Charleston, South Carolina Travel Guide

Charleston, South Carolina Travel Guide by A Beautiful MessHi, friends! Due to many requests, we are so excited to share with you our travel guide to Charleston, South Carolina. Emma and I recently enjoyed a long weekend in Charleston and fell quickly in love with this colorful, charming city! Now, I admit, four days is not nearly enough time to try all a city has to offer! For that reason, in addition to the places we tried and loved, we'll also share with you some recommendations from our trusted friends who are local to Charleston as well as those spots that were repeatedly recommended by you, our readers! 

Fair warning, you will want to book some tickets and GO by the time we are done here today. This city is magic

Places we visited and loved: 

Let's start by sharing the spots that we personally visited and really loved! 

Hominy Grill in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Hominy Grill Southern food perfection. We went for breakfast after countless recommendations and enjoyed both the food and the atmosphere. Emma ordered the Salmon Potato Cakes and highly recommends them! 

Black Tap in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Black Tap We really liked this adorable coffee shop. We spent a few hours there sipping coffee and coconut tea and working on our computers.

The Daily in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)The Daily We enjoyed this coffee shop (located right by Butcher & Bee). It doesn't have much seating, but for coffee and treats on the go, it's perfect! 

We also visited Butcher & Bee (right next door) for lunch one day and loved the menu. It's really creative with a lot of vegetarian options. 

Shepard Fairey mural in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)In the parking lots by The Daily and Butcher & Bee, there is this awesome, giant mural by Shepard Fairey.

A stroll along the water near Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)A stroll along the water near Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)A stroll along the water near Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)We enjoyed taking a long walk along The Battery and looking at the beautiful homes and then seeing Rainbow Row. Charleston has the highest per capita of pink and pastel houses I've ever seen in my life, obviously a very good thing! 

Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)One of the things that surprised us about Charleston was how many things were within walking distance of downtown. And when we drove, most of the places we went to were about five or ten minutes away. 

Mac & Murphy in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Mac & Murphy in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Mac & Murphy in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Mac & Murphy in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)We enjoyed Mac & Murphy, a cute local stationery shop. We spent way too long in there picking out cute cards and journals. It's extremely well curated and fresh!

Sugar Bakery in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Right down the street from Mac & Murphy is Sugar Bakeshop. The treats are delicious, but the thing we loved most about it was the beautiful courtyard inside where we had a chance to sit and chat with our friend Erin. It's beautiful! Also on Cannon street is Indigo & Cotton, a super nice shop for dudes. I picked up a few gifts for Jeremy there. 

Redux in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)We loved visiting Redux and seeing the studios of some artists we admire including Lulie Wallace, Tiel Duncan and Raven Roxanne. It was inspiring to see so many amazing artists working so closely together in this shared space. We have a studio tour with Lulie coming soon!!

Saint Alban in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Our favorite coffee shop we visited in Charleston is actually brand new. It's called Saint Alban. It's a beautiful atmosphere with a really great menu plus lots of space to hang out with friends. 

Husk in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)The best lunch we had in Charleston was at Husk. Their menu is fresh, local and changing constantly. Vegetarians beware, EVERYTHING has bacon in it unless you ask for a vegetarian option (which they are very cool about). What really impressed us most about Husk was their awesome cocktail menu. They have a little bar next door, and next time we visit we might just drop by for drinks because they were that good. 

Folly BeachOne morning we drove out to Folly Beach and had breakfast at Lost Dog Cafe. It was a fun, chill spot with good surfer vibes. We drove up and down the beach house streets to look at all the colorful beach houses. They were seriously incredible. Our local friends say this is their favorite beach, but since we visited in January, we didn't do any swimming. 

FIG in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)We got a lot of recommendations for FIG, and since it was right next door to our hotel, we knew we had to check it out. It was one of the fancier places we tried, and we thought both the dinner and cocktail menus were really great!

That night we also tried Gin Joint. They had the best cocktails we had on our trip to Charleston. It has a really cute atmosphere too. We loved it so much, we wanted to go back another night, but it was closed the other nights we were there. Perfect happy hour spot! 

Indigo Inn in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Speaking of hotels, we stayed at The Indigo Inn. We liked that it wasn't super expensive since we stayed four nights, and it is in walking distance to lots of food, shopping, and the water. Super nice people too. 

Taco Boy in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)Taco Boy in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!) On our last night in Charleston, we wanted an un-fancy dinner and a lot of people recommended Taco Boy. It was delicious and the outdoor patio is SO cute! (I think there is a Folly Beach location too, but this is the one in Charleston). 

Taco Boy in Charleston, South Carolina (click through for a full travel guide!)  Emma got a frozen screwdriver. It was fun. 

Xiao Bao Bisquit (Xiao Bao Biscuit photo via Map & Menu) 

Xiao Bao Biscuit was probably my favorite meal we had (although the competition was clearly very stiff!). I can't stop thinking about it. Next time I am in Charleston I'll be there first thing! Order the cabbage pancake to start. Obsessed! 

That same night we went to The Belmont for one drink. I had an apple cider cocktail that was some kind of black magic. It's very cute too. 

Places that were highly recommended:

Since we only visited Charleston for a long weekend we didn't get to do everything on our list, although I think we made a pretty good dent in it! πŸ™‚ These are the spots that we got multiple recommendations on and will definitely visit next time! 

β€’ The Commons Handmade goods for the home. 
β€’ Flowershop A beautiful local flower shop. 
β€’ Glazed Gourmet Donuts Next time! 
β€’ Edmonds Oast One of our friends, Erin's, favorite spots. 
β€’ Waterfront Park There's a cool pineapple-shaped water fountain there.
β€’ Sullivan's Island We really wanted to see some cool houses there, like this one called "the eye of the storm", but we just ran out of time. 
Eye of the storm home(Image via Monolithic.org

Your turn! Do you have a favorite Charleston spot you want to recommend? Leave us a comment! We want to hear what you love.

And Charleston residents, I hope we did you proud! We love your beautiful city and we'll be back soon! xx. Elsie 

ps. A HUGE Thank you to our friend Erin for making us an amazing travel guide before our visit! Check out her weaving shop, SunWoven

Credits: Author: Elsie Larson, Photography: Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman (unless otherwise noted). Photos edited with Stella and Jean of The Signature Collection

  • yay!! I was waiting for this post. thank you so much for sharing. Such beautiful photos! I love how their restaurants are more quaint and personal, compared to what I am used to.
    I will definitely be visiting this year!

  • Xiao Bao Biscuit, Butcher & Bee and those cute coffee chops look so good!
    I now MUST go to Charleston ASAP! πŸ™‚
    XOXO,
    Isabella
    P.S. I love your new blog design!

  • We are moving to SC in a week and well be 1.5 hours from Chatleston! Your post has me so excited to explore!!! Thanks for the great suggestions. I’ll let you know what amazing places I discover.

  • I loved Charleston also! I went for the first time last spring and it was amazing! I got to catch Shepard Fairey’s Supply and Demand gallery show while I was there and it blew my mind! We stayed at an Air BnB in an old Victorian right off King St. Then I got eaten alive by nosee’Ums. Can’t wait to go back!

  • BLACK TAP IS MY FAVORITE!!!! (that and bakehouse on east bay!)
    i haven’t been to the daily yet – but butcher and bee is out of this world delicious!
    y’all went to so many great places and i’m so glad you enjoyed my hometown! πŸ™‚

  • This is so great! Honestly I’ve never head of Charleston before and now I want to visit! Also, love the new design. xx

  • Thank you so much for this guide. My son is an Air Force pilot and he and his wife just got stationed in Charleston and we are excited to visit them in March.

  • My fiancΓ© and I met in Charleston but now live in Atlanta so this made me super home sick but in a good way πŸ™‚ Highly recommend Dellz Deli for delicious sandwiches (vegan friendly!) and Closed for Business for a great beer selection. Also Poe’s Tavern on Sullivan’s Island has the best burgers!

  • As a Charleston local, I endorse this post! It was so nice meeting you guys at Erin’s! Love everything you do.

  • this is soooo awesome!
    i feel like in 4 days you guys did so much!

    i love that picture of emma sitting at the table. it looks like she’s trying to hide that she might be feeling that drink!

    happiest of birthdays emma!!

    PS: LOOOOVE the new update on the site! i know you guys are super colorful but i was missing color on the site. love it love love it!
    is this something thats going to happen from time to time or just like this for now!

    <3 -les

  • YAY for visiting my home state! We South Carolinians (and North Carolinians too) are a bit obsessed with Charleston.

  • I lived in Charleston for several years and ever since I’ve left I’ve been itching to get back there. You chose many good places to feature, and I have to agree that Sullivan Island is the best summer beach. It’s largely unknown by the crowds of tourists and the dunes there are idyllic.

    One of my favorite discoveries whilst in Charleston is actually a bit south of the city in Beaufort. About a 40 minute drive south is the Old Sheldon Church Ruins. This place is straight out of a fairy tale. It’s free to visit and in the middle of a tall southern forest- trees dripping in Spanish moss. It’s my most prized secret place that I’ve yet to discover in all my travels. Search it out the next time you visit. It’s well worth the drive.

  • Awesome! Visiting Charleston for the first time in April, thanks for the tips!

    Question, when you’re in all of the various businesses, do you ask permission first before taking photos? Or do you let the businesses know they’ll be featured?

    Thanks!
    Denise

  • I LOVE Charleston. Hymens Seafood is a REALLY good restaurant. They have the best seafood around,

  • POOGANS PORCH! I’m so bummed you didn’t have time to go. It’s next door to Husk and THE BEST brunch i’ve ever had. I go every time im in Charleston!

  • Adorable! It’s been years since I’ve visited Charleston… now I definitely want to go back (although $1200 for four nights at a hotel qualifies as “super expensive” in my book! Yikes!)

  • It looks like you two had a wonderful time together… and what a beautiful city! You did her proud with your travel guide πŸ™‚ Never been, but now it’s on my list fer sher. PS L.O.V.E. the new web design! So much more HAPPY! xo hil

  • So happy you enjoyed our little city! You’ll have to try a painkiller on Sullivan’s Island next time you are here and stop by The Obstinate Daughter!

  • Hi Denise,
    Yes- we always ask permission to take photos inside establishments if there is someone working who we can ask. Outside, not so much! πŸ™‚
    -Elsie

  • So fun! I’ve never visited Charleston but always wanted to. I hear such good things!

    Next week we’re traveling to Austin, which I’m really excited about. Two charming cities! πŸ™‚

    Always, Anita

  • Charleston is our favorite place to vacation! We have gone there every year now for the last 3 years. Luckily my Uncle and Aunt live in Mt. Pleasant so we are able to stay for one and two week long periods but there is seriously so much to do in the whole area. Folly Beach is my favorite and so is Isle of Palms. I have only been to a couple of the places you girls visited on your trip so I am anxious to add more places to go to on our next trip!!!

  • These are great! You did well! I miss Charleston so much- living there for undergrad ruined me. So much pretty, all of the time. Next time you must try out Browns Court Bakery (one of one billion coffee shops), breakfast and coffee at Collective Coffee Co. and drinks at Elliotborough Mini-Bar. The mini bar is so tiny and intimate. <3 Thanks for these photos!

  • I live in Charleston and haven’t even been to half of these places, so this is even beneficial for me! Gorgeous photos. Charleston is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Way too easy to fall in love with it.

  • Do you follow a script almost? Introduce yourself and say it would be for your blog? Sorry I should have clarified better in my first question. Thanks for taking the time to reply though!

  • Love this post! Your pictures are great, and such a fun read! It definitely makes me want to go there too πŸ™‚
    -E
    elenianne.blogspot.com

  • Hey there, I don’t have any recommendations for visiting. But if you want a little dose of the low country, I do have a book recommendation. Read the plantation and a low country summer by Dorothea benton frank. She is from south Carolina and her books take place all over down there and she has ignited my desire to go and stay, maybe for life. She is an excellent author

  • More travel guide posts! I want to travel more and your articles would be a perfect reference!

  • Oh my gosh, SO fun!! I’ve always wanted to visit Charleston, so if I ever make it out there, I will definitely be referencing this guide.

    P.S. I love that blue patterned dress! So cute.

  • Not for posting…. just wanted to let y’all know that if you’re ever in Portland, OR (my hometown) or San Francisco, CA (my husband’s hometown and where we live) lemme know… we’ll send you some great spots that the natives know & love! xo hil

  • AHHH I LOVE THE WEBSITE UPDATE!!!!!!!! so you πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ and love this post. beautiful. but im so jazzed about your website i cant concentrate! ;D <3

  • I love Husk! – they prepared one of the best meals I’ve ever had. The chef has recently published a cookbook – Heritage. http://www.amazon.com/Heritage-Sean-Brock/dp/1579654630/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420591117&sr=8-1&keywords=heritage+sean+brock

    Also – a touching story in the Washington Post about how Husk helped reignite a terminally ill patient’s appetite (http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/sean-brock-on-his-cracklin-cornbread-where-the-south-comes-together-in-a-skillet/2015/01/22/03a81af8-9dc7-11e4-bcfb-059ec7a93ddc_story.html)

  • On your next trip try The Macintosh – they make great cocktails!… a martini with pimento cheese stuffed olives. Plus it’s a few doors from Jeni’s ice-cream πŸ™‚

  • Yay!! I wanted more of your awesome travel posts and this is just great. I am not from the US so nothing about Charleston, so really wonderful to see. And happy 29th birthday to Emma.

  • I loved this post – thank you so much for sharing all of your beautiful photos and recommendations! Charleston has been on my list for a long time now and I think it just moved up. I find it’s really easy to get drawn to far away destinations like Europe and the such, but it’s important to remember that there are so many amazing places in the US and Canada!

    P.S. I am absolutely loving the fresh little changes you’ve made to the site! Such a fun update and very eye catching but also pleasing.

    xx Kathryn || Through the Thicket

  • Can you guys do this for everywhere you travel? LOVE.

    Yesterday I wrote a post on “nourishing my soul” (it isn’t as strange as it sounds, I promise!) but after having read this, I needed to go back and edit to include travel. I was just so inspired by this trip! Charleston looks so sweet and quaint… not to mention brimming with character and great food! I obsessed over yours and Emma’s Instagram feeds while you were visiting.

    ps. elsie – two posts on ABM in a row and I am smiling from ear to ear. I do (of course) love ALL the writers on ABM. But it’s awesome to have you back and sharing lots πŸ™‚

  • I live in Charleston and you definitely picked the right spots! I work a block from Xiao Bao Biscuit=dangerous!!

  • The colors of this post are killing me. Please keep up the city guides. Fave post this year ??

  • Hooray for Charleston! I spent Spring Break there last year, and completely fell in love with the place.

    Two restaurants not to be missed: Gaulart & Malicet, a wonderful French hole-in-the-wall restaurant. The people eating next to me said they’d been coming there for thirty years! Also, Queen Street Grocery sells the best crepes I’ve ever had, and I’ve had crepes in Paris!

    But honestly, one of the most fun experiences I had was also one of the most touristy experiences. I went on a “ghost tour” of Charleston, where a tour guide leads you through the city, giving you the haunted lore with a large dose of Charleston history. I even got to go in a real dungeon that held real pirates! Great for a history nerd :). It just added a lot to the trip, and helped me to fully experience this historical city!

    So glad you ladies were able to spend some time in this wonderful city!

    Sarah

  • love your website make-over!! especially loving your — want more ideas — hand-drawn photos, the two houses are really cute! the first time i traveled to charleston i felt like i had finally arrived at home, i’m lucky enough to have lived there twice so far and visited too many times to count. on your next trip, include – the sea biscuit – for breakfast, it’s on the isle of palms in a tiny house, everything is made from scratch daily. it’s a very locals kind of place vs touristy, but is still always busy so be prepared!!

  • This city is the best! I’m so glad you guys enjoyed it! I love walking in the art district by the Battery. πŸ™‚

  • Chas is our FAVE city! We are so fortunate to live in SC, so we visit all the time! Y’all definitely hit some of our faves! Now it’s time to re-visit!

  • my boss’ dad lives in that house on sullivan’s! i keep telling her i want to see the inside of it…so far i’ve only seen pictures and magazine clippings. she said that her dad is hoping for a hurricane to see how hurricane-proof it is. for the rest of our city’s sake…i hope not! haha.

    glad you guys had a great time!

  • Looks like you had a lovely time. I went to Charleston for the first time this past fall and had such a great experience! Their Pediatric Program is one of my top residency choices so I was thrilled to hear it’s a great little city to live and play (and eat!) in too

  • We LOVE Charleston! We were there in October, and were going to eat at the Lost Dog, but they were closed. πŸ™
    We had lunch at SouthEnd Brewery: very cool building and good food!

  • I actually live 1 1/2hrs away from Charleston! (Columbia). I’m 26 and lived here since age 10, and let me tell you Charleston is my FAVORITE place in SC!! I would move there lol. There’s something for everyone and it’s gorgeous and just…making me want to drive up there this weekend now haha.

  • You visited some great places in Charleston!! My brother used to rent a warehouse that he used as a space for artists to work and sell what they wanted (right between butcher &bee and the Shepard fairey mural). Side note, he was in town and at that location when the mural(s) were painted ! He recently got evicted because of a big push to get him out of that space so they could put in a new tenant. Now he is having to reinvision his plans for “Tivoli.” Anyways, hope y’all enjoyed the trip!

  • I am American but live in australia. My husband and I did a 5 week trip with our girls in 2012 from nyc down to Florida. Having been born and raised in nyc I had never explored much of the South outside of big cities. Of our 5 week trip charleston was the standout and one of the few places we have been in the world that the 4 of us instantly agreed we were in love. Considering moving there in the future. It had endless amazing restaurants, galleries, shops, walking by the battery was amazing (we saw Dolphins) and lovely people!!

  • I love this. Such beautiful pictures of places I want to try!
    My hubby and I got married last March. Our honeymoon cruise left from Charleston a day and a half after the wedding. But, a day and a half was not nearly enough time to explore.
    We went to the Tattooed Moose for lunch and Pearlz Seafood for dinner and that was about the size of it. I really want to go back for our anni or at least close to it and really explore like you did!

    athisfeetdaily.blogspot.com

  • You did great to only be in Charleston for a few days. I used to live there and it’s quite the food city. Looks like you had a great time and enjoyed our Southern hospitality! Hope you visit again soon!

  • One of my best friends moved to Charleston last summer, so this is a great guide to keep in mind for when I visit him!

  • This is so great! Already have a trip booked to Charleston in April and all of these places were already on my list of “must-dos” so I am glad you found them to be amazing as well!

  • Definitely a much better deal! I guess the price jumps in the spring… all the more reason to plan a trip now, right? πŸ™‚ Thanks for responding!

  • Great list, ladies! I lived in Charleston for a year and never ran out of things to do. My fave beach was Sullivan’s with all it’s local charm. And restaurants. I miss the Black Cat burger from Poe’s– it’s the best. You’ll have to check out Sullivan’s on your next visit. Glad you had a great time in Chucktown! πŸ™‚

  • Charleston is great! πŸ™‚ I love going to the Marina Variety Store Restaurant for Sunday brunch. Yum! And the crab dip at Coast is delicious. They also have a Young Adult book festival in November that’s a lot of fun! http://yallfest.org

  • I second Gaulart & Malicet (aka ‘Fast and French’) and ghost tours. Great food and fun! πŸ™‚ Also, the cakes at Kaminsky’s are really good.

  • Hello friends, I’ve never been so have no useful suggestions. However I do have a very useful book recommendation if you’re wanting a dose of the low country. Especially in or around charleston. Dorothea Benton Frank has written many a books set in these areas, and has instilled in me a very deep need to go and perhaps stay for a few years. She is an excellent author and according to my friend who resides in folly beach, she is actually quite accurate in her descriptions. I would recommend her 2 part series the plantation and then low country summer. I have read them countless times…. Which is always a good sign.

  • My husband and I visit Chuck Town a couple times a year we love it so much! It’s about a 5 hr drive from our Va home, so we leave early and get there in time for lunch–usually a fried green tomato at Magnolia OR something yummy at Hominy Grill πŸ™‚
    We LOVE The Bar at Husk…it’s a MUST! Such a chill atmosphere and quality drinks…the aged Manhattan is out of this world.
    We usually eat at Poogans Porch next door and have drinks after. We always stay at The Battery Carriage House Inn, which is on the Battery, and super romantic…so not for you and the sis but if either of you go with a SO πŸ™‚

  • Charleston, SC is one of my “to-visit” places. My dad spent sometime there while in the Navy when I was first born. Awwww the stories he has told.

  • My husband and I LOVE Charleston, and it’s proof to the city that it’s full of amazing things because the only stop on your list that we wanted to try and knew about was Hominy Grill. Our absolute MUST is Kaminski’s, a dessert restaurant that also serves amazing cocktails. You really have to check it out. One of our favorite casual restaurants was the Navy Pier. It looks like nothing, but the food was amazing!

  • Coconut tea sounds so delicious. Have you found a quality blend to brew at home?
    Cheers,
    Traci

  • Awesome job. You guys hit a ton of great places. I haven’t heard of Saint Alban! I’ll have to go there soon :). I’ve been meaning to try Xiao Bao as well. Glad you guys loved Charleston..next time come back in the spring/summer! -Taylor

  • Love love love this Charleston Guide!! My hubbs & I were just there in January for our first time too! We had a blast and called it our “foodcation”. πŸ˜‰ You have inspired me to go back very soon with your fantastic photos of some of our fave places and also some descriptions & pics of new places that I cannot wait to go to next time! Thanks! πŸ™‚ And next time you go, I recommend Ansonborough Inn! It was fantastic! Super duper cozy room with brick walls, amazing old school “warehouse” type window and awesome fire place. Really loved it! Also make sure you grab a bite at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit! Soooo good! πŸ™‚

  • Seriously impressed by your list. I lived in Charleston for several years and still visit friends there. It would be easy to get caught up in more tourist-y areas, but you hit so many of my favorite spots! I used to intern at Mac & Murphy so I’m especially proud to see they made your list.

  • this was *perfectly* timed, seeing as how i’m going to charleston in 2 days for my eighteenth. it’s kind of my favorite place, lbr.

  • Poogan’s Porch is amazing for comfort food! The mac’n’cheese is made with gruyΓ¨re. You will leave stuffed! We had our wedding reception there 12 years ago, and recently went back on an anniversary trip. We went to Poogan’s twice! Also, on Market St. there is a little dessert bar called Kaminski’s. It’s always packed in the evening and is the perfect place for a date night.

  • This looks like such a wonderful trip for just the two of you <3 also I love the website update!
    Elsie- your black (leather?) jacket is perfect. Would you mind sharing the info?

  • One of the best dinners I have ever had was the shrimp and grits at SNOB (Slightly North of Broad). Love Charleston! I’ll second FIG for the cocktail menu alone.

  • Phenomenal city – went last summer, and cannot wait to go back! Magnolia’s Restaurant is a staple, and well-deserving of its reputation. And, if you are looking for a place to stay, I cannot recommend The French Quarter Inn enough – the staff and amenities are the absolute epitome of Southern hospitality. The breakfast included is to die for, and the wine and cheese hour is also no joke!