Charleston is a shopper’s heaven: the City Market, Broad Street’s art galleries, King Street’s fashion and furnishings retailers, North Charleston’s outlets and antiques everywhere from Mount Pleasant to Johns Island. Bring an empty suitcase and a little extra cash because you won’t want to miss out on any shopping opportunities during your visit to the Holy City.
You can walk up and down the center aisle of Charleston’s four-block City Market and still not see everything the dozens of vendors have to offer. Start at Market Hall (Meeting at Market streets), which was built in 1841 and is one of 76 National Historic Landmarks in South Carolina, noted for its architectural design quality. It features an enclosed level above the arcade that provides your access to the market’s Great Hall, which opened in 2011 after a major renovation. The Charleston Historic Foundation is a must-stop shop here, with books about Charleston and reproduction furniture and other goods for sale that depict various eras in the city’s history.
After the great hall comes three open-air sheds of vendors that include the makers of Charleston’s famed sweetgrass baskets. The baskets are hand-woven from locally grown bulrush grass. The shallow baskets were originally used during the heyday of rice in South Carolina to separate the rice grain from chaff. There are more than 50 sweetgrass artists who display their wares at the City Market.
In addition to the crafters, food vendors and other retailers, the City Market is surrounded by a neighborhood of shops and restaurants. This is also where you will catch your historic Charleston carriage ride.
The City Market is open 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily with special Night Market openings on Friday and Saturday nights from March through December. The market is open-air, so get there early in the summer months to enjoy the coolest part of the day. The stores of the surrounding neighborhood set their own hours.
If you are looking for something extraordinary to hang over the sofa, this is the place to come. Known as Gallery Row, the dozen shops on Broad cater to fine art aficionados, but if the price tags are beyond your means, simply stroll through and enjoy the art.
Spencer Art Galleries (55 and 57 Broad St.) feature contemporary paintings, prints, photographs and sculptures by a range of artists, including local and regional artists.
The Cecil Byrne Gallery (7 Broad St.) offers impressionist art and artisan pottery. Artists represented include: painters Mike Beeman and Sue Gilkey, potters Susan Barrett and Liz Kinder, and glass-blower Nicholas Kecic. Coco Vivo (25 Broad St.) features plein air artists and sculptors from the Southeast.
There are about a dozen galleries on Broad, but you will also find fine art on Queen Street at the Corrigan Gallery (62 Queen St.) with works that represent a contemporary take on old Charleston.
Anglin Smith Fine Art (9 Queen St.) is unique in that it focuses on the art of one family: Lowcountry painter Betty Anglin Smith and her children, painters Jennifer Smith Rogers and Shannon Smith, and photographer Tripp Smith, who also happen to be triplets. Atrium Art Gallery (61 Queen St.) opened in 2013 with Carolina artists such as John F. Townsend and Charlotte Foust, and photographer Julie Dunn.
And finally, nearby is Dog & Horse Fine Art (102 Church St.) dedicated to our four-legged friends, depicting their images in various media. The folks here can help you find the right artist to capture your Fido or Flicka in a work of art.
King Street fashion and furnishings
From Anthropologie to Bob Ellis Shoes, Pottery Barn to Morris Sokol Furniture and everything in between (think Urban Outfitters), the ever-expanding King Street is the place for shoppers.
Duck in to Oops for a South Carolina-themed hat or golf shirt; stroll into family-owned M. Dumas and Sons for some classic Carolina khakis and bowties; or score an official Charleston Battery Bench from George C. Birlant & Co.
For jewelry, try Croghan’s Jewel Box, (308 King St.) which lays claim to being the oldest family-owned jewelry store in town. Opened more than 100 years ago on William Joseph Croghan’s side porch, Croghan’s Jewel Box includes items from local estate sales and antiques.
Alabama designer Billy Reid’s shop at 150 King St. offers sips of whiskey with his high-end fashions. The men’s dress shirts go for $200-plus, but the whiskey is free.
Blue Bicycle Books (420 King St.) is a classic old bookstore with a stock that includes some of the Lowcountry’s best and most famous writers, as well as a selection of used and rare books. Don’t let the small storefront fool you, there is plenty of inventory in back.
Worthwhile (268 King St.) has been providing modern women’s fashions from dozens of designers since 1993. You can also find shoes, jewelry, books, candles and more.
Antiquing and junking
Let’s be honest. Charleston is all about history, and digging through the remnants of the past is a wonderful way to while away a rainy day. And you never know what you might find. Some stores specialize in high-end rarities while others are more like a visit to Grandma’s house, with all the kitsch and glamour the mid-20th century had to offer.
Geo. C. Birlant & Co. (191 King St.), which we mentioned earlier for Battery benches, is also one of the finest and oldest antique shops in all of Charleston. Open since 1922, the store is filled with old Chippendale furniture, pendulum clocks, silver tea service sets and cut-glass chandeliers.
If you are off the peninsula, a favorite stop is Terrace Oaks Antique Mall (2037 Maybank Highway) on Johns Island. Dozens of rooms filled with antiques and just plain old stuff from every decade of the 20th century are a delight. Like silver spoons? They have all kinds from state collections to baby-appropriate to a lunch box from the 1980s TV show of the same name. If it was made last century (or before), it’s here.
North Charleston outlets and shopping malls
Some folks say that outlet shopping ain’t what it used to be. Well, we say it’s better. More than two dozen name-brand stores offer fabulous discounts at the Tanger Outlets in North Charleston (4840 Tanger Outlet Blvd.).
The Charleston area also has several indoor shopping malls, including Northwoods Mall, which has national stores Sears and JC Penney as well as regional chains Belk and Dillard’s, and the Citadel Mall, which is home to an IMAX theater.