the city by wandering around the Historic District, visit the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum and Fort Sumter, and head to one of Charleston’s antebellum plantations, such as Magnolia Plantation.

What should I not miss in Charleston, SC?

Don’t miss the city’s Historic District, where you’ll find stately mansions, fragrant gardens, and churches, as well as the historic pastel-colored homes of Rainbow Row and the Waterfront Battery, a defensive seawall and promenade that stretches along the Charleston peninsula. Fort Sumter is another must-see for history buffs.

Is Charleston a fun town?

Yes. While the party scene might be tamer than other Southern hot spots like Savannah and New Orleans, Charleston’s thriving restaurant and bar scene (and large student population) make it a dynamic destination for a range of travelers. Here, you’ll find elegant hotel bars and fine-dining establishments along with dive bars and nightclubs.

What foods is Charleston known for?

Charleston is known for budget-friendly Lowcountry staples like shrimp and grits and she-crab soup. Because of the city’s coastal location and European, African, and American Indian influences, its cuisine is a true melting pot of flavors. Other must-try dishes include hush puppies, fried green tomatoes, oysters, barbecue, and Frogmore stew.

What activities are popular in Charleston?

Most travelers enjoy exploring the city’s historic sites on foot during the day, and then taking an evening ghost tour to wander the grounds of the rumored haunted graveyards. Shop the boutiques along King Street and browse Charleston City Market, which stretches four city blocks and features vendors of items ranging from jewelry to Gullah sweetgrass baskets.


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