One day in Charleston is TOUGH if you’ve never been there before. Charleston is one of my favorite cities, and I’ve taken 3 different trips there. It’s the perfect combination of historic, walkable, foodie, outdoors, and it’s just plain beautiful. There’s something for everyone from the beach to the shops to the museums. I would highly recommend a week-long trip here. That said, here’s what I would recommend for a day trip to Charleston.
I won’t make any specific recommendations on food in this post, because there are a hundred amazing restaurants to choose from for just one day. Personally, I think the best way to choose is to decide what you want to eat and then ask a local for recommendations on that. You don’t have a week to eat all the amazing southern food so you might have to choose between fried green tomatoes, shrimp & grits, and something topped with pimento cheese.
Historic Carriage Ride
The one MUST DO item in Charleston in my opinion is a carriage ride through the historic district. I’ve done one on every trip to Charleston and it’s always been a highlight. It’s the best way to get an overview of the entire historic district in just an hour.
Historic Charleston City Market
After your carriage tour, walk to the Historic Charleston City Market, which runs down Market Street from Meeting Street to East Bay Street. You can start at either end, but don’t miss the architecture of the Museum at Market Hall on Meeting Street and the United States Custom House on the East Bay end.
Waterfront Park and the Pineapple Fountain
Less than a 10 minute walk south from the market, you’ll find Waterfront Park and the iconic Pineapple Fountain. You’ll also pass several restaurants, including High Cotton and Magnolias on East Bay Street and Fleet Landing on Concord Street. After enjoying the park and taking a few photos, you can continue south.
You may have already seen Rainbow Row on your carriage tour, but if you haven’t, it’s located on East Bay Street, from East Elliot Street to South Adgers Wharf.
After continuing south another few blocks, East Bay Street will open up to the water and become East Battery. Enjoy strolling along the seawall and gazing at beautiful mansions. You might even see the Fort Sumpter ferry going by. If you walk all the way to the end, wander through White Point Garden as well.
As you return from the waterfront, I’d recommend walking up Meeting Street for a look at another street of gorgeous historic homes. Assuming you return to your car close to the carriage tour, your loop will be just under 2.5 miles, so stop at the City Market again to grab a sweet treat.
Finish the night off with a fabulous meal at the restaurant that appealed to you the most. You’ll find a list of popular Charleston restaurants as well as additional information about all the stops in this itinerary in our What To Do in Charleston post.