Charleston named top tourist city in the world

Charleston Battery. File/Staff

Last year, Charleston was flattered. This year, it’s on top of the world.

Readers of Conde Nast Traveler not only named the Holy City the No. 1 tourist destination in the U.S. for the second year in a row, but also the top travel city on the planet.

“It was a giant surprise for us,” said Helen Hill, executive director of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s an honor to be in the Top 3, but to be No. 1 twice in the U.S. is unbelievable and to be named No. 1 city in the world, you can’t do any better than that.”

Last year, Charleston came in third in the world, behind Sydney, Australia and Florence, Italy.

Readers of the world-renowned travel magazine chose Charleston for the accolade based on overall ambiance, culture, friendliness, lodging, restaurants and shopping.

“I travel to a lot of places, and it’s hard to find people who are more welcoming and friendly and charismatic than the people you find in Charleston,” said Wendy Perrin of Conde Nast Traveler.

When the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau first learned of the honor last month (and kept it quiet until the magazine was published), it placed an ad in the travel journal reflecting its No. 1 ranking in the U.S. without knowing it would bring home the world’s top title in tourism.

The ad reads, “Last year we were flattered. This year we are tickled pink.”

With a new video touting the U.S. ranking already in production, the CVB quickly made an adjustment to reflect the city’s new world title.

The two-minute video of cobblestone streets, clopping horses and chopping chefs, just to name a few of the scores of sights and sounds highlighted around Charleston, now says, “Last year we were flattered. This year, we’re on top of the world.”

Cape Town, South Africa, came in second. Florence, Italy, came in third.

“To be recognized alongside some of the world’s most popular visitor destinations is a distinction that Charleston will cherish for quite some time,” Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said. “This recognition is absolutely wonderful news for our city.”

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or