Charleston Sights

Everyone starts a tour of Charleston in downtown's famous Historic District. Roughly bounded by Lockwood Boulevard on the Ashley River to the west, Calhoun Street to the north, East Bay Street on the Cooper River to the east, and the Battery to the south, this fairly compact area of 800 acres contains nearly 2,000 historic homes and buildings. The peninsula is divided up into several neighborhoods,

starting from the south and moving north, including the Battery, South of Broad, Lower King Street, and Upper King Street ending near the "Crosstown," where U.S. 17 connects downtown to Mount Pleasant and West Ashley.

You'll see no skyscrapers in the downtown area, because building heights are strictly regulated to maintain the city's historic setting. In the 1970s, most department stores decamped for suburban malls, turning King Street buildings into rows of (architecturally significant) empty shells. Soon, preservation-conscious groups began to save these beauties, and by the mid-1980s the shopping district was revived with the addition of the Omni Hotel (now Belmond Charleston Place). Big-name retailers quickly saw the opportunity in this attractive city and settled in as well. Lower King thrives and Upper King is booming, with many new businesses—hip bars and restaurants in particular—targeting the city's young, socially active population. Look up at the old-timey tile work at the entrances; inevitably it will have the names of the original businesses.

Beyond downtown, the Ashley River hugs the west side of the peninsula; the region on the far shore is called West Ashley. The Cooper River runs along the east side of the peninsula, with Mount Pleasant on the opposite side and Charleston Harbor in between. Lastly, there are outlying sea islands: James Island with its Folly Beach, John's Island, Wadmalaw Island, Kiawah Island, Seabrook Island, Isle of Palms, and Sullivan's Island. Each has its own appealing attractions, though John’s and Wadmalaw have farms instead of beaches. Everything that entails crossing the bridges is best explored by car or bus.

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Browse Sights

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Fodor's Choice

Area

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North of Broad 23

Mount Pleasant and Vicinity 8

South of Broad 8

West of the Ashley River 5

Edisto Island 4

Moncks Corner 4

Walterboro 3

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Category

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Amusement Park/ Water Park 1

Archaeological Site/ Ruins 3

Arts/ Performance Venue 1

Beach–Sight 9

Body Of Water/ Waterfall 2

Building/ Architectural Site 7

Cemetery 4

Commercial District 2

Educational Institution 2

Farm/ Ranch 2

Forest 6

Fountain 1

Garden/ Arboretum 6

Government Building 1

Historic District/ Site 25

Hotel–Sight 2

House/ Mansion/ Villa 10

Information Center 3

Island 1

Local Interest–Sight 3

Marina/ Pier/ Dock 4

Market/ Bazaar 4

Military Site 6

Museum Village 2

Museum/ Gallery 19

Native American Site 1

Nature Preserve/ Wildlife Refuge 6

Nautical Site/ Lighthouse 1

Neighborhood/ Street 1

Park (National/ State/ Provincial) 4

Park/ Playground 8

Promenade/ Boardwalk 1

Religious Building/ Site/ Shrine 5

Store/ Shop/ Mall 3

Tour–Sight 2

Town/ Village 1

Trail/ Path 8

Transportation Site (Airport, Bus, Ferry, Train) 1

Viewpoint/ Scenic Overlook 8

Winery/ Brewery/ Distillery 1

Zoo/ Aquarium 4

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Best For

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Family 30

Green 10

Historical 36

Pet Friendly 2

Romantic 6

Service 1

Trendy 2

Views 26

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Charleston Sights

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Aiken-Rhett House Museum

  • Historic District/Site

One of Charleston's most stately mansions, built in 1820 and virtually unaltered since 1858, has been preserved rather than restored,...

Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens

  • Farm/Ranch

A drive through a ½-mile-long live-oak alley draped in Spanish moss introduces you to this still-functioning plantation, the oldest...

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site

  • Historic District/Site

This site includes the last 28 acres of the plantation owned by Charles Pinckney, a drafter and signer of the U.S. Constitution. You...

Drayton Hall

  • Building/Architectural Site

Considered the nation's finest example of Palladian-inspired architecture, Drayton Hall is the only plantation house on the Ashley River...

Edmondston-Alston House

  • Historic District/Site

In 1825, Charles Edmondston built this house in the Federal style on Charleston's High Battery. About 13 years later, second owner Charles...

Heyward-Washington House

  • Historic District/Site

This Georgian-style double house was the town home of Thomas Heyward, patriot leader and signer of the Declaration of Independence. The...

Joseph Manigault House

  • Historic District/Site

An extraordinary example of Federal architecture, this 1803 residence and National Historic Landmark reflects the urban lifestyle of...

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens

  • Farm/Ranch

Sprawling, beautiful Magnolia Plantation was established in the 1670s by Thomas Drayton after he moved from Barbados. The extensive garden—the...

Middleton Place

  • Building/Architectural Site

Established in the 1730s, Middleton Place was at the center of the Middleton family’s empire of rice plantations, which consisted of...

Nathaniel Russell House Museum

  • Historic District/Site

One of the nation's finest examples of Federal-style architecture, the Nathaniel Russell House was built in 1808 and is restored to a...

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