travel guide

Tuscany Travel Guide

TUSCANY TRAVEL GUIDE

Last month I had the chance to spend some time in the beautiful region of Tuscany. After spending time in Florence with my family, I had a couple days on my own to kill before a yoga retreat I was attending in Cortona. Initially I planned on spending those days in Florence, as it seemed like the easiest solution. But the more I realized how close I was to Tuscany, I felt like it would be a missed opportunity not to go. So I set aside my fear of driving in Italy, rented a car + took a little Italian road trip. I'm so happy that I did. 

 

Tuscany is a pretty large region, and all of it is stunning. There is SO much to see and do that I can't even begin to fit it all into a singular guide (guess I'll just have to take some more trips back!) But even in the short time I spent here, there's so much to recommend to you I don't even know where to start! For starters, let's talk about the best time of year to go to Tuscany and what to pack for a trip to the Italian countryside:

 

pack

Fall was the perfect time to visit Tuscany. For one, it's when harvest season is (which is always a fun time to visit any wine region for the full experience). Aside from that though, the weather is ideal. While the climate is generally pretty mild, average temperatures in the fall are in the 60s (perfect sweater weather). Should you choose to visit then, here's what I'd recommend packing.

 

PONCHOS

Given the mild climate and crisp air, ponchos are the perfect uniform for Tuscany: cozy + layer-able, yet chic + pulled together.  Whether you opt for one that's a pullover (like here, here and here) or one that has an open front (like here, herehere and here) you'll be glad you packed this staple to wrap up in. 

 

WOOL HAT

I love the way a wool hat (here, here, here or here) looks paired with a poncho. There's just something about wearing a hat in general that makes me instantly feel more put together (which is convenient, because there' something about drinking copious amounts of wine makes me feel quite the opposite...) 

 

FLAT BOOTS

While Tuscany didn't involve much walking for me (I was mainly in the car or staying within the properties where I stayed) there's no need to pack your heels. Flat, comfortable boots are an ideal option (both comfortable and still polished). I'd bring at least one pair of ankle boots (also here, here and here) as well as some knee-high or over-the-knee boots (also here).

 

CASUAL STAPLES

Tuscany evokes a sense of comfort, so be sure to bring plenty of comfortable staples, including: boyfriend jeans (also here), cozy cardigans (also here), cashmere scarves (or similar here) and lifestyle trainers (also here).

 

 

HARD SHELL LUGGAGE

You're going to want to bring back wine (and lots of it). While you can ship back to the states, it would be a missed opportunity to not fit as much as you can back in your checked bag. To protect your precious Tuscan wine, make sure you have a hard shell suitcase! I brought my DVF luggage (similar here) but also love pieces like this, this or this

 

 

In terms of where you should go in Tuscany, there are more options than you can even begin to imagine. While I did venture out to some other areas like Montepulciano and Cortona (which were both wonderful and also definitely worth visiting) my favorite experiences that I would highly recommend prioritizing are Castello Banfi and Fonte de’ Medici

 

 

CASTELLO BANFI

castello banfi il borgo tuscany italy
castello banfi il borgo tuscany italy
castello banfi il borgo tuscany italy

Nestled in the Tuscan countryside not far from the quaint town of Montalcino, you'll find Castello Banfi, a historic fortress surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. The Banfi family is passionately dedicated to making prestigious Tuscan wines (they’re a large producer, so chances are you’ve heard of them before). First and foremost, you can visit their Enoteca/Wine bar, which recreates the atmosphere of a true Tuscan wine shop. Here, surrounded by the imposing views of the adjacent Castello di Poggio alle Mura, you can taste local sheep’s cheese and classic Tuscan prosciutto, all paired with their delicious estate wines (which range from San Angelo Pino Grigio to big wines like their Brunelli di Montalcino, BelnerO, SummuS ed ExcelsuS (all of which are available for purchase). 

 

But aside from simply tasting the wine, I’d highly recommend staying at Il Borgo, their on-site hotel. Each of the rooms + suites is distinctly designed and original, embellished + decorated by hand, with premium fabrics + exclusive accessories (the entire premises have been furnished + decorated by Federico Forquet, one of the most renowned architects in all of Italy. It was seriously the perfect place to escape to on my own. I sat in my idyllic room that overlooked vineyards, drank some wine and enjoyed the views while I did some writing until the sun went down. 

castello banfi il borgo

Once night fell, I walked over to La Sala dei Grappoli for an elegant Tuscan dinner (because dining solo is totally the time to go for a romantic candlelit meal in castle in Italy, right!?) I completely indulged in course after course of seasonal menu items, all paired with outstanding Banfi wines (and lots of bread, obviously). 

castello banfi il borgo tuscany italy

My time at Castello Banfi was one of the most unforgettable nights of my life and I can't recommend it enough if you're looking for a quintessential Tuscan experience. 

fonte de medici tuscany italy
fonte de medici tuscany italy

In the heart of the Chianti Classico region (just between Florence and Siena) is Fonte de’ Medici, which belongs to the Antinori Family--one of the most prestigious families in Italian wine-making. This stunning property dates back to 1400 and offers the beauty of the Chianti countryside, along with wealth of its food and wine. 

 

Immediately upon arrival, I went straight to the Antinori Nel Chianti Classico cellars for a tour and tasting (I loved the 2011 Badia A Passignano). The property was stunning, and it was so fun to see a Chianti Classico facility since it’s such a prominent type of wine. 

 

In case you were wondering, a Chianti Classico is predominantly made up of Sangiovese (although the exact percentage seems to be up for debate… I’ve heard it must be at least 75% and also 85%, but even David, the wine aficionado from Milan who attended our Friendsgiving over the weekend wasn’t sure!) Regardless of the exact percentage, they are premium Chanti wines that tend to be medium-bodied and are always labeled with an iconic black rooster seal. Why a black rooster you ask?

 

I’m told that according to legend, Florence and Siena long feuded over rights to the Chianti Classico region and decided to finally end it around 1200 with a competition. So the plan was to let horsemen depart from each city at the crow of their respective rooster. Wherever they met would determine the boundary line of how the region would be divided between the two. In Siena, they used a well-fed white rooster. In Florence however, they used a hungry black rooster. The reason? The morning of the race, the white Sienan rooster dutifully crowed at sunrise like he was supposed to, but the hungry black rooster in Florence begun to crow long before (thus giving them a significant head start and in turn, a larger portion of the region). 

 

fonte de medici tuscany italy
fonte de medici tuscany italy
fonte de medici tuscany italy

After drinking some delicious wine + learning tons about the history of the property, we headed back up to the hotel portion for dinner in the Trattoria (which offers incredible Tuscan cuisine and sweeping views). I loved chatting with my new friend Irene (the hotel manager) and learning more about the region and local culture while indulging in my delicious meal.

 

As if the food and wine, beautiful views and incredible hospitality wasn’t enough, they also offer activities you can participate in (cooking class, anyone?) Long story short, Fonte de’ Medici is a quintessential Tuscan oasis that will leave you relaxed, well-fed and immersed in the rich Italian culture. 

fonte de medici tuscany italy.
fonte de medici tuscany italy

Maybe it’s because I was alone and had space to be reflective, or maybe it's because I was in the countryside rather than the city-- but there was something about my time in Tuscany that impacted me more than any other place that I visited. I'm confident I'll look back years from now and hold great fondness for "that time I drove to the Italian countryside all by myself." 

I can’t recommend these properties (or Tuscany in general) enough. If you’re wanting a relaxing European holiday that includes incredible epicurean options and with dazzling views, Tuscany is everything you’re looking for and more. 

 

Anything else you want to know about Tuscany? Let me know in the comments!

TUSCANY TRAVEL GUIDE

Lake Como Travel Guide

lake como travel guide

Buongiorno from Italy! I can't believe I’m already a couple weeks into my 3 months in Europe- time has flown by. Today I’m catching up on work at a cafe in Milan before I swap out travel buddies and head to my next country, but I’ve spent the last 14 days roaming around northern Italy with my friend Tillie. Our first stop? Lake Como. 

I flew into Milan and the plan was to meet Tillie (we had different flights) at a health food store we found directly across from Milano Centrale station before hopping on our train to Como.  When I turned on my new international phone, it alerted me that I was roaming - so I spent my first hour in Europe on the phone with my provider to sort out the miscommunication and get put on the correct plan (glamorous, right?) Don’t get me wrong-I was never naive to the fact that spending three months in Europe was going to present me with some complications (I mean, just five days in I had already missed a train and had a wonky wheel on my suitcase). But I sure did hit the ground running with some stress upon arrival. So needless to say, I was extremely relieved to finally arrive- I truly can’t think of a better place to have kicked off my three month adventure (sure to come with many more speed bumps).

I’ve heard people talk about Lake Como for years now, and it’s always sounded magical. In case you’ve never heard much about it, let me paint the picture for you: take all the architecture and cuisine that you love about Italy, add the scenic mountain majesty of Switzerland that makes you drool (because it’s only a 10 minute drive across the ridge) and top it all off with the fact that George Clooney has a place there. 

It's only an hour train ride from Milan, so it's super easy to add to the front or back end of a trip if you're already flying out of that airport. But even if you don't have any vacation plans already in the works, just go ahead and add this dreamy destination to your list of places to visit. And once you start planning? Here are some things to do in Lake Como (and things to know in general) you simply can't miss. 

 

STAY

VILLA MATILDA

villa matilda lake como torno italy
villa matilda torno lake como italy
villa matilda lake como torno

First if you're wondering where to stay in Lake Como, I have you covered. There’s no question that my trip was as great as it was because of Tony and Shirley at Villa Matilda, in Torno. I write a lot of hotel reviews on here and try to provide the best recommendations that I can for when you book your travels. But I want to be sure that the volume of reviews that I’ve done doesn’t water down my sincerity when I say how much I advise you stay here. 

 

For starters, most accommodations in the area will either be “budget” lodges or will cost at least €600 a night. Villa Matilda is a perfect combination of the two, offering affordable rates (rooms start at just €200) but offer amenities even beyond luxury competitors (like a full functioning kitchen, terraces with views, a heated pool, secured gated protection, free parking, etc.) In addition to the price point, I adored the location (Torno). It’s pretty common for tourists to stay in larger or “more popular” towns like Como or Bellagio, but I wouldn’t have traded our experience in Torno for anything. I loved getting a more "local" experience and having a more peaceful ambiance, but still having everything we needed with equal convenience. 

 

But beyond the extremely competitive pricing and ideal location, what Tony and Shirley offer in hospitality is invaluable.  

villa matilda lake como torno italy

Tony picked us up from the ferry and helped us with all our luggage, provided us with dozens and dozens of fantastic recommendations for food, and because he and Shirley have lived there for so many years, they are a wealth of knowledge about the entire area. Additional bonus: they have another house in the states and are fluent in English. I can’t tell you what a luxury it was to have someone who knew the area so well that spoke the same language. But aside from how willing he and Shirley were to help point us in the right direction and enjoy our time in Torno, they were wonderful humans and so fun to get to know.

I’ll never forget the very first night of my three months abroad, we sat with Tony and Shirley and some other guests that were on holiday at the Villa's pool for an aperitif (Aperol Spritz of course). Our new friends from Cornwall talked to us all about what it’s been like in the UK since the “Brexit” decision. They picked our brains about the upcoming election in the states. We laughed and shared stories (while drinking more aperitifs and eating lots of prosciutto and cheese). It’s moments like that night that I hoped for when I decided to book this trip. I’m so thankful that I had not only such a beautiful place to stay, but such great company to spend our time with.

I could literally write an entire blog post just dedicated to Villa Matilda: our breathtaking view of the Lake that we would admire every morning while drinking coffee in the kitchen, our rooftop terrace where we drank Chianti and watched the sun go down, or the pool overlooking Lake Como where we relaxed multiple times during our stay. 

villa matilda lake como torno italy
villa matilda pool lake como torno italy

If you’re interested in taking a trip of your own (which I can’t recommend enough) and have any specific questions that I didn't address, visit www.villamatildatorno.com or go ahead and contact Tony to inquire about a booking (info@villamatildatorno.com). I promise you won't regret it.

VILLA MATILDA TORNO ITALY LAKE COMO

 

 

 

EAT

It's no secret that Italy is brimming with yummy food. So what are the best restaurants in Lake Como? Here are a few of my favorites: 

ORANGERIE RESTAURANT AT CASTADIVA

We spent our first full day on Lake Como visiting CastaDiva (a luxury resort about 10 minutes south of where we were staying in Torno) and it certainly set the bar high for the rest of our trip.  I’ll speak to the spa in the “Do” section, but you don’t want to miss eating outside on the terrace at Orangerie Restaurant.  

Their award-winning Chef Gennaro Esposito (boasting 2 Michelin stars) "knows how to fish the gastronomic treasures of the Lake Como area to build courses that satisfy the senses." Every course we experienced had a blend of ingredients to create a unique dish unlike anything I've ever tried. The wait staff was incredibly knowledgable and friendly, and made a point to explain every course in great detail. And the cherry on top of all the deliciousness was the incredible view. I could have easily sat on that terrace and drank rosé all day. So if you need a break from pasta, pasta, and more pasta and want to experience gourmet dining with sweeping views, be sure to pay them a visit. 

castadiva lake como l'orangerie
villa lario lake como restaurant
villa lario lake como restaurant

The weather in Lake Como was pretty much perfect, although we did have one rainy day. We opted to retreat to Villa Lario, a small luxury hotel about 20 minutes from Torno for lunch. We were greeted by Diego, the manager who welcomed us right away with a glass of prosecco and seated us in their restaurant- which offers modern Italian cuisine. All their pastas are homemade, the fish is caught fresh, and lots the vegetables are grown on the property. Everything was fantastic and had a twist on the traditional Italian dishes you're used to ordering. Not only are they great if you’re looking for a meal with incredible views and a luxurious setting, but their chef also leads Italian cooking classes every week. If I can learn to cook like that, I might never eat out again.

 

 

 

RISTORANTE HOSTERIETTA

ristorante hosterietta como
ristorante hosterietta lake como black truffle

I don't understand how any human couldn't love truffle. After raving about some delicious truffle honey Tony served us during happy hour at Villa Matilda, he told us we had to have dinner at  Ristorante Hosterietta (and because of it I will forever trust him at his word.) They specialize in truffle (but not the diluted truffle oil we're used to in the states- the actual Italian delicacy). The food was incredible, and the setting couldn't have been more idyllic. I highly, highly recommend it to anyone visiting Lake Como. And if there is a wait? No problem. Head around the corner to the roof of COIN Department Store for a spritz overlooking the Duomo (a fun little trick that Shirley from Villa Matilda taught us). 

coin rooftop como italy
HOTEL SUISSE RESTAURANT
hotel suisse restaurant bellagio

For our last night in Lake Como, Tony made a reservation for all of us to eat at Hotel Suisse Restaurant in Bellagio. Guido, Tony’s friend who owns the restaurant, greeted us with a warm welcome, and the entire staff took wonderful care of us throughout the evening. Guido is actually a local from Bellagio (which I found to be surprising in a town that's full of tourists). We sat on their beautiful rooftop patio overlooking the lake and watched the sun go down while we drank aperitifs (you guessed it- more Aperol spritz). Tony ordered a fantastic bottle of wine from Verona for us to have with our meal. All the food that was sent out was delicious and extremely high-quality. Paired with the beautiful atmosphere, it made for such a great evening. I definitely recommend eating here when you visit Bellagio (and I’d suggest making a reservation- it seemed to be a popular place!)

 

DO

SPA AT CASTADIVA RESORT

castadiva spa
castadiva spa lake como water

As previously mentioned, our first full day in Lake Como was spent visiting CastaDiva, and they did not disappoint. Along with our lunch at Orangerie, we spent some time relaxing in their spa, the largest one in the Lake Como area. Their unique treatment rooms mimic various elements: earth, air, fire and water. I got to see all of them (each design unique to it's respective name) and had a massage in the water room (complete with my own aquarium- swoon!) Regardless of what treatment you decide to partake in, you can relax in a variety of incredible areas like their salt bath, sauna, or relaxation room (which happens to be on glass floors on top of Lake Como so you can see the water below you). I recommend spending an afternoon there like we did, so you can relax and enjoy both the spa and restaurant while soaking up views of Lake Como.  

 

 

VARENNA TAXI BOAT + VILLA BALBIANELLO

varenna taxi boat

You'll quickly realize that getting around Lake Como is best by boat, however the water taxi's aren't always the easiest to navigate (see my pro tips below for an easy solve there). I knew while I was there that I wanted to do a smaller boat tour (not crammed on some giant ferry) that would show me some of the towns, and I'm so glad I found Varenna Taxi Boat. We did a small group tour (less than 8 people) that took place on a beautiful open air speed boat. We departed from Varenna but saw several surrounding towns by water (including Bellagio, Tremezzo and San Giovanni). But the highlight of the tour was stopping at Villa Balbianello- a stunning property where a number of movies have been shot (Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones, Casino Royale, and A Month by the Lake). Everything about the Villa and the grounds was absolutely breathtaking- arguably the most beautiful thing I saw during my time in the Lake Como area.

villa balbianello lake como

After spending about an hour exploring around the Villa, we got back on the boat for some more exploring on the water. Our tour guide Luca spoke great english, was extremely informative, and had some good jokes too. I loved seeing Lake Como this way, and would definitely recommend them to anyone visiting the area. 

 

As I'm putting these guides together while I'm in Europe, I wanted to include a dedicated section to provide some miscellaneous pieces of advice. Traveling abroad comes with more areas to navigate than traveling domestically, so hopefully you find these "bonus tips" to be beneficial. 

 

BONUS LAKE COMO PRO TIPS:

  • If you want to venture to other towns for meals, do so for lunch. Most water taxis stop running between 6:30 and 8 (and cabs are NOT cheap) so while you may be able to make it to dinner, you may get stuck with a pricy trip home. 
  • Download the Gestione Navigazione Laghi app for seamless water taxi schedules and transfer information to make getting around extremely easy. 

*Shoutout to Tony at Villa Matilda for teaching me both of these!

 

BONUS ITALY PRO TIPS: 

  • As in many parts of Europe, be sure to clarify if you want still or sparkling when you order water (and be prepared to pay either way- it's usually all bottled). Italians prefer the tasted of bottled mineral water over tap water (and just FYI- it contains a small amount of sodium for taste) so don't go jumping to conclusions that they're trying to rip you off when the bill comes. The tap water is safe to drink, so if you're like me and want to stay hydrated at low cost, carry your own bottle in your purse and fill it up at a fountain or from the sink as needed. You can always try asking for "acqua del rubinetto" aka tap water, but don't put up a stink if they don't cooperate. You're the one being difficult in this instance. 
  • Attempt conversational phrases as a common courtesy. Even if you just say "ciao" (it's hello AND goodbye, so you're just plain lazy if you don't) and "grazie" (thank you) it shows you respect their culture and you won't seem like an ignorant American who assumes everyone in the world speaks english. 

 

Long story short, Lake Como is pretty magical and someplace I loved visiting. There's really something for everyone, and I could have easily spent much more time there than I did. If you have questions I didn't address, feel free to ask me! (theblondeatlas@gmail.com). 

 

One final note: starting next week (needed a few weeks over here to get my bearings) I'm going to start posting twice a week on the blog. Tuesdays will be my dedicated travel posts with detailed guides about each destination I'm visiting while abroad. Later in the week (every Thursday or Friday) I'll be sharing more about my experiences while living abroad.

 

There's tons of stories and recommendations coming to life every day that I'm here, so I wanted to find a way to categorize everything so if one interests you more than the other, you'll know when to tune in. Anything specific you want to hear about? Let me know!

 

I have lots more to share, but I'm out of espresso so that's all for today. Thanks for stopping by! 

 

lake como travel guide
lake como italy

Charleston Travel Guide

CHARLESTON TRAVEL GUIDE

Nestled off the Atlantic Coast, you'll find Charleston, South Carolina. This idyllic destination has been named dozens of award-winning titles (including Travel + Leisure's Number 1 City in the World), and it's not hard to understand why. It's rich in history, home to some incredible restaurants, and picturesque as a postcard.

I've taken a couple of different trips with friends to "Chucktown" over the last couple of month- both unique from the other. The first trip was more of a local perspective, where we stayed with friends who live there and know the area well. I loved seeing some of the hidden gems and less touristy places that the city has to offer, and feeling like I went "behind the scenes" if you will. 

The most recent trip back was more of a traditional visit where we stayed at a hotel and spent most of our time in the "touristy" area of town. After just scratching the surface of the most popular part of Charleston last trip, it was fun to really dive in and cover a lot of territory I breezed through the first time. 

Both trips were wonderful and showed me unique aspects of Charleston.  l fell in love with so much about this city and could ramble on about everything we did for hours. So if you're planning a trip of your own, be sure to add these recommendations to your itinerary. 

 

STAY

THE RESTORATION

the restoration boutique hotel charleston king street
the restoration boutique hotel charleston sc king street
the restoration boutique hotel charleston sc king street
the restoration boutique hotel charleston sc

Conveniently located in the heart of Charleston on King Street, you'll find The Restoration. This chic + luxurious boutique hotel is relaxed + refined-- where high class meets low country.  It's comprised of five buildings, "all of which have been updated and modernized to bring Charleston's dynamic history to life and celebrate the New South."

I stayed here on my most recent trip, and was highly impressed by every detail of the property. Immediately upon arriving, we went straight to The Watch, their rooftop bar and restaurant, (which offers stunning views of the city) for a bottle of champagne and then relaxed at the pool (also a rooftop). I then swooned over the beautiful room (with serious bathroom goals) when we checked in, and was frequently found cozying up in the luxe bathrobes provided. But my favorite part? Complimentary breakfast delivered to your room every morning- just fill out the menu and leave it on your door. Anywhere I can indulge in croissants + country ham with my coffee to start the day is perfectly alright with me. 

If you want to be in the center of the action and enjoy the luxuries of a high quality boutique hotel, The Restoration is the place for you. 

 

 

EAT + DRINK

 

167 RAW

167 raw charleston

Charleston is notorious for great seafood. Also notorious for this cuisine? New England, of course. 167 Raw, originally established in Nantucket Island, now embraces the outstanding seafood culture of New England in a new setting: their Charleston location. They pride themselves in bringing the freshest most delicious seafood our oceans have to offer- and it truly is delicious. We stopped in for lunch and everyone loved what they ordered. The crowd favorites? Oysters and Fish Tacos. 

If it's a nice day, sit outside on the patio, order a cocktail, and you've got a recipe for perfection. 

 

HOMINY GRILL

hominy grill shrimp and grits

James Beard Award winning chef makes Low Country Shrimp + Grits. Need I say more? Chef/Owner Robert Stehling lets the Charleston's unique cultural history and flavors guide his cooking. And while I'm no grits aficionado, I could clearly taste the difference between these and any others I've tried. Everything on the menu was fantastic (even the jam on the table for the biscuits- which is an in-house recipe from an employee).  Don't miss it.

 

HUSK

husk charleston restaurant

I've dined at the Nashville Husk multiple times and have always been pleased with my experience. But our dinner at their flagship location in Charleston was easily my most impressive visit (it also happened to be my first time as a meat eater, so that probably helped!) 

Sean Brock (another James Beard Award-winning Chef) "reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area and explores ingredient-driven cuisine that redefines what it means to cook and eat in Charleston." Menu items will vary based on seasonal ingredients, but if possible, I recommend the Southern Fried Chicken Skins with Pimento Cheese Dressing or the Broadbent Country Ham + Buttermilk Biscuits to start. For the main course? The Carolina Heritage Pork with Field Pea "Sofrito" and House Made Pancetta is out of this world. We ordered lots of desserts and cocktails, and they were all fantastic too. 

In addition to the food, the building is stunning (dates back to the 19th century) and creates the perfect ambient atmosphere for a wonderful dining experience. 

 

 

INDACO

indaco charleston italian restaurant

Indaco is located on Upper King Street, and was easily the most pleasant surprise I discovered in Charleston. When I learned we were eating at an Italian place, I wasn't mad about it- but I also wasn't necessarily excited. But that quickly changed right when we walked in the door. The setting is beautiful, with an open kitchen and rustic details like butcherblock tables. The menu is brimming with delicious hand crafted pastas (I loved the Black Pepper Tagliatelle), housemade salumi and cured sausages, and wood-fired pizzas (try the sweet corn!) But my favorite dish was easily the Burrata (an appetizer). Don't leave without trying it. 

 

 

 

 

LEON'S OYSTER SHOP

leon's oyster shop charleston south carolina

In the spirit of continuing to experience Charleston's quality seafood, be sure to pencil Leon's Oyster Shop in your visit. But don't take my word for it- just take a gander at their ever-growing list of impressive awards: Eater's Best New Restaurant in America, Southern Living's Best Restaurant in the South, or James Beard Rising Star Chef Semifinalist. 

Start with oysters. Raw Oysters. Char-grilled oysters (with butter and parmesan... YAS). Fried Oysters Rockefeller. They're all fantastic. Bottom dwellers  not your thing? No big deal. Their hush puppies with honey butter will melt in your mouth, they're so good. 

We also freaked out over their fried chicken (de-lic-ious), Siam Salad and avocado toast. The atmosphere was also fun and festive, which made our overall experience one for the books. 

 

 

THE SPECTATOR HOTEL BAR

The Spectator Hotel Bar Charleston SC

After realizing a bar we wanted to try was on a ridiculous wait, we walked over to The Spectator Hotel bar- and I'm so glad we did (We didn't even end up going to the other bar when they paged us). For starters, the entire property is stunning (it was voted the #1 Hotel in the Continental US and #2 in the world by Travel + Leisure). The bar is "a delicious combination of the exuberance of the 1920s speakeasy and the ease of the Jazz Age." The in-house mixologist made fantastic drinks, and the ambience couldn't have been more on-point. 

 

DO

RENT BICYCLES

charleston bike rentals king street
charleston bike rentals

One of my favorite things we did in Charleston was rent bikes- and I'm definitely not the only one who will recommend this. On most days, you'll see almost as many cyclists as you will vehicles peddling around and exploring the city on two wheels. Cruise down King Street, explore Waterfront Park, and let yourself get lost. 

 

CHARLESTON FARMERS MARKET

farmersmarket-800x533.jpg

Every Saturday from April through November, 8am-2pm, you'll  find the local Farmer's Market happening at Marion Square. It's filled with amazing products from local Lowcountry farmers, growers, artisans, crafters, and community groups of all kinds. Head over for breakfast  from one of the vendors, enjoy the live entertainment, and browse an assortment of local goodies. 

 

RAINBOW ROW

CHARLESTON SOUTH CAROLINA TRAVEL GUIDE
charleston rainbow row

In the Historic District of Charleston, you can't miss Rainbow Row: a series of 13 colorful houses representing the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the US. The name was coined after the pastel colors that they were painted as they were restored in the 30s and 40s (and you're guaranteed to see tourists snapping pics in front of them). 

 

RIVEROAKS CHARLESTON

RIVEROAKS CHARLESTON
RIVEROAKS CHARLESTON
RIVEROAKS CHARLESTON VENUE

RiverOaks is different from any other type of recommendation I typically include: it's a wedding venue (nope- I'm definitely still single.) But I was extremely fortunate to stay there during my first trip, and it was an experience of a lifetime. It's actually the home of a friend of mine, and his parents use it as a wedding venue. Words won't come close to doing it justice, but just imagine the idyllic charm of a European home, chickens roaming freely (which means farm fresh eggs on the table) and Spanish moss hanging from the trees by the sparkling river. The setting was truly incredible, and it wasn't even set up for a wedding.

Bottom line: if you happen to get married in Charleston, you must get married there and you must invite me. 

 

I loved everything about my time in Charleston: taking the boat out on the water, indulging in Lowcountry cuisine, the Southern hospitality I encountered, and countless other memories I made with so many people I love. No matter the occasion for your visit, I'm confident you'll have an incredible trip. 

CHARLESTON SOUTH CAROLINA TRAVEL GUIDE
CHARLESTON SOUTH CAROLINA TRAVEL GUIDE
CHARLESTON TRAVEL GUIDE