4 minute read

Rediscovering Charleston

The Holy City's unique character and cobblestone streets draw over seven million visitors a year.

SHADED BY an ancient looking oak tinseled with Spanish moss, I gaze up at the remarkably restored 17th-century antebellum home painted the color of sea glass. I adjust my stance on the somewhat precarious original cobblestone street to get a better look in the sunlight. The King palms stand guard at the front of the home like old sentries, while the authentic wrought iron gate opens into a show-stopping perennial garden abutted by a picturesque wraparound porch staged with white rockers. With the nearby clip clop sound of horse hooves and carriage wheels, I have a sense that I have been transported to another time long ago. The well-preserved town of Charleston, known as the Holy City, is so unique in character with its beautifully restored architecture and original cobblestone streets, it is no wonder it draws over seven million visitors a year. “Charleston is a visual feast and oozes charm,” says part-time resident Craig Kettles when asked why he loves it.

Winning numerous awards including #1 city in the world by Travel+Leisure in 2016, the colorful layers of Charleston appeal to many, including history buffs, designers, writers, artists, foodies, jetsetters and musicians— and these are just the people who live there. Visitors find it infectious too, with its secret land, explains that despite being tightly nestled in between the Ashley and Cooper rivers, the heart of Charleston is bursting with so many attractions. She goes on to say that just beyond the city limits over either river, you will find even more remarkable beauty. “Something about the smell of the bluff mud and the pull of the tides draws you in and makes it very hard to leave.”

Adding to the conversation, Mr. Kettles says, “For me, the size and geography of the city are large factors into what makes Charleston so special and feel more like a small town. Contrasted to sprawling Atlanta that has become more transient, Charleston has an underlying civility due to the multi-generational families that love it in many ways. The natural barrier of the surrounding water ensures that Charleston proper will continue to remain a southern gem.”

If you have never been, then pack a weekender and go and get your feet wet! If you can stay longer than a weekend, you will undoubtedly uncover Charleston’s hidden gems. Even some of the highly toured attractions such as the ghost walks can be fun. Despite the bustle of this enchanting city, this is a place where you can walk one cobblestone street at a time to learn what all of the buzz is about.

NC Living has created a guide to steer you in the right direction…


86 Cannon, an immaculately restored inn built in 1862 resplendent of southern charm

Belmond Charleston Place, a luxurious hotel just steps from the landmarks of historic Charleston

Zero George, you’ll only find luxurious elegance at this historic boutique hotel

The Dewberry, “grand and reimagined” along with expansive views from their rooftop bar and revolving yoga studio



Baba’s on Cannon, can you say the best espresso in the country?

Zero George, gourmet

Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, award-winning


Chez Nous, French, romantic and quaint

Leon’s, super casual with the best oysters and fried chicken

Little Jack’s Tavern, old school and known for their yummy burgers

167 Raw, hard to get in but worth itButcher & Bee, creative, seasonal, and livelyHusk, created by James Beard award-winning chef Sean

Brock in a restored Victorian home with fresh, southern cuisine

Rodney Scott BBQ, a counter service kind of place with a James Beard award-winning chef


Fig, winners of a James Beard award for their stellar wine program

Bin 152, creative and casual, great before or after dinner

Vintage Lounge, “The most beautifully designed bar in S.C.” per Architectural Digest

The Rooftop at the Dewberry for vast views of the city

Baba’s on Cannon, followed for their exquisite coffees and fine apéro


Bar Normandy, no reservations, super tiny but amazing

Zero George + Bar, named Top 5 Foodie Hotels in the World by Condé Nast

Fulton Five, white-tablecloth-romance Italian style

High Thyme on Sullivan’s Island, just go, it’s worth the little drive

Xiao Bao Biscuit, off-the-beaten-path Asian soul food in a converted gas station

The Grocery, a fresh approach to healthy, clean cuisine



Charleston Farmers Market

Walking tours

Art walk at Robert Lange Studios

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens

Nathaniel Russell House

Charleston Music Hall

Spoleto music festival in May-June

Charleston Wine+Food festival in March

Kayaking and restaurant hopping on Shem Creek

Bicycling around town

Cooking class at Zero George

Beachcombing on Folly Beach

Spa day at The Dewberry


Oobe for Men

M. Dumas & Sons, historic since 1917

J. Stark for handmade goods

Hamden for Women

Shirtini for Women

Goat Sheep Cow for gourmet foods, wine, gifts and specialty cheeses

For the Home (and Charleston-Cashiers interior decorator Kathleen Rivers' picks)

Fritz Porter Design Collective for sophisticated pieces

Wynsum Antiques for elegant and classic options

52 AD for modern looks

Acquisitions for ready-to-go furniture and decorative accessories