Things to Do in Historic District, Charleston, South Carolina

To get your fill of Charleston’s history, visit its Historic District
To get your fill of Charleston’s history, visit its Historic District | © Clarence Holmes Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Frank Lopez
Writer8 July 2020

Steeped in history, Charleston is one of the oldest cities in America. Wandering around downtown’s narrow cobbled streets that open up to the sea, you will step into another era, with many landmarks and monuments representing the triumphs and horrors of its past. From the Old Slave Mart to the powerful-looking Colonial homes, history cannot be ignored. So, if you want to try the food, get stuck in the bustling city market or learn about the city’s history, here are some great options.

Pineapple Fountain

Architectural Landmark
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Charleston, South Carolina, USA at the Waterfront Park Pineapple Fountain.
© Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

Overlooking the Charleston Harbor, the famous Pineapple Fountain at the Charleston Waterfront Park is picture-perfect. This modern landmark, unveiled in 1990, is the perfect spot to watch the sunset after a day of wandering around the historic center. On a sweltering evening, surrounded by palm trees and the peaceful sound of cascading water, you are encouraged to splash around – you will see whole families doing so together.

The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon

Historical Landmark
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For an illuminating tour to learn about those imprisoned by the British during the American Revolution, book a guide in period costume within the Provost Dungeon walls at South Carolina’s most historic building. However, explore the rest of this landmark, too, as the rooms tell the stories of the ratification of the Constitution and the atrocities of the public slave trade. It’s an excellent place for history buffs.

Nathaniel Russell House Museum

Museum, Historical Landmark
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Charleston South Carolina SC historic Downtown Nathaniel Russell House Museum historic home music room woman guide docent speaking explaining
© Jeffrey Isaac Greenberg 7 / Alamy Stock Photo

This impeccably restored home from the early 19th century, with manicured gardens and architectural splendor, demonstrates the wealth of those who benefitted the most from America becoming a republic. The attention to reproducing the details of this era is breathtaking. However, visitors will find out that while the owners lived in opulence, Africans were enslaved on this property. Charleston, as a city and in places like this museum, is coming to terms with how it recounts its past to understand its future.

Sites and Insights Tours, Inc

Historical Landmark
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Covering African-American history and the local Gullah Geechee culture, Al Miller leads what may be one of the most hilarious yet poignant tours around historic downtown Charleston. He impresses a passionately black perspective on this city and the African-American contribution that built it, recalling the sacrifices made to create the wealth in the region. His storytelling is as illuminating as it is informative. The tour departs daily from outside the Charleston Visitor Center.

Charleston City Market

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Tourists and visitors browse in the historic Charleston City Market in Charleston, South Carolina.
© Clarence Holmes Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Many visitors to Charleston will find themselves at this distinctive 200-year-old city market; today, after modern development, it hosts hundreds of vendors, many of whom are selling handmade products. The most famous of this market’s exports are the sweetgrass baskets, which are weaved in front of you every day. This craft originating in West Africa is very much part of the fabric of this city. Inspiring and historical as the baskets may certainly be, the market is also home to the best grab-and-go lunch: Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits. Try the buttermilk biscuit with sausage, egg and cheese.

Old Slave Mart Museum

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Charleston, South Carolina, USA - September 30, 2017: Old Slave Mart in Charleston, South Carolina, USA
© I. Liveoak / Alamy Stock Photo

Constructed in 1859, the Old Slave Mart was the last slave auction facility standing in South Carolina, and its remnants house this museum today. There is a lot of information to digest, but it’s the small things – a statistic or an artefact – that will make this place hit home. When it does, it’s impossible to think of Charleston or South Carolina without the horrors of the global slave trade echoing on every street. It’s a powerful experience that you don’t want to miss.

These recommendations were updated on July 8, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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