If you’ve been trying to plan a weekend in Charleston but feel overwhelmed trying to decide what to see and do, you’re not alone. With so many award-winning restaurants, unique attractions and charming historical sites to see, there's always something new to discover in the Holy City. Whether you're planning a romantic weekend getaway or taking a break from the beaches, these Charleston gems are sure to satisfy your craving for authentic Southern charm.
Saturday in Historic Charleston
While there are plenty of downtown Charleston accommodations, ranging from historic inns and bed-and-breakfasts to rental properties and modern hotels, the Francis Marion Hotel is at the center of it all. Located just across the street from Marion Square and a quick walk from King Street shopping and more restaurants than you can count, this historic hotel is a must-see, even if you're not staying there.
Have breakfast at Caviar and Bananas, a gourmet market and cafe that offers artisanal coffees, teas and bakery selections made fresh daily by their in-house pastry chefs. Afterward, stroll over to the historic Charleston City Market, one of the nation’s oldest public markets and the cultural heart of Charleston. There’s no better way to get a feel for the Holy City than exploring this popular attraction. Home to more than 300 local artists and entrepreneurs, you’ll find handcrafted jewelry, locally made soaps, specialty hot sauces, Christmas ornaments, pottery, sweetgrass baskets and so much more.
For an unforgettable lunch, try Rodney Scott's Whole Hog BBQ on Upper King Street. This James Beard Award-winner is famous for his artisan barbecue, slow-cooked on a pit and mopped with a secret sauce that keeps the meat juicy and gives it a salty tang.
For more shopping opportunities, stroll over to King Street after lunch. A hub of shopping and dining, King Street is a vibrant blend of local, regional and national shops. King Street is divided into three districts: Lower King Street Antiques District, Middle King Street Fashion District and Upper King Street Design and Dining District. Many popular events take place on King Street, including Christmas on King Street, Marion Square’s weekly Saturday Farmer’s Market, Charleston Fashion Week, the Food + Wine Festival and more.
If you feel like relaxing indoors, catch a 4D movie at the South Carolina Aquarium on East Bay Street. The aquarium’s cutting-edge exhibits give visitors an inside look at aquatic life across the Palmetto State. Charleston is also home to many house museums, including the Aiken-Rhett House. Built in 1820, the Aiken-Rhett House is one of the best-preserved, nationally significant townhouse complexes in the nation.
When it comes to nightlife in Charleston you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. Start with dinner at FIG, a local favorite that has garnered national acclaim for its farm-to-table cuisine and inspired wine program. From there, explore the cemeteries and alleyways of Charleston on a ghost tour, take in the sights from a rooftop bar (Stars Rooftop & Grill Room boasts a 360-degree view of the city’s historic district while The Vendue’s lively Rooftop offers a plentiful menu and views of the harbor and city skyline) or see what’s on stage at the Dock Street Theater.
Be sure to take advantage of Charleston's many pedicabs. They’re a great way to get around the city and enjoy the outdoors all at once. The "drivers" are friendly and always willing to share some of their favorite local hotspots.
Sunday Brunch in Charleston
No trip to Charleston is complete without a weekend brunch—and we’re not talking about the same old eggs Benedict and mimosas. Brunch in Charleston is filled with buttermilk biscuits served with whipped honey butter, fluffy French toast piled high with fresh berries, craft cocktails and Southern staples like shrimp and grits.
Husk is the perfect place to start. Centrally located in Charleston’s historic downtown, Husk’s ingredient-driven cuisine redefines what it means to cook and eat in the South. Executive Chef Ray England, who took over for founding Chef Sean Brock, has embraced Husk’s identity, highlighting Southern cuisine and working with local farmers and fishermen. Husk is also known for its “extensive lineup of historic and modern cocktails designed to honor the traditional spirits of the Southern table and trace the historical lineage of regional mixology.”
If you're visiting on the second Sunday of the month, enjoy downtown Charleston's Second Sundays, where King Street restaurants, shops and vendors take it to the streets for alfresco dining, family-friendly fun and special deals.
Next, take in some culture at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston's Historic District, or walk down a cobblestone street to the Battery & White Point Gardens, a popular Charleston attraction, for a stroll along the historic waterfront. You might also consider one of the many walking tours offered by Bulldog Tours.
If you're staying for dinner, be sure to check out one of the many trendy spots on Upper King Street like The Grocery, where you'll find classic cocktails and casual, yet elegant surroundings, or Tattooed Moose, a local favorite featured on the Food Network’s “On The Road” & “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives” with Guy Fieri known for their Duck Club sandwich.
On a budget? Take advantage of the ever-popular—but usually less expensive—brunch menus at some of Charleston’s most popular restaurants.