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Useful information for excursions in Charleston
Below you will find information about the most beautiful sights, a map of the cruise port and many useful tips and information for your shore excursions in Charleston.
The most beautiful sights in Charleston
Charleston is the second-largest city in the state of South Carolina and is located directly on the Atlantic coast. Because of its typical southern charm, it is often called “Southern Belle”. In the American language, this means a young and cultivated, but at the same time also temperamental and open Southern beauty.
The city was founded in 1670 by the then English king and was known in the past mainly as a successful trading and port city and by the flourishing slave trade. Charleston was also one of the five largest cities in North America at the end of the 17th century. After the American Civil War began on April 12, 1861 with the bombardment of the Fort Sumter in Charleston, the city lost much of its importance and was only able to regain it as a seaport after the Second World War. Today, Charleston and the surrounding countryside are particularly known as the backdrop for the famous films “Gone with the Wind”, “North and South” and “The Notebook”.
With a colourful mix of art, culture, history, a beach and culinary specialities, the historic port of Charleston has something for everyone. It captivates with its unique charm, its architectural charm and its historical sights. Discover this charming city in the south of America first-hand during your cruise. You can explore the historic streets on foot or in a horse-drawn carriage.
Architecture Jewel Charleston
The history of Charleston dates back to the 17th century. In 1886, however, the city was almost completely destroyed by a severe earthquake. Since the citizens at this time also had to suffer at the same time from the consequences of the civil war, many citizens repaired their houses instead of building new ones. A large part of the houses built at that time in the Greek Revival style of the Antebellum architecture have remained well preserved and still shape the cityscape today. Since the houses make up a large part of today’s charm and the historic buildings make the city one of the most elegant cities in America, the poor economic situation of Charleston at that time is considered a great blessing today. Today, Charleston is an architectural open-air museum with picture-book architecture. The cobblestone streets with the picturesque houses and churches that can be found everywhere in Charleston not only tell the history of the city but are also an ideal photo motif.
Nearby, along East Bay Street along the harbour area, there is a whole row of colourful, well-kept and narrow houses known as “Rainbow Row”. While the houses used to be known as a shopping mile, the 13 houses are now one of Charleston’s most famous landmarks.
Charleston is located in the so-called “Bible Belt” of America, a region that extends mainly across the southern states and in which religion, especially Evangelical Protestantism, is an integral part of culture. Although Charleston is a rather small city with about 130,000 inhabitants, there are about 50 churches there. These can already be seen when entering the harbour with your cruise ship. A particularly good view of the churches can be seen from the Ashley Bridge. Due to the high number of churches, Charleston is also called “Holy City”.
Back in Time: Slavery and Piracy
In the past, Charleston was particularly known for the slave trade. Even today you can visit the former place of slave auctions, the so-called “Old Slave Mart”. You can also visit the historic house of Denmark Wesey, a former slave. Denmark had won the lottery during his time as a slave and then bought the house. A little later, however, he became reckless and planned a rebellion against slavery. Therefore, he is often regarded as one of the triggers of the American Civil War.
Also the “Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon”, the former prison of the city is now a museum. Here, mainly lawless people and pirates sat. During a guided tour you will learn more about the history of individual people, visit the prison cells, corridors and also places where former prisoners died.
The “City Market” is a historical market complex in the city centre, which was founded in the 1790s. Over four blocks of houses, in the various halls of historic buildings, there are numerous market stalls with local products, such as beautiful hand-woven sweet grass baskets, soaps, oils, jewellery, toys, clothes and many small espresso bars and food options.
A stroll along “The Battery”, as the waterfront of the historic district on the Cooper River is called, offers stunning views of Charleston Harbour. Pirates were once tied to the gallows here. Today, the complex offers a stunning view of the harbour and distant Fort Sumter. In today’s park you will find a small exhibition of old war relics such as cannons from the civil war period and a monument in honour of the fighters and defenders of Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter.
The Fort Sumter fortifications are located on an artificial island at the entrance to Charleston Bay. The fort gained its historical importance as the sad scene of the first military battles of the American Civil War between North and South, which began on 12 April 1861 at 4:30 A.M.. Today’s restored national memorial is under the care of the National Park Service. Fort Sumter can be visited by boat from Charleston.
Film Sets & Plantations
As you walk through the streets of Charleston, you feel like you’re part of the movie “Gone with the Wind”. But Charleston is also known as the backdrop for many well-known movies. Many street scenes from the movies “North and South” or “The Notebook” were shot in Charleston.
Furthermore, the former plantation “Boone Hall Plantation” is only about 20 minutes away from Charleston. Especially the impressive driveway of the estate over the oak avenue, covered with Spanish moss, you will certainly recognize from some films. The mighty Eichen-Allee had a great appearance in the film “Gone with the Wind” and has been world famous ever since. In the complex you can see the old cotton mill and the lodgings of the slaves. In 1935, a Georgian villa was built on the site where the original house once stood.
In addition to the large number of historic buildings, Charleston also has a beautiful beach, Myrtle Beach. Myrtle Beach is located in the northeast of the city and offers a wide range of attractions and activities for young and old. On the one hand, the beach promenade invites to an extensive walk and on the other hand, numerous museums, restaurants and cafes can be found along the way. During a ride on the SkyWheel you can enjoy a beautiful view of the city and the coast from above. In addition, there are several golf courses along the beach. The aquarium and the zipline are also worth a visit. Not far from the beach you will also find the Bookgreen Garden, which is a mixture of zoo and botanical garden with a variety of sculptures and is therefore also attractive for art lovers.
If you like seafood, you’ll definitely find it in Charleston. Shrimps are the national dish and can, therefore, be found in various variations in almost all restaurants. But Charleston also has a lot to offer in culinary terms, with plenty of fresh local ingredients, often prepared by award-winning chefs.
Map of the Cruise Port in Charleston
Charleston is situated on a peninsula, bordered by the Ashley River and the Cooper River. At the mouth of the two rivers, lies the natural harbour of Charleston. When you enter the estuary on your cruise ship, you won’t see American skyscrapers or an impressive skyline. Instead, you can see numerous historic church towers from afar. You will also pass the first historical sight of the city, the historic Fort Sumter, whose bombardment triggered the American Civil War on 12 April 1861.
The cruise port is located at the Union Pier Terminal, in the heart of the city’s historic district. Due to its central location, the city centre is only a few minutes’ walk away. In addition, there are regular music events at the pier throughout the year, so with a little luck, you can start your shore leave with musical accompaniment.
Useful Facts for Shore Excursions in Charleston
Shipping companies and routes
Cruises to or from Charleston (South Carolina) are generally offered by the following shipping companies: AIDA Cruises, TUI Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and Princess Cruises. Popular routes start either in Charleston itself and lead from there to the Caribbean or start in New York and lead to the Dominican Republic or Jamaica.
The German shipping companies are usually only in the period October and November in Charleston. The international shipping companies usually stay a little longer from November to April.
Entry and Visa
To enter the USA, UK citizens need a valid passport and a valid electronic entry permit (ESTA). The ESTA is applied for online before departure and costs approximately GBP£11. If you only have a temporary passport, you will need a visa.
If Charleston is the first American port during your cruise and you arrive by sea, you will have to go through the so-called “Facecheck”. This is a security check by the US border authorities that takes place before you are allowed to enter the mainland. The procedure, procedure and duration may vary depending on the shipping company.
For more detailed information, we recommend that you inform yourself in good time before your trip about all valid entry regulations directly from your cruise shipping company and the Federal Foreign Office.
The national currency in the USA is the US dollar (USD). In the USA, credit cards are very common and are accepted almost everywhere as a means of payment. You can also use your credit card to easily withdraw cash at an ATM or exchange money for a fee at a bureau de change. Alternatively, you can change money before you travel.
Taxi and public transport
If you have not booked a transfer or shore excursion, you can also explore Charleston on foot. Thanks to its central location, you can reach the city centre in just a few minutes. Taxis are also available at the pier to take you to the city.
Alternatively, you can use the city’s extensive bus network to explore Charleston on your own. A regular bus trip costs between £1.6 – £2.8 per trip and can only be paid for in cash. Please note that bus drivers are often unable to give change. In addition to the bus lines with costs, you will also find the free DASH shuttle in the city centre of Charleston. This shuttle runs on 3 different routes, all of which pass by the visitor centre. With a few exceptions, the shuttles operate every 15 minutes. On the website of CARTA , the regional transport authority, you can find more detailed information on the routes and departure times of the DASH shuttles and regular bus lines.
Charleston generally has a subtropical climate, which means that there are pleasant temperatures all year round, but also a relatively high amount of precipitation. The best time to travel and the peak season for cruise ships is usually from October to April. During this time the temperatures are most pleasant, with January and February being the cooler months.
Port operator and tourism organisation website
Impressions from Charleston
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