Planning a trip to Charleston, South Carolina? I’ve got you covered!
From learning about the astounding history of this lively city that has its many notorious "hauntings" to savoring the delectable Southern-style food, Charleston has much to offer. In my Ultimate 4-Day Travel Itinerary For Charleston, South Carolina, I will provide guided tips on the ins and outs of experiencing this historic Southern city for the first time. With a range of activities like learning about Charleston’s history at the Charleston Museum or checking out the nightlife of this lively historic city, I’m going to show you how my first time in this city went, leaving 100% honest reviews of my 4-day birthday trip!
Download the OpenTable app for reservations everywhere in Charleston (highly recommended)
Without this app, you won’t be able to make a reservation at most spots in Charleston (learned this the hard way). And trust me, you’re going to want to make reservations if you’re visiting on the weekend!
For making quick drips to downtown Charleston and back to your Airbnb, especially if you’re there for the nightlife!
Rainbow Row Outfit
Night Life Outift
Breakfast At The Daily
The Daily is a hip coffeehouse serving Stumptown brews while supporting local businesses like produce and other intriguing items like sustainable straws. At this inspiring coffee shop, only the highest quality ingredients are used to create healthy and delicious items such as juices, pastries, smoothies, fresh bread, and more!
My friend and I stopped here as soon as we arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, for a much-needed refresher. There was a bit of a wait, about 20 minutes or so. For obvious reasons, The Daily is a popular spot for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and everything in between, which we soon found out after receiving our delicious meal!
The Power Protein Smoothie
Vegan Vanilla Protein Powder, Banana, Almond Butter, Medjool Dates, & Chia Seeds
The Avocado Toast
Za’atar, EVOO, & Sourdough
**The bread is grilled with butter, but you can inform them when you order to prepare it vegan!
All in all our meal was delicious and worth the wait. We perused the fun little store they had indoors, then ended up finding a seat on the patio. The Daily is pet-friendly, so there were plenty of curious and adorable puppers with their owners on the patio, which I for sure didn’t mind!
Tour The Charleston Museum
One of the oldest museums in the whole United States, the Charleston Museum was another one of the unplanned stops we made during our trip to Charleston.
My cousin's flight had been delayed about four hours, so my friend and I had plenty of time to kill. After stopping for breakfast at The Daily, we parked at the Charleston Museum and made our way inside---it’s much larger inside than you may initially think! The large collection of historic artifacts, decorative arts, and natural history was incredibly inspiring to read and learn about.
Right across the street is the Nathanial Russel House, which we ended up exploring too. When paying for your ticket for admission into the museum, there’s an add-on option to explore two historic houses---one of them was the Nathanial Russel House and the other was a driving distance away that we weren’t interested in taking after the long trip it took to arrive in Charleston.
Tour The Nathaniel Russell House
The Nathaniel Russell House is a skip across the street from the Charleston Museum. This historic house was built in 1808 by Nathaniel Russell, a wealthy merchant and slave trader. Officially recognized as one of America’s most important neoclassical houses, the Nathaniel Russell House was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1973.
Through the Charleston Museum, you can buy an admission ticket for the guided tour of the Nathaniel Russell House. Without the very informational tour guide, we would have been bereft of a load of intriguing information---like how a Princess once owned the house!
Rest Stop At Uncork
A classy and fun self-serve wine bar in Charleston, Uncork serves top-notch wines from all over the world, including my personal---and only---favorite, Sangue di Giuda. Explore different wines, sit with friends in the pleasingly aesthetic setting, and pair your wine with a charcuterie board made with fresh locally-sourced ingredients.
Uncork was a pleasant surprise on day one of visiting Charleston. My friend and I had driven up (at a horrifically early hour) from Florida to pick up my cousins from the airport in Charleston. Unfortunately, their flight was delayed by around 4 hours so my friend and I had to kill some time. After stopping at The Daily for breakfast, we strolled through The Charleston Museum and the Nathanial Russell House. Building up an appetite, we headed over to the famous Charleston spot, King Street, and decided to stop in to check out Uncork.
We had a great time sitting to chat in the glorious appeal of Uncork with wine and snacks in hand. Since our visit to Uncork in August 2021, we have yet to forget this unforgettable spot. If you’re looking to sit and relax, Uncork is the perfect place to simmer down with wine in hand and good company to chat with.
Dinner At O-ku
A trendy Japanese eatery and lounge located on King Street, O-ku deserves all the hype it’s been receiving. The exposed brick and high ceilings make for an astoundingly aesthetically pleasing spot for dinner---plus pictures for the ‘gram!
When I say I smashed the House Salad---the classic carrot and ginger vinaigrette pairing that hits so good every time---and the Eat Your Veggies Roll---mixed greens, pickled daikon, cucumber, and carrot---I mean I devoured that freshly delectable food like I was Patrick Star vacuuming food into his mouth.
We stopped at O-ku our first night in Charleston, South Carolina before we spent the night out on King Street. To start the night off, we went to Republic Garden and Lounge--before then quickly transferring over to a less crowded bar spot, King Street Dispensary.
A Night Out At Republic Garden & Lounge
A very popular nightclub on King Street, Republic Garden & Lounge slays a sophisticated aesthetically-pleasing setting along with innovative cocktails and trendy music.
Unfortunately…it was packed. I’m talking about sharing air with other people packed. Shoving past others like it was a heckin’ mosh pit packed!
It got exhausting not having any personal space and there was no chance we could get a drink at the bar without having to wait 20-30 minutes to finally get a chance to sidle in between people to reach the bar…
So we headed over to King Street Dispensary which was much less crowded and actually enjoyable to hang out at.
Hang Out At King Street Dispensary
A typical hole-in-the-wall sports bar, King Street Dispensary serves a wide selection of local beers and liquors. This is where I had my first Gatorade shot...still indecisive if I was a fan of it or not.
Compared to Republic Garden & Lounge, King Street Dispensary was a complete 180-degree turn in setting, aesthetic, and vibe. My group and I had a blast there, all of us able to take a breath of fresh air (that wasn’t mingled with others) and vibe, chat, and dance to our hearts' content.
I recommend coming here if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the more popular nightclub and hangout spots off King Street!
Brunch At The Rarebit
The Rarebit is a bustling eatery and cocktail bar serving American comfort food classics in a mid-century aesthetic. For all the breakfast lovers, you’re going to L-O-V-E love The Rarebit---they serve breakfast all day! From huevos rancheros to chicken & waffles and my two all-time favorite breakfast options---fresh avocado toast and crispy breakfast potatoes!
In all honesty, our original plan wasn’t to go to The Rarebit but to another breakfast join off King Street. Waiting for everyone to wake up and get ready to skedaddle when you have a large group of people is probably the most frustrating aspect of dealing with hunger pangs first thing in the morning LOL. By the time everyone was ready to gorge down some food, it was noon…so brunch instead of breakfast.
I ended up having to cancel our original reservation and call in ahead to Rarebit. No surprise there, but there was a 20-30 minute wait (on a Saturday) so we ended up walking around King Street for a little while as we waited for our seats. Then…we ended up getting squished into a teeny-tiny booth…which was not fun. Getting elbowed as you’re trying to smash avocado toast in your mouth is not the cleanest experience I tell you…
Like our experience at Mesu, I would highly recommend not having a large party if you decide to grab breakfast or brunch at The Rarebit. They really don’t have comfortable seating to allow for personal space in a large group. For a small group or for couples, The Rarebit would be a comfortable setting to enjoy breakfast with loved ones over fresh savory and sweet breakfast options.
Walk & Shop Down King Street
The most famous street in Charleston, the Charleston Historic District of King Street is a vibrant and eclectic downtown stretch stacked with options ranging from antiques, fashion, home decor, decadent food, and more. With a history of 300 years, King Street is a bustling historically and architecturally significant spot that was named after King Charles ll of England.
If you’re looking to see what Charleston, South Carolina has to offer, it’s going to be impossible to miss out on King Street. The epitome of Southern history and charm, walking down the length of King Street will pave a path to many different shops and experiences like Rainbow Row and The Historic Charleston City Market. Stop in for a quick lunch and buy some souvenirs as you embark on an eventful journey down the popular historic King Street.
Shop At The Historic Charleston City Market
The Historic Charleston City Market is a historic market complex located in downtown Charleston off of King Street. First established in the 1790s, this market stretches on for four city blocks all the way to the Market Hall, a Greek Revival landmark built in 1841 that offers Civil War history tours.
It’s at this market that visitors can shop for all types of items like Gullah sweetgrass baskets, jewelry, fresh produce, and freshly baked goods. The Historic Charleston City Market is a popular socialization point for locals and tourists alike!
**If you’re looking to get your steps in, you can walk the length of King Street to the Historic Charleston City Market and then stop over to snap some pictures at Rainbow Row.
Snap Pics At Rainbow Row
Rainbow Row refers to thirteen pastel-colored historic houses that have become widely popular for fantastic aesthetically-pleasing pictures like the one I took above!
**I highly recommend planning an outfit for this point in your trip (if you want to, of course!). I was super pleased with the results of my photos and got a cheap outfit off of Amazon that I will link in this article!
Snack At Babas On Cannon
A cute European-inspired cafe serving coffee, cocktail, and light bites, Babas On Cannon was a fun quick stop for a much-needed snack after walking the long and extensive streets of King Street to Rainbow Row and the Charleston City Market.
I was the only one---lone wolf here!---that desired a quick snack. I was also in desperate need of some espresso of some sort. Walking really does take a toll on you in the sun!
I ordered the Peanut Mocha (Iced) drink:
Babas Peanut Milk
It was surprisingly delicious and for all the peanut lovers, I would highly recommend trying out this sweet nutty espresso drink!
Dinner At Mesu
A trendy Asian-Mexican fusion restaurant, Mesu is scattered with colorful displays of street art. This urban restaurant serves tequila infusions and sake sangrias, only two of the creative fusion drinks that are a part of their extensive cocktail list.
In all honesty, Mesu was my least favorite restaurant that we visited during our trip to Charleston. The veggie tacos were delicious and the seasonings on the tortilla chips were crazy delicious---and I have yet to see any other restaurant mimic the perfect seasoning combination---but the dessert order of churros was stale, and our server was infrequent with his attention to our table (I’m not a Karen I promise LOL), and we were seated at an almost amusingly long extensive table---like I’m talking King Arthur and The Round Table big--- that made it impossible to chat with others in our group over the loud music and hefty distance between the others.
Personally, I would not go back to Mesu, but a smaller party (we had 7 of us) may be more suited when visiting this Asian-Mexican fusion spot.
Breakfast At Virginia’s On King
A sophisticated and upscale eatery serving Southern family comfort food recipes, Virginia’s On King stands strong as a bangin’ spot for breakfast and brunch after a late night out in Charleston. The blend of family regional dishes and traditional kitchen comforts incorporated with local fresh ingredients soothes the taste buds and stomach for the ultimate comfort food.
During my birthday trip to Charleston, South Carolina, we stopped over at Virginia’s On King for a much-needed breakfast. Half of the group had slept in, whilst others (the early birds *ahem*....) impatiently and h-angrily awaited the others to awaken for the day's events. In all honesty, there weren’t really any vegan options available at this popular brunch spot so I ended up smothering my guilt to inhale a batch of Buttermilk Pancakes---cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup, and powdered sugar---with strawberries added on top.
And boy, were those pancakes a hit! They were bigger than the plate and mouth-wateringly delicious.
10/10 recommend hitting up Virginia’s on King, if only for the pancakes!
Beach Day At Sullivan’s Island
Sullivan’s Island is an island town located in Charleston County, South Carolina. Spanning two and a half miles, this barrier island is home to a grand total of about 2,000 residents.
Famous for a number of factors including its pristine beaches, award-winning restaurants, and strong military background---the island was settled in the late 17th century and was the site of a major Revolutionary War battle.
Sulivan’s Island was also the home of the famous poet, Edgar Allen Poe, for a grand total of 11 months. It was during this stay that Edgar Allen Poe was massively inspired to write his popular story, “The Gold Bug”.
Our group spent less than a ½ day at Sullivan’s Island as we had traveled to Charleston in August and it was super hot at the beach. We stopped by Poe’s Tavern and Beardcat’s Sweet Shop before heading back to our Airbnb to catch up on some much-needed sleep.
Lunch At Poe’s Tavern
A gastro pub located on Sullivan’s Island, an island town situated in Charleston County, Poe’s Tavern is an American grub watering hole devoted to the haunting literary works of author Edgar Allen Poe.
After our trip to the beach on Sullivan’s Island, we stopped over at Poe’s Tavern for some much-needed grub. As I was in desperate need of some veggies in my diet---because I love fresh greens and will go crazy if I don’t have them at least once a day…maybe---I ordered the Sesame Seared Tuna (sans tuna). This massive salad was tossed with mixed greens, tortilla strips, dried cranberries, green onions, citrus-jicama slaw, and mango lime vinaigrette. And it did the deed in satisfying my appetite, especially paired with a side of crispy fries (hah!)!
Poe’s Tavern has a nice outdoor patio seating area that can get overcrowded depending on weekdays and times. Though after the hot summer day at the beach it would've been nice to be inside with air conditioning, there was thankfully plenty of shade provided on the patio which did the trick!
Sweet Treat At Beardcat’s Sweet Shop
A sweet, charming ice cream shop, Beardcat’s Sweet Shop features made from scratch house-made gelato, pastries, espresso drinks, ice cream, and grab & go sandwiches.
After our meal at Poe’s Tavern, we walked over to Beardcat’s Sweet Shop for a tasty after-lunch treat. The flavors occasionally rotate, but I recommend trying at least one of their house-made flavors---you won’t regret it!
Breakfast At The Vicious Biscuit
The South is where biscuits rule supreme and with that undeniable ruling of warm breakfast and lunch goodness, the Vicious Biscuit was born!
Serving up reputable southern hospitality and award-winning made-from-scratch biscuits, the Vicious Biscuit customers have a load of different biscuit combinations, like the Buttermilk Biscuit, Sweet Potato Biscuit, and Gluten-Free Biscuit.
On our last day in Charleston, South Carolina, we stopped by Vicious Biscuit before everyone went on their way---some had to drive back to Florida whilst others had to wait to catch a plane back to Pennsylvania. I caved at Vicious Biscuit---needing to try one of the widely popular biscuits---and ended up snagging a bunch of sides.
Here’s what I ordered:
Side Of Fresh Fruit
Vicious Breakfast Potatoes (and boy! were they viciously good!!)
At Vicious Biscuit, they serve fresh-squeezed orange juice---10-10 recommend getting some. The citrusy goodness was so deliciously refreshing, that my whole group ended up either snagging a glassful or stealing a sip from someone who had the fresh-squeezed goodness.
Tour The South Carolina Aquarium
One of my favorite spots of the whole trip, including The Charleston Museum, was the South Carolina Aquarium.
I never would have guessed how in awe my group and I were when visiting the South Carolina Aquarium but more than once I caught open-mouthed awed stares and eyes lighting up at the fascinating fun facts spread across the exhibits. Our trip to the aquarium had been a last-minute venture as my friend and I had to wait to drop off my cousins at the airport for their flight. In the short span of time we had until we had to drop them off, we made the last-minute decision to stop by the South Carolina Aquarium---and what a joy it was!
I recommend stopping by the aquarium---there’s a massive tank in the center where an impressively large Sunfish lazily floats around the tank. The mini jellyfish exhibit was super interesting to peer at, the fantastical colors eye-catching to watch as the jellyfish floated about.
10/10 recommend stopping by the South Carolina Aquarium for a magical experience!
All in all, visiting Charleston, South Carolina was a blast! If you’re looking to experience city life and hospitable Southern charm in one batch, then Charleston is the place to do it! From taking pictures at Rainbow Row to exploring the vast options on King Street, there are many activities to enjoy during your visit to this historic location.
I hope this blog post was informational, inspiring, or helpful to you in some way. Be safe during your travels and don’t forget to pack your pastel outfit for a pic at Rainbow Row!