The best shopping in downtown Charleston, SC, is way behind experiencing other aspects of the Lowcountry to me.
Lowcountry dining and the best attractions and activities in Charleston and nearby distract.
But it’s important for some people.
And there are plenty of choices for Charleston shops throughout the area.
Despite not being a fan of shopping, I’ve been dragged to plenty of stores in my life. Several recent ostensibly social occasions turned into exploring the best shopping in downtown Charleston, SC. But as long as the stores are pretty cool, I don’t mind too much. And the visits don’t last forever.
What’s the Best Shopping Street in Charleston?
The first destination for shoppers is definitely going to be King Street in historic downtown Charleston. The stretch from Broad Street to Calhoun Street features many of the chain stores one would expect to find in a major shopping destination:
The Best Shopping in Charleston, SC, on King Street
But King Street (including Upper King) has plenty of boutique stores and unique local Charleston shops.
1. Two Cumberland
This shop used to be on Cumberland Street, but has since moved to a spot on the second floor on lower King Street. Two Cumberland is a great place to grab gifts for people from out of town, or hipsters in your life. It touts itself as the most unique retailer in Charleston, and it may be onto something. There’s even a men’s section with cool stuff like a carry-on mixed drink kit and a brand of soap called the Duke Cannon Big Ass Brick of Soap. You’ll also find the more ubiquitous items like the Moscow Mule mugs and Rewined candles.
I’m not huge on jewelry, but they’ve got an extensive collection of Bourbon and Boweties. An entire section of the store is devoted to women’s clothes shopping. That said, I haven’t had much reason to be there other than seeing if my friend that brought me was ready to leave.
2. Preservation Society of Charleston
For those looking for antique shopping in Charleston and are willing to spend a bit, lower King Street is where to go. Options down here include Charleston Battery Bench. My personal favorite is the Preservation Society of Charleston. Their shop at the corner of Queen and King Streets sells books about Charleston. You’ll also find historical maps and pieces salvaged from historic buildings around Charleston.
One of the coolest things I saw there was a table made of cypress wood. The wood had sunk into the Charleston harbor bottom back when cypress lumber was floated down the rivers to market in Charleston. Someone had pulled the wood up and cut a table out of it. The work left the green coloration of the bark and first inch of wood (cypress wood is too dense for water to get in) as well as the imperfections of the tree.
3. Julia Santen Gallery
Like most of the places on this list, I have not bought anything here. I just like looking at all the prints they have for sale. For some reason, most of the times I walk by the Julia Santen Gallery, they’re closed. But when they are open, flipping through prints and original poster art of this art gallery can be a pleasant way to pass the time.
4. The Shops at Belmond Charleston Place
I do not shop here. To be honest, I just use their bathroom a lot.
It’s the fanciest public bathroom on King Street. It matches all the upscale stores and restaurants hosted in Belmond Charleston Place. The marble floors and luxury stores like:
All match a trend-setter for the best fine dining in downtown Charleston, the Charleston Grill. Tack on one of the most expensive boutique hotels in Charleston, SC, the Belmond. Combined, you will understand why I refer to this as the rich people mall, dear reader.
5. Images of Charleston
This narrow little store is easy to miss, unless you walk close enough to see a few of the pictures on display. All pictures sold at Images of Charleston were taken either by Jen Bennett or her father, Don Bennett. Images are then put on sheets of High Definition metal. Their pictures have intense colors to them and feature images unique to Charleston or unique to their style. This place has been a great source of gifts people actually want to receive.
6. Urban Outfitters and Earthbound
Yes, these are both chains. But Earthbound is fun to poke around and peruse mass-produced coolness. Same thing for Urban Outfitters. Plus the building they’re in is a former theatre and has many of the features held over from that period. They also keep that place like an icebox in the summer, which is a huge bonus on a hot day walking down King Street.
7. Blue Bicycle Books
This is my favorite of the many used bookstores in Charleston. It is one of my personal favorite stores in Charleston anyway. But I’m a big dork about books, especially the non-technical variety.
No list of hipster shopping destinations would be complete without a bike shop. And Affordabike certainly holds the title on King Street of being the one-stop shop for bike needs. You can also rent a bike here for the day.
Downtown Shopping Other Than King Street: Market Street
Market Street, centered on the Charleston City Market, is one big tourist trap. Poke around the Old City Market and buy a sweetgrass basket or two. There are better places to spend your money in Charleston than the chain stores that line Market Street, in my opinion. Do stop in for free praline samples at the sweets shops there, though.
Malls and Outlet Shopping in Charleston
Malls are kind of lacking in the Charleston area. The Citadel Mall in West Ashley is the only real mall in the city of Charleston, but it’s kind of creepy. A lot of storefronts are empty.
As a worker at Sesame joked, they call their restaurant there Sesame West Ashley, because no one would go if it was called Sesame Citadel Mall. They’ve got a Target and a Belk, though, aside from the Sesame Burgers restaurant.
A higher end option for a mall near Charleston is the Mount Pleasant Town Center on Highway 17 in Mount Pleasant.
The Tanger Outlets in North Charleston is pretty great, though. I’m pretty cheap, so when I have to go clothes shopping, I head here (or Kohl’s in West Ashley).
Alright, I’m Done Shopping. Now What?
Don’t forget there are tons of other activities in Charleston. Once you’ve finished shopping, you can check out any of the amazing casual dining or seafood options. Or you could scope out some more historic attractions near King Street like the Nathaniel Russell House or the South Carolina Aquarium. Or finish the day on one of the beautiful beaches near Charleston, South Carolina.
The choice is yours.