As a city many tourists want to visit – a solo trip to Charleston is always a good idea! The colorful houses on rainbow row, the Black history of the Gullah people, and of course, the food are all reasons to add it to your list. Not to mention the weather draws in those attempting to escape the cold.
And it was the first stop on my remote work U.S tour hopping around to cities I’d never visited. I spent two weeks on this Charleston solo trip and ate as much as I could. There is also tons of shopping and history around the city.
Here’s what you should know when planning your solo trip to Charleston.
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Where to stay in Charleston as a solo traveler
NotSo Hostel is one of the only hostels in Charleston. They have two locations, with their primary location on Spring Street. From the outside, it is white with a huge front porch. However, I stayed at their Annex location on Cannon Street, a yellow house up the street from King Street.
The Annex location is good! No co-working space makes it not ideal for remote work, but I still enjoyed my stay. It is more suited for visiting Charleston to sightsee, perfect for solo travelers. I would be open to trying their second location to see if it differs in ambiance and remote work capabilities.
How to get around Charleston traveling solo
Charleston offers a few ways for travelers to navigate its streets. In warmer months, solo travelers choose to sightsee via bike. Car rentals are also available if you prefer to drive. And of course, you can opt to walk, though if you stay further away from King Street, it may be a long walk.
During my solo trip to Charleston, I opted for the free shuttle. The green 211 bus was the shuttle you could use to get around downtown. I used this to go to the Pineapple Fountain, go grocery shopping, and visit other tourist attractions.
Use the Google Maps app to find when and where you can catch the shuttle. You can also grab a schedule from the Charleston Visitors Center. They are also an excellent resource to learn the ins and outs of Charleston.
Where to eat in Charleston
Callie’s Hot Little Little Biscuit
I usually don’t like to highlight chains, but this one is worth the hype! I ate here three times y’all. My favorite was the goat cheese biscuit with arugula and peach jam (add a fried egg).
There are two locations on King Street and one at the Charleston City Market. I prefer the one with more options, but I enjoyed the biscuits. I’m a bit obsessed.
Hannibal’s is a tasty Black-owned restaurant for soul good/Gullah Geechee cuisine. It’s not too far from the downtown area. The food can take a while to be prepared (they put that much thought and quality into it). However, you will not be disappointed by the flavors.
Malagón, Mercado y Tapería
Malagón is a Spanish tapas bar located off King Street. You will need a reservation if you want to sit. But they do have standing seating similar to that in Spain. As someone who used to live there, Malagón has the perfect ambiance and reminded me of Spanish life.
Santi’s Mexican Restaurant
Santi’s was my choice for taco Tuesday and $4 margaritas! I caught an Uber from NotSo to the location outside the main downtown area. Just note that if you’re a vegetarian or vegan solo traveler, they don’t have many options for you.
Bon Banh Mi Southeast Asian Kitchen
If you are looking for a sandwich shop, this would be my choice! Their tofu banh mi fills and keeps you full and satisfied until dinner. I ate this multiple times during my two weeks working and traveling solo in Charleston.
Visiting Clerk’s was a surprise during my trip. I walked here after taking some solo photos on Rainbow Row. When I saw the crispy grits on the menu, I got them. I didn’t even know crispy grits were a concept! They did not disappoint and were a tasty snack. Clerk’s also offers regular coffee shop delights and drinks too.
Xiao Bao Biscuit
Xiao Bao is a gas station converted into a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. There is also a bar with cute cocktails. Per the recommendation of my waitress, I ordered the Japanese cabbage pancake. I’ve never had anything like it, and the pancake was bursting with flavor. As someone who eats a lot of Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese food, I enjoyed eating another type of Asian cuisine!
What to do on your solo trip to Charleston
These tours are a great way to learn about the Gullah people and Black history in Charleston. There are a few to choose from at the Charleston Visitors Center. The one I recommend is with Alphonso because he is from the area and is Gullah himself. You can find his website here!
I learned a lot about Gullah culture and history in Charleston. Alphonso also explained how Charleston’s history of slavery plays out in architecture. There are many nuances I did not realize, and he did an excellent job of breaking it all down. I hope to come back and visit more of the Lowcountry.
Probably one of the most iconic photo spots in Charleston is Rainbow Row. It’s a colorful strip of houses downtown to walk by and take photos. I would get there early to have it all to yourself! I took my pictures around 8 am. So bring your tripod, snap some shots, and create solo travel memories.
Shopping on King’s Street
For all my solo travelers who love to shop, King’s Street is the place you want to visit. There are tons of stores to choose from, including chains such as Free People and H&M and boutiques. King Street also comes in handy if you forget to pack a clothing item and need to buy something quickly.
Historic Charleston City Market
A solo trip to Charleston is not complete without visiting the Charleston City Market. Get there early in the afternoon to see all the vendors in action. The market is a mix of food and stores, though some are not local shops. So if supporting local business is significant for you, double-check with the owners and products.
Gallery Chuma Inc.
Located in the Charleston City Market, Gallery Chuma caught my eye. The pieces are stunning and depict the vibrancy of Charleston and Black people so well. If you stop nowhere else in the city market on your Charleston solo trip, stop here. You will be in awe!
Most tourists come here to snap a photo. However, I think it’s a relaxing spot to chill by the water. There are benches around the foundation and along the water itself. I came here after work to catch my breath and take in some sun. It’s a calm activity to add to your list of things to do alone in Charleston.
Meander on Broad Street
Similar to King Street, Broad Street is another famous street in Charleston. Solo travelers in Charleston can hop from store to store. Or, if you want some fresh air, Broad Street is ideal for an afternoon stroll. I walked around here on a Saturday and saw people riding bikes, a few walking tours, and lots of food.
Safety as a Black solo female traveler in Charleston
Walking around Charleston
I felt safe walking around Charleston! The downtown area is walkable and straightforward (for someone like me who does not have a physical disability). However, some places are out of reach by foot. So I would suggest having at least one other form of transportation to sightsee.
Racism while in Charleston
Though I argue Midwest racism is just as bad as southern racism, it wasn’t lost on me where I was headed. However, I did have an incident where a woman clutched her purse when she saw me. I was disappointed, but it didn’t ruin my mood or trip.
I always say you don’t let racism disrupt your trip for Black solo travelers! It sucks when it happens and all the feelings and emotions associated with that experience. But try to focus on the good if you can. We can’t help how others perceive us. Travel anyway!
Working out outside as a solo traveler
Since I was solo traveling and working remotely, I had a little routine. However, if you work out on vacation, I think running is the perfect option on a solo trip to Charleston. People naturally stared, but I was not catcalled and did not feel unsafe running.
Running down and around King Street also helped me get acquainted with my surroundings. You realize how small the downtown area is too. It is also beautiful to see the Charleston run come up if you run in the morning.
Things to do alone in Charleston? You won’t be disappointed.
My solo trip to Charleston was a very calming start to my tour around the U.S. If you are a solo traveler looking to escape to a U.S city, I think there is just enough in Charleston to keep you occupied and relaxed. You can have full, activity-filled days and lazy days too.
Additionally, there are many things you can do alone in Charleston to create an itinerary based on what you like. Between food and tours, chances are you will find something to occupy your time. And when in doubt, check Airbnb experiences for ideas. I hope you enjoy your Charleston solo trip!
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