- Lifestyle & Sports
- 20 May 19
Rich with stunning scenery and historical attractions, Charleston – South Carolina's largest city – is a must-visit US destination.
Best Time To Go
If you’re not used to the southern heat it’s best to go during the winter months, when, by most standards, temperatures are still high, but pleasantly so.
Weather (Depending on season) 20˚-35˚
Top 5 things to do:
• Take in the beautifully preserved Gothic architecture
• Visit the beach on the Isle of Palms
• Eat at Rodney Scott BBQ
• Visit Rainbow Row
• Pet a cow at Middleton Gardens and Inn
Where exactly is it?
Located on the midpoint of the state coast line, Charleston is South Carolina’s oldest and largest city. It’s also its capital and a major urban centre of the American south at large.
Why should I go?
Known for its remarkably well-preserved architecture, monuments, and government buildings, Charleston is a largely unparalleled American historical centre. Boasting one of America’s largest collections of gothic revival and Greek revival architecture, the city is immediately recognisable, and distinct from many other parts of the east coast. It’s also very beautiful. Varied geography lends a rare sense of diversity and scale, with neighboring urban and suburban areas such as Mt. Pleasant and Isle of Palms connecting the city to the coastline, with dense swamps and vast marshlands separating the various regions.
Culture isn’t limited to history either, as Charleston still plays host to a thriving jazz and blues community, as well as a prominent live theatre scene. Each sphere is representative of the larger African American community in Charleston, who are responsible for much of the city’s artistic legacy.
How do I get there?
Though travel from Ireland will make for a long journey, if booked in advance, there are sure to be flights on most days from Aer Lingus, British Airways and American Airlines. Don’t expect to find a direct trip, however, and be prepared to make a day of it – most total flight times add up to 12 or 13 hours, with prices around €600.
When should I go?
The muggy climate of South Carolina can get to be unmanageable once the summer begins, with temperatures rising drastically. Because of this, Charleston is best enjoyed as a winter getaway, when temperatures hover at a more comfortable 20 degrees. Coming for the holiday season also affords you the opportunity catch the annual Festival of Lights on James Island County Park (871 Riverland Dr, Charleston, SC 29412) one of the city’s many beloved yearly festivals and fairs.
How can I get around?
It’s said in Charleston that you’ll rarely travel anywhere without crossing a bridge or two. This holds true in practice, as transit from the outer areas to downtown can be difficult without a car. Once downtown, however, the bus system makes it simple enough to get from place to place.
What’s the local beer like?
Charleston is one of America’s most beer-loving cities, with several famous breweries spread out across the region. These include the Holy City Brewing Company (4155 Dorchester Rd, Charleston, SC 29405, holycitybrewing.com) – so named because the city is home to the most churches per capita in the nation. Much like Dublin, smaller, independent bars are more prominent than major chains or conglomerates.
What are the culinary highlights?
Like much of the American south, Charleston specialises in American comfort food. The Carolinas especially are known for their barbecue, with places like Rodney Scott (1011 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, rodneyscottsbbq.com) providing just about the best barbecue you could ask for anywhere in the country. There are also a few beloved places for classic American fare, like Poe’s Tavern (2210 Middle St, Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482, poestavern.com), a burger and seafood restaurant named for Edgar Allen Poe, and themed after his poems – don’t miss out on their fish tacos! Elsewhere, the likes of Indaco (526 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, indacocharleston.com) – a traditional Italian restaurant located downtown – round out the scene in style.
What’s the nightlife like?
While there are a few nightclubs dotted around the city, such as the beautifully decorated Mynt (135 Calhoun St, Charleston, SC 29401, myntcharleston.com), Charleston is predominantly bar oriented. Rooftop spots like Star’s Bar and Grille (495 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, starsrestaurant.com) and The Rooftop at The Vendue (19 Vendue Range, Charleston, SC 29401, thevendue.com) are some of the most popular in the city. They offer a uniquely home-style, southern twist to your standard night out. So while the city’s college population still finds its way to nightclubs on weekends, your average Charlestonian would probably prefer to nurse a craft brew as they look out over Waterfront Park.
What are the touristy things to do?
Charleston is home to a massive number of iconic buildings and public spaces. These include the Dock Street Theatre (135 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401, charlestonstage.com), the first documented theatre in America, and an integral part of the nation’s history of playwriting and performance. On the other hand, sites like Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired, or Calhoun Mansion (16 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401, calhounmansion.net) – home of Patrick Calhoun, grandson of the famously cruel American politician John C. Calhoun – are must-visits for anyone interested in American history.
Some regard The Charleston Museum (360 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29403 charlestonmuseum.org) as America’s very first museum, making it a fascinating place for those interested in learning more about the city. Centres like the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art (161 Calhoun St, Charleston, SC 29424, halsey.cofc.edu), meanwhile, maintain the region’s impressive artistic legacy.
Beach communities like the aforementioned Isle of Palms are also worth a visit if you’re interested in a more secluded vacation experience, away from the hustle and bustle of the crowded downtown streets. Connected by a series of small bridges and inlets, these beach areas are popular for local residents, and have a much homier, quaint feeling than the city itself, which can be a refreshing change of pace.
Other classic spots include Rainbow Row (83 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401), a much Instagrammed strip of pastel-painted houses dating back to the 18th century, and Waterfront Park (1 Vendue Range, Charleston, SC 29401), which – since opening in 1990 – has become a popular spot for tourists due to its beautiful garden, famous Pineapple Fountain, and proximity to the Cooper River and the College of Charleston.