Planning a trip to Charleston and wondering what it has to offer?
Our trip was focused on downtown Charleston, so here’s what we picked as the most interesting.
Caveat: Our recommendations are based on our experiences, so keep in mind that I’m a vegetarian and my husband doesn’t care for steak or seafood. If you like French food or seafood, we recommend you check out these top rated places that Charleston has to offer:
- Charleston Grill
- FIG (which seemed to be closed during our visit)
- The Macintosh
- Fleet Landing
Otherwise, we most enjoyed the below restaurants, sights, and things to do during our stay there. (Photos by Jis K. Joseph)
Breakfast: Cafe Framboise
Home of the perfect mocha latte. I think more than anything I loved the French feel here. So good, we went back the second day and ordered pastries.
But on the first day, we had the spinach & goat cheese quiche, chocolate strawberry crepe (though the strawberries were missing…) and a vegetable crepe. All yum, but the mocha was the best. (Note: My husband did not like his chai tea latte, so maybe it’s not for everyone…)
Whisk: Fresh smoothies and juices for the health nut in you. I got a refreshing canteloupe and cucumber juice, while my husband got a strawberry smoothie. They were perfect just before our walking tour since it was 76 degrees out… in November.
If you’re looking for something with more of a kick, try the rooftop bar at Market Pavillion Hotel, which offers scenic, panoramic views of downtown Charleston and the harbor. The rooftop itself is elegant with a pool, bar and hightop table seating shaded by umbrellas. But the downstairs lobby is also quite chic. Plus, that’s where they serve the infamous Nitrotini– cooled to -320 degrees Farenheit.
Pane e Vino (Italian): Affordable prices, vast selection of wines and above all, really tasty food! It wasn’t until I returned to Atlanta that I realized this restaurant isn’t unique to Charleston, but we enjoyed the food so much, I’m keeping it on this list. This place has indoor and patio dining with live music that’s not overbearing, so you can still have a conversation. I ordered the spaghetti with pesto (SO yummy and satisfying, but without being too heavy!) My husband ordered the gnocci in gorgonzola cream sauce, and surprisingly, he also said that it was filling but not overly sleep-inducing like filled pastas tend to be. In fact, we even had space for ice cream at Zagat-rated Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, a walking distance from this restaurant and touting some rarer flavors like sweet potato pecan praline, wildberry lavendar and churro.
Late night dining & cocktails:
This place has a great vibe which is the main reason we give it a thumbs up.While we didn’t eat here, it’s highly rated among steakhouses and seafood joints and the atmosphere is great. I’ll also give it points for innovative cocktails and friendly management.
For tastier cocktails, try…
Brasserie Gigi: The bartenders take care of you. Delicious drinks, with just enough kick to keep things interesting. Since we tried it out our first night, our bartender gave us some great suggestions of things to see and do in the city.
Sights & Stuff to Do:
An eye opening and informative exhibit that doesn’t take long to visit. Just a quick stop here is enough to recap what you learned in U.S. History, while offering some additional illuminating anecdotes and artifacts that take you back to the horrific reality of the insitution of slavery.
2) Plantation Visit
A must if you’re visiting Charleston. We visited Middleton Place which was exquisitely landscaped– in fact, modeled after the gardens of Versailles and by the same landscape designer too, brought in by Henry Middleton. There are some free tours you can catch at fixed times, but you can also book your own carriage tour if you wish (The free tours themselves were quite informative). About 20-30 minutes from the downtown depending on which plantation you visit.
3) Tour the city on bike!
Biking through Charleston’s downtown is an efficient way to see all of the historic and unique architecture for which the city is known. Plus, you won’t kill your heels while doing so. We rented bikes for the day from Affordabike on King Street.
As long as you don’t bike on sidewalks/walkways and you find the appropriate bike racks to park your bike, you’re good to go.
4) Waterfront Park
Beautiful seaside park where you can take a morning or afternoon walk while catching the sea breeze. Great spot for a romantic stroll if you’re with your significant other, but also perfect for throwing around a frisbee or kicking around a soccer ball if you’re with kids. Note: you can’t actually bike inside the park, but you can bike to it. You’ll just have to find a street next to the park to lock your bike legally.
We skipped visiting Fort Sumter because it just wasn’t our thing, but had there been an interesting boat ride available from the harbor, we would have done it. Because of the season we visited, we were not able to catch any boat tours or day cruises from the harbor.