With its rich history, innovative cuisine, gorgeous architecture, and Southern charm, the magical city of Charleston makes a great getaway for all types of travelers.
In fact, there’s so much to do that AFAR sent Cynthia Andrew there to check out some of the city’s top spots. Full-time lawyer and part-time blogger, Cynthia is a travel and lifestyle pro who’s passionate about great style, food, and spas—in other words, the perfect match for this exciting city.
Whether your passion veers toward culinary, history, wellness, or shopping—or a mix of all—you’ll find amazing options in Charleston. This is where Cynthia went—and suggests you go, too.
Where to Stay
First things first: Book a luxurious room where Cynthia stayed—at the boutique Hotel Bella Grace. Its location in the historic district is fitting: The hotel’s breakfast and gathering space is set in a building that dates to 1830. The space is perfectly complemented by the hotel’s newly built wing that includes the lobby, fitness center, and 50 modern guest rooms. These custom-designed rooms come luxuriously appointed with contemporary décor, artwork, and an entertainment system. And every room includes a complimentary hot breakfast. Need more space? Upgrade to one of the suites, which have separate living and sleeping areas, along with fully equipped European-style kitchens, a personal concierge, and grocery delivery.
History Everywhere You Turn
Then…go exploring! History buffs can immerse themselves in a fascinating past that has shaped the city’s present. Start as Cynthia did, by diving into Gullah culture. The Gullah were the Lowcountry’s first black inhabitants, with a rich culture and language all their own. A Sites and Insights Tours gives you the opportunity to hear their language and learn about their many contributions. Tour downtown Charleston or visit two of the nearby Sea Islands—or do both!—and learn all about the African-American history and culture.
And don’t miss The Charleston Museum. Founded in 1773, it’s called America’s first museum and contains tons of historical and cultural treasures from the Holy City. Cynthia took a particular interest in the War on Fashion exhibit (which runs through March 31), showing how fashion changed after the World Wars. But you can also check out some of the earliest known artifacts from the settlement of Charleston, explore exhibits on the city during the American Revolution and the Civil War, and see some of the gorgeous craftsmanship with silver and textiles. There are even interactive, hands-on exhibits just for kids.
A Shopper’s Paradise
Charleston brings a bit of history to many activities, and that’s even true when it comes to shopping. Cynthia loved dropping by Croghan’s Jewel Box, the city’s oldest family-run jewelry store that’s been around for more than 100 years. Old-world charm still imbues this store, which features finds from estates and gorgeous antiques, as well as gifts for every occasion. Check out the collection of earrings, necklaces, rings, and more, and discover why locals and travelers alike love Croghan’s.
Then head over to Ibu Movement, where fashion meets mission: The store features handcrafted clothing and accessories made by more than 100 female artisans in 38 countries. “Ibu” is from Indonesia’s Malay language and means “woman of respect”—and this shop delivers on that promise. You’ll find everything from clothing to accessories and even home design, all made by talented women from around the world. You can enjoy the elegant goods and feel good knowing you’re supporting this important effort.
How to Hit the Spa
Wellness lovers will find another mission-driven hometown treasure at The Water Room, which focuses on being non-toxic and cruelty-free. Relax with a mani-pedi and know that their products are as clean as possible without sacrificing performance—these better-for-the-environment treatments translate into healthier treatments for you. You can also opt for brow and lash treatments.
To fully immerse yourself in full-body relaxation, do as Cynthia did and head to The Spa at Belmond Charleston Place—a true oasis inside one of Charleston’s most luxurious hotels. Discover a variety of Indulgent treatments, from full-body massages (opt for unique elements like Himalayan pink salt stones) to innovative skin-care remedies and customized body scrubs. You’ll come away relaxed and energized.
For Culinary Connoisseurs
A quintessential historic Charleston home is the setting for a memorable meal at the Delaney Oyster House. Here you’ll find oysters served different ways (Cynthia loved them raw), along with other fresh seafood like mussels and scallops. Go family-style and try a little of everything. Just don’t miss sampling the innovative cocktails, craft beers, and thoughtful selection of wines inspired by marine-influenced terroir.
Then chill out at Graft Wine Shop & Wine Bar which, true to its name, offers a selection of 20-plus wines by the glass as well as a store with more than 200 bottles to peruse. One of the cofounders is just one of seven Advanced Sommeliers in all of South Carolina, so you can feel confident in their choice of hand-selected wines. Choose one or more to sample, relax, and enjoy the great music. There’s even a bar menu with meats, cheeses, and snacks to nosh on.
Large-scale Chinese lanterns fill the dazzling Lights of Magnolia display, making for a thrilling (and super-Instagrammable) nighttime excursion. Come be awed by the wonderland of lights set up across nine acres at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens—America’s oldest public garden. Just go quickly, as the exhibit is open only through March 15.
Discover even more reasons to make Charleston your next getaway!