The Holy City, Charleston, is so named for the skyline of steeples seen by ships' passengers as they enter Charleston Harbor. The view was there before the American Revolution, and you'll see the same today if you arrive by sea. Charleston has endured much over the centuries, but the city also has thrived and prospered. Pirates, wars, disease, hurricanes, earthquakes and, most frequently, fires have left their mark on the city and the region known as the Lowcountry, as have the unique individuals and personalities that have shaped the centuries there -- and left us the Charleston we know today.
Today's Charleston is a treasure trove, a unique blend of architecture and history, art and culture. Visit the Old Exchange Building to see the history of the city and that of the port. Look at Rainbow Row to see how individual buildings have become part of a city landmark. Turn down any corner, and discover quiet alleys and cobbled streets where the past is always present. The air can be thick with scent -- tea olive, jessamine, magnolia; camellias and azaleas burst forth with color, each in their season. It's hard to get lost -- sooner or later, you'll end up at either the Ashley or Cooper River. They meet here at Charleston Harbor. Walk the Battery, with planters' mansions behind you, and gaze across the harbor at Fort Sumter, where the tragedy of the Civil War began. Stroll the neighborhoods and begin to understand why Charlestonians are proud of what has been preserved and maintained.
Bring your camera, your appetite and a shopping bag. The city is overwhelmingly picturesque, and you'll find yourself stopping over and over for that perfect photo, that intriguing view. Take your time, and don't try to do everything; you'll be coming back.
--written by Glenn Tucker; updated by Ashley Kosciolek and Sarah Schlichter