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Things to Do in Charleston: Before or After Your Cruise

Are you starting your cruise to the Caribbean, Bermuda or The Bahamas from Charleston’s eastern shores? Lucky you! As the oldest city in South Carolina, Charleston is sure to offer you plenty of stunning historic sights mixed in with delectable local eats and one-of-a-kind shopping opportunities.

charleston, south carolina during the day

Whether you’re enjoying a family cruise or a romantic weekend getaway, you’ll want to take advantage of this delightful part of South Carolina. Before you head out on your cruise, or even once you return from your tropical destination, don’t forget to pencil in a few more days to explore the streets, festivals, museums and historical charm of South Carolina’s finest city.

Shopping Along Historic Streets

All of you shoppers are in for a real treat in Charleston. In fact, tourists are quickly learning what locals have long since known: that the streets of Charleston house some of the best shopping areas around.

street with colorful buildings in charleston, south carolina

King Street is by far the most popular, and for good reason. This long street overflows with high-quality clothing boutiques, eclectic music shops, cozy bookstores and you-never-know-what-you’ll-find antique shops. Festivals also come to the downtown district at various times of the year. Don’t forget to stop by if you discover one while you’re in town.

The stretch of King Street north of Calhoun Street is a bit more spread out with its offerings, while its lower half south of Calhoun turns into a one-way narrow road with shops jostling for space. This lower half is certainly the more romantic of the two, and it could be the ideal space for a hand-in-hand stroll or an easy way to dart in and out of each shop on a quest for the most unique item of all.

Another outstanding shopping destination is the Charleston City Market, found in a series of low single-story buildings between North Market Street and South Market Street. Apart from the offerings inside, the buildings themselves are certainly unique enough to capture your attention. Constructed in the early 1800s, the buildings had a single mission that they fulfill to this day: to act as a public market.

people shopping at the historic charleston city market

Originally set up as a food market, the City Market now houses several hundred local and regional vendors selling everything from jewelry and handmade soaps to pottery and handwoven baskets. The sweet grass baskets in particular attract attention for their beauty, symmetry and hours of work woven into each layer.

Dining Out: A Medley of Offerings

Charleston is a city of many influences, and this variety is reflected in its dishes. As you travel throughout Charleston before or after your cruise, you’ll come across plenty of Southern dishes, like fried chicken, grits, barbecue, pimento cheese and cobblers. This is soul food made with passion, and each plate is lovingly prepared and carefully scrutinized for that perfect blend of flavor and presentation. Family traditions run deep in Charleston, and many restaurants are family-run affairs passed down through the generations.

plate of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn bread and collard greens on the side

Although Charleston is home to numerous international cuisines, with Chinese, Lebanese, French, Mediterranean and Vietnamese all in the mix, its most common offering is lowcountry cuisine.

Lowcountry cuisine is regional in nature, extending down to Georgia and up to Virginia, and it relies heavily on the ocean’s bounty. Fish, shrimp and other sea delicacies often appear in lowcountry dishes, and locals just can’t get enough of the mouthwatering combinations. Many restaurants see lines winding around the corner when locals and tourists alike convene for the delicious offerings. Popular dishes include okra soup, shrimp and grits, Frogmore stew, crab cakes, and oyster soup.

Sightseeing at its Finest

After you’ve shopped and dined, you’ll likely want to explore this port of call at a gentle pace. Luckily, Charleston is ideal for slow-paced explorations, with plenty of sights within walking distance. If you’d like to rest up a bit, just hire a horse-drawn carriage for a romantic ride around the historic downtown.

You’ll come across The Battery at the southernmost part of the city. This historic seawall and promenade was constructed in the 1750s and then remodeled in the 1820s. It extends along East Battery and Murray Blvd., ending at Tradd Street. The area is full of stunning antebellum homes, each one practically a destination in its own right.

the battery at charleston, south carolina

Then there is Fort Sumter, which holds its place on an island at the mouth of Charleston Harbor. This national monument had a pivotal role in the Civil War, and it remains a place of pride for many in the South. You can take the Fort Sumter Ferry from the downtown landing just off Freedom Lane.

a dirt road in Charleston surrounded by beautiful green trees

Exploring the beauty of Charleston is an ideal way to start or finish your cruise to the Caribbean, Bermuda or The Bahamas. Numerous opportunities await you on your cruise vacation, but don’t forget that you can complement your cruise activities with those on Charleston’s shores. Spend a few days in this port of call, and you’ll know why Charleston is beloved by one and all.