Incredible 3 Days In Charleston Itinerary (2024 Guide)

Looking for the perfect weekend in Charleston? Here is our ultimate 3 days in Charleston itinerary that includes all the best attractions and activities!

Charleston, South Carolina, also known as the “Holy City” is a charming and historic city situated along the scenic shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

It’s a popular destination for weekend getaways, and we’re here to provide you with an ideal weekend in Charleston itinerary. With 3 days in Charleston, SC, you have plenty of time to get a feel for the city and dip your toes into the history, culture, cuisine, and architecture that makes the city so charming.

From the iconic French Huguenot Church in the French Quarter, to the colorful houses of Rainbow Row, to the adorable Pineapple Fountain in Joe Riley Waterfront Park, downtown Charleston has ample opportunities for sightseeing and exploring.

The city’s role in American history, from the colonial period to the Civil War, is palpable in its museums, plantations, and historic sites like Fort Sumter.

Ghost tours, food tours, and carriage tours are all fun ways to explore during your 3 days in Charleston, and we’re going to recommend all the best tours, activities, and sights that you won’t want to miss.

Even if you have more or less than 3 days in Charleston, SC, you can use this guide as a base for your exploration of the city while modifying it as necessary. So enjoy this 3 days in Charleston itinerary, it’s truly a gorgeous city that should be on everyone’s USA bucket list.

Don’t miss our complete list of the best things to do in Charleston!

The Perfect 3 Days In Charleston Itinerary

Here is the perfect 3 days in Charleston itinerary! Whether you’re driving into town or arriving at Charleston International Airport, your weekend in Charleston is going to be action-packed.

From sampling local treats at Charleston City Market, to touring Magnolia Plantation, to bar-hopping down Philadelphia Alley and admiring Rainbow Row, there are so many amazing attractions awaiting you in the Holy City.

Charleston City Streets
Charleston is one of South Carolina’s most amazing destinations.

Day 1 in Charleston, SC

Spend the first day of your Charleston itinerary exploring the French Quarter and sightseeing near Rainbow Row and the waterfront. In the afternoon, hop on a ferry and glide through the Charleston Harbor on your way over to Fort Sumter, the historic spot where the Civil War began. Finish up the evening with an exciting ghost tour through the historic city.

Morning – French Quarter, Rainbow Row, and Joe Riley Waterfront Park

Begin the morning with some peaceful sightseeing near the waterfront. The French Quarter is the perfect place to begin! Admire the beautiful architecture and landmarks in the historic French Quarter before continuing towards Rainbow Row and the Joe Riley Waterfront Park, home to the famous Pineapple Fountain.

French Quarter

The French Quarter in Charleston, SC is renowned for its charming cobblestone streets, well-preserved antebellum architecture, and vibrant cultural scene. Named for the influence of the French Huguenots who settled in the area during the late 17th century, the French Quarter exudes a timeless elegance with its historic buildings and wrought-iron balconies.

One of the notable landmarks is the French Huguenot Church, a Gothic Revival-style structure that stands as a testament to the French heritage. The French Quarter is also home to a diverse array of art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants, making it a hub for both history enthusiasts and those seeking a sophisticated blend of Southern charm and French-inspired allure.

Explore more French-inspired architecture in the US with a visit to New Orleans!

Pink House Gallery

The Pink House Gallery is a unique gallery nestled in Charleston’s historic French Quarter. Housed within one of the city’s oldest structures, known as the Pink House, this gallery showcases a diverse collection of contemporary and traditional artworks, featuring pieces by both local and international artists.

Old Slave Mart Museum

The Old Slave Mart Museum in Charleston, SC stands as a poignant reminder of the city’s complex history and its role in the transatlantic slave trade. Located on Chalmers Street in the historic district, the museum is housed in what was once one of the largest antebellum slave auction complexes in the South.

Today, the Old Slave Mart Museum is dedicated to preserving and educating visitors about this dark chapter in American history. The museum exhibits artifacts, documents, and interactive displays that shed light on the harsh realities of the slave trade and the resilience of those who endured it. A visit to the Old Slave Mart Museum provides a somber yet essential opportunity for reflection and understanding of Charleston’s past.

Rainbow Row

Rainbow Row is a must-see on any Charleston itinerary! Located along East Bay Street, Rainbow Row is one of the most photographed and recognizable landmarks in the city. The thirteen distinct homes, dating back to the 18th century, feature lots of bright colors, hence the name “Rainbow Row”.

Strolling along Rainbow Row offers a captivating journey through Charleston’s architectural heritage, providing visitors with a delightful and Instagram-worthy experience. The vibrant facades against the backdrop of cobblestone streets make Rainbow Row a must-visit destination, capturing the essence of the city’s charm and Southern hospitality.

Joe Riley Waterfront Park

After seeing Rainbow Row, continue walking towards Charleston Harbor and spend some time in Joe Riley Waterfront Park. This picturesque oasis along the banks of the Cooper River was named after Joseph P. Riley Jr., the long-serving mayor of Charleston. Waterfront Park is a beloved green space that offers stunning views of the river, the Ravenel Bridge, and the harbor.

Pineapple Fountain

The Pineapple Fountain is a famous Charleston, SC landmark in Waterfront Park on the Cooper River. The Pineapple Fountain is a symbol of warmth, hospitality, and the city’s rich cultural heritage. Featuring a large bronze pineapple, Pineapple Fountain showcases a traditional Southern symbol of welcome, from which water cascades into a circular pool.

Pineapple Fountain Charleston
Pineapple Fountain is an iconic Charleston landmark

Afternoon – Ferry ride through Charleston Harbor to Fort Sumter

Continue day 1 of your weekend in Charleston itinerary with a ferry ride across the harbor to the historic Fort Sumter.

Fort Sumter, situated in Charleston Harbor, holds a significant place in American history as the site where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired on April 12, 1861. The fort, originally constructed as part of coastal defense, consists of brick walls and is perched on a man-made island at the entrance to the harbor.

Accessible by boat, Fort Sumter is now a National Historic Park and a compelling destination for history enthusiasts. Visitors can explore the grounds at Fort Sumter, which include the original gun emplacements, cannons, and the iconic flagpole marking the location where the Civil War first shots were exchanged between Confederate forces and Union troops.

Fort Sumter also houses a museum offering exhibits and artifacts that provide insights into the events leading up to the Civil War. A trip to Fort Sumter not only offers a glimpse into a pivotal moment in American history but also provides panoramic views of Charleston Harbor, making it a lovely experience to include in any weekend in Charleston.

Evening – Ghost Tour or Haunted Carriage Ride through downtown Charleston, SC

Finish up day 1 of your weekend in Charleston, SC with a thrilling journey through the city’s haunted history. Let a local tour guide lead you through the city after dark, sharing haunting stories and legends of the area.

Tours often includes visits to reputedly haunted landmarks such as the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon or the Unitarian Church Graveyard, each with its own eerie anecdotes. Charleston’s well-preserved historic architecture and centuries of tumultuous history provide the perfect backdrop for these tales of the paranormal.

Another option is to go for a carriage ride on a haunted evening tour. Instead of walking through the historic city, you can cruise through Charleston, SC on an antique horse-drawn carriage tour while learning about the eerie history. This is a super fun and engaging way to spend an evening during your 3 days in Charleston itinerary!

Day 2 in Charleston, SC

Next up on your weekend in Charleston, explore the heart of the Historic District. From the bustling King Street, to the delights of the Charleston City Market, to the various museums and attractions, you’re going to be kept busy while exploring downtown!

Morning – King Street and other highlights of the Historic District

Start your day with a stroll down King Street, followed by Meeting Street and Marion Square. Then you can visit some local museums, and learn about the city’s history during your Charleston itinerary!

King Street

King Street is the beating heart of downtown Charleston, South Carolina. Lined with iconic pastel-hued buildings dating back centuries, this bustling thoroughfare serves as a dynamic hub for shopping, dining, and exploration.

Elegant boutiques, art galleries, and renowned restaurants are all over King Street, offering visitors and locals an array of experiences. Even just walking down King Street and taking photos is a memorable experience because it’s so scenic! King Street is a must-see on any Charleston itinerary.

Meeting Street

Running parallel to King Street is Meeting Street, another highlight of the Historic District.

Named for the historical significance of gatherings and assemblies that once took place along its path, Meeting Street is adorned with grand antebellum mansions, stately churches, and charming gardens, each whispering tales of the past.

Meeting Street also serves as a conduit for the city’s cultural heritage, hosting museums, galleries, and institutions that celebrate Charleston’s rich artistic and historic legacy.

Marion Square

Named after Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion, this square is a hub for socializing and relaxing during a Charleston weekend itinerary. Have a seat in Marion Square and relax under a majestic oak tree as you regain your strength for more sightseeing on your self-guided walking tour.

Charleston Farmers Market is also held in Marion Square. So if your Charleston itinerary falls on a weekend, spend your Saturday shopping for local produce and crafts at the Charleston Farmers Market!

Read next: 16 Best Things To Do In Greenville, South Carolina

The Charleston Museum

Be sure to visit some museums on your Charleston itinerary to learn about the local history and culture. The Charleston Museum was founded in 1773 and is America’s first museum!

Housed within an elegant antebellum building, the museum’s diverse collections showcase artifacts, exhibits, and interactive displays spanning centuries of Charleston’s history. From Native American artifacts and colonial-era treasures to Civil War relics and Gullah culture, the Charleston Museum provides a glimpse of the region’s past.

Aiken Rhett House Museum

The Aiken-Rhett House Museum showcases the grandeur of the antebellum South. Built in the early 19th century, this historic landmark offers visitors a rare glimpse into the lives of Charleston’s elite during the height of the city’s prosperity.

Impeccably preserved, the mansion has stunning architecture, lavish interiors, and meticulously curated collections. The Aiken-Rhett House Museum is an interesting place to learn about what life was like during the early days of Charleston, South Carolina.

As a cherished cultural treasure, the Aiken-Rhett House Museum offers a compelling narrative of the Old South, inviting guests to explore its rich history and legacy.

Afternoon – Charleston City Market or Food Tour

Spend the afternoon wandering around the iconic Charleston City Market. A bustling hub of activity in the heart of downtown, the Charleston City Market is often a favorite spot of those who have visited Charleston!

Spanning four city blocks, this historic city market dates back to the late 18th century and continues to thrive as a vibrant center of commerce and culture. If you’re looking to buy some souvenirs and taste the local delicacies during your weekend in Charleston, there is no better place to be than Charleston City Market!

For the die-hard foodies, you could also join a guided food tour. Embark on a fun walking tour of the city with a knowledgeable local guide, visit the best local establishments and culinary landmarks, and sample all the recommended treats of Charleston! From she crab soup to grits and Charleston benne wafers, there is so much food to try in South Carolina.

Evening – Folly Beach

To wind down day 2 of your weekend in Charleston itinerary, take a small excursion over to Folly Beach. Located just a 20-minute drive from downtown Charleston, Folly Beach is a beautiful place to relax on the sand, go for a swim, and watch the sunset over the ocean.

Folly Beach, affectionately known as the “Edge of America,” has a laid-back atmosphere and coastal charm. It’s located on a barrier island next to the Atlantic Ocean, and visitors love its fun surfing waves and soft golden sands.

The bustling Folly Beach Pier is a great spot for fishing, strolling, and breathtaking ocean views, while the quaint town center boasts eclectic shops, cozy cafes, and lively beach bars. You can just watch the sunset with a cocktail and then head back to the hotel, or indulge in a bit of bar hopping in Folly Beach. Either way, it’s a lovely way to end day 2 of your weekend in Charleston itinerary.

Folly Beach Pier Sunrise
Folly Beach Pier at sunrise

Day 3 in Charleston, SC

It’s the final day of your weekend in Charleston, SC! Take today to venture out of the city center and visit fascinating attractions on the outskirts of Charleston like Magnolia Plantation, Cypress Gardens, and Boone Hall.

Then finish up your weekend in Charleston with some fun bar-hopping on Philadelphia Alley or Chalmers Street. It’s going to be an epic end to your 3 days in Charleston!

Morning – Magnolia Plantation

Located along the banks of the Ashley River, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens showcase the lovely Southern heritage and natural beauty.

Established in the early 17th century, Magnolia Plantation offers visitors a captivating glimpse into the Lowcountry’s past. The landscaped gardens combined with the centuries-old plantation homes and slave quarters memorialize the area’s history and show what life was like for everyone on Magnolia Plantation back in the day.

Guided tours offer insight into the plantation’s complex legacy, while wildlife excursions and boat rides along the Ashley River provide opportunities for further exploration. Magnolia Plantation is an elegant sight on the Ashley River, and it compels reflection about the dark days of slavery in the US.

Afternoon – Cypress Gardens or Boone Hall

Next on your weekend in Charleston itinerary, visit another attraction outside the city. You might not have time for both Boone Hall and Cypress Gardens, so you might want to just pick one depending on how long you want to spend at each place.

Cypress Gardens

The stunning Cypress Gardens are a beautiful excursion from the Holy City. Full of majestic cypress swamps, blooming gardens, and serene blackwater lakes, Cypress Gardens is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

Visitors can explore the tranquil waters by kayak or flat-bottom boat, gliding beneath the canopy of ancient cypress trees adorned with Spanish moss.

The gardens themselves are a botanical wonderland, featuring colorful blooms, winding pathways, and peaceful gazebos ideal for quiet reflection.

Cypress Gardens Charleston
The beautiful and serene Cypress Gardens
Boone Hall

Boone Hall Plantation, located in Mount Pleasant just outside of Charleston, was founded in 1681 and is one of America’s oldest working plantations.

The plantation’s iconic “Avenue of Oaks” serves as a majestic entryway, leading visitors to the main house and offering a glimpse into the grandeur of the Old South.

Beyond its historical significance, Boone Hall provides immersive experiences that delve into the complexities of plantation life, including guided tours of the mansion, interactive exhibits, and demonstrations of Gullah culture.

With its scenic vistas, rich heritage, and commitment to education and preservation, Boone Hall Plantation is a cool place to visit on any weekend in Charleston itinerary.

Evening – Bar Hopping

Finish off your weekend in Charleston strong with a night out on the town! The nightlife in Charleston is incredible, and you may even want to go out every night of your 3 days in Charleston if you have the energy. Otherwise, just dedicate one night to bar hopping along the energetic streets.

You can also use this as an opportunity to stroll down any popular avenues that you may have missed during your daytime sightseeing.

Philadelphia Alley, Chalmers Street, Bay Street, Broad Street, and Market Street are all scenic roads that are charming at any time of day. You can also find lots of bars, pubs, and venues along these bustling streets. Upper King Street is known for its chic bars and rooftop venues offering panoramic views of the city skyline.

Make sure you wear comfy shoes for your final night of exploration around Charleston, SC!

Planning to explore North Carolina? Check out our ultimate Asheville itinerary!

If you have more time in Charleston…

3 days in Charleston can go by in a flash, and you’ve only scratched the surface of the amazing things to do in this vibrant city. Other attractions in the city center include the South Carolina Aquarium, Nathaniel Russell House, Calhoun Mansion, White Point Garden, Gibbes Museum or Art, and more.

If you have more time to spare, definitely consider checking out more of the South Carolina coast!

Sullivan’s Island is a fabulous day trip from the city. Known for its picturesque beaches, lively downtown area, Civil War landmarks, and the historic Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse which has guided mariners since the late 19th century, Sullivan’s Island is a gem on the Atlantic.

Kiawah Island boasts miles of unspoiled shoreline, ideal for nature lovers seeking tranquillity and seclusion amidst stunning natural beauty. For those willing to venture a bit further, Isle of Palms offers wide sandy beaches, scenic boardwalks, and a host of water activities, making it a popular choice for families and outdoor enthusiasts.

But even if you only have a weekend in Charleston, hopefully our itinerary has given you the best possible introduction to the Holy City!

Charleston, South Carolina Travel Guide

Now that you’ve planned out your Charleston itinerary, you can think about the other logistics. We’re going to run through some basic travel trips for Charleston, including when is the best time to visit, how to get around the city, and where to stay.

Read next: The 50 BEST Things to Do in North Carolina

When is the best time to visit Charleston, South Carolina

The best time to visit Charleston, South Carolina, largely depends on personal preferences and the type of experience you seek. However, many visitors find the spring months, from March to May, to be the best in terms of weather for a weekend in Charleston.

During spring, the weather is mild and pleasant, with blooming flowers and a refreshing breeze. Spring in Charleston, SC offers comfortable temperatures, ranging from the 60s to the 70s Fahrenheit, making it ideal for exploring the city’s historic streets, gardens, and waterfront.

Additionally, spring marks the beginning of festival season in Charleston, with events such as the Spoleto Festival USA showcasing the city’s vibrant cultural scene.

The fall months in Charleston, SC, from September to November, are also an excellent time to spend a weekend in Charleston. During fall, the summer heat begins to subside, and temperatures become more moderate, ranging from the 70s to the 80s Fahrenheit.

The fall foliage adds a touch of color to the city’s historic landscapes, creating a picturesque setting for visitors. Fall is a great time to enjoy outdoor activities, stroll along the cobblestone streets, and savor the renowned Southern cuisine at local eateries.

Whether you choose the blossoming spring or the colorful fall, both seasons offer unique opportunities to explore Charleston’s rich history, architecture, and cultural offerings.

Charleston Colorful Houses
Charleston’s bright colors will stand out in any weather!

How to get around Charleston, South Carolina

Getting around during your weekend in Charleston, South Carolina is relatively easy thanks to the city’s compact size and various transportation options.

One of the most popular ways to explore the historic downtown area is by walking. Charleston’s well-preserved cobblestone streets and charming architecture make for a delightful stroll. Charleston’s historic district is pedestrian-friendly, allowing visitors to leisurely wander through the narrow alleys, historic neighborhoods, and along the scenic waterfront.

Guided bus tours and walking tours are also a great way to explore the city with the guidance and expert knowledge of a local! Tours are amazing for solo travellers as well who want to meet people while visiting Charleston, SC.

For those looking for a convenient and efficient mode of transportation, the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) operates a reliable public bus system. The bus routes cover various parts of the city and extend to nearby areas, offering an affordable way to travel.

Additionally, rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are readily available in Charleston, providing convenient door-to-door transportation. While parking can be a challenge in the downtown area, especially during peak hours, there are several parking garages and lots available for those who prefer to explore the city by car.

The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.

Where to stay in Charleston, South Carolina

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay during your Charleston weekend itinerary, we’ve got you covered. Here are some top-rated hotel options for travellers in Charleston, SC. Whether you’re looking for an affordable budget hotel or a lavish resort, there are lots of great options right in downtown Charleston, SC!

Best Budget Accommodation in Charleston, SC – Candlewood Suites Charleston

The best place to stay on a budget for 3 days in Charleston is Candlewood Suites Charleston, run by the IHG hotel group. Located just 2 miles from the historic city center, this budget hotel puts you in the perfect location for an affordable and convenient 3 days in Charleston itinerary.

Each room has a fully equipped kitchen and Free Wifi, and there is a patio area with BBQs so you can sit outside and enjoy that South Carolina sunshine.

Best Mid-Range Accommodation in Charleston, SC – Hampton Inn Charleston Historic District

The Hampton Inn Charleston Historic District is another excellent hotel option for a weekend in Charleston. This upscale hotel is located right in the heart of the French Quarter, right off King Street and within walking distance of all the best attractions and sights.

The historic building itself is stunning, complete with an outdoor swimming pool, free hot breakfast, and modern amenities right in the city center.

Best Luxury Accommodation in Charleston, SC – Harbourview Inn

Those looking for luxury when they visit Charleston can stay at Harbourview Inn, an elegant, boutique hotel with views of the harbour. With excellent service, stunning rooms, and extra perks like free snacks, coffee, iced tea, and a free afternoon wine and cheese reception and rooftop skyline tour, staying at this hotel is an experience in and of itself!

Plus, you’re located right next to all the best downtown attractions, making it the perfect place to spend 3 days in Charleston, South Carolina.

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Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

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