Your Guide to Charleston Neighborhoods
Charleston, South Carolina, has rapidly become one of the most popular destinations in the world over the last few years. While the city isn’t South Carolina’s capital, it's the largest in the state and is home to a thriving culinary scene, dozens of museums, and gorgeous beaches.
The cost of living in Charleston is steep—around 11.5% higher than the national average—and the ever-growing population has led to many neighborhoods of the metropolitan area sprawling far past the five square miles of the peninsula. The city is also home to three major universities: The College of Charleston, The Citadel, and the Medical University of South Carolina. Despite the competitive real estate market, job growth is on the rise—especially in higher education, tourism, and technology—and the beauty and charm of the city continue to draw in new residents in droves.
The Lay of the Land
Part of the charm of Charleston is that it has both the quaint trappings of a small city and the sprawling adjacent suburbs of a larger one. The peninsula itself is only about five square miles, yet is home to three universities, dozens of museums, and hundreds of beautifully maintained historic homes. The greater Charleston area includes three beaches, an estimated 30 new residents moving in each day, and encompasses neighborhoods on both sides of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. Downtown has a personality all its own as do the neighborhoods that flank it on either side of the bridge.
Charleston Neighborhoods To Know
When people think of Charleston, the gorgeous, palmetto-tree lined cobblestone streets of this neighborhood, dripping with fine dining and art galleries, is likely what comes to mind. The name South of Broad refers simply to all the homes south of Broad Street and offers some of the most luxurious residences in Charleston. The neighborhood sits on the southern end of the peninsula, overlooking the harbor where the Cooper and Ashley Rivers meet.
Don’t Miss: White Point Garden
This grassy, live oak-lined stretch of park overlooks Charleston Harbor. The park is dotted with benches, gazebos, and monuments to both the Civil and Revolutionary Wars (which have been the subject of protests in recent years). While it’s gorgeous year-round, this park is at its best in the springtime, when the magnolias and azaleas are in full bloom.
Harleston Village is home to The College of Charleston, but don’t let the idea of rowdy college students deter you; the historic campus has been voted one of the most beautiful in America for several years running. Historic King Street, Charleston’s busiest area, is here too as are dozens of local boutiques, restaurants, and a colorful nightlife scene.
Don’t Miss: The Watch Rooftop Kitchen and Spirits
There’s almost nothing more beautiful than a cotton-candy Carolina sunset, which might explain the dozens of rooftop restaurants and bars in Charleston. This particular spot, located on the top floor of a boutique hotel, is the best of the bunch, with indoor and outdoor seating, an adventurous menu, delicious cocktails, and a stunning 360 view of the city.
Tucked between Harleston Village and the West Side, Cannonborough is home to an eclectic mixture of up-and-coming restaurants and historic homes. This picturesque borough is home to a mix of young families and college students; the area also boasts some of the more experimental restaurants and cafes, perfect for an epicurean adventurer.
Don’t Miss: Brown’s Court Bakery
Housed in a restored historic home, Brown’s Court is a Charleston institution. It’s more than just a coffee shop—the pastries and bread here are made fresh in-house each day and are some of the best Charleston has to offer. While many Charleston natives swear by their breakfast sandwiches, the bakery has also recently expanded to include a pizza oven that sells Detroit-style pies by night.
Home to both The Citadel (The Military College of South Carolina) and Hampton Park, a sprawling metropolitan oasis that houses a running track and a duck pond, this area is highly popular among young professionals and young families. The quiet pace of life and easy access to both the nearby suburbs and the culture of downtown make up for the high prices; current home prices here range from $784,000 to $850,000.
Don’t Miss: Harold’s Cabin
Blink and you just might miss it, but what a shame that would be. Harold’s Cabin is part-corner store, part-restaurant, and part-cafe, with a strong focus on farm-to-table cuisine and inventive menu items. The cozy atmosphere and focus on locally sourced cuisine makes this sweet little spot a must-visit.
Mount Pleasant is much more than just the suburb to downtown. Here’s where you’ll find a quieter pace of life, two of Charleston’s three beaches, and most of the city’s schools. The quieter pace of life and easy access to public schools attracts lots of families as do the home prices; the median home price here is $446,5000, according to Sperling’s Best Places, which is much more affordable than most neighborhoods downtown. There’s more space to sprawl out in Mount Pleasant too, and it rests just outside of the floodplain that leaves most of downtown vulnerable to hurricane and storm damage.
Don’t Miss: The Ravenel Bridge
Ask any Charlestonian and they’ll tell you that no trip is complete without a stroll over the Ravenel Bridge that connects Mount Pleasant and downtown. The iconic spires of the Ravenel offer perhaps one of the best sunset views of the Holy City around. The walking path is wide and always open; come in the springtime and take on the annual Bridge Run that spans six kilometers and ends with a celebration at Marion Square.
Downtown Charleston’s quiet next-door neighbor, Avondale offers a mixture of suburban and apartment homes with easy access to the heart of the city. While it’s similar in size, Avondale attracts a different crowd than Mount Pleasant; most neighborhoods here are more affordable, making it a more popular option for younger families and those who want to stay a bit closer to the action downtown.
Don’t Miss: The West Ashley Greenway
The trailhead of the West Ashley Greenway sits right in Avondale, and stretches about seven miles through marshland and lowcountry. The trail winds all the way out onto John’s Island, and it's perfect for walkers, runners, and cyclists alike. The trail offers majestic views of the wetlands and coast of Charleston, and it's set back far enough from the city that it feels like a true retreat into nature.