Charleston is known for its U.S. history, laid-back beachy vibes, and its Southern charm.
Founded in 1670, Charleston is the most notable port city on the coast of South Carolina. This beach-front city is actually one of the largest cities in the state. Known as the “Holy City” for its numerous church steeples that define the skyline, Charleston is known for its history, laid-back beachy vibes, and its Southern charm.
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What Is Charleston Known For?
If you’re wondering, what is Charleston known for? taking a walk around town should give you a few good ideas. The charming architecture around, wonderful weather, and delicious cuisine make this town the ideal getaway location for a romantic weekend. Charleston SC is known for its romantic, easy-going charm, as much as its history.
As one of the oldest cities in the United States, Charleston was originally named Charles Towne, after Charles the Second. It was a key port city during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, due to its critical location as a military access point and trade area. Beyond that, there are plenty more things that Charleston is famous for.
History, Culture, And Traditions
The Battery is one of the top attractions in Charleston, as a scenic promenade and defensive seawall around the city. Originally the seawall was part of Fort Broughton and Fort Wilkins, but was converted into a promenade in 1838. Now, it is a beautiful place to take a stroll and take in views of the ocean.
Walking along the battery will help you take in the other must-see sights in Charleston, such as Rainbow Row and the large mansions looking out at the Charleston Harbor. You should also visit the White Point Garden, as well as Waterfront Park which features beautiful fountains. Make sure that you check out this beautiful sight Charleston is known for.
What is Charleston famous for, if not for its beautiful beaches? If you’re looking for a beach in this charming city, there are more than enough to choose from. From the family-friendly Isle of Palms and Kiawah Island to Sullivan’s Island and Folly Beach, there is a beach to fit the different interests in Charleston, South Carolina.
Folly Beach is considered the best beach for swimming around Charleston, with relatively calm waves good for smaller kids. Kiawah Island gives you a beautiful beach, with an easily-accessible shopping village, as well as golf and tennis facilities nearby. Sullivan’s Island beaches are a little windier, which can be well-suited for sailing and kiteboarding, as well as just kite flying.
No matter what beach you pick, you can’t visit Charleston without getting the real beaching-going experience that Charleston is known for.
Rainbow Row is one of the iconic areas Charleston is famous for, filled with historic homes painted in bright colors. Most of these homes date back to the mid-1700s and hold historic significance.
After the Civil War, Dorothy Porcher Legge led a group to revitalize the area, by renovating and painting the houses bright colors to draw people back to the area.
Now, these homes are a popular stop on Charleston walking tours, as well as a popular Instagram spot. While this is a fun area you shouldn’t miss, there isn’t a full afternoon activity. Make sure you pair visiting Rainbow Row with your visit to the Battery or a sunset viewing of the waterfront.
Fort Sumter National Monument
What is Charleston South Carolina known for, if not the beginnings of the American Civil War? On April 12, 1861, the Civil War officially started when Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter. This piece of American history has been preserved and you can visit it from Charleston!
Right in the middle of Charleston Harbor, you’ll find Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park. Since it’s in the middle of the harbor, you’ll need to catch a ferry to cross the harbor. Once you arrive, you can explore the grounds and visit the museum, which exhibits artifacts from the fort’s history.
If you enjoy American history, make sure you don’t miss Fort Sumter, the site of the first shots of the Civil War; it’s an important and meaningful part of what Charleston is famous for.
Districts And Areas
Downtown Charleston is a gem of Southern nightlife, home to fantastic restaurants, shops, and museums. There is a reason Condé Nast Traveler named this area the best city in America in the past. In this area, you can visit the Aiken-Rhett House Museum, the historic home of the former governor.
Some of the best restaurants in the city can be found in the downtown area. Explore King Street for a mix of art galleries, bars, shops, and restaurants. Make sure you leave plenty of time to wander around the downtown area that Charleston is particularly known for; it’s well worth it!
While Sullivan’s Island is only a little over three square miles, this doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do there! This island boasts one of the best beachfront communities in Charleston, just 10 miles east of downtown at the opening of the harbor. It comes without surprise that Sullivan’s Island has great beaches, but there is so much more to do in this little town.
This community is absolutely full of tasty restaurants, fun boutiques, and natural beauty. If you’re visiting the area and you’re interested in a more private place to stay, check out the hotels and bed & breakfasts in this area; Sullivan’s Island has a lot of great places to stay and hang out.
Charleston City Market
In the 1790s, the Charleston City Market became a staple in downtown Charleston. It is still a tourist destination that Charleston is known for. This market complex stretches four blocks back from Market Hall (which is in itself a beautiful building).
The market is a great place to get a taste of South Carolina food. You can also pick up local, artisan goods – you’ll know they’re authentic by the “Certified Authentic Handmade in Charleston” seal at the bottom. This market is packed to the brim with local entrepreneurs, and it is definitely worth a visit.
Landmarks And Architecture
Dock Street Theater
If you find yourself in the Charleston French Quarter, make sure you visit the Dock Street Theater. This is the first dedicated playhouse in the United States when it originally declared independence from Britain.
The building became a theater in 1935, though it was built in 1809. It is now on the National Registry of historic buildings and continues to host theatrical programs.
Dock Street Theater is still a functioning theater and one of the most popular venues that Charleston is known for. If you’re interested in the arts, make sure you check the schedule in advance and book a show for your trip.
Even if you can’t catch a show, the theater is still open daily so tourists can appreciate the beautiful interior.
The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist
As we mentioned, Charleston is known for being the “Holy City,” due to the proliferation of churches in the city. One such church is the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, located on Broad Street. Notable from the street, the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist is a historic, brownstone cathedral that is even more beautiful on the inside.
If you get the chance, step in and check out the architecture. It features beautiful, vaulted stained glass windows to catch the natural light, as well as carved oak pews and marble altars. It’s a truly phenomenal building, and definitely worth a visit when you’re in Charleston, even if you’re not religious.
Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens
Visiting a plantation can help you understand the history of Charleston, as well as the slave trade that generated such agricultural wealth in the area. This property was founded in 1681 and is only 10 minutes from downtown Charleston, if you’re driving.
Boone Hall Plantation is best known for its long row of oak trees, stretching towards the main house (which you may have seen in the movie, the Notebook).
While Charleston is famous for these plantations these days, it is important to remember that this beautiful property (and others like it) was home to countless enslaved people until the Civil War.
Visitors to Boone Hall Plantation can appreciate this dark history as well, by exploring the preserved slave cabins and viewing a film on the history of slavery in Charleston.
The Charleston Museum
If you’re interested in learning more about Charleston’s history, make sure you don’t miss the Charleston Museum! This institution was founded in 1773, making it (reportedly) one of the oldest museums in the entire country. It captures different aspects of the history Charleston is known for, from Native American History to past slavery in the area and the Civil War.
The most popular exhibits in the museum feature genuine Revolutionary and Civil War artifacts. In addition to this, there are also exhibits on natural history and an interactive “Kidstory” area for the little ones. This is a great afternoon activity for anyone interested in history or a great beach alternative if you find yourself in Charleston on a rare rainy day.
Famous Food In Charleston
She Crab Soup
The name implies what makes this food in Charleston special. It is a crab soup, which features orange roe extracted from female crabs. In addition to the special roe, She Crab Soup utilizes some Charleston favorites: crab meat, heavy stock, and sherry.
Legend has it this dish was created in the early 1900s, during a dinner between President Taft and Charleston Mayor Rhett. The mayor’s chef, William Deas, heard about President Taft’s affection for Turtle Soup, so he tried to concoct a similar dish for him. The result was She Crab Soup, which is still part of what Charleston is known for.
Shrimp And Grits
If you’re wondering, what food is Charleston known for? there is arguably no better answer than shrimp and grits. This is one of those foods you shouldn’t leave Charleston without tasting!
The combination of foods, grits from the Muskogee Native American tribe and shrimp from the local fisherman (considered a food of the lower class), shrimp and grits quickly became a staple in the beachfront communities.
Restaurants all over the city have shrimps and grits as a featured dish, so you don’t need to do anything special to find them. However, some local favorites include Nigel’s Good Food and Page’s Okra Grill. Make sure you don’t leave without testing out this Southern classic that Charleston, South Carolina is known for.
Famous People From Charleston
Although this notable American comedian was born in Washington DC, he grew up right outside of Charleston in James Island, South Carolina in a large Catholic family. During his studies at Northwestern, he became interested in improvisational comedy and got into comedy more broadly. Today, he is best known as the host of the CBS Program, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
In addition to his prominence in late night television, Stephen Colbert is notable in many circles, as a comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, and television host. While Stephen Colbert isn’t technically from South Carolina, he is definitely part of what Charleston is known for. He is known to incorporate references to South Carolina in his monologues and is often sighted in the area.
Darius Rucker is a singer, guitarist, and songwriter, most well-known as the lead vocalist for Hootie & the Blowfish. What few people know is that he is one of the famous people from Charleston SC. Rucker founded the band at the University of South Carolina in 1986 with Mark Bryan, Jim Sonefeld, and Dean Felber.
Rucker played with Hootie & the Blowfish from 1986 through 2008, picking up many awards along the way, such as a Grammy for Best New Artist in 1996 and others. Since stepping away from Hootie & the Blowfish, Darius Rucker has gained prominence as a solo artist in country music.
Discovering More Things Charleston Is Known For
There are few places that blend historic charm and contemporary life as well as Charleston. In fact, that mix of history and modern life is exactly what Charleston is known for. From the South Carolina Aquarium and Charleston Museum to Charleston Harbor and Rainbow Row, Charleston is famous for many things you should explore!
Whether you’re interested in the area’s history or the pristine beaches dotting the coast, you will never be at a loss for things to do or wonderful views to enjoy around Charleston. While there is plenty to see in this area, reserve some time to wander around and soak in the atmosphere.