Charleston is immediately charming. Between the food, the architecture and the friendly people, it doesn’t take much to be swept away. But look deeper and you’ll find neighborhoods with their own personalities, from stylish to traditional, established to burgeoning. When you’re ready to travel deeper, start with an eye toward these six must-see neighborhoods and get the local experience:
NoMo—short for North Morrison—is a burgeoning area in the neck of the Charleston Peninsula. Home to local restaurant favorites including Santi’s and the Tattooed Moose, NoMo has exploded in the past few years. The Royal American is a festive and eclectic NoMo nightlife venue that regularly plays host to Charleston’s greatest local musicians. Edmund’s Oast is an elegant beer-lover’s paradise with more than 40 beers on tap, many of which are brewed in-house—and an incredible menu to boot. With big names including John Lewis Barbecue and Butcher & Bee, NoMo continues to grow into one of Charleston’s most exciting neighborhoods.
Wagener Terrace is a young professional stronghold filled with modest craftsman homes and a few of Charleston’s best-kept secrets. Hampton Park is undoubtedly one of Charleston’s most beautiful public spaces and is Wagener Terrace’s finest amenity. While there, don’t miss Park Café, an airy eatery on the park’s edge with fresh food and décor. Looking for Bill Murray’s influence in Charleston? He owns Rutledge Cab Co., a trendy burger and brew spot with plenty of parking. For fresh, local beers, check out the latest development in Charleston’s microbrewery scene: Cooper River Brewing Co. It serves a selection of quality ales brewed right there in Wagener Terrace.
South of Broad
South of Broad is perhaps Charleston’s most famed neighborhood. Subject of books and daydreams of fine Southern living, South of Broad is a shining example of why people love Charleston. Many of the city’s carriage tours focus on this neighborhood because of its rich history and Victorian charm, but to fall in love with the neighborhood, take a self-guided stroll, making sure to wander down brick-paved alleys where you can set your eyes on secret gardens and palatial homes. Make sure to walk Legare Street for some of the more enchanting homes. Take a turn on Lamboll to catch a glimpse of South of Broad’s most intriguing residents, a flock of guinea fowl.
Harleston Village is a quiet blend of stately mansions, small Charleston singles (a housing style that fits long, narrow lots, often with porches on the side) and neighborhood shops. Black Tap Coffee consistently pours the best coffee in town in a bright, minimalist setting. Queen Street Grocery is a funky Harleston Village favorite for breakfast and lunch; local art and murals adorn the walls, and the crepes are incredible. Just down the road from both is Colonial Lake. Built in 1869, this manmade lake is overflowing with Victorian charm and is the perfect place to take a leisurely stroll or sit and enjoy a nice day.
The French Quarter is living history. This neighborhood boasts streets paved with cobblestones, the oldest buildings in the city and famed Charleston destinations such as the Dock Street Theatre. Despite its age, the French Quarter is a vibrant neighborhood that is still very much alive. The Rooftop at The Vendue offers great cocktails and a bird’s eye view of the French Quarter, a new perspective on an old city. There’s no better neighborhood for a self-guided photo tour; the French Quarter is remarkably walkable and photogenic. With Market Street running right through the French Quarter, it’s hard to go wrong in this neighborhood.
These two neighborhoods have become the epicenter of Charleston’s young creative scene. This is the area to explore if you’re looking to get a glimpse beyond the “shrimp, grits, and carriage ride” version of Charleston. Charleston’s most exciting restaurants and bars—Xiao Bao Biscuit, Two Boroughs Larder, Cannon Green and Warehouse (just to name a few)—are found here. The city’s art scene also is well represented in the boroughs. REDUX is a contemporary art gallery that regularly plays host to concerts and innovative art installations; its exterior is a constantly changing mural by featured artists.