Five Favorite Walking Tours of Downtown Charleston

Strike out in any direction and you’re surrounded by Charleston’s rich history and stunning architecture. Here, our in-house historian, Neal Cook, shares four easy, self-guided walking tours spanning a half-mile to 1.25 miles north, south, east and west of the Elliott House Inn. His fifth tour may well be his favorite, however, because it’s the one he curates exclusively for you.

at a glance

  • Distinct architecture
  • Charming gardens & squares
  • Excellent shopping
  • World-renowned restaurants
  • White sand beaches
  • Centuries-old streets & homes

EXCHANGE AND PROVOST

EXCHANGE AND PROVOST

122 East Bay Street

The Exchange and Provost Dungeon was the last building in the American Colonies that was built with British money. During the Revolutionary War, the Provost Dungeon was used as a prison for patriots.

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BEDONS ALLEY

BEDONS ALLEY

10 St. Michael's Alley

Bedons Alley boasts many homes from the Victorian Architectural period of Charleston. Bedons Alley had several fires that consumed the alley throughout the mid-19th century.

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ST. MICHAEL'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH

ST. MICHAEL'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH

71 Broad Street

St. Michael’s is the oldest church structure in Charleston. Pew 43 is known as the famous pew in the church, because George Washington, Robert E Lee, and Princess Diana and Prince Charles sat there. Prior to George Washington being the first President under the Constitution, Henry Laurens and Henry Middleton were Presidents under the Articles of Confederation along with eleven others. Both Laurens and Middleton also attended church at St. Michael’s. John Rutledge and Charles Coatesworth Pinckney, signers of the United States Constitution, are buried here.

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SOUTH CAROLINA HISTORICAL ARCHIVES

SOUTH CAROLINA HISTORICAL ARCHIVES

100 Meeting Street

The South Carolina Historical Archives Building was the first fireproof building in the United States. The building was designed by Robert Mills, architect of the Washington Monument.

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WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK

WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK

74 Broad Street

Washington Square Park was originally known as City Green Park. It was rededicated Washington Square Park in 1882 to commemorate George Washington’s 100th year anniversary of the Battle of Yorktown.

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OLD MARINE HOSPITAL

OLD MARINE HOSPITAL

20 Franklin Street

The Old Marine Hospital was used by the Jenkins Orphanage. The Jenkins Orphanage was an all African American orphanage that was one of the first to internationally promote Jazz.

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OLD CITY JAIL

OLD CITY JAIL

21 Magazine Street

The Old City Jail was used from 1802-1939. The most notorious criminals housed here where John and Lavina Fischer. The latter is said to have been America’s first female serial killer.

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ST. JOHN LUTHERAN CHURCH

ST. JOHN LUTHERAN CHURCH

8 Archdale Street

St. John Lutheran Church is the oldest Lutheran Church in South Carolina. One of America’s first African American ordained ministers was ordained by the Rev. John Bachman, minister of the St. John’s Lutheran Church. Bachman was a world-renowned minister and naturalist.

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UNITARIAN CHURCH

UNITARIAN CHURCH

4 Archdale Street

The Unitarian Church is the oldest of its denomination in the South. A group of dissenters founded this church in 1772. Both the Patriot Army and the British Army used the church for shelter during the American Revolution.

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CHARLESTON LIBRARY SOCIETY

CHARLESTON LIBRARY SOCIETY

164 King Street

From its inception over 260 years ago, the Charleston Library Society has been a cornerstone of intellectual and cultural life in Charleston. Founded in 1748,  the library is the third oldest subscription library in the United States. Today it is a center for scholarly research and a modern lending library in the heart of downtown Charleston.

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PHILADELPHIA ALLEY

PHILADELPHIA ALLEY

Cumberland Street

Philadelphia Alley was constructed in 1766 from bricks given to the city by Philadelphia after one of Charleston’s major fires. Also, it was a place where people would duel to settle their disputes.

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PIRATE'S COURTYARD

PIRATE'S COURTYARD

141 Church Street

Pirate’s Courtyard is the supposed location of the old Pirates Tavern. Pirates were spread throughout the Carolina coast from the late 17th century until the 18th century. The most famous pirate with a connection to Charleston was “Blackbeard.”

*This hidden courtyard is closer to the Queen Street side of the St. Philip’s Cemetery.

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ST. PHILIP'S CHURCH

ST. PHILIP'S CHURCH

142 Church Street

The Mother Church of The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, St. Philip’s is the oldest church congregation in historic Charleston. John C. Calhoun, Vice President of the United States, and Edward Rutledge, youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence, are buried there.

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DOCK STREET THEATRE

DOCK STREET THEATRE

135 Church Street

The Dock Street Theatre was the first theatre set up in the United States solely for theatrical performances. In the early 19th century it was a hotel named the Planter’s, famous for Planter’s Punch.

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PINEAPPLE GATE HOUSE

PINEAPPLE GATE HOUSE

14 Legare Street

The Pineapple Gate House was constructed in 1800 and was added as a National Historic Landmark in 1973. It is famous for the large Pineapple Gates that symbolize ”Southern Hospitality.”

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SWORDS GATE HOUSE

SWORDS GATE HOUSE

32 Legare Street

The Swords Gate House is famous for the Swords woven throughout the ironwork of the gate. The gates were manufactured by Christopher Werner who also forged the swords in the gates at the Citadel. The Swords Gate House was at one time used as a school for female education.

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ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST CATHOLIC CHURCH

ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST CATHOLIC CHURCH

120 Broad Street

The first church on this site was The Cathedral of St. John and St. Finbair. The first church was destroyed by Charleston’s great fire of 1861. The present structure was opened in 1907. Catholicism found its first home in both the Carolinas and in Georgia at St. Mary’s on Hassell Street.

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ZIG ZAG ALLEY

ZIG ZAG ALLEY

0 Water Street

Zig Zag Alley was known for its meandering course and narrow passage. It was at one point called Lightwood Alley, but the name was changed back to Zig Zag Alley in the 1970s.

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Curate your Charleston Experience

Allow Neal Cook, our in-house guru of history, to customize a tour exclusively for you. Cook’s passion for history is rooted in his kin, some of whom still live on farmland owned by his family since the 1700s. Tales about his relative, Congressman Simeon Corley, first sparked his curiosity and fueled his inspiration.  A South Carolina “scalawag” who supported reunification after Civil War, Corley was one for the few newspaper writers in the South who openly opposed the secessionist movement. He did not fear persecution, he only sought to move South Carolina in a new, more thoughtful and progressive direction.

Cook graduated with his Master's of Science in Travel & Tourism management from Clemson University. He and his wife Amanda live in Charleston and are proud parents of their son, Beauregard Thomas Cook.


It would be my pleasure to give you my perspective of Charleston’s unique and diverse past. The stories that have been shared by my family for countless generations are truly what inspire me. Charleston is the greatest place in the world, and I am fortunate to be able to share so much of its’ great and glorious past with you. --Neal Cook