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Wordtravels

Charleston Travel Guide

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Drayton Hall, Charleston © Charleston CVB

Charleston is one of the loveliest cities in the country, despite having weathered great fires, earthquakes, epidemics, civil war and a devastating hurricane. It is consistently classed among the most elegant and dignified cities nationwide. Situated on the peninsula at the confluence of the Cooper and Ashley Rivers, on South Carolina's Atlantic coast, the colonial port of Charleston is the oldest city in the state, filled with brick and cobblestone streets, and a large downtown district boasting hundreds of carefully preserved and restored buildings that house old-fashioned inns, antique shops and pubs. The streets are lined with tall, narrow houses festooned with wrought iron balconies and wooden shutters, ornate iron gates enclosing pretty gardens and shaded porches - the timeless features of Southern architecture. Many of its double-storey houses are authentically furnished museums that once belonged to wealthy colonial merchants, while many are still the beautiful private homes of wealthy residents.

The city started as an important seaport serving the rice and cotton plantations throughout the region, and it was a major slave-trading centre with a third of America's slaves being bought and sold at the riverfront market. The Gullah culture of the islands, populated by the ancestors of West African slaves, has a tangible presence here, especially at the Old City Market that vibrates with the humming of traditional spirituals, as basket ladies sell their hand-woven grass wares among the local vendors and iron makers, and the distinctive sound of the Gullah dialect fills the air.

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