15 Charleston Landmarks You Must Visit

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An aerial shot of a city at sunset
Charleston is known for its rich history and is home to an array of landmarks

Charleston, or "Charles Town," named after King Charles II, is the largest city in South Carolina. The city features many attractions and is a historical goldmine, home to numerous sites of historical significance.

If you want to learn more about all the important places to see in this southern city, this list of Charleston landmarks is a must-read! From the fascinating Fort Sumter National Monument to the Dock Street Theatre, which dates to the early 19th century, keep reading to discover Charleston's top points of interest!

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15 Charleston, SC, Landmarks

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Charleston Landmarks Map

A map of Charleston landmarks. Use the map to explore all of the points of interest.

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A yellow house with white columns and balconies surrounded by trees
The Aiken-Rhett House Museum opened as a house museum in 1975

Aiken-Rhett House Museum

John Robinson, an industrialist and enslaved person owner, built the Aiken-Rhett House in 1820. The design was updated by the new owner, Governor William Aiken Jr. It remained in the family until 1975, when the house was donated to the Charleston Museum.

Today, you can tour the property, which has its original furnishings. You can also learn more about some of the enslaved people who lived there during the early 1800s.

☂️ Visit Aiken-Rhett House Museum with an experience

Angel Oak

A fun South Carolina fact relating to Charleston is that it's home to a famous oak tree. Estimated to have been planted around 300 to 400 years ago, Angel Oak sits in Angel Oak Park on Johns Island.

This old oak tree is over 66 feet high, is 28 feet in circumference, and provides around 17,000 square feet of shade.

A gate with a paved walkway near a garden
Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site has many interesting attractions

Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site

Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site marks where a party of colonial settlers founded South Carolina in 1670. To mark the city's tricentennial, this 664-acre site opened in 1970 and has many attractions for locals and visitors.

Things to do include learning about Native American history, exploring a museum, and strolling through gardens similar to those planted by colonists in the 17th century.

Dock Street Theatre

The original Dock Street Theatre, likely destroyed by a fire in 1740, was the first building dedicated to theatrical performances in America. The current structure, originally a hotel built in 1809, was transformed and named the new Dock Street Theatre in 1935.

This significant Charleston landmark in the French Quarter was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Today, you can watch a range of live performances at the famous venue.

A fort harbor with an American flag on a pole near a body of water
Fort Sumter National Monument was constructed in 1829

Fort Sumter National Monument

Established in 1948, Fort Sumter National Monument commemorates the first American Civil War battle in 1861. General Thomas Sumpter ordered its construction in 1829 as Charleston Harbor was vulnerable to attacks. Just over 30 years later, it became an important site at the start of the Civil War.

Today, Fort Sumter is a famous South Carolina landmark that, along with Fort Moultrie, makes up the fascinating Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park. A trip to the landmark is a must to learn more about 19th-century military history in the state.

☂️ See Fort Sumter National Monument on a tour

International African American Museum

Just under half of the total arrivals of enslaved people onto American soil occurred at Gadsden's Wharf. Today, the site of the wharf houses the International African American Museum, which took 20 years of planning, finally opening in June 2023.

The museum aims to exhibit the history and culture of African Americans and the community's struggles and successes from the time of slavery through the present day.

Johns Island

The history-laden Johns Island is home to many Charleston, South Carolina, landmarks such as Angel Oak and Johns Island Presbyterian Church. Additionally, the area's military history dates back to the 18th century.

In May 1779, British soldiers occupied the island during the American Revolutionary War. Almost one hundred years later, the 1864 Battle of Bloody Bridge took place on the island during the American Civil War. However, the site had been inhabited by Native American communities for centuries preceding these wars.

Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon is one of the must-see Charleston landmarks
One of the most famous Charleston landmarks is the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon

Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon

This historic building, constructed between 1767 and 1771, held prisoners of war seized by the British during the Revolution. It has also been known as the Custom House and The Exchange due to its roles as a trading house and meeting place.

It was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1973 and now hosts a museum detailing Charleston's history.

☂️ Explore the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon with a tour

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A Revival-style building with an arched entrance near trees
The Old Slave Mart Museum is a vital part of the city's African American history

Old Slave Mart Museum

The Old Slave Mart, built in 1859, was once an enslaved person's auction arena. The National Register of Historic Places listed it in 1975 as a significant part of Charleston's African American history.

The Old Slave Mart Museum opened to the public in 1938. It houses exhibits on the city's somber connection to the slave trade.

Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

A large building, established in 1976, houses a collection of small combative ships, aircraft, and Vietnam War artifacts formerly used by the US Navy. Located on an old dump in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum was the brainchild of a former naval officer.

☂️ Visit Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum with a tour

An old aircraft carrier moored by a port near a lawn
USS Yorktown CV-10 was launched in 1943 and was used for 27 years

USS Yorktown CV-10

The USS Yorktown CV-10 served as an aircraft carrier in the US Navy. Commissioned in 1943, she ended her service in 1970. USS Yorktown received 16 battle stars for her roles in the Second World War and Vietnam War.

She also earned the coveted Presidential Unit Citation. You can now see the ship at the Patriot's Point Naval and Maritime Museum.

Old Charleston Jail

The Old Charleston Jail is another of the many famous historical sites in Charleston, SC. Operational between 1802 and 1939, it incarcerated many, such as Civil War Union, pirates, and political insurgents.

Largely untouched by renovations and preservation efforts and famed for its ghosts, it is a can't-miss attraction, with tours available, including ghost tours.

A stone building with two columns and stairs with an iron railing
Charleston City Market Hall is known for its stunning architectural design

Charleston City Market

Spanning Downtown Charleston for four blocks, the City Market was established in the 1790s. The main market hall seen today was added in 1841.

The market is one of the most historically significant buildings in Charleston and is noted for its Greek Revival architecture. It remains a marketplace to this day, with daytime and evening markets.

The National Register of Historic Places listed it in 1973. If you're looking for date ideas in Charleston, heading to the market to shop is a fun thing to do.

☂️ Explore the Charleston City Market on a tour

McCrady's Tavern and Long Room

In 1972, the National Register of Historic Places recognized McCrady's Tavern and Long Room as architecturally and politically significant. It is another of the Charleston historical sites that dates back hundreds of years, having been completed in 1788.

The Long Room has hosted banquets and performances for the upper class. Notably, in 1971, a banquet was hosted here for President George Washington. The tavern remained in use until 2020 when it permanently closed. However, you can still see the exterior of the building at 153 East Bay Street.

Johns Island Presbyterian Church

Johns Island Presbyterian Church was built in 1719 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places over 250 years later in 1975. It's constructed of wood and is one of the oldest places of worship in the United States. The initial design was added to in 1792 and then again in 1823.

In Summary

This article should have piqued your interest in Charleston, South Carolina. The city is home to numerous landmarks, many of which are important to United States history. If you want to learn more about Charleston, consider planning a vacation to this charming city to see the landmarks on this list for yourself!

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Written by Audrey Wilson

AudreyMW FORMER WRITER Born and living in South Africa, Audrey has lived in four countries extensively and traveled to many others across the globe. Travel is in her blood, and she plans to see more of the world.

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