Charleston is a large and diverse city. Though much of what most visitors will see on a trip to Charleston is the city’s downtown, it covers over 150-square miles of land. It is the second-largest city in the South as well as the oldest city in the South. If you want to get a feel for Charleston, you’ll need to venture outside of the city’s center. These eight Charleston neighborhoods offer beautiful views, stunning architecture and award-winning lowcountry cuisine.
Charleston Neighborhoods #1: Downtown Charleston
There’s a good chance you’ll end up spending most of your time in Downtown Charleston (especially if it’s your first time here). This neighborhood is in the city’s center and is where most of the major attractions are located.
This neighborhood has a historic feel to it. You’ll find cobblestone streets, historic buildings and beautiful parks here. Throughout the neighborhood
Most of the city’s major attractions are in Downtown. Some of the most visited attractions include:
- The Battery
- French Quarter
- Historic Charleston Market
- King Street Shopping
- Marion Square
- Old Slave Mart and Provost Dungeon
- Pineapple Fountain
- Rainbow Row
There are more than a dozen neighborhoods in Downtown Charleston, including:
- East Central
- French Quarter
- Hampton Park Terrace
- Harleston Village
- King Street Historic District
- South of Broad
Three of the most popular neighborhoods for visitors are North Charleston, the French Quarter and the King Street Historic District.
Just like New Orleans’s French Quarter, Charleston’s has plenty of beautiful architecture, rich history and great food. Here, you’ll find some of the city’s most popular attractions, such as the French Huguenot Church, Philadelphia Alley and the Pink House.
North Charleston is where you’ll find most of Charleston’s plantations, including Magnolia, Drayton Hall and Middleton Place.
The King Street Historic District is famous for its historic architecture and high-end shopping.
Charleston Neighborhoods #2: Mount Pleasant
Just across the Ravenel Bridge is Mount Pleasant. This Charleston suburb has several neighborhoods of its own and is a hub for shopping, outdoor activities and historic attractions.
Mount Pleasant has more of a laid-back vibe than Downtown Charleston but still has all the charm of the more centrally located neighborhood.
Mount Pleasant is home to historic attractions, including Boone Hall and the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site. You’ll also find Patriots Point here as well as several picturesque parks and the Old Village District, a popular area for shopping.
If you don’t have a car, you can head over to Mount Pleasant by boat on the Charleston Water Taxi.
Charleston Neighborhoods #3: Isle of Palms
This barrier island is equally famous for its pristine beaches and lowcountry cuisine. Here, you can spend the day chilling at the beach before heading to one of the area’s world-class restaurants for dinner.
The Isle of Palms feels like it’s a million miles from Downtown Charleston. It’s full of parks and beaches but also has a walkable downtown area. High-end condos and resorts are a magnet for Charleston’s elite residents.
The most popular attractions on the Isle of Palms are the beach and pier. This is the neighborhood to visit if you want a little rest and relaxation.
Charleston Neighborhoods #4: Sullivan’s Island
Just on the other side of the Isle of Palms is Sullivan’s Island, another spot known for its beaches and parks.
Like the Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island has a laid-back vibe with plenty of water activities and history. It’s hard to imagine that this neighborhood is actually located in a major city.
The beach is the biggest draw on Sullivan’s Island. Visitors and locals alike head here for kayaking, hiking and lounging. You can also find some of Charleston’s best restaurants here, too. Fort Moultrie, a park with historic fortifications, is also a major draw for visitors.
Charleston Neighborhoods #5: Johns Island
Southwest of Downtown Charleston is Johns Island, the largest Island in South Carolina.
Like many of the areas outside of Downtown Charleston, Johns Island has more of a rural feel. This part of the city has a small-town feel and is a great spot to recharge your batteries.
The Angel Oak Tree is probably Johns Island’s most famous attraction. It’s over 60 feet tall and is approximately 400-to-500 years old. Also on the island is Legare Farms, where you can see a re-enactment of the Battle of Charleston. John’s Island is also home to one of the oldest churches in the U.S., Johns Island Presbyterian Church.
Charleston Neighborhoods #6: James Island
Just east of Johns Island is James Island. This residential neighborhood is known for its parks and wildlife.
James Island has a rural vibe. You’ll find oak trees over a century old, riverside parks and historic churches here.
You won’t find many tourist attractions on James Island. The biggest draws are the quiet atmosphere and beautiful scenery.
Charleston Neighborhoods #7: Morris Island
If you really want to go off the grid, head to Morris Island. This rural island is only accessible by boat.
Morris Island’s vibe is just, plain quiet. Though it’s not far from Downtown Charleston, it’s so quiet that it feels like it’s on another planet entirely.
The island played a major role in the Civil War, as the North and the South vied to control it. If you’re a history buff, you’ll want to visit this remote island. There’s also a picturesque lighthouse located off the coast of the island, the Morris Island Light.
Charleston Neighborhoods #8: West Ashley
West of Downtown Charleston and the Ashley River is West Ashely, a residential suburb of Charleston.
Ashley has an upper-middle-class vibe; it’s known for its winding roads and wooded areas.
You won’t see too many tourists in West Ashley. Yet, many hikers and nature lovers head here to visit the West Ashley Greenway for hiking and biking. There are also several malls, shopping centers and spas here. The local West Ashley Park is Charleston’s largest municipal park and was once the site of a phosphate mine.