A local’s guide to Charleston, South Carolina: 10 top tips

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With direct flights launching from London to one of America’s most charming cities, here are the places to delve into its history and Southern cuisine

Walking tour

A walking tour is a great way to explore the city at a leisurely pace and discover its impressive architecture, hidden alleys and other secrets. Charleston Strolls’ tours take you through the historic district and to homes, gardens and churches which are off the beaten track. Horse and carriage tours and bus tours are also available.

Slavery museum

More enslaved Africans were sold in Charleston than in any other place in the US, so it makes sense that we have a museum dedicated to this very dark part of our history. The Old Slave Mart Museum is the first African-American Museum, complete with moving displays describing the lives of slaves. Many of the staff can trace their history back to Charleston slaves. The museum is on a cobblestone street in an original slave-auction house. Charleston is also building the International African American Museum, due to open in 2020 or early 2021.

Gardens and swamps

As a kid I loved all the rivers, creeks, waterways and beaches of Charleston – a city with nature at its heart. Gardens are considered an art form here and it’s incredibly beautiful in spring, when everything’s in bloom. The Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, about 20 miles from downtown, is spectacular. Founded in 1676, it opened to visitors in 1870 and is the oldest public gardens in America. You can tour the gardens – in bloom all year – and see everything from camellias to azaleas. There’s also a plantation house, which gives a glimpse into 19th-century life. A tram ride will take you through wetlands, forest and marshes, where you can spot alligators, egrets, herons and turtles. Audubon Swamp Garden, with trees growing from the water, is particularly abundant in wildlife. Explore this on foot, on boardwalks and crossing bridges, to be truly immersed in nature.

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