Charleston: Domestic Travel With International Flair
If you’re dying to get abroad this year but just can’t make it over the border, why not book a trip to Charleston instead?
Charleston is one of the most international cities in the South. It’s home to cultural diasporas from all over the world. And you don’t even need to renew your passport to travel here.
Find out why Charleston is the perfect city for domestic travel with an international flair.
Charleston: One of the Most International Cities in the South
If you can’t make it out of the country this year, why not travel to Charleston, one of the most international cities in the South?
The French came to Charleston back in the 1600s. At the same time, enslaved Africans were brought to the lowcountry. Over the years, Charleston has been the destination for immigrants from Asia.
This melting pot of cultures can be seen in Charleston’s architecture, cuisine and places of worship.
Walking down the streets of Charleston, you might think you were in the Bahamas or Europe. Cobblestone streets are lined with brightly colored homes and palm trees.
Some of our favorite spots to pretend we’re traveling abroad include Rainbow Row and the Riviera Theatre.
Rainbow Row is possibly Charleston’s most picturesque street. There are a lot of rumors going around about why the homes on this street are painted in such beautiful pastel colors.
But the truth of the matter is that the owners of the homes simply wanted to update their exteriors in the 1970s.
Still, the beautiful colors make you feel as though you’ve been transported to the Caribbean.
The Riviera Theatre
The Riviera Theatre is a famous King Street landmark. You’ll recognize it from the movie, The Notebook.
This art deco theater no longer serves as a movie theater, but it will still transport you to another era.
Alleyways and Passages
Charleston is known for its cobblestone alleyways and passages. Behind the city’s most stately homes sit a network of back alleyways and passages used by locals for centuries.
The best way to explore these alleys (or any of the other stops on this list!) is to take a tour. Our Alleys and Hidden Passageways Tour tells the stories you won’t hear on tours of the main roads!
Lowcountry cuisine is a mashup of foods from cultures that hail from around the world. Some of the most iconic dishes in lowcountry cuisine include red beans and rice, shrimp and grits, Frogmore stew and oysters.
Yet, you’ll also find international food in Charleston, including French, Italian and Mexican eateries.
The French settled in Charleston in the late 17th century (which we’ll talk more about below in our ‘churches’ section!).
Of course, you can still get fine French food here in Charleston and one of the best places to do so is at Maison. Here, you’ll be transported to France by both the decor and the menu, which features dishes, such as foie gras, steak tartare and escargot.
Xiao Bao Biscuit
The Vietnamese began moving to the U.S. following the Vietnam War. In Charleston, it’s evidenced in the local food.
One of the hottest fusion restaurants in the area is Xiao Bao Biscuit, where the menu borrows from Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Favorite menu items include okonomiyaki (Japanese cabbage pancake), mapo tofu and som tum salad.
If you’re craving Italian food, you don’t need to travel too far from Charleston’s historic city center to get a steaming plate of pasta.
You’ll find hearty pasta, thick soups and fluffy focaccia on the menu at Le Farfalle. You’ll also find lighter fare, such as grilled octopus, whipped ricotta and braised artichokes here, too.
Charleston is also home to just under 5,000 Mexican Americans. And the Mexican food in the city doesn’t disappoint.
Located in the back of a convenience store (as many of the best taco shops are!), Torres Superette specializes in tamales, sopes and (of course) tacos. Grab a handful of tacos and a cold local beer to enjoy back at your hotel room.
Of course, we can’t talk about international cuisine in Charleston without talking about African influences.
Some of the most iconic lowcountry foods have emerged from Geechee Gullah cuisine, including red rice and okra soup. Hannibal’s Kitchen is possibly one of the most famous spots to try this cuisine — especially the crab rice.
Holy City Churches
Charleston wasn’t nicknamed the Holy City for no reason! This city is known for its glorious churches — so many that some may say Charleston churches may rival some of the great cities of Europe.
French Protestant Huguenot Church
One of the most architecturally stunning churches in Charleston is the French Protestant Huguenot Church.
Built by a congregation of 45 French Huguenots back in 1844, this church is the only remaining independent Huguenot church in the U.S. Church services are still held in English and in French.
St. Michael’s Church
The oldest surviving religious structure in Charleston, St. Michael’s is one of the most famous churches in the city.
Built in the 1750s, the Church sits on the “Four Corners of Law”, an intersection that was home to the U.S. Post office, the Federal Courthouse, the Charleston County Courthouse, Charleston City Hall and St. Michael’s.