There is truly no better way to explore the storied streets of Charleston, South Carolina, than by foot. A slow stroll through downtown’s historic neighborhoods affords you peeks into lush gated gardens, jaunts through narrow alleyways, and wafts of salty air (plus tea olive and jasmine, if you’re lucky!).
While we love a rambling stroll, there are a host of guided walking tours that we recommend, as well. Whether you’re looking to hit up the culinary highlights, hear little-known historical facts, peek into architectural gems, or be spooked by ghost stories, there are tons of tours to choose from. Read on for some of the best walking tours in Charleston (which, by the way, Conde Nast Traveler readers just voted the “Best Small City” in the world!).
HISTORY Walk & Talk Charleston. Tour guide Tyler Page Wright—aka the “Lid Lady” as she’s always donning a hat—is friendly, sharp, and filled with little-known factoids about Charleston (including centuries worth of gossip). Meet her at the Hat Man (one of the city’s most beloved murals—located at the corner of Church and Broad Streets); from there, you’ll stroll two miles through the historic French Quarter and South of Broad neighborhood. $25/ticket
Uptown Walking Tour by Bulldog Tours. Bulldog Tours is one of the best tour guide businesses in town. Not only are their tours excellent, the company invests a portion of their proceeds into preservation and restoration efforts throughout town (since 2001, they’ve raised more than $4 million for some of the city’s most culturally significant buildings). On this particular tour, you’ll start at the Visitor’s Center and stroll through Mazyckborough, Wraggborough, and Ansonborough, seeing Charleston’s oldest home, a replica of the HL Hunley Submarine, and the Mother Emanuel AME Church. $29/ticket for adults
Tours Above Calhoun Street by Charleston Cavalier Tours. Take your pick from a series of walking tours that dive deep into the city’s rich African-American history. You’ll hear stories of some of Charleston’s most impactful citizens, and see the places and spaces in which they lived, worked, and worshipped. You’re sure to leave inspired and informed: Tours include the “Civil, Educational, and Labor Rights” tour, the “Women’s History Tour,” and the “Contemplative Spiritual Tour,” among others. $25/ticket.
GHOSTS Pleasing Terrors Ghost Tour by Old Charleston Walking Tours. Ready for a fright? This walking ghost tour is led by Mike Brown, a local with more than 20 years of experience leading ghost tours and who has been featured on HGTV, South Carolina ETV, the BBC, and more. You’ll start the two-hour tour at Washington Square Park and meander your way through the French Quarter, hearing stories, seeing spots where ghosts frequent, and scoring tons of history and entertainment as you go. $22/online ticket for adults
Charleston Haunted Jail Tour by Bulldog Tours. Roam the halls where more than a century’s worth of pirates and criminals lived and died during this tour of Charleston’s Old City Jail. The tour—which has been featured on Ghost Hunters and The Travel Channel—tells some of the spookiest tales of the Holy City and offers a chance at seeing Lavinia, a ghost that legend has it still haunts the space to this day. $29/ticket for adults
FOOD & DRINK Charleston Culinary Tours. This nationally lauded biz offers too many top-notch walking tour options for us to choose just one. If we had to, we’d opt for the Upper King Street Culinary Tour, as it’s an area of town packed with both new and notable restaurants and established gems. For a focus on classic Lowcountry cuisine, try the Downtown Charleston Culinary Tour. You’ll learn about the neighborhoods as you taste sample after sample of delicious fare. By the end of the two and a half hours, you’ll be as full as you are enlightened. $65/ticket
Original Pub Tour of Charleston. The first of its kind, this European-style walking pub crawl will introduce you to some of the oldest and most storied watering holes in the Holy City. Sip on craft beer and cocktails as you nosh on apps and hear rolicking tales of some of historic Charleston’s most colorful characters. $35/ticket
Chow Down Charleston. For those who’d prefer a self-guided food tour but still want some direction, the Chow Down Charleston audio tour is a perfect fit. Pop in your earbuds to listen to a friendly narrator guide you to some of the best restaurants in town. As you stroll at your own pace, you’ll hear historic tidbits about the restaurants themselves and the streets and buildings that surround them.
HOMES House and Garden Tours. If you’re in the Lowcountry during October or early November, the Preservation Society of Charleston’s Fall House and Gardens Tours are a must. These walking tours afford you a peek inside some of the city’s most historic homes and gardens, talking you through the architectural and design styles of each while you browse the properties first-hand. Choose from “Morning History Walk and Talks,” “Photography Walkabout and Workshops,” “Curated Garden Tours,” and more. Prices vary.
Charleston Architecture Tour by Free Tours by Foot. Charleston’s well-preserved architecture—with styles ranging from from Georgian to Art Deco—is one of the reasons she’s so beloved. Get the architectural scoop behind some of the city’s most notable buildings, including the Dock Street Theater, St. Phillips Church, and the Four Corners of the Law, during this one-hour, mile-and-a-half-long tour. $3/ticket (or more, if desired)