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Charleston

City Guide

Meet Charleston

Widely considered the Friendliest City in the United States, Charleston’s booming economy, beautiful climate, and historic charm make it one of America’s most livable cities.

This port city on Charleston Harbor was one of the earliest population centers in the United States. Founded in 1670, it was the fifth-largest city in North America by the start of the 18th century, largely thanks to its importance in the Atlantic slave trade. Though it still grapples with that history, the city recovered faster than many places in the south, pivoting to an economy driven by commercial shipping and tourism. Recently, it’s been touted as a growing IT hub, with organizations like the Charleston Digital Corridor and many IT companies headquartered in the city. Modern Charleston is one of the friendliest cities in the United States--and you don’t have to take our word for it. It topped Travel + Leisure’s list of Most Friendly US Cities 3 of the last 10 years and was dubbed the most hospitable city in America by Southern Living Magazine in 2016. It’s a creative city, too, with a unique local culture that blends French, English, and West African traditions with good old Southern charm. Its vibrant theater scene and renowned local cuisine draw in as many visitors as its museums and historical attractions.

Where to live in Charleston

Downtown Charleston is located on a peninsula created by the Ashley River to the west and the Cooper River to the east. This central part of the city is very pedestrian-friendly and the best place to live if you want to walk or bike as your main form of transportation. The local bus system, CARTA, also has broad coverage throughout the peninsula, but there aren’t many routes in neighborhoods across the rivers. These areas are still quite close distance-wise to downtown for drivers and commute times are reasonable from the inner suburbs, especially compared to other large cities, but you’ll likely want to own a car if you live there.

Best Neighborhoods in Charleston

The peninsula neighborhoods each have their own distinct feel, ranging from lively and urban to laid-back and residential. If you want to live in the action, areas like the French Quarter, NoMo, and Harleston Village are where you’ll find the most restaurants and shops, along with the most active nightlife. These are also the best neighborhoods to enjoy the local art and music scenes. On the other end of the spectrum, Hampton Park Terrance and North-Central are quiet and residential, while still being well-connected to the more commercial downtown areas. Once you cross either the Ashely or Cooper Rivers, the vibe veers more toward small town or suburban. Areas like West Ashley and I’On showcase the friendliness Charleston is known for, and are particularly popular with families for their abundant green space and quiet, safe environment.

Quick Facts About Charleston

With a population of around 140,000, Charleston feels more like a large town than a city, with more open space (and friendlier people) than you might expect from an urban center. Here are some more facts to help you get to know Charleston a little better:
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Work in Charleston

Charleston is a good place to look for work, with a low unemployment rate and a projected future job growth of higher than the US average. No one industry dominates the local economy. Health care, education, and the services sector are the main employers, together accounting for about 38% of the workforce, but there are also jobs available in the arts, IT, transportation, retail, and construction, along with numerous other industries. The tech sector (specifically IT) has seen the most growth in recent years of any industry in Charleston. Notable IT companies in Charleston include BoomTown, Blackbaud, and SPARC. It’s also home to manufacturing plants for companies like Mercedes-Benz and Boeing and has a thriving public sector, with the Joint Base Charleston military installation and Medical University of South Carolina among the city’s main employers.

How good is Charleston for Digital Nomads or Remote Work

Remote work is changing how the global workspace operates. In a trend that is showing no signs of slowing down, remote work is rapidly on the increase all around the world—especially in a place like Charleston. And about 25% of remote workers describe themselves as digital nomads—those who like to travel or stay in cities around the world while they work. So, how good is Charleston for both of these growing movements?

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Food and Drink in Charleston

Charleston likely has more James Beard Award winners per capita than any other US city. Rodney Scott is the city’s most recent winner, and you can eat his low-and-slow smoked pork at Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ. Another local winner, Sean Brock, is the executive chef at Husk, an authentic southern restaurant that uses traditional ingredients in innovative ways. For coastal cuisine, check out Wild Olive and its sister restaurant, The Obstinate Daughter. Both serve delightful seafood with an Italian flair. You’ll find more casual eateries in Charleston, too. Daps Breakfast & Imbibe has an indulgent all-day breakfast menu (their chorizo gravy alone is worth a visit). You’ll also find a number of delectable Asian eateries, from the delicate flavors of Xiao Bao Biscuit to the spicy Sichuan cuisine at Kwei Fei. The local craft beer scene is also surprisingly robust considering the city’s size. There are more than a dozen breweries with taprooms in Charleston. Holy City Brewing has more than 20 options on tap, along with a delicious menu of elevated bar food. Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co. serves wood-fired pizza with their roughly 2 dozen in-house brews. If you want to check out some local food trucks, head to Cooper River Brewing Company--you’ll usually find some parked out front (and their beer is tasty, too).

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Top 6 Things To Do in Charleston

The Charleston Historic District should be your first stop if you want to explore the city’s landmarks. Established in 1931, it was the first historic district in the United States and where you’ll find notable buildings like the Exchange and Provost and the Charleston Museum, which is the oldest still-operating museum in the United States. Live theater is another favorite activity in Charleston. You can see the Charleston Stage Company perform at the Dock Street Theatre or check out one of the city’s many performing arts festivals, like the Soleto Festival USA or the Charleston International Film Festival. For outdoor entertainment, you can head to the coast and spend a day at Isle of Palms County Park or Sullivan’s Island, or take a boat tour of the harbor to spot dolphins and other local sea life.

Saint Michael's Church

71 Broad St, Charleston

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Edmondston-Alston House

21 E Battery, Charleston

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Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site

1500 Old Towne Rd, Charleston

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McLeod Plantation Historic Site

325 Country Club Dr, Charleston

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The Battery

Charleston

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Old Slave Mart Museum

6 Chalmers St, Charleston

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