The Essential Guide to Charleston’s Neighborhoods

We’ve decoded what’s where on the Charleston peninsula and beyond so you can navigate the quickly growing city with ease.

Colorful row of brick buildings on tree-lined street, with horse- drawn tourist cart at right

Charleston is South Carolina’s most populous city—it’s also one of its most charming.

Photo by Leonel Heisenberg/Unsplash

Venerable old Charleston is growing like a supercharged kudzu vine: According to U.S. News & World Report’s list of Fastest-Growing Places in the U.S. in 2022–2023, the South Carolina city ranks 22nd. As the metropolis continues to win over new converts with its unique blend of easy living and creativity, neglected districts are being reclaimed and developed. That means new neighborhoods in the Charleston area are being added to maps and the boundaries of established ones are shifting. Areas that simply used to be suburbs have taken on distinctive characters and become destinations in their own right, with nightlife, next-level dining, and much more.

In short, you need more than a map to get a handle on the city, so we’ve created this guide to Charleston’s neighborhoods to help you keep up.

Pastel graphic of Charleston map divided into neighborhoods

Use this Charleston neighborhood map to help navigate the city and beyond.

Courtesy of Explore Charleston

Where exactly is downtown Charleston?

Located on the Charleston Peninsula, downtown Charleston consists of the Cannonborough/Elliottborough, Radcliffeborough, Mazyck-Wraggborough, King Street Historic District, Harleston Village, Ansonborough, the French Quarter, and South of Broad neighborhoods. (Visitors will probably be most familiar with King Street, which is home to a high density of local shops, restaurants, and bars.) Geographically speaking, downtown Charleston is bound by a system of waterways: Cooper River to the east side of the city and the Ashley River to the west side, with both coming together in the Charleston Harbor. Due to its popularity and views/easy access to Charleston Harbor, this is one of the most expensive housing areas in the Lowcountry—and one of the most visited by those passing through.

A three-story brick house with a topiary garden in Charleston's South of Broad neighborhood

The walls in Charleston’s South of Broad neighborhood hide private gardens, pools, fountains, and historic outbuildings.

Photo by Ovid Baru/Shutterstock

1. South of Broad

Walking the streets of this mostly residential neighborhood is like moving through the physical manifestation of Southern gentility. Massive antebellum townhouses with gallery porches modestly turn to the side so that they don’t look directly out at the cobbled streets. Sidewalks curve abruptly to leave room for the trunks of ancient live oak trees.

High brick walls can’t quite contain the pleasant sound of the fountains and birds inside. Where the walls break at front walks and driveways, pedestrians can peek at elegant gardens and admire the intricate design of the wrought-iron fences. The South of Broad neighborhood is where you’ll find East Bay Street’s Rainbow Row and many of the historic house-museums, like the Heyward-Washington House and the Williams Mansion.

Things to do in South of Broad

Where to shop in South of Broad

A burning gas lamp on bright yellow wall in Charleston's French Quarter

Charleston’s French Quarter was founded by French Huguenot Protestants who fled Catholic France in the 1680s and emigrated to the Carolinas in search of religious freedom.

Courtesy of Nathan Goller-Deitsch/Unsplash

2. French Quarter

French Huguenots, refugees from religious persecution, arrived in Charleston in the late 17th century and many of them settled and set up businesses and workshops in this neighborhood. On the quarter’s streets today, you’ll find the sole French Huguenot Church in the United States, as well as many of the city’s art galleries and restaurants. The Old Slave Mart Museum, the South Carolina Historical Society Museum, and the Gibbes Museum are here, too, and along a tourist-trafficked stretch of Bay Street by the City Market, you’ll find the pier where the cruise ships dock.

Things to do in the French Quarter

Where to eat and drink in the French Quarter

Related: The 9 Best Things to Do in Charleston

Hanging sign for Queen Street Grocery in downtown Charleston

Queen Street Grocery has been open for more than 100 years and serves crêpes, sandwiches, smoothies, and salads.

Photo by Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock

3. Harleston Village

This sprawling neighborhood covers the area north of Broad Street all the way to Calhoun Street and west of King Street to the Ashley River. Much of the district is taken up by the lovely campus of the College of Charleston. (The central Cistern Yard, accessed through the picturesque Gate Lodge and surrounded by some of the city’s most historic buildings, merits a visit.) You’ll also find affluent residential streets full of stately townhouses and walled gardens, as well as hotels and, of course, lots of churches.

Things to do in Harleston Village

Where to shop in Harleston Village

Where to stay in Harleston Village

Plate of seafood. Charleston offers several classic establishments, including the Peninsula Grill (with sublime coconut cake); the Charleston Grill welcomes guests with live jazz and a comfortable lounge. Also worth trying are the upscale spots Slightly North of Broad and High Cotton, plus the more casual Poogan’s Porch, which serves down-home Southern food in a transformed Victorian home.

Peninsula Grill charms with its elegant interior, lantern-lit courtyard, and sophisticated Southern cuisine (including sublime coconut cake).

Courtesy of Peninsula Grill

4. Lower King

Along the length of King Street between Broad and Calhoun streets, some of the low-rise older buildings are still occupied by locally owned antique stores and galleries, though many storefronts are devoted to national brands like Williams-Sonoma and Madewell.

If you’re strolling along, be sure to browse in the independent shops. In particular, the shop at the Preservation Society of Charleston carries goods by local makers and books by local authors. Along Lower King, you’ll also find some restaurants and larger hotels, like the Charleston Place.

Where to eat and drink in Lower King

Where to shop in Lower King

Where to stay in Lower King

Sun shines on a cream multistory house with a gallery and porch

Zero George, a clutch of historic houses converted into a stylish inn, is on the quiet streets of Ansonborough.

Courtesy of Zero George

5. Ansonborough

Ansonborough, stretching north of the City Market and east of King Street to the Cooper River, is crisscrossed by narrow streets with stately old townhouses, some shops, bars, and restaurants (mostly along East Bay and Meeting streets), carriage horse stables, and hotels.

The historic Charleston quarter has more shade and is more residential than others this far down the peninsula, so walking or biking around provides a nice break from the business area and gives you a glimpse of how people have adjusted to life in a historic place.

Things to do in Ansonborough

Where to eat and drink in Ansonborough

Where to stay in Ansonborough

Tents set up on green lawn outside a white building

The green heart of Marion Square is the site of the Saturday Farmers’ Market.

Photo by Jeramey Lende/Shutterstock

6. Marion Square

Though not an officially named neighborhood, Marion Square, with Calhoun Street on its southern boundary, has a cluster of businesses and notable hotels giving the area a distinctive air. On or near the park are the Dewberry, the Frances Marion, Hotel Bella Grace, and the Hotel Bennett, as well as the original site of the Citadel Military College, a pink castle-like structure now part of the Embassy Suites. Just east of Marion Square, the formidable Mother Emanuel AME Church anchors the north side of Calhoun Street.

Things to do in Marion Square

Where to stay in Marion Square

Row of historic buildings line a street in Charleston's Upper King neighborhood

Among the myriad restaurant choices on Upper King, the Darling Oyster Bar is a favorite destination.

Photo by Andrew Cebulka

7. Upper King Street

This buzzing strip of businesses, bars, and restaurants runs up the peninsula from the northern edge of Marion Square all the way past the underpass of the Crosstown (Septima Clark Parkway) and peters out at Congress Street. Some of the low-slung buildings that used to define this neighborhood as an industrial center have been repurposed—their expansive interiors now house distilleries, restaurants, and shops, with former garage bay doors rolled up to allow outdoor seating or admit cooling breezes.

Where to eat and drink in Upper King Street

8. Cannonborough/Elliotborough

A walk along Cannon and Spring streets—which run parallel to one another—reveals a neighborhood picking up creative steam among its population of young professionals and students. Restaurants like Xiao Bao Biscuit and all-day tapas joint Malagón have become destinations for food lovers in the Cannonborough-Elliotborough area.

On Cannon Street, the Grocery, J. Stark, Sugar Bakeshop, and Indigo & Cotton have mixed shopping and dining destinations into what were once mostly residential blocks. Other makers like the Contents Co. operate their workshops (not open to the public) nearby.

Where to shop in Cannonborough/Elliotborough

Where to eat and drink in Cannonborough/Elliotborough

A trail passes through trees with Spanish moss and red flower bushes in Charleston's West Side neighborhood

Hampton Park was designed by the son of Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect of New York’s Central Park.

Photo by Cvandyke/Shutterstock

9. West Side and Hampton Park Terrace

If you listen hard enough on the streets around Hampton Park, you may be able to hear the real estate prices climbing. Even decrepit craftsman houses are snatched up and quickly renovated to better contain families, surfboards, and kids’ bikes. The strong community vibe of this neighborhood has fostered a clutch of new restaurants and means that the bleachers at the RiverDogs minor league baseball games are full of friendly faces.

Things to do in West Side and Hampton Park Terrace

Where to eat and drink in West Side and Hampton Park Terrace

Exterior of NoMo restaurant in Charleston

NoMo’s prefab industrial buildings provide makers and cooks ample room for experimentation with food and brewing.

Photo by Andrew Cebulka

10. East Central, or NoMo

In the urban eddy bound by overpasses and busy Morrison Street (North of Morrison), an area that appears to be a mixed-use industrial park turns out to hold some of Charleston’s most interesting purveyors of food and drink. While NoMo is not easily reached on foot, it’s worth a drive to see what the noise is about. Because the neighborhood is not beholden to the same strict building codes that the historic district is, distilleries and breweries have set up business here, expanding to include tasting rooms and restaurants.

Where to eat and drink in NoMo

  A few people walking along shore at Folly Beach

Folly Beach allows easy access to both Charleston and the Atlantic.

Photo by Shutterstock

11. Get beyond the peninsula

Go a bit further and you’ll find the suburbs and neighborhoods where plenty of residents live, as well as local landmarks and venues that are destinations in their own right.

  • Folly Beach is known for its laid-back vibe, good beaches, ice cream shops, and funky bars and restaurants like Lowlife Bar and Jack of Cups Saloon.
  • Sullivan’s Island, a residential beach community, with access to history (Fort Moultrie is there) is drawing attention from Charleston diners for Obstinate Daughter.
  • Isle of Palms, a barrier island, is rapidly being developed with large beach houses, so surely more restaurants and bars will arise here soon. Wild Dunes Resort, popular for family and golf vacations, takes up the north end. Across the Ashley River, locals like West Ashley for a clutch of good restaurants, like Avondale Wine & Cheese.
  • Mount Pleasant, on the far side of the Cooper River Bridge, is definitely a suburb of Charleston but has a charming older village area. Restaurants on the banks of Shem Creek include Saltwater Cowboys (for drinks with a sunset view) and Nico, an oyster bar with a distinct French accent, that opened in 2018.
  • North Charleston, a separate city entirely, sprawls from the peninsula all the way past the airport and thus contains lots of smaller neighborhoods. Notable restaurants like Bertha’s Kitchen and some of the area’s remarkable historic homes—such as Drayton Hall and Middleton Place—are in North Charleston.

All this new growth in a city as old and venerable as Charleston is exciting. With the booming expansion of restaurants, distilleries, workshops, and boutiques in town sure to continue, you can look for an update of this directory of neighborhoods in the future.
This story was originally published in 2019, and was updated on December 12, 2023, to include current information.

In these quiet days leading up to her Powerball win, Ann works as a freelance travel editor and writer. A fan of literature, museums, history, high-minded cinema, and bad television, Ann lives in New York with her husband and two teenaged children. She likes road trips, local bars, getting lost, and laughing, so Ireland ranks high on her list of favorite places.
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