Now that I live here full time (!!!), I wanted to give my travel guide a little update. If you are a long time reader, you already know that prior to moving here, I was obsessed with Charleston for a very long time. Pre-pandemic, I would visit at least every other month. It started with that press trip several years ago and I have been hooked ever since, even convincing (well, helping to convince… it wasn’t a lot of work) my parents to move to John’s Island. Now I’m realizing my dream: I moved in April and my sister and her family get here next week. We are all here and it is the best thing ever.
I just love this city so much. It’s hard to even explain it. But if you’ve never been, definitely add it to your list. It’s the absolute perfect weekend getaway.. the flight is just over an hour out of New York. In the meantime, today I’ve rounded up all of my favorite spots for you in one handy guide. I try to keep this post updated as I try more and more Charleston faves, old + new but I feel pretty confident that I’ve captured most of the best spots!
**Updated August 11, 2021**
Charleston City Guide
Where to Eat
These are all alphabetized. I felt like it wouldn’t be fair to list them in any other order… I have so many favorite spots!
Basic Kitchen is a newer favorite.
It’s delicious healthy food but also with yummy drinks (get the beet margarita and the salmon bowl!) I love how open and airy it is and everything on the menu is really really good! They have a great outdoor dining area… it feels a little bit like LA.
Bistronomy by Nico has such fun, interesting food (think escargot dumplings) and great cocktails.
I really like sitting at the bar for drinks and a few fun apps.
Chez Nous is a really interesting concept as they only serve a few things each day.
Two appetizers, two entries, and two desserts! The best way to know what they are serving is to check out their instagram account. The space is tiny so I usually go in a small group. The food is always delicious… I would definitely say this is a must-visit while in town.
Chubbyfish may be the best meal I’ve had here in ages
But be warned: they don’t take reservations, and people start lining up to get a table at 4pm. That being said, I kinda think it’s worth it? The wagyu tartare is beyond (I love the nori + rice preparation), the amberjack crudo is so good… and you have to get a caviar sammich!
FIG is another favorite favorite.
They recently remodeled the space. I haven’t been in to check it out yet, but I’m looking forward to it on my next trip. Everything on the menu is delicious. Everything. Listen to the waiters’ suggestions as they are all very knowledgeable. When I went for my mother’s birthday, they had just caught a fresh mackerel that day. I’m not usually into mackerel (I find it to be too fishy and oily) but the mackerel at FIG is epic. It melted in our mouths like butter… we ended up having to order another plate!
Hank’s has amazing seafood (I think they always win the award for best seafood in Charleston!).
It’s fancy… white linen table cloths and really, really good food (love their martinis!).
Herd Provisions is more new to Charleston but is SO good.
We went this past trip and had the poutine, steak, an amazing salad, and so much more. We sat at the bar and had a really delicious meal + a great time.
So I will be honest. I think that Husk is a little bit overrated. That being said, if you are looking for a classic Charleston Brunch (think pimento cheese, biscuits, and something fried)… go here. The food is delicious, but it’s very, very heavy. I personally love their bar even more (it’s in a separate building, adjacent to the restaurant), as it is a great place to grab happy hour. The cocktails are so, so good!
La Farfalle has such incredible Italian food.
I can’t decide which I prefer: this or Melfi’s (also amazing Italian, with a New York-ish vibe!). If you go, be sure to get the whipped ricotta, it is insanely good. I also love the linguini with clam sauce.
Leon’s Oyster Shop is one of my favorite places to grab lunch.
It’s best to go on a nice day… there’s lots of outdoor seating. Oysters, rosé, and the fried chicken sandwich. You don’t need much else in life.
Little Jack’s is owned by the same team that does Leon’s and it’s delicious.
This time around they went with a tavern type of vibe. Think burgers, truffle fries, yummy bar food. We call the Tavern Burger the “girl burger.” It’s the perfect size… not a slider, but not a full on burger. You’ll be able to eat the whole thing and still have room for dessert.
Maison has epic french food and maybe the best steak tartare I’ve ever eaten.
Malagon (by the same owners of Chez Nous) serves up incredibly delicious tapas.
I live for the white asparagus and any and all of their cured meats and cheeses.
OMG the hype is real, this is some of the best Italian I’ve had in ages. Definitely get the Stretch Armstrong and the Cacio e Pepe!
Monza also has great Italian food.
The pizzas are amazing but the thing to order is the butter bean salad (it’s so refreshing and delicious) and the carbonara (this pasta will change your life. I didn’t order it but my friend let me have a few bites. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever eaten!!)
The Ordinary is one of my favorite spots.
The cocktails are delicious, the oysters are incredible, and don’t even get me started on the crab toast. They have a great happy hour, and if I am in Charleston, I am probably sitting at the bar with Deirdre.
The Park Café is a little further away from the action too, but it’s worth the trek.
I personally love their homemade ricotta cheese. But also, avocado toast! I like to get a half grapefruit and share the avocado toast… it’s the perfect breakfast.
I have never eaten a full meal here, but go for the coconut cake. Just trust me. It’s incredible and they actually ship it worldwide.
Raw 167 is another spot that I am just obsessed with.
Great oysters, but my favorite things on the menu are the lobster roll and the tuna burger. The best thing to do is go with a like-minded friend or date (my sister is the perfect companion for this activity!) and split the two. If I were on death row, that would be my last meal.
Xiao Bao Biscuit is another awesome spot for lunch.
The drinks are really delicious, and the cabbage pancake is unreal! Seriously. It sounds funny, but get it. It will change your relationship with cabbage forever!
Other Things to Do:
Bulldog Tours has such fun walking tours. We did a historical tour years ago but I really want to do a ghost tour at some point!
Go to the beach! Sullivan’s Island is my personal favorite but Folly Beach and Isle of Palms both have beautiful beaches.
My Favorite Bookstores:
Buxton Books is a classic. It really has that neighborhood-y, local feel… and I love that they have so many fun events.
Blue Bicycle Books is my personal favorite bookstore in Charleston as they focus on used, rare, and local books!
Where to Drink
The Belmont is my favorite bar-bar in Charleston.
I go a lot. The cocktails are amazing. I usually will have a Negroni, although last time I went, we all got piña coladas which was totally weird (they’re on the menu!!) but also awesome.
Bin 152 is my favorite wine bar.
I wish we had one in New York… I’d be there every night! It’s owned by the same team that does Chez Nous, and their selection is really really good. I go here a lot, too! (It’s right around the corner from The Mills House, so kinda perfect if you stay there!)
Vintage Lounge is another fun cocktail bar.
I love their cocktails and it’s such a pretty space!
The Blind Tiger is just a great, fun dive bar (with a really pretty patio out back!).
Henry’s makes for a fun night.
It’s one bar with tons of different rooms all with different concepts. You feel a little bit like you are in a boozy party treehouse. I may be a little too old for it but it’s a fun place to go every now and again for a very specific type of night.
The Watch (the rooftop bar at The Restoration Hotel) is a great spot to grab a drink.
They have two large patios and an indoor space too which is nice when it’s hot out. The views of the city are amazing!
Where to Shop
So, the big shocker here for me initially was that Charleston has some really gooooood shopping. King Street pretty much has everything you could ever want or need. That being said, I never thought I’d be saving up to come shop in Charleston which is the case. I know it sounds nuts but I have better luck shopping here than in New York!
Hampden Clothing is my go-to.
Stacy, the owner, has the best eye. She brings in amazing designers that haven’t even hit New York’s best boutiques yet. She has an incredible eye, and it shows. You will walk in, and want everything in the store. Not to worry, the staff will have you covered. My sister and I both rely on Evelyn, our spirit animal who is both the store manager and one of the lead stylists… but the entire team is very knowledgable and helpful. I feel like all of my best investment pieces come from Hampden. Every time my sister and I visit, the one thing we have to do is pay Hampden a visit.
Croghan’s Jewel Box is a Charleston institution and a must-visit.
Beckett Boutique has a beautiful mix of contemporary clothing (they carry two of my favorite designers + friends… Holst + Lee and Library by Lauren Lail).
The selection is smaller than Hampden but everything is meticulously selected… so many pretty things!
There is nothing better than one of her warm delicious biscuits. Nothing. Fun fact: they have cream cheese inside the dough which keeps them extra moist and yummy.
The Daily is a great little spot for coffee and a grab and go breakfast.
Addicted to their breakfast burrito and the whipped feta toast.
Harbinger has great coffee and is the CUTEST little cafe.
Perfect place to sit and people watch and get some work done!
The Rise at The Restoration Hotel is another great spot for coffee.
I love their croissants!
Second State Coffee (formerly Black Tap) has great coffee.
It’s a fun spot to work and the quiche is amazing too!
Their coffee is delicious, but their pastries are amazing. Just get their early as things go fast.
This is an absolute favorite. Great coffee, great snacks (the ham and butter sandwich is just the most satisfying?), and also fun for drinks later in the day.
This is such a sweet little spot. Really great coffee and a cute little shop in back too.
Brown’s Court Bakery great coffee and AMAZING pastries.
But get there early as all the good stuff goes fast!
Queen Street Grocery was my go-to when I lived here for 6 weeks.
Succcch great crepes and smoothies and their cold brew is amazing. I get mine with chocolate almond milk. Bonus: they sell beer and wine in the back.
Where to Stay:
Guesthouse is probably my favorite place to say but it isn’t a hotel.
It’s a collection of beautiful rental houses and apartments, all with a beautiful courtyard in the middle. The vibe is very similar to a hotel but you get more space, a kitchen, your own entrance, more privacy, etc. I did a longer post about them but I LOVE this space.
86 Cannon may be my personal favorite hotel in Charleston.
It’s a charming little bed & breakfast with just a few rooms. The owners are so kind and they have two beautiful dogs! You can see more of the property in this blog post.
I love this spot. Right now it’s my favorite. They have big, cozy rooms, beautiful decor (the library downstairs is incredible with its fireplace and cobalt blue chairs) and the coffee shop (Rise) is one of my favorites. They also have a fantastic rooftop bar (The Watch) which is perfect for watching the sunset with a glass of wine.
The Planter’s Inn is a favorite as it is luxurious yet charming, cozy, and very central. The perfect mix! The Peninsula Grill is also attached, meaning you can grab that yummy coconut cake on your way home! The only downside is that they don’t have very many rooms so getting a reservation can be hard (and expensive). But the service, cute rooms, and convenient location make it worth it.
Zero George is one of the most beautiful hotels in Charleston, and has been ranked one of Conde Nast’s best hotels.
I am absolutely obsessed. They also have a great restaurant. It is a bit of a hike to town and less central than the other two hotels I mention, but the beautiful space makes up for it.
I want to love The Mills House. I really do. It has the most beautiful exterior (I instagram a LOT in front of those pink walls), and it has an amazing story (the original building actually served as the Confederate Headquarters during the Civil War). And when you walk in, the first floor is really lovely! That being said, the rooms are just meh. But I still listed it here as a) it’s pretty cool getting to stay in the old Confederate HQ and b) the location is great… it’s right there in the historic district and close to everything. I am probably going to get in trouble for saying this, but I hope someday someone buys this hotel from Wyndham and helps it realize its full potential.
But also make sure you visit Sullivan’s Island!
Poe’s Tavern is chill and relaxed and the perfect burger joint. It’s also dedicated to Edgar Allen Poe, which is pretty awesome. Get the burger.
The Obstinate Daughter is so delicious that it’s worth driving to Sullivan’s, even if you don’t have other plans there. I accidentally ordered the frittata (long story) and it was amazing. On another visit, we had the polenta fries (scrumptious) and I had the shrimp roll (like a lobster roll but maybe even better?) It’s a must. The line can be intimidating… bring a tiny snack to hold you over.
Coop has the best frosé. And so many flavors too. LOVE.
Home Team BBQ is my fav casual spot! Great pulled pork and tater tots, the salads are surprisingly good (I know, I know, who gets a salad at a sports bar, apparently me!) and the Game Changer is my favorite (very strong!) frozen drink.
Goldbug is my latest jewelry obsession. The designer/owner Ashley Reid Martin creates the most gorgeous (lightweight) brass pieces… perfect for summer/Charleston’s humid climate where you want your accessories to be as lightweight as possible. The photos on her website don’t do the product justice, but her earrings are beyonnnd.
And also John’s Island!
My parents moved to John’s Island a little over a year ago. To be honest we probably haven’t done enough exploring BUT there are currently two places I really love!
The Wild Olive is by the same team that does The Obstinate Daughter and is absolutely delicious! My dad actually works there a few days a week. It’s some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had.
The Southern General is a little spot in a mall but has an incredible turkey sandwich. My mom and I like to split the turkey pesto sandwich.