The Perfect Weekend in Charleston

Between rapturous meals in Charleston—from just-caught oysters to Chinese food (you may not connect South Carolina with Chinese food yet, but you will after you eat at Xiao Bao Biscuit) to James Beard Award-winning farm-to-table fare at Husk—you may want to partake in other delights the town has to offer. Take a walking tour to see the city’s architectural gems from Rainbow Row to the churches that give Charleston the nickname Holy City to the grand houses along Waterfront Park. Stop and browse the local crafts and food at the Charleston City Market. And learn about the city’s history: from its colonial beginnings to modern times, with a visit to the Edmondston-Alston House, and one of the local plantations, and Fort Sumter, as well as the thriving history taking place at College of Charleston.

1081 Morrison Dr, Charleston, SC 29403, USA
This cavernous brewpub has a wide-open kitchen, a long bar, tall communal tables, and a patio shaded by live oaks. If you can, grab a seat at the chef’s counter and watch the team spread creamy aïoli on locally made rye bread, topping it with pickled shrimp, vegetables, fresh herbs, and chervil leaves. The beer selection is unparalleled in Charleston, with the restaurant’s own brews ranking among the city’s finest local offerings.
Charleston, SC 29401, USA
Waterfront Park runs a picturesque half-mile along the Cooper River, from an exuberant fountain at its north end (near the cruise ship terminal), to North Adgers Wharf at its southern border. There is much to recommend a stop in this small eight-acre space: a great path for running or strolling with expansive views of ships moving in and out of the harbor; a fountain topped with a pineapple sculpture that splashes water into a small wading pool where children are permitted to play; and, also welcome on hot Charleston afternoons, a tree-shaded promenade lined with benches for those in search of a sea breeze.
224 Rutledge Ave
XBB, as locals call it, occupies a remodeled and brightly furnished former gas station in the Elliotborough neighborhood. Catering to its surfer clientele with Nicaraguan beer, the spot also offers a constantly changing menu of authentic Asian fare. Order the Vietnamese-style shrimp toast, a purée of local shrimp, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, lime leaf, and chilies spread on baguette slices, then pan-fried—crispy and satisfying.
188 Meeting Street
Once the center of commerce in Charleston, the City Market is now the heart of tourism. Although its location near the cruise terminal can make it feel like a kitschy open-air market in the Caribbean, the tackiness is part of its charm. Yes, you’ll find Christmas ornaments painted with Rainbow Row and enough cutely packaged pralines to give you a stomachache, but you’ll also see Gullah artisans weaving the finest examples of sweetgrass baskets available. Peak season brings 140 different merchants, and weekends include live music and food vendors. The market’s a requisite stop for any visitor and a one-stop gift shop for loved ones back home.
142 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
Nicknamed the Holy City for its abundance of churches, Charleston’s most notable house of worship is St. Philip’s. The Anglican parish was constructed in 1680 and rebuilt in 1835 after a devastating fire. Since then, it’s persevered through hurricanes, a major earthquake, and even shelling by the Union Army during the Civil War. Today, its sand-colored steeple rises prominently against the city skyline, serving as a symbol of dignity and determination. The churchyard—home to Vice President John C. Calhoun’s gravesite—is a popular spot on historical and ghost tours. To get inside the church, attend weekly services on Sunday and Wednesday mornings, or tour the offices and sanctuary during weekday business hours.
FIG
232 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
It’s a big deal when a chef wins a James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Southeast.” It’s an even bigger deal when that chef’s successor wins the same award a few years later, but that’s exactly what happened at this downtown hot spot. Overseen by Mike Lata and helmed by Jason Stanhope, FIG is one of the hallmark restaurants that put Charleston’s dining scene on the map. Seasonal veggies are an important part of the menu, which is inventive and thoughtful without feeling fussy. (Anthony Bourdain raved when he dined at FIG—he had the asparagus salad with fromage blanc, quinoa, green garlic, and carrots—during a 2017 episode of Parts Unknown.) For local, creative food in the Lowcountry, FIG is the model.
698 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, USA
Restaurateur Brooks Reitz built his name with this chicken-and-oyster joint that feels old-school despite its carefully crafted ambiance. On a first visit, it’s sinful not to order the perfectly salted, crispy/juicy fried chicken amalgam shellacked with a glaze of Old Bay and cayenne suspended in melted lard. That necessitates a second visit to gorge on the poached char-grilled lobster and sausage, or the Leon’s Fish Fry, a platter of shrimp, oysters and catfish. Leon’s was the first to open way-Upper King, now the restaurant hotbed, and it’s held onto its cool status thanks to its thoughtful buildout in a restored auto body shop, retaining the exposed rafters and a rollup garage door that opens to a patio out front.
1235 Long Point Rd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464, USA
The magnificent avenue of oak trees that greets visitors at Boone Hall Plantation is, on its own, a Charleston must-see. After taking it in, guests can walk through the plantation mansion or take a driving tour of the grounds, which cover 738 acres. If the car feels too restrictive, opt instead for a garden tour, which highlights a collection of antique roses and a striking butterfly pavilion. Depending on the season, you can visit the U-Pick Fields to harvest your own strawberries or stock up on tomatoes and peaches at an adjacent farm stand. At Boone Hall’s Gullah Theater, historic reenactors recount the dark days of slavery and celebrate the African American culture that marked plantation life in centuries past. .
133 Queen St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
Queen Street Grocery is a quintessentially Charleston spot, set in a residential neighborhood and open since 1922. It has served as the surrounding neighborhood’s corner grocery store for decades, but in recent years it’s acted as a café as well, serving up crepes and pressed sandwiches. The friendly staff and quick service make it a great place to grab a quick breakfast or lunch, and you can peruse their beer and wine selection to take on the go.
66 George St, Charleston, SC 29424, USA
With its Spanish moss-draped oak trees and beautiful stucco buildings, the College of Charleston‘s campus is long on atmosphere and makes a great place for a stroll. Randolph Hall, a magnificent edifice built in 1828 and one of the six college buildings on the register of National Historic Landmarks, has appeared in movies from The Patriot to Dear John, and in the Civil War miniseries North and South. Also of note, the President’s House, once the parsonage of St. Philip’s Church, is the oldest building on campus.
340 Concord St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
Taking a trip to Fort Sumter gives visitors a chance to explore a little Civil War history (the first shot of that long bloody war was fired here in 1861) through an orientation in town at the education center, followed by a ferry ride out to the fort itself, built on an island at the mouth of the harbor, for a brief park ranger introduction and a self-guided tour. In addition to being a fascinating experience for the site’s historical significance, the excursion offers water views of Rainbow Row, the homes along The Battery, and the Holy City’s many steeples.
1870 Bowens Island Rd, Charleston, SC 29412, USA
Bowens Island Restaurant has existed in one form or another since 1946. The original building, covered in Sharpie messages scrawled by diners over the years, burned to the ground in 2006. Owner Robert Barber rebuilt it almost immediately, all the while serving steamed oysters straight from the inlet beyond the dock. Today, the paper plates are modest but come piled high with fried seafood, fries, and hush puppies. Order the oysters, top them with cocktail sauce, and wash it all down with a local beer for one of the best dining experiences in town. Bowens may not have white linen tablecloths or awards hanging on the walls, but this is where you want to be eating in Charleston.
21 E Battery, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
Thanks to its views across Charleston Harbor, the Edmondston-Alston House is one of the city’s most popular historic homes open to the public. Its hyphenated name joins that of its builder and of the rice planter who purchased it from him just a decade later. The mansion, with its Corinthian columns and rooftop piazza, is a prime example of the Greek Revival architecture popular in the early 19th century. The house was at the center of several key Civil War events: as a lookout spot for Confederate general P.G.T. Beauregard during the siege on Fort Sumter in April 1861, and as a refuge for General Robert E. Lee on the night of the Great Charleston Fire of 1861. The mansion is owned by the Alston family, and its interior is preserved to look much as it did 150 years ago.
224 King St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
Charleston Grill’s dining room is elegant, wood-paneled and quiet; the menu has a range of options to suit any palate, divided into four sections like “Lush” and “Cosmopolitan;” and there’s live jazz every night. For these reasons, it’s a long-time special-occasion mainstay for Charlestonians.
135 Meeting Street
The Gibbes Museum of Art has been around since 1905, but it’s far more than a repository of dusty oil paintings. In fact, after a $13.5 million renovation in 2016, it now ranks in the upper echelons of American art museums. The permanent collection includes a miniature portrait gallery; the Mary Jackson Gallery, showcasing exquisite Gullah sweetgrass baskets; and the Campbell Rotunda Gallery, featuring 300 years of American Southern art. Watch for special exhibitions of works created on-site, like the one devoted to environmental sculptor Patrick Dougherty during his 2017 residency here. Don’t miss the classical Lenhardt Garden, and the groundfloor café, a branch of the Daily, is a good spot for gourmet sandwiches, soups, salads, and a glass of wine in a quiet, contemporary setting.
0 George St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
Zero George consists of five structures: the main building fronting George Street, built in the early 1800s as two separate structures; two additional examples of the “Charleston single house,” a long and narrow building with an open-air porch along its length; and one carriage house. Formerly a French-style inn, Zero George was purchased, renovated, and reopened under a new name by a local hotels veteran in early 2013. Its architecture is pure Charleston, and the garden courtyard at the heart of the property, with its palmettos and hand-laid brick walkways, is a welcome oasis. Rooms are bright and airy, with elegant period-style furniture decked out in neutral fabrics and patterns.

Food is a way of life in the Carolina Lowcountry, but in the past five years Charleston’s culinary scene has exploded with new producers and restaurateurs focusing on local ingredients prepared in dynamic ways. Zero George fits right in with the new food trends. It’s a property that uses its classically Charleston setting as a site for intimate cooking classes and Southern-infused craft cocktails.
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