Travel

French Quarter

Establishment neighborhood
The Gibbes Museum of Art
135 Meeting St., French Quarter
With a 100 year history in the same building, the Gibbes Museum was more than due for a renovation. The building itself is the only Beaux Arts building in Charleston, and the renovation is really a celebration of its original layout: The two year makeover uncovered, cleaned up, and put on display original details like tile, original wood, and gorgeous stained glass. The renovation also neatly divided the building into distinct spaces—the first floor is open to the public, with a library, shop, and public programs; the second floor shows works from their collection (more than 10,000 strong); and the third floor offers contemporary artwork and visiting exhibitions. If you're there during the week, stop by on a Wednesday night, when you can hear lectures and watch film screenings on the ground level.
Tour Fort Sumter
360 Concord St., French Quarter
It’s difficult to imagine now, but when the first battle of the Civil War broke out, the people of Charleston ran to their rooftops to watch the show—at 4am, the cannon fire looked almost like a fireworks show. As then, the ruins of the fort (which is now a National Park) can only be accessed by water, so you’ll have to book a boat tour with Fort Sumter Tours or drive a private boat there to do any exploring. On the way, keep an eye out for dolphins, which can usually be seen swimming around the sailboats in the harbor.
Zero George
0 George St., French Quarter
Zero George Hotel (so-named for its address, which actually is 0 George Street) is made up of five restored historic homes that all face each other around a quaint, landscaped courtyard. Two of them are actually transplants that were moved here from another part of town—ask the concierge for the full story, which is fascinating and fittingly Charlestonian. The buildings have all the charm of old Charleston, but the rooms themselves feel modern, with a neutral color scheme, cozy beds, and big, bright bathrooms, plus verandas for looking out into the common space. The original 1804 carriage house plays host to the lobby and a recently renovated kitchen, where chefs host cooking classes and a wine-and-cheese happy hour that’s an excellent perk of any stay.
The Rooftop at the Vendue
19 Vendue Range St., French Quarter
Of all the rooftop bars in Charleston, Vendue probably has the best view. Like the others, it's part of a hotel, but the scene here is more casual. It's a large space, split into a few levels—walk up to the very top for an unobstructed, 360-degree view of Charleston, which is well worth the steps. In addition to patio seating, Vendue has a few nooks outfitted with wicker couches that are perfect for groups. They also serve lunch and dinner, and have live music every Sunday from 4 to 7pm.
The Gin Joint
182 E. Bay St., French Quarter
Despite the name, The Gin Joint doesn't really play favorites—the bartenders at this curved back corner bar serve up a range of clever cocktails, and the bartender's choice is never a bad idea (the menu encourages picking two words—i.e. spicy and unusual—to describe the flavor you're after). The bar food here is a bit more sophisticated than your average drink spot: pickled shrimp, clams and chorizo, ricotta-stuffed meatballs, pork buns with mustard green kimchi, and a smattering of cheeses and dessert plates.
Pavilion Bar
225 E. Bay St., French Quarter
For a small city, Charleston has a really solid collection of rooftop bars. This one sits at the top of Market Pavilion Hotel, and overlooks Market Street and historic Charleston with a view stretching to Cooper River. The pool here adds a slightly trendy vibe, and there's actually a pretty extensive food menu (apps, flatbreads, salads, sandwiches), making it a particularly nice spot for an afternoon drink (and bite, if you're hungry). It's also a great sunset place, and you could come here for cocktails before dinner at 5Church, which is conveniently located across the street.
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