Visiting Charleston South Carolina? Here are the best things to do in Charleston SC in one day. Here's how to see and do the best if you have just 24 hours in Charleston. Charleston SC Things to do | Charleston SC Travel Tips #Charleston #USA

One Day In Charleston SC – The Perfect Itinerary + Map!

Last Updated on January 16, 2024 by Soumya

Planning your Southern USA trip and want to squeeze in one day in Charleston, South Carolina?

Do you wish to see the best that Charleston, SC, has to offer in under 24 hours?

Well, you are at the right place because we have just the perfect 1-day Charleston itinerary for you.

You will dig into the Holy City’s centuries-old history, walk through a charming French Quarter, visit a historic public market, and be wowed by amazing antebellum architecture.

Add to this some delicious Southern food, and you have the best way to spend your first 24 hours in Charleston.

You may ask if one day in Charleston is enough.

It is not. However, it is definitely better than no day in Charleston.

There are so many wonderful things to do in Charleston that I am sure you will keep returning for more later. But one day is a great way to get started, explore Charleston’s historic center, and dive into its history and charm.

If you have more time, please check out our long weekend itinerary for Charleston.

The best itinerary for 1 day in Charleston SC

Visiting Charleston South Carolina? Here are the best things to do in Charleston SC in one day. Here's how to see and do the best if you have just 24 hours in Charleston. Charleston SC Things to do | Charleston SC Travel Tips #Charleston #USA

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Begin the day with breakfast at Toast

I am always up for a good breakfast while traveling. And there’s no better place to begin your day in Charleston than at the Toast.

Voted by The New York Times Magazine as a must-eat place in Charleston, Toast is a winner all the way.

Their breakfast is especially popular. Try their classic breakfast biscuits, stuffed French toast, or Lowcountry omelets – you cannot go wrong with anything here. And do not forget to sample some of the New Orleans Beignets for me. Yummy!

Take a stroll through Charleston’s French Quarter

Once done with your delicious breakfast, head to Charleston’s French Quarter, just 5 minutes from the restaurant.

A small neighborhood in the historic district, the French Quarter, gets its name from many French Huguenots who fled religious persecution and settled there.

St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Charleston's French Quarter

Today, the French Quarter is deemed one of the most romantic places in Downtown Charleston.

It is perfect for a leisurely stroll as you sample architectural delights and centuries-old history.

Here are some old buildings you should not miss checking out.

  • Dock Street Theater: America’s first theater – designed solely for theatrical performances. It was built in 1736, was remodeled several times, and now serves its original purpose. It is also one of the most photographed buildings in the city.

  • St. Phillips Church: This is a historic church on 142 Church Street and a National Historic Landmark. The steeple adorned with several clocks is especially attractive.

Pro Tip: Looking for more Charleston attractions? Check out our post on 25 Best Things to do in Charleston, South Carolina.

Learn about the history of slavery at Old Slave Mart

The Old Slave Mart is located at 6 Chalmers Street and is a must-have on your itinerary, even if you visit Charleston for one day.

One of the first African-American slave museums in the country, Old Slave Mart, is housed in a building that was once a slave auction gallery.

Old slave mart in Charleston SC

Slave auctions were held here until 1863.

Today, there is a lot to learn here through informative posters, artifacts, and an interview with a former enslaved person. Plan to spend at least an hour here to soak in all the history.

The museum is open 9 am – 5 pm every day of the week except on Sundays.

P.S. Displays at the museum can be disturbing. We did not feel quite right after visiting. The artifacts and stories are very moving. However, these stories need to be told and are ones that we should not ignore. It can be tough to learn about history sometimes but we should learn to prevent such atrocities from happening in the future.

Head to the Pineapple Fountain

Next up on our one day in Charleston itinerary is the beautiful Pineapple Fountain, a must-do when in Charleston.

This famous Charleston icon sits right along the harbor in the middle of a green public space called the Waterfront Park.

Did you know that pineapple is the symbol of hospitality in Charleston? And the fact that there are so many pineapple icons sprinkled all over the city in art, architecture, and even jewelry?

Visiting Charleston South Carolina? Here are the best things to do in Charleston SC in one day. Here's how to see and do the best if you have just 24 hours in Charleston. Charleston SC Things to do | Charleston SC Travel Tips #Charleston #USA

Indulge in a delicious Lowcountry lunch

I can never get enough Lowcountry food when visiting the American South.

All that fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and crab cakes keep calling me back to these places again and again.

Cannot blame myself for stuffing on Southern food, especially when there are such amazing restaurants in Charleston.

I suggest you pick one of these for your lunch.

  • SNOB Charleston: Fresh, local ingredients paired with eclectic Southern recipes – that is what the brand of Slightly North of Broad (SNOB) stands for. Besides their delicious dishes, they are known for their charming decor, great service, and nice cocktails. It is highly recommended that you reserve a table in advance – this place gets super packed even on weekdays.

  • Magnolias: One of the best restaurants in Charleston for upscale Southern cuisine, Magnolias is known for its crab cakes and fried green tomatoes. Make sure you get your reservation before you go. They have a dress code – business attire or dressy casual.

  • Bumpa’s: Looking for someplace cheap? Try Bumpa’s. Guests love their chilled-out vibe, Disco fries, Scotch eggs, and burgers.

Soak in some history and culture

Depending on how you wish to spend your afternoon, you can head to the Historic Charleston City Market, one of Charleston’s historic homes, or Fort Sumter.

Alternatively, you could take a 1-hour carriage tour through the historic district of Charleston. It is a quick and efficient way to learn more and see more.

Charleston City Market

If you want to buy some souvenirs to take back home, head to the Charleston City Market. It is not just a great place for purchasing goodies but for soaking up local culture too.

Do not forget to pick up a sweetgrass basket, a quintessential souvenir from the South. Gullah artisans have been weaving these baskets for more than 300 years now!

Historic homes in Charleston

Even though I love the historic homes of Savannah more, there are some pretty good ones in Charleston, too.

Aiken-Rhett House is one of the finest historic homes in the country. Take a tour to see some gorgeous architecture and dig into decades of antebellum history. The Aiken-Rhett slave quarters, virtually untouched since the 1850s, are especially moving.

Nathaniel Russel House, with its magnificent cantilevered staircase and elaborate plasterwork, is another great option.

Fort Sumter Charleston SC

Fort Sumter

Learn more about the American Civil War at Fort Sumter, where the first shots were fired. Take a 1-hour tour to explore the ruins of the fort and browse through the souvenir store downstairs.

Be sure to note that there are two ferry departure points: Liberty Square in downtown Charleston and Patriot’s Point in Mt. Pleasant. You must factor in the time needed to get to these departure points when planning for your Charleston 1-day itinerary.

I highly recommend purchasing a Fort Sumter Entry Ticket and Ferry Ride beforehand to avoid messing with your 24 hours in Charleston.

We made the mistake of not buying tickets earlier and could not get on the ferry departing from downtown. We had to ride the one leaving from Mt. Pleasant. Not the most efficient use of our time!

Get pictures at the Rainbow Row

Need some great pictures for your gram? Go, visit the Rainbow Row.

A row of 13 pastel-colored historic houses makes for a pretty photo op.

It is not a surprise that Rainbow Row is one of the most photographed areas in the entire city.

Pro Tip: Looking for a longer itinerary? Read our post on How to spend the perfect weekend in Charleston, SC?

Take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront

Around sunset is the best time to enjoy a leisurely walk along Charleston’s waterfront.

There are so many green spaces here that you can just sit down and relax, watch people go by, and take in the calming vibe of the historic district.

Perhaps you would want to go back to the Pineapple Fountain and dip your feet in its cool waters.

If you are hungry, grab a gelato and some pancakes at Belgian Gelato.

Maybe take a walk to the Battery, adore the beautiful antebellum architecture right in front of it, and watch the sun go down the horizon.

End your day with an evening carriage tour

If you still have some energy left after spending this exciting day in Charleston, explore the charming historic district on a private horse-drawn carriage.

Or maybe try a spooky ghost tour in the evening if you have the nerves for it. I was too scared to do one but some of my friends absolutely loved them. Here are some great options.

Feeling hungry after all the wonderful activities in Charleston? End your day with dinner at Husk or 82 Queen.

82 Queen is my favorite place to eat when I am in Charleston. Their she-crab soup is delicious.

An interactive map of how to spend one day in Charleston SC

Map of one day in Charleston itinerary
Click on the map to open in Google Maps and access directions to each of these Charleston attractions.

More than 1 day in Charleston SC?

Practical information for visiting Charleston in one day

Best time to visit Charleston

The best time to visit Charleston, South Carolina is during spring (March – May) or fall (September – November). Weather is enjoyable during this time with pleasant temperatures and lower humidity levels.

That said, between September – November is also the hurricane season in Charleston. Not all hurricanes make landfall but some do.

Be sure to check the weather report before planning for a fall trip.

You can also catch the Festival of Houses & Gardens and the Charleston Wine & Food Festival in spring. During fall, you can attend MOJA Arts Festival and Charleston Restaurant Week.

Visiting Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens in South Carolina? Keen to dig into Boone Hall's history? Eager to find more about the beautiful plantation where "The Notebook" was filmed? We have just the perfect Boone Hall Plantation guide for you. Packed with history, stories, and great things to do, this Boone Hall travel guide will give you serious travel goals. #SouthCarolina #Charleston
Boone Hall is a magnificent antebellum plantation home near Charleston.

Where to stay in Charleston SC?

Since you will be in Charleston for just one day, I highly recommend you stay in the Historic District. It is a little expensive but very time-efficient. Here are some great options.

  • Hampton Inn-Charleston Historic District: This place is located in the heart of Charleston’s Historic District and comes with all modern conveniences, including comfy beds, free breakfast, and a nice swimming pool.

  • Francis Marion Hotel: Located just 1km away from the French Quarter and Charleston Museum, this historic hotel boasts of charming rooms and great service.

Find more hotels in Charleston here.

Getting to Charleston SC

You can get to Charleston by flight, train, and car.

If you are flying, check out the complete list of airlines that operate out of Charleston International Airport.

If you are taking the train, check out the Silver Service/Palmetto trains operated by Amtrak.

If you are driving, then you should be looking at  I-26 and US 17.

Getting around Charleston

The best part about this Charleston one day itinerary is that you can literally walk to all the places that I have listed here. Only time when you need a car is if you decide to go to Fort Sumter and need to travel to the ferry boarding points. Or if it is too hot to walk around. Click here to rent a car.

You can also use Charleston’s free downtown shuttle service known as DASH to get to major attractions including City Market and Waterfront Park. Download a free printable map here.

Charleston SC Travel Essentials

  • Use Viator and Get Your Guide to find great deals and discounts on tours, attractions, and more across the city. I highly recommend it and use it all the time.
  • Get a Charleston Tour Pass if you wish to see a lot when you are here. This helps you save a lot and is quite popular among visitors.
  • Find the best hotels in Charleston, SC here.
  • Get a good pair of walking shoes with you because there’s a lot to be seen on downtown walks.
  • Carry sunscreen, hat, and lots of water because Charleston can get HOT!

Loved our Charleston one-day itinerary? Pin it for later!

Visiting Charleston South Carolina? Here are the best things to do in Charleston SC in one day. Here's how to see and do the best if you have just 24 hours in Charleston. Charleston SC Things to do | Charleston SC Travel Tips #Charleston #USA

Soumya is an acclaimed travel writer who has traveled to 30+ countries and lived in 8 while pursuing her passion for history and culture. Her writings have been published in BBC Travel, Architectural Digest, National Herald, and many more. She loves exploring world heritage sites and has a deep affinity for everything ancient, especially the lost civilizations of Mesoamerica!

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