The Top Things to Do and See in Downtown Charleston, South Carolina

Theres plenty of stunning architecture in Charleston, or you could always hang out at the beach
There's plenty of stunning architecture in Charleston, or you could always hang out at the beach | © Carmen K. Sisson/Cloudybright / Alamy Stock Photo
Richard Tulis

With a rich coast and varied landscape, Charleston, South Carolina, is no ordinary beach town. From the marshes on Shem Creek to the shores of Folly Beach, there’s plenty to explore. Travel inwards to King Street or George Street to find some of the best food the southeast US has to offer. And there’s plenty to learn from its antebellum architecture and significant historical monuments. We round up the best.

Did you know you can now travel with Culture Trip? Book now and join one of our premium small-group tours to discover the world like never before.

Fort Sumter

Enjoy the historical roots of this southern city by paying a visit to the foremost site of the Civil War, Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Opened as a tourist attraction in 1948, this national park is famous for having sustained the first shots of the war (by cannon fire), making the fortification a must-see for visitors. A guided tour, complete with narrated boat rides and walking sections, is available.

The indoor Charleston City Market stretches the length of nearly two blocks. And if it’s handicrafts you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. Browse the stalls for local artwork, woven baskets, antebellum apparel, candles, jewelry, pottery and more. The market is the perfect place to grab a souvenir and take in the cultural fabric of this charming town.

Joe Riley Waterfront Park

Stretching 8 acres (3ha) alongside the Cooper River, the Joe Riley Waterfront Park features a 1,250ft (381m) pier over Charleston Harbor. Take a walk along the many pathways and witness the sights of nature – if you’re lucky, you may spot a crane taking flight by the oceanside. Two large fountains are the most decorative features of the park and the spectacular views and sea breeze give you a chance to unwind away from the city bustle.

Boat tours

As a coastal town, Charleston isn’t short of boat tour offerings, whether it’s on Shem Creek, Cooper River or other watercourses. For a historic tour, Charleston Harbor is the best option. If you’re in search of a deep-sea fishing adventure, several boat lines offer that too. And let’s not forget the availability of watersports such as jet-skiing and flyboarding.

South Carolina Aquarium

This spacious attraction, on Charleston Harbor, featuring jellyfish, horseshoe crabs, loggerhead sea turtles, alligators, sharks, birds and even snakes, will entertain all the family. The Touch Tank allows you to stroke Atlantic stingrays, crabs and other marine animals. Meanwhile, the Saltmarsh Aviary exhibit showcases features of the Charleston environment, allowing you to learn more about the city’s natural surroundings.

The Battery

The Battery – a paved, public walk lined with many antebellum homes – offers a delight of pastel edifices, picket fences and gates. The scenic promenade features Southern mansions, old cannons and plaques denoting the historical significance. Rich in history, with a spectacular view of Fort Sumter, it is one of downtown Charleston’s most famous attractions.

Folly Beach

Folly Beach is one of the area’s best surf spots, with the waves teeming with watersport adventurers. A resilient survivor of hurricanes, it continues to attract crowds daily until the sun goes down. Check out the Folly Beach Sea and Sand Festival – think carnival games, a parade and live music by several artists. If you want to see the world by sea, check out our collection of Sailing Trips – premium small-group getaways with unforgettable sea adventures.

Interested in exploring more of the US? Join our eight-day adventure to Utah and Colorado for sampling craft beer, whitewater rafting and hiking in national parks.
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article