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For those who enjoy walking a city, Charleston’s historic downtown offers the perfect opportunity to explore. I arrived via an airplane flight and did not rent a car. And I didn’t need one, for what I wanted to do. Other than the transport to and from the airport, everything except the tour of Magnolia Plantation was within walking distance of my accommodations, Meeting Street Inn. I rode a tour bus to the plantation that departed from the Charleston Visitor Center.
The historic district is laid out with beautiful streets that invite the explorer to walk slowly, taking in the sights, and to linger in parks and green spaces. While there’s no wrong street to wander down, these most popular streets to explore in Charleston provide unforgettable experiences.
Most Popular Streets to Explore in Charleston
Grab your walking shoes and a hat to protect from the sun and discover what historic Charleston has to offer, on foot.
Considered one of the oldest streets in Charleston, Meeting Street features historical and architectural sites. This street served as the western boundary, when the city was walled, with the entrance into Charleston located at Meeting and Broad…over a drawbridge and moat.
The street name comes from the Circular Congregational Church, established in 1686, when it was called the White Meeting House. Meeting House…on Meeting Street.
The intersection of Meeting and Broad is known as the Corner of Four Laws. The four laws include ecclesiastical – St Michael’s Church, federal – US Post Office and Federal Court, state – Court House and city – City Hall. The locals say you can “get married, get divorced, pay your taxes and get locked up” in that intersection.
This picturesque street, lined with gorgeous homes in the South of Broad neighborhood, continues to the tip of the peninsula, ending at White Point Garden.
Broad serves as the main business thoroughfare in the old city. Initially, apothecaries, silversmiths and merchants provided services here. Now it houses banks, lawyers, art galleries and cafés. Broad Street marks the boundary of the old city and the beginning of affluent neighborhoods to the south.
Originally called Cooper Street, the name changed after Charleston residents proudly boasted about their “broad” 72 foot wide street.
The John Rutledge House at 116 Broad…now a hotel…belonged to a signer of the constitution. The drafters of the US Constitution spent many hours in the drawing room.
And the John Lining House, at 106 Broad, dates back to the early 1700s. It is the oldest frame residence in Charleston.
Pretty Church Street does indeed house a church. St Phillip’s Episcopal Church was built in the 1830s. The adjoining graveyard contains the resting places of signers of the Declaration of Independence and Dubose Heyward, author of Porgy.
The nation’s first playhouse, Dock Street Theatre, resides on Church Street. And the narrow winding lane is home to many historical houses including Theodosia Burr’s house and the Heyward-Washington House where president George Washington stayed while in the city. Cabbage Row is here too, the inspiration for Heyward’s book, Porgy.
East Bay Street
This street along the Charleston Battery features one of the most photographed sites in the city. Rainbow Row, a block of 13 pastel colored houses built in the 1740s, symbolizes the southern charm and beauty of Charleston.
Opposite the historic homes lining East Bay is the Battery, the seawall promenade along Charleston Harbor.
Named one of the top ten shopping streets in the nation, by US News and World Report, King Street offers unique shops and restaurants. Lower King houses the antiques district and Middle King the fashion district, while Upper King is the contemporary design and dining district. This busy street is where Charleston’s past and present combine.
Initially, King Street served as the primary road in and out of the city. In the late 18th century, the lane evolved into a thriving retail and commercial street full of specialty shops and boutiques. Today it also offers trendy restaurants, an active nightlife and fun events and festivals.
Foodies adore Queen Street. It’s home to some of Charleston’s most popular restaurants, including Husk, 82 Queen, Queen Street Grocery & Café and Poogan’s Porch. Poogan’s diners might even encounter the restaurant’s friendly dog ghost! Read Charleston ghost stories HERE.
Wandering down Chalmers Street, one of eight remaining cobblestone lanes in Charleston, gives a peek into the past. The second oldest residential house in Charleston, the Pink House, sits at 17 Chalmers.
And stop by the Old Slave Mart, at 6 Chalmers. This African American slave museum provides a glimpse into the dark world of slave trading and Charleston’s role in it.
The lane that drew me to Charleston, Tradd Street runs west to east in the South of Broad area. It’s named after Robert Tradd, one of the first babies born in Charles Town.
Wander in Charleston and Get a Little Lost
I loved my time in Charleston. My favorite cities are those rich with history and culture. And my favorite way to get to know those cities is by exploring on foot.
Wander down any of Charleston’s streets…veering off occasionally into hidden alleyways…and you’ll discover beauty, history and delightful surprises.
Have you explored Charleston? What street is your favorite?
This fun historic map of Charleston, from Amazon, accompanied me on my trip. Click photo for more info or to order.
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