The romance of Charleston goes beyond the façade of a stunning Southern city. Culture runs deep here — from the beautiful architecture and thought-provoking art to the amazing culinary traditions — and it’s something everyone can get behind.
Even if you just have a weekend to spare, you can still soak up all the Holy City has to offer — especially if you follow our guide to experiencing Charleston’s coastal charm.
As soon as you land in Charleston, head to Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit on upper King Street to satisfy that hunger for a Southern classic. Slather a biscuit with pimento cheese (possibly grabbing one more to go) and start exploring.
Hit the pavement with a historic stroll led by Bulldog Tours, a group of local guides that seems to know almost everything about its hometown. (If you’re feeling courageous, opt for an after-hours ghost tour to get a glimpse of the city’s spooky side.) A walk-around is also a good way to discover where you want to go next.
After roaming around for a few hours, lunch will probably be on the agenda. Fuel up on fresh fare at Basic Kitchen, a light and airy Wentworth Street spot serving up nutritious (and Instagram-worthy) plates. Dig into chef Robin Hollis’ fried Buffalo cauliflower, pickled ginger and sesame-chili-dressed watermelon salad, and blackened fish tacos to feel satisfied but not stuffed. Before you leave, make sure to take a peek at the backyard garden. Though small, the plot produces many of the herbs and produce that become part of each meal.
Once your healthy feast concludes, make your way back to King Street to fashion a unique souvenir at The Color Bar by Kendra Scott, found within the designer’s namesake boutique. Choose from the thick book of earrings, rings, bracelets and necklaces and then play mix-and-match with stones and metals to create your own customized bauble.
Full and bedazzled, now is the time to check into the recently opened Hotel Bennett. Take a dip in the rooftop pool and watch the sun set over Charleston’s steepled skyline before dinner at Gabrielle. The property’s French fine-dining venue is the domain of executive chef Michael Sichel, who wows with a flavor-packed duck à l’orange, and a “Pork Storey” that features so much porcine goodness on one plate that it may warrant sharing so you also can try the fresh lamb tartare.
Toast your meal with a glass of pink bubbles in the hotel’s adjacent Marie Antoinette-style bar Camellias, where everything is donned in a cheery shade of rose and all the drinks sparkle.
Get up early and venture out with Coastal Expeditions for some sunrise birdwatching and kayaking on Morgan Creek and the Isle of Palms. As you paddle along, you may see a pod of dolphins, brown pelicans diving for their breakfast and, possibly, a lone sea turtle.
After working up an appetite, go to chef Kevin Johnson’s The Grocery for brunch. Indulge in a plate of fried oysters and green tomatoes over a bacon frittata, or Italian butter bean salad with aged provolone. The cocktails shouldn’t be missed, either. If you have the gumption, give the Dirty Green Tomato martini a try or bubble up with a glass of sparkling wine.
Find a reprieve from the afternoon sun at the Gibbes Museum of Art. Peruse works by South Carolina artists such as Alfred Hutty and William Henry Johnson, see the more than 600-piece collection of American miniature portraits, and learn a little more about the South through the art in this 114-year-old institution.
Nearby, you’ll also encounter the historic Charleston City Market. The 200-year-old-plus market hall provides a fun way to shop for souvenirs like sweetgrass baskets, cards and jewelry, or to just wander around and take in the easygoing vibe.
Bring cash and grab a cool glass of hand-pressed lemonade as you stroll toward Vintage Lounge. This stylish bar just a seven-minute walk from the hotel features gold-tinged décor, a patio, live music and an excellent wine list. If you feel a little peckish before dinner, order a few craft cheeses or pot of fondue for snacking.
Dinner brings plates of glorious seafood at High Cotton Charleston. Chef Brad Kelly oversees the kitchen here and churns out an array of fresh fish platters, from blackened wild-caught halibut paired with watermelon to classic Lowcountry shrimp and grits with andouille sausage, and baked whole lobsters with sherry cream. Wash it all down with a Charleston Cocktail, a refreshing blend of green tea vodka, iced tea, lemonade and mint.
After a meal like that, you’ll want to return to your room to rest your head and, maybe, take a bath in your luxurious tub — each room boasts one.
And though you might not think you’ll ever be hungry again, in the morning don’t miss French pastry chef Remy Funfrock’s outstanding croissants and chocolate pecan muffins at onsite La Patisserie. Reflect on the gourmet bites, and the great weekend you just experienced, on your way home.