Best Instagrammable spots in Charleston

Charleston is the most charming small town I've visited! From the scent of the blooming jasmine everywhere in May, cobblestone streets, charming historic district, amazing restaurants,  elaborate flower window boxes, waterfront views, pastel colored homes, moss-laden oaks and palm trees galore this Southern city stole my heart! Downtown was extremely walkable and easy to get around and I also rode the public bus which happened to be free the month I was there.  

Charleston is called The Holy City because it has 180 churches.  For ethical reasons I chose not to visit a plantation. Charleston is a beautiful city in the low country with pretty parks, beaches, has southern hospitality and incredible architecture. If you love photography, there are many Instagrammable spots in Charleston! Take a walk around the The Battery to see all the grand estates from the 17th and 18th centuries. I made a list of the best photo spots for you so you can have fun exploring this quintessential southern charm of a city.

The Best Time to Travel to Charleston

I went the first week of May, the temperature was low 80s but the humidity was 66%! Not blowout friendly if you're trying to have a good hair day. I highly recommend traveling in April, when the humidity is a little lower and the wisteria is blooming. In May however, everyone has just put out their fresh flowerboxes on their window sills and jasmine bushes are blooming everywhere. Wish you could smell this picture because it needs to be bottled as a perfume. Every street I walked down, I got a huge whiff of the scent of jasmine because they were growing everywhere!  If you need a good jasmine perfume, check out my Spring perfume recommendations post. Since Charleston is a humid subtropical climate, 10 different types of palm trees bloom in the city! I also saw lots of monstera (my favorite plant) and oak trees covered in Spanish moss. Take a stroll through Colonial Lake Park.

I tried to have a Monstera plant at home, twice unsuccessfully. It's such a beautiful tropical plant!


Insta-worthy Photo Spots

Rainbow Row

These candy-colored houses are the most recognizable landmark of the city. The homes date to the 18th century, but the bright colors only date to the 1930s and 1940s.

Waterfront Park & Pineapple Fountain 

The pineapple is Charleston's symbol of hospitality. 

French Huguenot Church & Dock Street Theatre

The Custom House

With its colorful houses and historic cobblestones, Chalmers Street just might be the prettiest street in Charleston to take pictures of! These stones were used on colonial ships as weights to drop them further in the water to make the ship less susceptible to  rough conditions. The stones were discarded upon arrival to make space for cargo for the return voyage to England.

The movie The Notebook

The 2004 film starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams was an adaption of a Nicholas Spark's book and was filmed in Charleston.  I went to a bunch of their locations including the College of Charleston, the Theater and Cypress Gardens. For the scene in the swamp the director got some hatchlings (or goslings) and raised them besides the lake so that when it came time to film, they'd feel comfortable on the lake. Not sure how that panned out with the alligators there? In the film Noah takes Allie out in a rowboat to see the hundreds of geese on the lake behind his house. You can now go paddle your own boat along the tall bald cypress  and tupelo trees mirrored  in the dark water and you might see  alligators, birds, turtles and lily pads

The setting for their first date (followed by lying down and dancing in the middle of the street) is the American Theater, a 1940s movie theater. The theater is now a private event space and no longer shows movies, but you can have a custom message written out on the marquee.

College of Charleston

In the movie, Allie leaves South Carolina to attend Sarah Lawrence College in New York. However, those scenes were filmed on the College of Charleston's picturesque downtown campus.  It's hard to see in the picture, but hanging from the trees are Spanish moss. The plant likes to live on oak and cypress trees in the lowlands because of the high humidity.  The plant spreads by seeds blown in the wind or birds carrying it from tree to tree. Spanish moss doesn't harm the tree and takes all its nutrients from the air. It has tiny scales that trap and store water and nutrients so it's not a parasite to the tree. 

Where to Stay

I stayed at the pink The Mills Hotel which was centrally located in the heart of everything. 

I also went to these other two hotels for drinks while I was there:

A ton of houses had this design where the front door doesn't go into the interior of the house. Instead it goes to a two story outdoor patio. You can book Charleston home tours to see historic properties.

different angles of the same house

Where to Eat

Le Farfalle  for Italian

Melfi's for Italian

Harken Cafe for breakfast and lunch

Playa Bowls for smoothie bowls

Sugar Bakeshop for cupcakes

Kaminsky’s Dessert Cafe for desert

Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit

Leon's Oyster Shop

Leon's is famous for its fried chicken and chargrilled oysters. The restaurant is inside an old body shop and the façade has an old-school charm with its retro décor.


I went to and recommend these three places for cocktails:

Camellias - a pink champagne bar inside Hotel Bennett
Citrus Club on the rooftop of  the Dewberry hotel
The rooftop at the Vendue for sunset drinks

Further Afield 

If you rent a car there are a few things to see outside of Charleston. 
Angel Oak tree  - 30 minutes drive 
Folly Beach & Sullivan's Island

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Weekend in Philly

Weekend in New York

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in San Francisco

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