According to agooddir, the first capital of South Carolina is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the southern states. Its location alone, at the tip of a peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, is remarkable. Founded in 1670, the city was named after King Charles II of England. The colonial city quickly grew into a flourishing and wealthy metropolis. It was a transshipment point for tobacco, rice and indigo. It also gained historical significance during the US Civil War, when the first shot was fired in Charleston Harbor, where residents watched the Confederate siege of Fort Sumter. What makes the city so worth seeing for visitors today are the wonderful Gründerzeit villas, almost all of which have been completely preserved. An ideal place to experience the flair of a bygone era – the so-called antebellum homes – up close. Carriage rides and tours are offered. Charleston offers a mix of styles from Victorian to whimsical Italian-influenced Gothic Revival architecture. The mansions with large verandas are very typical. The only tall buildings are the church towers in the city.
A drive south from Old City Market to the Battery will take you past some interesting buildings on Church Street. Such as the old magazine, the French Huguenot church and the mansion of the rice planter Daniel Heyward, built in 1772 and containing a magnificent collection of antique furniture ( Heyward Washington House, 87 Church Street, Charleston SC 29403, www.charlestonmuseum.org )
Incidentally, the old slave market on Chalmers Street was one of the largest in the colony. In the Edmondston-Alston House you can also see the inside of one of the luxurious mansions (21 East Battery, Charleston, SC 29401, www.edmondstonalston.org ).
To the north is Waterfront Park with its walk-in fountains. It is also home to some of the city’s most popular restaurants. Visitors will always find interesting details in the alleys. Also worth seeing is the Gibbes Museum of Art – west of the Waterfront Park. The beautiful building features works on the city’s local history with landscape paintings and portraits of famous S. Carolina residents (135 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401, www.gibbesmuseum.org ).
Natural history enthusiasts will enjoy the South Carolina Aquarium. The collection is primarily dedicated to the animals that live in the state’s waters – from the rivers and swamps to the Atlantic Ocean. There is also an IMAX cinema here. (100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston, SC 29401, scaquarium.org )
Of great historical importance is Fort Sumter, located on a small island in the Charleston harbor entrance. The fort was controlled by Union troops and besieged by the Confederate army in 1861. As Union troops attempted to bring in supplies, they began a 34-hour Confederate bombardment from Fort Johnson. On April 14, 1861, Union troops surrendered and the fort remained under Confederate control until the end of the Civil War in 1865. That. Fort has remained unchanged since then and is now a national monument. (Fort Sumter Visitor Center, 340 Concord St, Charleston, SC www.nps.gov/fosu )
Another highlight is the Charleston Museum. The best exhibits in the museum on the history of the city and the entire region are in the Indian and natural history sections. Beautiful dugouts, skeletons of prehistoric animals such as a dinosaur can be admired here. (360 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC 29403, www.charlestonmuseum.org )
Those interested in modern war history shouldn’t miss the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum. In addition to 28 historic aircraft, the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown is anchored here – and can be visited. Patriots Point is located on Charleston Harbor directly across from the Aquarium. (40 Patriots Point Rd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464, www.patriotspoint.org )
Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site: The roar of cannons during live historical demonstrations and rangers in period costume help explore the park. The ‘Adventure’, a faithful replica of the sailing ship with which the first settlers arrived here in 1670, is anchored on the river. The historic sailing ship can also be explored from top to bottom in order to inspect the crew’s cabins and thus get a fascinating view of the past. 1500 Old Towne Rd, Charleston, SC 29407, southcarolinaparks.com/charles-towne-landing )
Ashley River Plantations: Upriver there are three must-see “house museums” that provide the best insight into Charleston country life. In addition to the country estates, most also have lush gardens and cultural landscapes.
The most magnificent of these is Middleton Place, built in 1755, which looks majestically over the landscape. (4300 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414, www.middletonplace.org )
Drayton Hall is one of the most beautiful colonial residences in the USA. The Georgian Palladian mansion has been preserved in its original 1738 condition. There are no electrical and sanitary facilities here. Cultural programs tell about the life of the Afro-American slaves on these country estates. (Drayton Hall, 3380 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414, www.draytonhall.org )
Magnolia Plantation Manor is well known for its gardens. The big highlights here include the park on the river side and the Audubon Swamp Gardens, where you can discover exotic plants, turtles and alligators in the wild. For the youngest visitors there is a petting zoo, and there is also a boat tour through the rice fields. (3550 Ashley River Rd., Charleston, SC 29414, www.magnoliaplantation.com )
Boone Hall Plantation is 10 miles from Old Town Charleston. The plantation is known for the “Avenue of Oaks” (an avenue of oak trees) that leads to the main house. The 1935 building with its slave houses is one of the most well-known sets in the South and also served as the exterior set for the television series North and South starring Patrick Swayze in the 1980s. (1235 Long Point Rd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464, www.boonehallplantation.com )
For more information about Charleston, visit the Tourist Office website www.charlestoncvb.com and charleston.com