Best things to do in Charleston and sightseeing in Charleston
Gibbes Museum of Art - Charleston
Like most things in Charleston, the beaux arts Gibbes Museum of ARt is old established in 1858 and still reigns as the city’s cultural guardian with thousands of (mainly) Southern artworks (you scan almost fall into the panoramas of Charleston Harbour). But it lets its hair down with pop-up exhibition on anything from rock-n-roll photography to African American gardens.
Husk Restaurant - Charleston
No Southern restaurant is more celebrated than Husk, whose chef, Sean Brock, has been championed nationwide for his devotion to heirloom produce and tail to snout cuts of meat. In a mansion straight out of Gone with the Wind on the edge of Downtown, the ultra seasonal menu from crispy pig ears and cornmeal dusted catfish to Altantic swordfish and sorghum glazed chicken served on the porch or in the glass walled dining room. Arrive early for a drink at the adjacent (and equally historic) red brick bar.
Charleston City Market - Charleston
Originally built in the early 19thcentury, Charleston City Market reopened in 2011 after a meticulous 18 month renovation. It’s a series of three long, slim, red brick halls that heave with dozens of small scale retailers selling goods ranging from creole spices to handmade jewelry and woven baskets from the local Gullah people island dwellers who descend from escaped slaves. There’s also a handful of food stalls, including the Caviar and Bananas café and the Cue Omsk BBQ joint.
The Restoration on King - Luxury Hotel - Charleston
For a more modern, vibrant option, head to The Restoration of King. The 16 suites were originally designed as apartments and it shows (shiny wooden floors, exposed brick walls, kitchens). Breakfast is delivered in a picnic basket; there’s no restaurant, but you can order in or snack on wine and nibbles at the reception. It’s an elegant antidote to Charleston’s occasional over reliance on Low Country kitsch.
Zero George - Charleston
Developed by a longtime Orient Express executive, Zero, George opened in last February just beyond Charleston’s town center. The 16 rooms are spread among a series of historic former homes and carriage houses dating from the early 19th century, and are anchored by an elegant piazza. Although there’s no formal restaurant, there is a car which holds Southern cooking classes.
Sugar Bakeshop - Charleston
Run by ex New Yorkers, Bill Bowick and David Bouffard, Sugar Bakeshop turns out moist, sinfully iced cakes in nearly 20 varieties, including German chocolate, red velvet, coconut and zingy lemon curd. Or you may prefer a bag of chocolate chip and ginger cookies, tiny fruit filled tarts or a gooey pie. Order the Derby (pecan pie with chocolate) and a cup of coffee, and sit for a spell on the porch.
The Cocktail Club - Charleston
Set atop the Macintosh, a nouvelle Southern restaurant, the Cocktail Club specializes in retro drinks using custom blended fruit, vegetable and spice infusions and cult label liquors. Order a red pepper spiked Antipasto martini or a One Night Yam laden with sweet potato puree.
Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts - Charleston
Allison Smith and her boyfriend Mark Remi have been frying doughnuts at Glazed Gourmet, an open plan bakery/factory just above Charleston’s retail row, since 2010. Their creations include the expected (glazed and lemon frosted), as well as only in the Southern varieties such as Peanut Butter Pie and Apple Bacon Fritters.
Two Boroughs Larder - Charleston
One part cosy café, one part ambitious gastropub, Two Boroughs Larder lures both foodies and hipsters with its recycled, wooden walls, simple metal seating and hearty, healthy (ish) fare. Owners Heather and Josh Keeler dish up instant classics such as broth ramen noodles with locally sourced pork confit, along with fresh market greens doused in cider vinegar and studded with pickled raisins. If you like what you see – and taste – many of the handcrafted beers, cheeses and charcuterrie are for sale.
Indigo & Cotton - Charleston
As much a gallery as a conventional boutique, Indigo and Cotton focus on cutting edge men's labels sourced from throughout the South and beyond. New Yorker owner Brett Caron sells sturdy, indigo jeans from Raleigh Denim, sleek leather goods from Billykirk (Many of which are made by Amish craftsmen in Pennsylvania) and colorful shoes from Mark McNairy. It’s Manhattan style shopping with Charleston style service and charm.
The Royal American - Charleston
Dive bars don’t get more archetypal than The Royal American, wallpapered in old copies of National Geographic, where house made cinnamon whisky and six packs of ales and lager are sipped against a soundtrack of Exile on Main St. and other classic rock records from the old school jukebox. Rotating lines up of guitar chugging bands lure students and ascendant artists; when hunger strikes, hit the beef hot dogs and fried Bologna sandwiches.