South of Broad
When people around the world think of Charleston, this area is probably what springs to mind. Think antebellum mansions, The Battery, ornate wrought-iron displays and horse-drawn carriages. There are also plenty of big oaks to keep you shaded while you sit around and relax near the water.
The City Market was renovated and indoor space added a few years ago to make it more attractive for locals as well as visitors. A more recent addition is the Night Market. It’s open from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday from April through December.
Just a short walk from the City Market, this is one of the best places in Charleston to hang out for free. The fountain, covered swings, benches, shade trees, big lawn, brilliantly planned horticulture — what’s not to love on a pretty day? If you need a break inside, walk up the steps and check out the art at the City Gallery. For nearby shopping, East Bay Street is a bustling cluster of restaurants and shops.
This world-famous stretch of King Street between The Battery and Calhoun Street is packed with antiques stores, upscale boutique shops and eateries. It is closed to vehicles every second Sunday of the month, allowing shopping, outdoor dining and musical performances to take over the asphalt.
This is the shady center of the College of Charleston, which the readers of Travel + Leisure this year chose as the nation’s most beautiful campus. Not only is it the site of graduation ceremonies and Spoleto performances, it’s one of the city’s great spaces to relax under the big oak trees.
The big grassy square just north of Calhoun Street is a favorite spot to get some sun, chill by the fountains or relax in the shade on the benches. Every Saturday morning from early April through November, it becomes Charleston Farmers Market, and the produce, food, wares and entertainment draw big crowds. A holiday market runs on weekends in December.
The street scene north of Calhoun Street has been rapidly changing amid extensive renovations. The epicenter of Charleston’s restaurant scene has shifted from Market and East Bay streets to here. Several dozen bars and restaurants hum until 2 a.m. and offer something for most every taste.
Visitors who follow Calhoun Street east to its end will find plenty of places to relax by the harbor. Liberty Square is a vast green lawn between the South Carolina Aquarium and the Fort Sumter National Monument. Walk a short distance to the south to the Maritime Center and you can sit by the water and watch the boats.
West of King Street, this currently one-way street is seeing a lot of change, including becoming a two-way thoroughfare. It’s home to some of the city’s newest and most unique restaurants and other boutique businesses. A streetscape project is freshening up the street’s public realm.
Brittlebank Park and 'The Joe'
At the end of the Spring Street, on the western edge of the peninsula, is Brittlebank Park, a relaxing spot by the Ashley River with a pier. Adjacent to it is Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park, better known as “The Joe,” home to the Charleston RiverDogs. It’s more than a baseball stadium, it’s a gathering place. Not only is the park beautiful, there are wacky promotions to keep you entertained and inventive food to try, such as beer milkshakes.
Also on the western edge of the peninsula, near The Citadel, the paths of the city's biggest park meander around 60 acres of ponds, rose bushes and big oak trees. Another great place for an afternoon of free relaxation.
Upper, Upper King
Going farther north on King Street, the area past the Crosstown Expressway has seen a resurgence of new restaurants that have replaced formerly light industrial spaces. In an area that was once purely industrial, The Workshop at 1503 King St. is an eclectic food court on the site of a former box and crate factory.
Charleston's East Side also has been undergoing a transformation. Until recently, the once-industrial area flanking Morrison Drive was largely forgotten part of downtown. Today, "NoMo" (North Morrison) has emerged as a hipster haven, with new restaurants and art venues moving into the area. Santi's Mexican restaurant set the pace when it opened in 2002, followed by Taco Boy in 2008 and the Tattooed Moose in 2010. Now you can choose among 45 draught beers at Edmund’s Oast or chow down on some famous Texas brisket at Lewis Barbecue.