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Charleston & ME

How to Spend 1 Week in Charleston | A Local's Itinerary

Welcome to the heart and soul of the South, where the cobblestone streets echo tales of yesteryears and the sea air carries the scent of adventure. If you've been dreaming about spending 1 week in Charleston, buckle up, because you're about to be whisked away on a whirlwind tour, guided by none other than a Charleston local. From sun-kissed mornings by the pier to starlit evenings under canopies of ancient oaks, Charleston isn't just a city—it's an experience. Whether you're a history buff, foodie, beach lover, or art enthusiast, this gem of the Carolinas promises a smorgasbord of delights. I'm here to share with you the inside scoop, the hidden gems, and the must-visit spots that only a local would know. So, grab your hat and your spirit of adventure—it's time to explore Charleston as it's meant to be seen.

St Philips steeple with historic Charleston buildings on a tour of downtown
How to spend 1 week in Charleston starts with a tour around Downtown Charleston.

Day 1: Delving into Downtown - A Journey Through Historic Streets and Southern Charms

On the first day in Charleston, take the time to explore the town. If you're driving to Charleston, head straight down East Bay Street to The Battery. Parking is available along the promenade. Once there, step out and stroll along the promenade, soaking in the water and the scenic views. Don't forget to glance around and appreciate White Point Garden (also known as Battery Park), with its majestic live oaks that define the area.

Why start there before checking in to your hotel? It's the perfect appetizer, setting the tone for your entire trip. Once you've experienced that taste of Charleston, you'll be all set to check into your hotel. If you're using Uber from the airport, consider making a quick stop at The Battery before heading to check-in.

Upon arriving at your hotel, don your walking shoes and begin your exploration. Wherever your accommodation may be, make your way to Broad Street and venture south. This area (South of Broad) embodies the essence of Charleston, housing all the attractions that iconic must-sees in Charleston, such as the renowned Rainbow Row, the serene Waterfront Park, the charming Pineapple Fountain, and much more. It is also the quieter part of the town, known for its historic houses that Charleston is celebrated for. Personally, I find the streets south of Broad to be the most enchanting and the best streets to stroll in Charleston. These are the very streets I traverse daily, admiring the architecture, window boxes, histories, and gas lamps that collectively contribute to Charleston's irresistible charm. Along the way, you will encounter three of the historic Charleston museum houses, offering a glimpse into the rich history of this area.

Here is a Google Map to many of my favorite spots.

Consider joining a guided walking tour to delve into the captivating history from the Colonial era, Revolution, Civil War, and beyond. If you choose to explore independently, take time to pause and explore the historic placards near the homes and buildings, uncovering stories of the past residents.

NOTE: do remember, these are actual homes where people live. Please be respectful.

As you meander around you will pass a couple of my favorite coffee shops in Charleston and even a few favorite places for desserts in Charleston— Be sure to set aside a moment to savor a treat or two. You are likely to see locals amongst the tourists at the places I recommend. 

Prior to your trip to Charleston, take a look at the top places to eat while in Charleston and secure reservations in advance. Popular venues often book up weeks or months ahead, even those of a more relaxed nature. On the other hand, there are spots, like the places locals eat lunch in Charleston, that are much more casual and easier to just pop into without a reservation.

Following dinner, consider catching the sunset. The Battery offers an ideal location for this. Afterwards, either proceed to your hotel or, if you're in the mood for some nightlife, explore the various breweries, wine bars, and rooftop bars scattered throughout the area.

Day 2: Unveiling Charleston's Charm

To start this day, visit Waterfront Park for one of my favorite places to see the sunrise in Charleston. The morning sky transforms into a breathtaking canvas of colors as the sun rises, casting a unique glow over the city that fades as the day progresses. It paints paints Charleston in a way you just will not see after that golden hour. This time of day is also much quieter and a favorite time for taking in the sites and streets for locals. Many of my favorite streets in Charleston along with the walks in Downtown Charleston I take every day are at this time of the morning.

When breakfast calls, consider visiting one of these charming local breakfast spots in Charleston to savor the flavors of the Lowcountry. And while you wander the morning streets, don't miss the chance to visit one of these delightful coffee shops

The remainder of this day is all about touring downtown for a deeper look into what makes Charleston so alluring. Depending on your interests, you may start with historic house museum tours (there are 5 of them downtown) or opt for a walking or horse carriage tour around town. History enthusiasts can delve into Patriot’s Point Naval & Maritime Museum, Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie, and the USS Yorktown on Sullivan’s Island. Alternatively, a harbor boat tour offers a picturesque view of Charleston from the water.

Numerous historical tours await your exploration in Charleston, offering a wealth of options. Choose those that captivate you the most and delve into the allure that defines this charming city.

Day 3: Embark on Charleston's Beach and Waterside Wonders

No matter the season, a day by the beach in Charleston is a must. To truly immerse yourself in Charleston and the Lowcountry, start your day early and witness the sunrise at one of Charleston's stunning beaches. Within a short 20-minute drive, you can reach a beach that is definitely worth a visit, even if you don't plan on swimming. After enjoying the sunrise, take a peaceful morning stroll along the shoreline where you might discover ocean treasures like sand dollars, shells, and even shark teeth (check out the best beaches to find shark teeth in South Carolina). Keep an eye out for dolphins, potential sea turtle sightings, and a variety of seabirds.

After enjoying some time at the beach and having breakfast or lunch in Charleston, it's time to head out on the water. A beloved local pastime is kayaking through the rivers or marshes, offering an authentic Charleston experience. There are various tours available, with Coastal Expeditions standing out as a top choice for kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing, fossil hunting, and island excursions. Situated at Shem Creek, Coastal Expeditions provides memorable experiences. Shem Creek, located in Mount Pleasant, is a popular area worth exploring further. Discover more about things to do there in the article "How to Spend 2 Days in Charleston: A Local’s Itinerary."

Day 4: Step Back in Time with Charleston’s Historic Plantations & Gardens

A visit to Charleston isn't complete without exploring its historic plantations. There are six Charleston Plantations that welcome visitors year-round. Delving into the intricate history of slavery, many of these former plantations now showcase enchanting gardens and sites of historical significance. Guided tours shed light on the stories of those who were once enslaved, revealing the integral role they played in shaping Charleston's past. Some plantations boast well-preserved historic mansions and slave quarters that offer a poignant glimpse into the past. Two plantations feature renowned gardens dating back to the 1600s and 1700s, meticulously restored and open for exploration. Situated along the Ashley River are Drayton Hall, Magnolia Plantation, and Middleton Place, while Boone Hall resides in Mount Pleasant, McLeod Plantation on James Island, and Cypress Gardens in Moncks Corner. Each plantation offers a unique experience. For more details on these plantations, captivating images, and my top recommendations, check out the article on the 6 Plantations to See in Charleston.

Day 5: Discover Charleston's Shopping, Museums, and Parks

Today is the perfect time to explore the bustling tourist spots that are definitely worth a visit in Downtown. Take a leisurely stroll through City Market on Market Street and then meander King Street, where you'll discover a plethora of shops ranging from big brands like Gucci, Kate Spade, Anthropologie, and Pottery Barn to locally owned shops that span generations, all coexisting harmoniously. Art enthusiasts will be delighted by the abundance of art galleries scattered across the town, located on King, Broad Street, Queen Street, Meeting Street, and beyond.

Once you've satisfied your shopping urge, explore Charleston's array of museums. From this list of 20 Charleston museums, there is a diverse selection to cater to your interests. Discover art museums, history museums, sites of historical significance portrayed as museums, children's museums, and more.

Amidst the shopping and museum visits, pause and visit one of the town's many parks. Take a leisurely walk, relax for a while, or savor a picnic. Discover the places where locals eat lunch that are ideal for takeout and a picnic in the park. Noteworthy parks include The Battery (White Point Gardens), Waterfront Park, Washington Square, Colonial Lake, and Hampton Park.

Day 6: Explore Charleston like a local

On day six of your one week in Charleston we will explore like a local. Today you will do what locals do in Charleston. And, just what do we do daily? Everything you have been doing this week at a much slower pace. We walk, a lot. We peruse. We take in the history, the water, the dolphins and sea birds. We sit, read, and picnic in the parks. We tour the historic houses, museums and the plantation and gardens. And we eat at the restaurants for Lowcountry, Southern Coastal flavor as well as the Charleston restaurants with International flavor, we grab lunch at our local favorite spots and pop in the best coffee shops in town. We also take in the sunrise and sunsets, visit the beach or get on the waterways. What did you love most about Charleston from day one through five? What did you miss out on? Plan your day sis around those and take it slow. Take in the sites and sounds. Savor it.

Day 7: Your Final Day from 1 Week in Charleston

Today marks the final day of your weeklong stay in Charleston, with your departure imminent. Start your day and conclude your journey with a final Charleston sunrise. Next, take a leisurely stroll around town, immersing yourself in the quiet of the morning air, embracing the local experience. Indulge in a coffee and breakfast in the heart of town. Sit a spell. Savor it. Then, consider retracing your steps to The Battery, meandering along the promenade one last time. Before heading homeward, venture across the street to Battery Park (White Point Gardens) and amble through the tree-lined oasis. Pause to rest on a bench or linger within the gazebo. On your return to the hotel, follow Church Street, cherishing the memories of this journey as you traverse the peacefulness of Church Street, with each step echoing on the brick pavers underfoot.

For all of my Charleston favorites in a quick, simple downloadable list (made for mobile) with links to articles for more information, download my free Quick Guide to Charleston.

Wrapping Up Your Adventure: A Week to Remember in Charleston

What a whirlwind of a week it has been, exploring the soulful city of Charleston! From the serene sunrise at The Battery to the vibrant flavors of Lowcountry cuisine, every day brought its unique blend of experiences, painting a vivid picture of Charleston's rich heritage and lively culture. You've strolled through historic districts, lounged in lush gardens, and indulged in the local culinary delights, each moment weaving into the tapestry of memories that define your week in Charleston. This city has a way of slipping into your heart, with its cobblestone streets whispering tales of the past and its warm, welcoming vibe. As you pack your bags, you're not just taking souvenirs with you but carrying a piece of Charleston in your soul. Remember, Charleston isn't just a destination; it's an experience, one that resonates long after you've returned home. Until next time, keep the spirit of Charleston alive in your heart and your adventures. Here's to the memories made and the many more waiting for you on your next visit to this enchanting city!

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Charleston Travel Guide
Charleston local Monica Edwards Photographing at Sullivans Island Beach

hey there!

I'm Monica Edwards

Your new local connection  

to Charleston

I'm a writer, photographer, explorer and 20+ year former magazine owner. I'm obsessed with adventure, interest and intrigue. And, a curator of Charleston's best.

You're likely to find me exploring Charleston, living large and helping others to do the same.

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What to do and see in Charleston SC Guide by Monica Edwards

A Quick Picks Guide to Charleston: Made by a Local. Quick, Easy (and made for mobile) 

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Charleston Picks: Google Maps: All of the best in one map.

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