Charleston, South Carolina, is the charming Southern city everyone needs to visit at least once! And on a recent Charleston 3 day itinerary, its pastel homes, historical magic, and foodie spots surprised me and the BF.
Three days in Charleston, SC will be just enough time for you to explore the “musts” and eat your way around like a proper foodie—you’ll see ;).
In this post, I’ll be spilling all the sweet southern tea on exploring the city and helpful tips I picked up during our trip! So whether you’re spending a long weekend in Charleston or going just for funsies, use this guide to plan your trip!
We’ll start by covering some of the must-know details.
For more help planning your Charleston trip, check out my other blogs:
Ready to explore? Here we go!
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Where to Stay in Charleston, SC
So first off, Charleston, SC, is laid out like a grid with some core neighborhoods you’ll probably spend most of your time in:
- South of Broad
- French Quarter
- Cannonborough/ Elliotborough
- King Street
Now, from my experience, a majority of the best things to do and places to eat were around the southern neighborhoods—South of Broad, King Street, and the French Quarter.
So if you are looking for accommodation, try these areas!
This is NOT the trip to skimp out on places to stay. Charleston practically coined the phrase “Southern hospitality” and is abundant in fancier hotels that’ll make you feel like royalty.
I mean… look…
Here’s the deets on that good good:
Hotel Emeline—An immaculate, voyage and adventure-inspired hotel located near the City Market. Not to mention, an excellent coffee shop and one of the best bars in Charleston are located on the property!
The Dewberry—If you really want to feel like Charleston royalty, the only hotel you should be booking a stay here. The Dewberry is home to excellent bars like Living Room and Citrus Club, and its immaculate interior and vibes make it extra special.
86 Cannon—If you want to experience a healthy dose of luxury AND real Southern comfort, look no further. This historic inn is located on Cannon Street, making it an excellent hub for your trip.
Random, but I loved the scent wafting throughout The Dewberry so much that I took home their signature candle!
While doing a little Sherlock Holmes-type research on Charleston, I found the term “walkable” thrown around a LOT.
Honestly, we didn’t find this to be the case at all. All the attractions are pretty spread out.
Charleston, SC sits on a peninsula and is about 2 to 3 miles long, but walking from end to end just isn’t very enjoyable.
Hence why we rented a car and are SO glad we did.
Sure, the drivers are a bit cray cray, but we found street parking and parking garages readily available.
You can get away with biking in Charleston, but it’s a bit sketchy. IDK about you, but I’m not trying to get smacked by a car on vacay, LOL.
Uber and Lyft are also options but expect to pay about $30 per trip at peak times.
Things to Do in Charleston, SC & Map
Here is a quick list of all the best things to do in the city! In the next section, we’ll put these together for your 3 perfect days in Charleston, SC.
*map at the end of the list!*
Explore South of Broad—A quaint neighborhood on the Southernmost part of Charleston that features historic homes and cobblestone streets.
Admire Rainbow Row—A famous row of vibrant, pastel homes near South of Broad. Rainbow Row makes up the longest row of Georgian houses and is an iconic photo spot!
Stroll Along The Battery—A historic landmark used as a defensive seawall in Charleston, SC. Named after Civil War artillery, now lined with a beautiful neighborhood of historic mansions.
Take a Home Tour—Charleston, South Carolina is FULL of historic mansions. So it’s only fitting that during your itinerary, you tour one! Aiken-Rhett House and Nathaniel Russell House are two of the most famous ones.
Meander the Charleston City Market—Self-explanatory, but the City Market is a famous Charleston historic site and a souvenir mecca.
Visit Waterfront Park—Waterfront Park is where you’ll find the famous Pineapple Fountain symbolizing Charleston’s hospitality.
Explore King Street—King Street runs down the entire city and is a shopping and food hub.
Take a Boat Tour—Escape the city proper and admire Charleston from the water by booking a boat tour!
Magnolia Cemetery—Into spoooooky vibes? You can explore the historic Magnolia Cemetery. Ooooooo.
Eat Your Way Around—Charleston is a foodie city, after all! For all the best spots, check out my Charleston Foodie Guide!
Take a Self-Guided Walking Tour—Use the Charleston itinerary in the next section to see it all! You can also take a horse-drawn carriage tour if that’s more your style.
Angel Oak Tree—Also outside the city, but a must. It’s a MASSIVE oak tree about 60 feet tall and is estimated to be 400-500 years old!
Fort Sumter—A must for history buffs! This is where the Civil War began!
Here’s that mappy map I promised:
Now that you know how to get around and the best attractions, let’s dive into your itinerary!
PS: Click here to view a live version of the map that you can use during your trip!
Your 3 Day Charleston Itinerary at a Glance
- Day 1
- Coffee + Breakfast
- Joe Riley Waterfront Park
- King Street
- Day 2
- City Market
- The Battery
- South of Broad
- Rainbow Row
- Day 3
- Queen Street
- French Quarter
Big fat ALERT: When planning your trip to Charleston, you’ll notice that most of the best restaurants require a reservation.
To my surprise, a LOT of the reservations were taken up for the year! Scott and I had the most luck getting seats at the bar or booking late dinner reservations (9:00PM-10:00PM).
Honestly, late dinners didn’t take away from our experience at all. We preferred it!
For more info on the best food spots, check out my Charleston Foodie Guide!
Now let’s put it all together! As we go through your 3 day Charleston itinerary, feel free to mix and match attractions as you see fit.
Depending on when you get into Charleston, you might have some time to eat and explore, or just do one of the two!
If you’re getting in late, a great spot for dinner is Chubby Fish.
Chubby Fish features artfully made cuisine with locally caught fish from both rivers and the Atlantic—the menu changes daily!
It’s located in the Elliotborough neighborhood, allowing you to explore the area while waiting for a table.
You can’t book a reservation, so try to grab a seat at the bar if you don’t feel like waiting for a table!
Take that tip with you: Try to get a bar seat, book a late table, or go to your restaurant of choice right when it opens for your best chance at getting in!
Breakfast + Coffee
To start the day, head to Kudu Coffee. Grab an iced oat milk latte and a coffee cake—you will NOT be disappointed.
And if you are, for some reason, the cute @$$ vibe of this Charleston coffee shop will make up for it.
Coffee cake from Kudu was our breakfast, but since you’ll be on King Street, you’ll have the option to eat at a few breakfast spots.
The most popular breakfast place in the area would have to be Millers All Day.
But, beware, it’s a two-hour wait just about every day of the week.
You can put your name down for a table at Millers, then explore while you wait, or just skip it altogether and grab small bites elsewhere.
Lunch + Pineapple Fountain
For lunch, we wanted something small since we knew we’d be sampling food all day.
Brown Dog Deli hit the spot!
Brown Dog Deli on Broad St. offers a good mix of sandwiches and hot dogs (is a hot dog a sandwich?) from Reubens to vegan chili cheese dogs—sign me TF up. Plus, it’s in the perfect location to get your first glances at the city.
For your first taste of exploring, you can walk from Brown Dog Deli to South of Broad, Rainbow Row, and the French Quarter (a historic district).
Head to Joe Riley Waterfront Park to snatch a pic with the famous Pineapple Fountain!
If you’re up for a good cocktail, I highly recommend heading to The Ordinary. The Ordinary just so happens to be one of the best-rated restaurants in Charleston, and it’s pretty hard to snag a table there.
Pro tip: Skip the reservations and snag a seat at the full-service bar.
For our best shot at getting a bar seat, we went to The Ordinary as soon as it opened for the day. Doing so allowed us to enjoy some artfully crafted bites and drinks.
You can use this bar trick at most places in Charleston if you time things right.
After your little adventure, head back to your accommodations for a nappy nap or relax!
For dinner, we had reservations at Hank’s Seafood. 20/10 recommend!
We found this gem by scouring local foodie groups and subreddits—it’s some of the best seafood we’ve ever had!
Your best bet for getting a table at Hank’s is to book a reservation.
As previously mentioned, we had a 9:00PM dinner here, and enjoyed it quite a bit!
Grab a slice of pecan pie for dessert when you go ;).
Woohoo! It’s time to continue the adventure! To kick things off on day two of your Charleston 3 day itinerary, hit up Clerk’s Coffee Company.
Clerk’s is located in the adorable, voyager-inspired Emeline hotel.
In addition to being one of the cutest damn coffee shops you’ve ever been to, their coffee and pastries are actually pretty impressive.
While you’re here, I recommend walking through the lobby and up to the Keep Shop—Emeline’s carefully curated gift store with hand-picked treasures!
After grabbing a coffee, head across the street to the Historic Charleston City Market!
We found some of the stands in the City Market to be pretty kitschy and touristy, but there were some gems in there!
One of my favorite souvenirs we picked up is from a local artist who sketches the elaborate iron gates around Charleston.
Regardless of whether or not you buy something, it’s a neat landmark to check out!
Because we had a car, for lunch, we drove over to Gnome Cafe for some vegan pancakes and breakfast sandwiches.
Who doesn’t like breakfast for lunch?
Afterward, we drove down to The Battery. We walked along White Point Garden (also known as Battery Park), East Battery, and East Bay Street, taking our time.
From East Battery and East Bay, you’ll be able to admire some of the historic mansions overlooking the ocean.
Aside from walking along side these gorgeous antebellum homes, in the distance you can actually see Fort Sumter! Anyways, I loved this area.
If it wasn’t cloudy that morning, we might have stopped here for sunrise!
If you’re talking your fur baby to Charleston, this promenade is the perfect walking path for them.
White Point Garden, is a great place to take a little day break, read a book, or chill before the next part of your itinerary—there’s lush grass and seating there!
Near the end of East Bay, you can opt to hit the famous Rainbow Row to give the pastel streets a proper exploration. We chose to do this since we didn’t see much of it on arrival day.
The famous pastel purple, blue, and pink houses on Rainbow Row are a sight!
But, the homes tucked away on the surrounding cobblestone roads really stole the show for us!
Trust me, you’ll find them impressive.
The homes around Rainbow Row are FULL of history and immaculate detail that you won’t believe. What is equally as impressive is that people actually live in the houses—I’m lowkey lusting to own one, ha!
Please be respectful of the people who live in the area and their beautiful homes!
Around Happy Hour, hit one of the most luxurious hotels in Charleston, The Dewberry.
The Dewberry is a far walk from The Battery area, so I recommend driving if you choose to go here.
And OOF, walking into the hotel is a sight for sore eyes.
I’m talking marble EVERYTHING, brass fixtures, and a signature sandalwood scent wafting through the air. It’s highly photogenic!
Both feature their own signature cocktail menus. While we waited for our table at the Citrus Club, we opted to relax in the Living Room.
P.S. When you order a drink in the Living Room, they give you a bowl of caramel corn—yum!
Once your table is called, head to the 8th floor to take a seat at the Citrus Club—and yall, this is the rooftop bar you never knew you needed in your life!
I mean, the cocktails are great. For your drink, I recommend the Mai Tai, but seeing Charleston from so high up is something else!
From the Citrus Club rooftop, you can spot the beautiful Charleston skyline and the waterfront.
It will be the perfect place to relax your feet after having another long day on your Charleston 3 day itinerary.
After drinks, leave The Dewberry and walk over to Marion Square, then to the famous King Street.
Alternatively, you can go on a boat tour to get off the peninsula or go kayaking!
For dinner on day 2, we chose to go to FIG—best meal we have EVER had.
FIG’s soft shell crabs and sticky sorghum pudding will forever be our favorites.
Let’s talk about this pudding for a sec. It comes with a side of amaretto ice cream that melts in your mouth in the most perfect way while slapping you in the face with a delicate almond flavor.
Did I mention that it’s double dipped in their hand-crafted, flavor-packed caramel sauce that’ll make you want to eat 20 more of those things?
As SOON as I put the pudding in my mouth, a wave of nostalgia hit me. I immediately remembered the first time I tried a chocolate lava cake as a kid and tasted true happiness.
Anyways, GET A RESERVATION AT FIG. YOU WON’T REGRET IT. THE HYPE IS REAL.
To cap off 3 days in Charleston, South Carolina, you’ll want to use this day to explore any parts of the city you haven’t seen yet or just relax!
For us, we started the day at Harken Cafe…
You need this cafe in your life.
As soon as you walk through the door, you feel like you’ve been transported into someone’s magical, fairytale dream.
I’m talking walls lined with emerald green, brass vases full of thriving plants, brick fireplaces—UGH, it’s magic.
The lattes are amazeballs, and the pastries do NOT disappoint. We snagged a banana muffin and chocolate chip cookie. DELISH.
The best part about Harken Cafe is its location. You can use this as an opportunity to explore the lesser talked about Queen Street.
P.S. If you’re a coffee lover like me, you should check out my blog on the best coffee shops in Charleston!
Queen Street is located within the French Quarter. The homes along the entire street are so beautiful and make for great photo opportunities!
The pastel pink French Huguenot Church is down the street from Harken.
And yes, it’s 100% pastel pink on the outside, built in the 1800s, and has a gorgeous gothic structure.
Across from the pink church, you’ll find the famous St. Philips Church.
You can use Queen Street to walk down to Colonial Lake Park or Waterfront Park Pier and relax, or take a walk down King Street for some shopping.
This is also a good time to explore the rest of the French Quarter, AKA the Arts District, and admire more of the local architecture.
The French Quarter is the square area between N Market Street, Meeting Street, Broad Street, and the waterfront.
In the Quarter, you can stop at the Old Slave Mart Museum—a building that once housed a slave auction gallery.
The museum is a great opportunity to experience the area’s history.
I loved the architecture in this area and found that the cobblestone roads made for great pictures!
If you’re in the mood for a good brunch, grab a seat at Husk! It’s on Queen Street near Harken Cafe.
Husk typically requires reservations, but you might be able to go around 11AM with some luck or grab a seat at the bar.
Another great choice for breakfast or lunch is Huriyali. Huriyali features flavor-packed health-conscious foods, from smoothie bowls to plant-based nachos.
We grabbed one of their fresh blondies and loved it!
If you’re in the mood to get out of the city, you can take a drive to Sullivan’s Island or Folly Beach—both of which are perfect additions for a Charleston long weekend itinerary!
Trip Add Ons
While downtown Charleston is great, there is plenty to explore outside the city too! Here are some things to do outside of Charleston.
I highly recommend adding at least one of them to your itinerary if you have the time!
Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens—Built in 1681, this famous plantation and Spanish moss gardens are the place to visit if you’re a fan of The Notebook!
Folly Beach—Folly Beach is located South of Charleston and sits on Folly Island. It’s a great place to hit the ocean, grab some more food, or watch a sunrise!
Sullivan’s Island—Sullivan’s Island is another popular beach destination near Charleston known for water sports and the famous Isle of Palms. Explore the lighthouse or sample some oysters at the favorite Obstinate Daughter.
Cypress Gardens—The Cypress Gardens are about a 30-minute drive from Charleston. You can take a boat out and get in between the beautiful cascading trees thriving in the local swamp, oooooo.
Magnolia Plantation & Gardens—You’ll love the walking areas around the Magnolia Plantation & Gardens. It’s a romantic area full of flowers and gorgeous trees with Spanish moss.
Savannah, Georgia—You can take a 2-hour drive to Savannah, GA, and spend the day walking around and sampling the food, much like you would in Charleston. We chose to do this on one of the last days of our trip and loved being able to explore two Southern cities in one itinerary!
Now that you have your itinerary, let’s quickly go over what to bring with you!
What to Pack for Your Trip
During your trip to Charleston, SC, you may find the weather a bit finicky. For us, some days we had warm sun, but in a matter of minutes, we experienced a quick drizzle, then back to the sun!
It’s also important to note that some of the more popular and better restaurants in Charleston, SC, have a dress code.
Needless to say, my luggage was packed with different clothing options, and I’m happy I brought pieces I could layer, dress up, or dress down!
Here’s what I recommend you pack with you:
A Comfy Dress
Walking shoes are a MUST in Charleston! Of course, even if you have a car like we did, you’ll still be walking around quite a bit. So I recommend packing some versatile walking shoes that you can wear with just about anything.
A Sun Hat
A Cross-Body Bag
I found my regular go-to purse to be super cumbersome in Charleston. So if you plan on walking, riding a bike, or something in between, take a cross-body bag you can wear with anything, will hold all your essentials and go with you everywhere!
Let’s cap things off by diving into some final trips to make your perfect 3 days in Charleston, SC the best evaaaaaaaa.
Final Tips for Your Charleston 3 Day Itinerary
While I’ve loaded this guide with tips for where to stay, what to do, etc., there are still a few things you should keep in mind for your Charleston, SC trip. The tips I’m about to share were SUPER helpful while I was planning.
Had I not kept these in mind, we would have had a very different experience.
Make Reservations in Advance
So, we booked our trip to Charleston literally 3 days before arrival. I thought we wouldn’t get reservations anywhere, BUT we got extremely lucky.
Book your reservations well in advance to avoid the stress we had to go through to find tables.
Also, it’s free, and most places use the service Resy!
If you can’t find a reservation for the date and time you’re looking for, use Resy’s notification system to email you when a table opens!
Rent a Car
As I mentioned in the beginning of this ultimate guide, you CAN walk everywhere in Charleston.
Still, we found having a car to be the best decision ever.
It gave us the flexibility to go where we pleased and leave the city if the rain got pretty bad.
If you don’t want to rent a car, try riding a bike to some places!
Explore Outside of Charleston
There is so much to eat and explore in Charleston, but while you’re in the area, you should make time to do one of the add-ons I mentioned in the previous sections!
Savannah was our pick, and we’re glad we went, especially since we had a few days!
People tend to compare the 2 cities quite a bit, so we wanted to see Savannah for ourselves :).
Be Patient on the Weekend
You can certainly enjoy this entire itinerary on a long weekend, it’ll just be busier than usual :).
If crowds will be a damper on your perfect weekend getaway, I would try to visit on a weekday…
BUT, if you plan on taking a Charleston, SC weekend trip, definitely make reservations in advance and be patient with crowds!
It’s a fairly small city, and tourists are unavoidable.
Overall, I LOVE Charleston, South Carolina. I found 3 days to be the perfect amount of time to see everything we wanted to see and then some!
Our 3 day Charleston itinerary put this Southern hot spot at the top of my list of places to go back to. Hopefully, with the help of this guide, Charleston, South Carolina will steal your heart too!
For more help with your trip, check out my other Charleston blogs!