Charleston, South Carolina, is an ideal destination for a weekend trip.
Not only does it have historic buildings to marvel at and cobblestone streets to stroll along, it’s also a great place to eat, drink, and be merry.
Charleston was voted the best city in the world by Travel + Leisure readers in 2016, beating out longtime tourist destinations like Florence, Barcelona, and Cape Town.
Business Insider recently headed down south to see all that Charleston has to offer:
Charleston is a port city on the coast of South Carolina. The city itself has a population of roughly 133,000, according to 2015 census data.
Source: US Census
It was voted the world’s best city by Travel + Leisure readers in 2016, and according to Lonely Planet, it attracts 4.3 million visitors every year.
It’s a two-and-quarter-hour-long flight from New York City to Charleston on United, JetBlue, and Delta. According to the flight-tracking app Hopper, round-trip flights cost, on average, $240 between April and June, and $200 September through October. These are considered the best months to visit.
The city is perhaps best known for its historic beauty.
It dates back to 1670, when it was settled by English colonists and named Charles Town after King Charles II of England. By the 18th century, Charleston had become one of the main colonial ports in the South, dealing in rice, cotton, and indigo.
The historic architecture pre-dates the Civil War. According to the tourism board, the city was short on capital after the war, which meant it had to repair damaged buildings rather than replace them. This meant that many of the buildings were left intact.
Source: City of Charleston
Today the main tourist area is focused in its downtown historic district, which has plenty of bars, restaurants, and shops. Tourists can take horse-and-carriage rides around this area to see some of the more spectacular houses.
King Street, the main shopping street, is the busiest area in the downtown French Quarter. Here you’ll find a mix of boutiques and well-known chains like H&M, J.Crew, and Forever 21. It’s the back streets, however, that carry the real charm of the city.
Along the tip of the city and facing out across the sea are some of the most impressive houses, along what is known as “Battery Row.” If you walk along the waterfront, you’ll come to “The Battery,” a park and war memorial at the tip of Charleston’s peninsula.
From the peninsula’s tip you can look out towards the Fort Sumter monument, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired in 1861. For a better view, visit the monument by boat.
Source: National Park Service
Charleston has also become a foodie’s paradise. FIG, one of the city’s most popular food destinations, was named one of the best restaurants in America by Eater in 2016. Its chef, Mike Lata, was also nominated for a James Beard award in the “Outstanding Chef” category this year.
There are plenty of other more low-key dining options. We headed to 167 Raw, named one of the best places to eat this spring by Eater.
It has a low-key seafood menu and oyster bar. Either sit at the bar and watch your server shuck fresh oysters, or head outside to eat in its mini garden. We ordered oysters ($2.75), fish tacos ($6), a lobster roll ($27), and ceviche ($14).
Source: 167 Raw
Around the corner from 167 Raw is the Zero George Street hotel, which has its own restaurant. It’s difficult to score a table here, but those who haven’t booked in advance can also have a drink with bar snacks outside on the veranda.
Source: Zero George Street
The north part of the city has also become a foodie hotspot. According to Travel + Leisure, “Upper King,” the stretch of King Street above Calhoun Street, “swarms with an ever-growing number of craft eateries, creative cocktail venues, thriving restaurants, and new hotels.” We tried out the Darling Oyster Bar.
The portions were pretty big. We ordered two starters: the cauliflower and potato salad with pistachio and curried yogurt ($8) and ceviche ($14), a dish of fresh fish with citrus, bell pepper, garlic, and cilantro. The ceviche was the undisputed dish of the trip.
Source: Travel + Leisure
Further north, you’ll find a popular brunch spot called Hominy Grill. Run by James Beard award-winning chef Robert Stehling, here you’ll find classic southern dishes like shrimp and grits, fried chicken, and catfish creole. Try them all.
Source: James Beard Awards
Another of Charleston’s perks is its proximity to the beach. There are several nearby to choose from, like Sullivan’s Island, which is a roughly 20-minute drive from downtown Charleston.
Here, you’ll see some of Charleston’s impressive beachfront real estate.
Finish off your trip with a half-day visit to one of the surrounding plantations that played such a big part in Charleston’s history. In 1860, South Carolina held as many slaves as Georgia and Virginia, which were at least twice its size.
Source: The New York Times
We headed to the Magnolia Plantation, a former rice plantation that was founded in 1676 by the Drayton Family. It is now the oldest public garden in the US.
Source: Magnolia Plantation
If you do plan to visit Charleston, try and avoid the humid season in July and August, and book a visit in the spring or fall.
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