My heart feels the warmth of southern hospitality, grace and sunshine as I write this and reminisce through a downtown Charleston photo tour.
Charleston, South Carolina, is on the eastern coast of the United States and has long been a favorite city of mine. Dan and I go there to escape fast paced days at home and to enjoy the leisurely streets of this popular, historic place. (We also have very good friends who live 30 minutes from Charleston, near the Angel Oak on Johns Island.)
One of my favorite things to do here is grab my camera and take some snaps around downtown Charleston. Here’s a mini photo tour of the most charming city in the south all within walking distance unless otherwise noted.
South Carolina’s Warm Downtown Charleston Welcome: The “Pineapple” Fountain
Did you know a pineapple symbolizes hospitality? They’re plentiful in Charleston, whether on store signs or car bumper stickers.
One of our favorite places to see one of the most well known pineapples in this charming city is at Waterfront Park. It’s also quite close to the port that cruise ships dock at when they arrive in Charleston, thus, it’s incredibly befitting it’s here to welcome passengers.
The pineapple fountain has been proudly standing at the park since its creation in 1990 and has been photographed by many tourists. Some may say it’s an icon of the city.
Playful Pedestrian Fountain at Waterfront Park
This downtown Charleston photo tour fountain is also at Waterfront Park.
It always seems to have more tourists around it even though they’re simply a five minute walk from the other one. One of the reasons is that it’s usually hot in Charleston and this fountain is easy for kids and adults, alike, to walk through to cool off. (Sometimes you get more wet than you planned, so proceed with caution!) It’s actually very popular for kids to splash around in it, finding relief from the heat.
This downtown Charleston fountain sits at the north entrance of the park and is an intersection of sorts for visitors coming off boat tours, or from busy Vendue Range street nearby, or walking south to explore the park more. I associate this fountain with a lot of energy and the sound of children’s laughter.
If you’re photographing it, remember that higher aperture numbers freeze movement and lover apertures allow movement so the water will be more “flowing.” The image below froze the water with a higher aperture.
Take Photos of Ravenal Bridge
The famous double-peaked Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge (or as people usually call it, simply “Ravenel Bridge”) is in downtown Charleston and is another downtown Charleston photo tour icon. It connects downtown Charleston with east Charleston, where Mt. Pleasant is.
This bridge, which spans the Cooper River, is 2.5 miles and it was completed in 2001. The view on the water from a Charleston Harbor boat tour is surely the prettiest vantage point to take stunning photos from (and maybe you’ll get lucky, like we did, and there will be a ton of sailboats out that day).
Another pretty vantage point is from the far south end of Waterfront Park.
Southern Live Oaks during your Downtown Charleston Photo Tour
One of the most visually stunning natural specimens of the southern United States is the southern live oak trees; when you see these trees you know you’re south of the Mason Dixon line.
Their trunks are very hardy and most age to be 300 to 400 years old! Their branches extend in squiggly and far-reaching ways. We love the canopy they create and the placement they’re often given in landscapes, lining walkways and streets.
Southern live oaks are also the trees that the famous ‘Spanish moss’ often hangs from, another iconic denotation of the south. White Point Garden, pictured below, is always a great stop for downtown Charleston photography. Be sure to relax on a park bench for a little while to take in the beautiful surroundings.
Walk “The Battery” during your Downtown Charleston Photo Tour
Historically, The Battery was a seawall used as defense. But today it’s a great place to walk and admire the mansions on the other side of the street opposite the waterfront. The southern antebellum mansions here are beautiful and photo-worthy.
It’s on our area bucket list take a downtown Charleston historic walking tour that specifically highlights the architecture and stories of these homes.
Downtown Charleston Carriage Delights
Don’t be surprised if you see many horse-drawn carriage tours as you walk around downtown Charleston.
I am sure to take a photo whenever they pass. Better yet, if you sign up for a Daytime Horse-Drawn Carriage Sightseeing Tour of Historic Charleston and you can be on the carriage. (If you’re not into the thought of a group tour, book a private horse-drawn carriage tour.) The carriages are a reminder of Charleston’s centuries-old history and always make me stop to think of the time when streets were not lined by cars.
I spotted this blue carriage on a downtown Charleston photography walk and couldn’t help but listen to the guide for a few minutes as he explained a bit of the history of the city. Charleston was founded in 1670, by the way!
Famous and Photo-Worthy “Rainbow Row” is a Must on a Downtown Charleston Photo Tour
The colorful facades of the row houses on East Bay Street earned the avenue the playful name: Rainbow Row. It’s a very historic street and row of houses in the United States, because it is the longest intact grouping of Georgian row houses. Any historic walking tour of downtown Charleston will stop here.
They’ve been around since the 1670s, but were restored in the 1930s and 1940s, when their pastel colors came to be. (It reminds us of some of the pretty colors of houses in Colmar, France.) The Preservation Society of Charleston helps ensure they remain in great shape and preserved as a piece of history.
I love all the flower boxes downtown that homeowners keep in tip-top shape for pedestrians, like us, who visit.
Who could resist snapping away to capture the beauty of it all? Pro tip if this is the spot you want to snap some Instagram or TikTok worthy photos to share with friends: the house facades will be in the shade later on in the day since they face east, which is great for photography, if that’s your style, especially if you don’t want to photograph Rainbow Row in a glare of sunlight. Shade definitely helps beat that southern heat and makes a stroll down East Bay more enjoyable.
Philadelphia Alley in Downtown Charleston is a Pedestrian’s Dream Photoshoot Location
A notable hidden alley, that is pedestrian-only, cuts connects Cumberland Street and Queen Street. It’s named Philadelphia Alley, and it’s quite beautiful and usually quiet. And usually shaded, which is truly a photographer’s dream, especially if you’re taking photos with people in them.
Some say it’s a haunted alleyway because of duels that often took place here. (This is how arguments were settled hundreds of years ago, much like how the duel with Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr went.) You may even stop here on a Haunted Tour of Downtown Charleston and you’ll definitely stop here on an Alleys and Hidden Passageways tour.
A Downtown Charleston Photo Tour Must Include its Stand-Alone Gorgeous Neighborhood Homes
If there’s anything there is not a shortage of in downtown Charleston for a photo tour, it’s awe-inspiring southern homes.
Because the downtown area of Charleston is incredibly walkable we love to get “lost” and meander through its residential neighborhoods. You’ll find all sorts of interesting homes covered in the most gorgeous greenery and blossoming flowers.
Southern homes in Charleston often have a false front door, like the one below. It leads to a fenced in patio, not the actual house (though there is a door to the home off the patio). This is to take advantage of how the breezes flow from the coast and find relief from the relatively warm temperatures year round.
We can always imagine sipping yummy iced tea or a Moscow Mule on one of these porches!
We also want to highlight the curb appeal of so many of the downtown Charleston neighborhood homes.
It was love at first site with the peachy pink house below. It instantly caught my eye as Dan and I wandered through a neighborhood. We have come across it on walks during several different visits to downtown Charleston, and each time I recall this photo and gush over the teal shutters against the coral stucco. The pig almost mocks us in the window, doesn’t he? He’s bragging he lives inside, not out.
The owners always keep their flower boxes full of vibrant greenery, beautifully spilling over the front of the containers. I could sit in front of the house for a long time, fantasizing about what kind of lovely people live beyond the windows. And that’s what is so appealing about Charleston as a whole – it’s a charming society with the aesthetics to support it.
Find Beauty in the Luxury of Downtown Charleston During your Photo Tour
Dan and I play a game of ‘I spy’ when we walk around downtown Charleston.
You may have already guessed it’s not exactly an inexpensive place to live! It’s a tad bit like an imaginary game of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous too. The cars of downtown Charleston residents sit in their driveways piquing my curiosity: What do all these people do for a living to afford such luxury? We still can’t tell you the answer!
But it sure is fun to happen upon beauties like the vintage car in the gated driveway below…and photograph them.
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