I had no idea that I would fall in love with Charleston, South Carolina, after a short weekend visit. The friendly people, fantastic food and picturesque streets made for a perfect getaway. My 3-day visit allowed me to soak up the southern hospitality and charm of the city without missing out on major sites. Planning a trip soon? Here are some tips that may help.

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1. Spoil yourself with an amazing hotel

Image: The Spectator Hotel

I found that hotels located in the central tourist area were generally pricey, especially during summer months. However, it's well worth it to splurge on one of the top-rated ones if possible. I stayed at The Spectator Hotel, a boutique hotel with lovely touches like a 1920s-inspired bar, a spectacular in-room complimentary breakfast and butler service. It was a short walk to the waterfront and many of the city's popular restaurants.

2. Indulge in the food

Image: Zero Cafe

Charleston is not the place to count calories! Portions are big, dishes are bursting with flavor and you won't want to miss out on any of it! I found Yelp to be a pretty good guide in terms of finding the best restaurants. There are many seafood options, and shrimp and grits can be found on about any menu. For a special and intimate dining experience, I recommend Zero Cafe, which has an open kitchen and garden seating. Looking for something more low-key? Pearlz Oyster Bar had great food and a nice, casual atmosphere. Other favorites were Husk, Magnolias and SNOB.

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3. Take advantage of the bike-friendly streets

Image: The Spectator Hotel

The Spectator had complimentary bikes for guests, which made it easy to explore the city. I was able to see the waterfront, Rainbow Row and the infamous Battery area in one nice loop around the city.

4. Catch up on the history

Image: Sciway

Charleston was once a major slave-trading hub, and the history is evident from some sites like the Old Slave Mart where slave auctions were once held.

5. Get in touch with the natural side of the city

Image: Coastal Expeditions

It takes less than 20 minutes to get to the beachy side of Charleston. In order to work off my many food indulgences, I took a 3-hour kayaking trip with Coastal Expeditions and was lucky enough to see a dolphin within the first 30 minutes. The tour guides were super knowledgeable, and I definitely recommend fitting this into a trip if possible.

6. Lose yourself down winding streets

Image: Golden Bear Realty

Last but not least, it's fun to just walk around the streets of Charleston. The architecture is stunning, and many of the neighborhoods are well-preserved historic communities.

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You can read more and see pictures at traveltoria.com