Inside Downtown Charleston: the Holy City
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15 Jul 2020
In case you missed it, Travel and Leisure has named Charleston as the #1 city in America for the eighth year in a row! It’s also considered one of the top cities to visit in the world (#18) by Travel and Leisure, and the South’s best city by Southern Living Magazine for 2020. What makes Charleston so unique, though? While there’s so many things to love about the city we call home, there’s a few qualities that stick out. Check out our favorites, and share yours with us on our social media channels! (Don’t forget to follow us @IslandRealty and tag us in your Charleston favorites!)
History & Culture in Charleston
The city of Charleston was founded back in 1670, being the oldest city in South Carolina. The area’s convenient location between the Cooper and Ashley Rivers gave it a strategic advantage as a port city, and has been a center of commerce ever since. Early on, Charleston was known for both its strong trade industry and religious freedom. This is why in historic Downtown Charleston you’ll find churches of all denominations, and why Charleston has dubbed the name “the Holy City.”
The city is also widely known for its culture. The natural beauty of the city inspires the creation of art, theatre, music, and cuisine. The city’s harsh past rooted in slavery also built the city to what it is today. Most of the things that Charleston is known for; sweetgrass baskets along the city market and Highway 17, foods like rice and okra, and the plantations spread out across the city now used as museums and event venues; are apart of the city’s culture because of the Gullah culture and traditions that have been passed down through generations.
Charleston has several opportunities to learn about the city’s history and culture, so be sure to visit some of these spots next time you’re in town:
- Nathaniel Russell House, Joseph Manigault House, Aiken-Rhett House
- Boone Hall Plantation, Middleton Place, Magnolia Plantation
- Gullah Tours
- Savor the Flavors of Charleston Tour with Bulldog Tours
Shrimp and grits, lowcountry boil, she crab soup, and fried green tomatoes are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to iconic Charleston classics. It’s no secret that Charleston is a culinary capital, the only question is where to start! The city prides itself in its locally-owned restaurants that offer everything from quintessential lowcountry cuisine to chef’s interpretations on international flavors.
While it’s nearly impossible to try every restaurant the city has to offer, here are 10 of our favorites to give you a small taste:
- Bertha’s Restaurant
- Butcher & Bee
- Circa 1886 Restaurant
- Goat Sheep Cow North
- Hall’s Chophouse
- Leon’s Oyster Shop
- Rodney Scott’s BBQ
- Xiao Bao Biscuit
- Workmen’s Cafe
King Street is the epitome of southern charm, and is also the main shopping district in Downtown Charleston. The buildings along this street often have the original signage on the front, and it’s like strolling back in time as you move from the overpass, all the way down to the Battery. Here you’ll find a mix of locally-owned businesses, along with your favorites like Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie, and Williams-Sonoma.
If you’re looking to support local stores and businesses and aren’t sure where to start, here’s a few of our favorites:
- Blue Bicycle Books
- Cannonborough Collective
- Croghan’s Jewel Box
- Finicky Filly
- Las Olas
- Lowcountry Olive Oil
- M. Dumas & Sons
- Old Whaling Company
- Redux Contemporary Art Center
Transportation — If you’re not so sure about the parking situation downtown, use a ride share service instead! Uber and Lyft are perfect options to get where you need to go. There's also bike taxis, bike rentals, and the CARTA public transportation system!
Shop Small — Something that makes Charleston so unique is how much the city loves its local businesses. Take a chance while you’re here to shop at the local stores and dine at locally-owned restaurants and coffee shops.
Plan Ahead of Time, but Make Room for Spontaneity — If you’re spending a day downtown, it’s always good to make a plan before you get there of where you definitely want to go. Make sure you’re also leaving a little wiggle room though, you’re sure to find experiences along the way that you won’t want to miss!
Insider's Guide to the Lowcountry
To learn more about Charleston and get the inside scoop on the area’s history and dining, as well as other interests, check out our Insider’s Guide to the Lowcountry. We have “where to start” pages that are curated for different categories like History Buffs, Foodies, First-Timers, and more!