Can you imagine it when I say: “Classical American, 19th century plantation style architecture”? Those big, white neoclassical homes, with the wide porches, typical of the Southern States, especially the Deep South. Stunning and charming is Charleston, hosting intact architecture from this exact era. Charleston is the largest and oldest city in South Carolina and was founded as Charles Town, honoring Kind Charles II of England.
Founded in 1670, this port city is well known for its cobblestone streets, horse drawn carriages, rich history and delectable culinary scene. Steeples dot the skyline and secret gardens seem to appear around every corner. Charleston is a very popular tourist destination and has received a number of accolades for its hospitality, electric atmosphere, history and welcoming people.
Charleston’s allure does not wholly lie in its stunning architecture and lush history, but rather in the way that the city is constantly reinventing itself. If you haven’t visited the city in the last 8 years many chunks of it would be unrecognizable. It buzzes with cutting edge eateries, vibrant cocktail venues, market places, art galleries, bakeries, distilleries and coffee shops, not just in the downtown area but in residential and beachfront areas too.
King Street, the main road in town regularly cuts off traffic and the entire area becomes a ‘high street’ or walking mall, where people meander with their dogs, sip wine from street side cafes, listen to mountain grass bands making magic, and shop to their hearts content. All year round the town hosts many festivals from Spoleto (Charleston’s international arts and performance festival) kicking off summer to the SEWE wildlife festival in spring.
There are so many facets to this place; making the short time we had there seem like no time at all. From waterways, beaches, historic plantations, bird sanctuaries, golf and downtown hub spots to grand churches and the most phenomenal Southern Cooking with a twist, Charleston’s locals even find it impossible to exhaust their options.
Eat – Drink – Enjoy
We spent two nights in Charleston. Our party of eight slimmed down to a manageable four, which came as a relief; when it comes to choosing your restaurants and entertainment, the options are abundant. Here is a sneak peak of the choices we made & experiences we had; we let local recommendations guide us too, with 0 regret.
There. Are. No. Words. However, I shall try; phenomenal.
Their website best describes this awesome steakhouse: “Halls Chophouse is a family steakhouse restaurant located in the Upper King District of Charleston, South Carolina. We value hospitality, superior American Cuisine and a dining experience that guests revere.”
A gorgeous piano is played elegantly as you enter this stunning triple volume space, lowly lit, inviting. It is packed. Our reservation takes us up a grand winding staircase to a smaller dining area and we are seated and welcomed by the manager and two genuinely fantastic waitresses who fuss over us for the rest of the evening, but to the perfect degree.
45 day dry aged beef. Their wine. Their service. Their sides. Their music. Simply delectable for all the senses. We each agreed that the steaks we had that night were the best we have ever had and that says a lot coming from two born and bred Texans, a carnivorous Englishman and born and raised, meat loving South African.
They use the finest, freshest USDA prime steaks and meat for the best burgers in Charleston. Unfortunately after my ‘she crab’ soup, gorgeous steak, creamed corn, truffle oil hand cut fries, garlic crab and fried green tomatoes, there was no room for a burger. Yes, we will be back. Vegan and vegetarian dishes are made on request and hold as much of a reputation as the rest of the menu.
Not only was every mouthful a delight, but there was something about this evenings meal … the service, the waiters and waitresses who served us, the ambiance and of course the mouth watering wine selection that impressed me beyond, as I mentioned above, words.
Slightly North of Broad or S.N.O.B
If you read my previous article on Savannah, Georgia, you will remember me mentioning that my in-laws (who visited John and I from England) took a trip to Charleston over a long weekend. S.N.O.B was their gastronomic highlight and top recommendation; this is very easy to understand why. I recommend visiting for brunch, however, S.N.O.B will delight your senses whether you visit for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Their on-line presence is captured by this very relevant and accurate description: “Here the dining room is a natural extension of the kitchen, a place where culinary skill, a clever, considered wine program, warm service, and conversations meld together. Our local farmers, fisherman and producers are as integral to the food we make as they are to our place in this community”.
S.N.O.B is an eclectic Lowcountry bistro and a place where fresh, local produce and attention to detail aims at pleasing all of your senses. Known for the ‘best shrimp and grits in the South’; we couldn’t argue this. Fried oyster benedict, crab chowder soup, intricate, gorgeous salads and delightful champagne mimosas are a few of the highlights that make up this unique and inspiring menu. Do yourself a favour and finish off your meal with their Crème Brûlée; moreish and delightful.
Whilst we enjoyed our steaks and red wine at Halls Chophouse, the waitresses let us in on a little local secret; Wild Olive. Their favorite restaurant (In the whole of Charleston) offers fresh, home-made pasta, rustic settings and fantastic wines.
Wild Olive opened its doors in the heart of Charleston’s farming community in 2009. Whilst aiming to source as many of their ingredients locally as possible, the kitchen staff transforms the bounty of the low country into artisanal variations of regional Italian classics.
“House-made pasta and house-cured salami are focal points for Chef Larson and his team”.
I wholeheartedly recommend the warm marinated olives, Clammer Dave little neck clams, spicy lemon-caper zupetta and grilled ciabatta starters. For mains ANY of their pastas are superb. Simple yet fresh, elegant and utterly delicious.
Charleston’s Museum Mile
Along Meeting Street you will find a one-mile stretch hosting 6 museums, 5 nationally renowned historic houses, 4 scenic parks, a revolutionary War Powder Magazine (oldest public building in South Carolina that reflects the cities early and sometimes volatile history), and an array of historic houses of worship and public building, such as the Market and City Hall.
- Aiken-Rhett House museum
- The Charleston Museum
- The Children’s Museum of Lowcountry
- Joseph Manigault House
- Washington Light Infantry
- Confederate Museum
- The Powder Magazine
- The Gibbes Museum of Art
- Old Slave Mart Museum
- South Carolina Historical Society
… and many more
Dolphin viewing, site-seeing cruises and ferry services run from 4 different locations in Charleston Center: Waterfront Park, Maritime Centre, Patriots Point and Charleston Harbor Resort. I highly recommend a ferry over to Fort Sumter; you will get to see the exact spot where the first shots of the civil war were fired and learn about Fort Sumter’s role.
Take a trip around the harbor and learn about the events that lead up to the civil war. Dolphin sightings are very common and always add a lovely surprise to any boat ride.
We found another stunning and affordable B&B only 5 minutes from the main central shopping area of King Street. There are a huge variety of hotels, B&B’s, Inns and guest houses available all year round. Being (responsible) wine and beer lovers, we caught Uber taxis to and from our accommodation with absolute ease.
Charleston is electric. It’s alive. It is hip, happening, bustling and oddly … eccentric. We love to eat, drink and explore and it really offers so much to delight an eager traveller from any walk of life. From all the conversations we had with local people there seemed to be a distinct pattern, and it says so much about the place; people visit Charleston and they never leave. This was true for 3 of our waiters, 2 of our Uber drivers and a few new friends we made whilst singing karaoke on or last night in town. It casts a spell on you and please be sure to have the she crab soup on your arrival.