King, Market Streets Highlight Charleston's Best Shopping Ventures

Photo courtesy of Clare Sweeney
Photo courtesy of Historic Charleston City Market
Photo courtesy of Clare Sweeney
By Clare Sweeney, Charleston Local Expert

Variety abounds in the number of local clothing, books, antiques, and food goods shops. Our recommendations favor those locally-owned shops such as Blue Bicycle Books, the Vault/Haute Hanger, and Las Olas–all thriving due to community support for small businesses, and of course, their unique stock of products.

Don't worry about budget; Charleston offers a unique mix of shops, from high-end designer stores like Gucci and Louis Vuitton at The Shops at Belmond Charleston Place to antique housewares and vintage furniture at Page's Thieves Market. There's plenty of shopping to be done for the little love ones in your life as well, with both modern and old-fashioned games and toys on display at the whimsical Magnifilous Toy Emporium on Upper King Street.

Outlet malls and shopping centers are located just a short drive away in North Charleston and over the Ravenel Bridge in Mount Pleasant, if that's what you're after. Shopping centers of the more open market variety are an integral part of the Charleston community, with the Charleston City Market and Charleston Farmers Market both within easy walking distance from anywhere downtown.

10. Magnifilous Toy Emporium
Photo courtesy of Magnifilous Toy Emporium

Visit the Magnifilous Toy Emporium on Upper King Street for Charleston's biggest and best collection of toys, tricks, and games for imaginations of all ages! Magnifilous Toy Emporium is your one-stop shop for children's books, games, and gifts, and makes for a playful pit stop on your way to or from the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry, located just a few blocks down King Street. Here at Magnifilous Toy Emporium, both kids and parents will find gifts of all varieties, including those nostalgic classic toys such as Jack in the Box, Lincoln Logs, and Pick Up Sticks. Whether you're shopping for a birthday, Christmas present, or just for fun, you'll find something "magnifilous" here.

9. Mount Pleasant Towne Centre

Located just under ten miles and a short drive away from Charleston, this open-air mall and shopping center offers an exceptional upscale shopping experience away from the crowds and busy tourist areas of downtown. Mount Pleasant's Towne Center features more than 65 national and local stores, such as Belk, Banana Republic, Old Navy and Barnes & Noble, as well as Victoria's Secret, Copper Penny and Copper Penny Shoez and Francesca's. If you need a shopping break while in Mount Pleasant, catch a movie at the 16-screen Regal Palmetto Grand Theater or grab a bite to eat at one of Towne Center's many restaurants.

8. Shops at Charleston Place
Photo courtesy of PhotosbyDavid

Located within the Charleston Place Hotel's East and West Wings, the Shops at Charleston Place connect a cool, grandly structured space between King and Meeting streets, intersecting with the famous and picturesque Charleston Place Hotel double marble staircase. With well known high end brands like Tommy Bahama, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Godiva Chocolate, this string of luxury shops are worth a visit, even if just to stroll through some air conditioning or to window shop. Eat at one of Charleston Place Hotel's four star restaurants like the more casual Palmetto Grill courtyard, or visit the Spa at Charleston Place, to relax post-shopping.

7. Page's Thieves Market
Photo courtesy of Page's Thieves Market

Located in Mount Pleasant just before you reach Sullivan's Island, Page's Thieves Market is one of Charleston's best for second-hand furniture, vintage relics, art, and antiques. Give yourself some time to spend here; there's more than enough inside (and on the porch) to keep you interested for quite a while. Prices are fair, and fall within a wide range from "fixer upper" furniture to elegant vintage pieces that cost a pretty penny. New stock comes in often, and pieces here sell quickly. If you love something at Page's, don't let it go! It might disappear quickly. Auction lovers, be sure to attend one of the Page's Thieves Market auctions, held every month or so on the premises (check social media pages for exact dates).

6. House of Sage

Conveniently located between King Street's shopping district and the College of Charleston campus, House of Sage is a must see during any fashionista's time in Charleston. With both men and women's styles, housewares, jewelry and accessories, House of Sage has it all! This funky boutique definitely channels a more edgy style than you'll find at other nearby boutiques, but keeps it real with laid back tees, a wide selection of denim, and graphic tees with screen print logos only a local or Charleston regular would understand. Prices are reasonable boutique level, with a generously-priced sale rack always stocked near the back of the store.

5. Las Olas
Photo courtesy of Las Olas

This swanky swimwear boutique brings the heat to Upper King year-round, selling everything you need for that upcoming vacation. Browse an impressive variety of both men's and women's bathing suits, along with dresses, shirts, shorts, watches, sandals, and sun glasses. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable about their products--on hand to assist with styling and sizing recommendations. The prices are steep; you'll be getting what you pay for in value when purchasing from one of the many designer swimwear lines Las Olas carries, such as LSpace, Mikoh, Boys and Arrows, and more. Guys, there's plenty for you at Las Olas, too! Shop swim trunks, durable flip flops, hats, and watches while your lady browses bikinis. Not a bad deal, right?

4. The Vault & Haute Hanger
Photo courtesy of The Vault

Conveniently located in the heart of King Street's busy shopping district, The Vault & Haute Hanger at 307 King Street offers an unseen combination of family vintage-style varsity sports wear on one side and fabulous women's boutique printed dresses, denim, tops and jewelry. The Vault carries vintage style sports apparel for the whole family, including shirts, jerseys, sweatshirts, hats, flip flops, and more with logos of your favorite MBA, MLB, NFL, NHL and collegiate teams. The Vault also carries College of Charleston, South Carolina, and Clemson gear, with all sports apparel available in season and year round. Many fixtures, props, and authentic vintage pennants, as well as dog leashes and collars are also for sale in your favorite teams and styles! Meanwhile, Haute Hanger is a local's hotspot for gameday wear, vibrantly colored tops and dresses for nights out on the town and trendy jewelry.

3. Blue Bicycle Books
Photo courtesy of Clare Sweeney

Charleston's only downtown used bookstore, Blue Bicycle Books on King Street specializes in "used, rare, and local" books. This store has a vintage, cozy feel inside, and has much more depth than apparent from the outside. Blue Bicycle Books carries over 50,000 volumes of new and used books, and has been voted the Charleston area's Best Book Store many times over. Blue Bicycle Books also hosts numerous in-store events and book signings, as well as a kid's summer writing camp called Write of Summer and Y'ALL Fest, a young adults book festival featuring the country's bestselling young adult lit authors! Visit their online store at www.Bluebicyclebooks.com for signed books and Charleston themed takeaways.

2. Charleston City Market
Photo courtesy of Historic Charleston City Market

The Historic Charleston City Market is perhaps the most visited shopping destination in all of downtown Charleston. Always no less than bustling with shoppers and sightseers, the City Market is open 365 days a year, and showcases local Charleston vendors, their unique wares and crafts as well as casual and fine dining take-away fare. Charleston's famous sweet grass basket weavers can be found practicing their craft along the Market's open air stalls. The Market was constructed between 1804 - 1830, and originally used as a meat, vegetable and seafood marketplace. Charleston's City Market finished multimillion dollar renovations in 2011, and now features air conditioning and revolving fans, keeping shoppers cool in summer months.

1. Charleston Farmers Market
Photo courtesy of Clare Sweeney

Head to the Charleston Farmers Market (April through early December) for a complete showcase of what Charleston's local artists, artisans, bakers and, of course, farmers have to offer. Enter this Marion Square market from Meeting or King streets and encounter rows of local farmers offering all of the fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, and flowers of the season. After bagging any groceries or produce you may need, it's time to choose a food vendor and snag some quick and tasty brunch or lunch to enjoy in the park. Choosing a food vendor is a tough decision at Charleston Farmers Market; trust your nose and line up for whichever place smells the best--it's all good here. After a quick bite, stroll the remainder of the market rows to browse handmade jewelry, goats milk soaps, paintings and letterpress goods. You'll leave full and happy, with a best kind of local souvenirs in tow.