This trip to Charleston was my first experience of America’s Southern States… despite only being a 90 minute flight from New York (making it the perfect weekend getaway), Charleston feels completely different, a relaxed and friendly city with an important history, beautiful buildings and celebrated food scene. Of course it was the latter that I spent most of my three days in Charleston exploring, but I also had time to dip into the cultural scene, taste some locally distilled bourbon and stay in a couple of the cities best-loved hotels.
Belmond Charleston Place – Belmond Charleston Place is an easy, relaxing and indulgent place to stay in the centre of the city. The renowned hotel has restaurants, shops and a glorious spa on site for guests to enjoy. The bedrooms are very spacious and the attentive service ensures you’ll have a memorable stay.
Leon’s – Housed in a converted auto body shop this celebrated eatery is the place to go for irresistible classic fried chicken, hush puppies and oysters.
Little Jack’s Tavern – Little Jack’s is a little laid-back tavern on King Street. The restaurant is known for its burger which is often voted one of the best in the US. Paired with herb fries it makes for a typically American, yummy meal.
Xiao Bao Biscuit – XBB was opened in 2012 by Josh Walker, Duolan Walker-Li, and Joey Ryan and is housed in a former gas station. The menu is inspired by their travels through Asia with dishes showing influences of China, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Both the lunch and dinner menus change almost daily, but are always reasonably priced and addictively tasty.
Sugar Bakeshop – This quaint, tiny bakery is constantly full of admiring customers. The shop smells divine and you’ll always be greeted with a smile from the enthusiastic staff. Choose from the many delectable treats… we enjoyed the light and fluffy cupcakes and rich comforting chocolate cookies.
Lewis Barbecue – Whilst you are in Charleston you must try BBQ’ed food… everyone recommended Lewis or Rodney Scott’s to us. We opted for Lewis, a huge restaurant on the outskirts of town specialising in Beef Brisket and Hot Guts Sausage (it’s better than it sounds). Owner John Lewis opened the joint in June 2016 and he uses massive custom-made smokers to ensure the meat is unctuous and flavourful.
Chez Nous – Tucked away on Payne Court, Chez Nous is a charming and unpretentious restaurant serving refined but wholesome French and Southern Mediterranean cuisine. The menu changes daily and there is an impressive wine list to accompany your meal.
The Ordinary – For the best fried oysters in town head to the iconic restaurant The Ordinary. This expansive building was a bank in the 1920s and the original high ceiling and large windows give the dining room a dramatic feel. Seafood fans should also check out 167 Raw, which always receives rave reviews.
Second State Coffee – We visited Second State Coffee every morning for our daily caffeine kick. This speciality coffee shop roasts their own beans and serves the smoothest cappuccino in town. The chic cafe is popular with creative freelancers throughout the day, and visitors feast on buttery pastries… we loved the Banana & Nutella Turnover.
The Daily – This hip neighbourhood cafe has a range of delicious snacks and drinks to satisfy every appetite. Head to The Daily for Stumptown coffee, hearty sandwiches and cold-pressed juices.
The Belmont – Black and white films are projected on the back wall while guests enjoy refined classic cocktails at The Belmont. The lounge was set up in 2010 by owner Mickey Moran and continues to grow in popularity thanks to the skilled bartenders and relaxed vibe. We relished every sip of our strong bourbon cocktails.
Indigo & Cotton – Indigo & Cotton was launched by Brett Carron in 2011, as a place to showcase a carefully curated collection of independent all-American brands, such as Raleigh Denim and Wildsam guidebooks.
J. Stark – This Charleston based brand create beautiful hand-crafted, artisan bags of all shapes and sizes. Their products are timeless and made to last. I particularly loved the simple but stylish tote bags.
Worthwhile – Situated in the 19th century McIntosh Seed House on King Street, Worthwhile is an eclectic shop of inspiring designers from all over the world. Pick up a croissant lamp by Japanese brand Pampshade or socks from Hansel From Basel.
Hampden Clothing – Hampden is known as the South’s chicest designer clothing store. The boutique in Charleston has a desirable range of clothes and accessories from American designers and further afield.
Aiken-Rhett House – The Aiken-Rhett House was built in 1820 as a private home at 48 Elizabeth Street in Charleston. It is the best preserved early nineteenth century townhouse in the city and is open for self-guided tours. I loved seeing this magical house and getting an insight into the history of Charleston.
High Wire Distillery Co. – Located in the heart of historic downtown Charleston, High Wire was the first distillery to open in Charleston since the prohibition. The company are dedicated to making premium, small batch spirits and is open all week for tours and tastings. If your luggage allows, buy a bottle of their bourbon to take home.
Rainbow Row – Rainbow Row is the name for the street of thirteen colourful historic houses in Charleston. It is the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States and is a lovely photogenic area to wander round.