Well known for its role in our nation’s history, the port city of Charleston was founded in 1670 and has since survived pirates, two wars, invading armies and hurricanes. Today it’s a wish-list destination and a thriving metropolis. And as an added bonus the nightlife in Charleston SC is pretty memorable too, with energetic nightclubs, countless drink deals, and live music throughout the city.

Below we show you the best nightclubs, bars, live music joints and food spots in the city. You’ll find the best places to dance, great late night food spots only locals know about, and where the best drink deals are.

Here’s your local’s guide to the best Charleston nightlife spots you can find!

The Best Bars in Charleston

Start your night right by hitting the city’s popular drinking spots and experiencing delectable cocktails and an unbeatable atmosphere:

The Alley – It’s not just a bowling alley. Part bowling alley, part sports bar, The Alley is the ultimate location for good drink, great grub and even better fun. They have a sensational craft beer selection and retro arcade games. It’s a one-stop bar with a little something for everyone.

The Belmont – A fine place to drink.  Not only can this place boast wonderful creative cocktails, but the atmosphere is heavily influenced by film noir and they project black and white movies in mute on to the black wall. With a limit of 40 people allowed inside at all times, it’s the perfect drinking location in downtown Charleston for more intimate occasions.

The Griffon – Unapologetically Awesome. A legendary pub and dive bar that has walls completely covered in dollar bills signed or drawn on by patrons for over two decades. Add to that the great happy hour deals of $2 PBR draft and $3 liquor, is not surprising that this spot is trafficked heavily by tourists and locals alike.

The Living room at the Dewberry – Every detail echos with rich history. A rare outlier, this hotel bar has actually managed to become a local spot. With handsome mid-century furnishings and a curated reading library, the living room is an ideal spot for warm tea in the morning, an afternoon pick-me-up or an evening cocktail.

Doar Bros – Modern cocktails. Enjoy ingeniously concocted drinks paired well with exquisitely savory quality fair designed to play a great supporting role. Luxurious with an intimate air, this bar is a great environment for friends, romance, or business alike.

The Gin Joint – Proper nights call for proper cocktails. This speakeasy themed bar showcases a wide variety of classical drinks, as well as an ever-changing seasonal cocktail menu. Opt for the ‘bartender’s choice’ – simply pick two flavors and watch as the bartender crafts something special with the assortments on hand at that moment.

The bar at Husk – Innovative freestanding bar. Like a secret bar from a bygone era, this bar stands against century-old exposed brick. Sexy and dark, it pays special focus to classic cocktails to really emphasize the city’s historical essence.

Proof – An intimate craft cocktail bar. The cocktail list here is an impressive balance of classical taste and innovative tones, with a special mention to their absinthe fountain. A small, unassuming place with dark notes that gives off a greta pub atmosphere.

Stems and Skins – Fresh and freaky ferments. Although this bar offers plenty of cocktail and beer options, it is all about the wine. This is the place to go if you want to have a great learning and wine tasting experience. They offer a selection of Mediterranean-style plates, seafood, charcuterie, and cheeses.

Vintage LoungeThe most beautifully designed bar in South Carolina. This upscale bar carries around 200 labels of wines from producers who believe in unique approaches to making wine. We recommend you pair it with their specialty cheeses and charcuterie. Happy hour is from 5-7pm.

Nightlife in Charleston: The Best Places For Live Music

Add delight to your night out by going to any of many live music performances around town. There is a tune for every disposition:

The Pour House – Homegrown music venue. An integral part of Charleston’s music scene. The Pour House is slowly becoming the regional epicenter for music lovers. It hosts numerous local talent as well as traveling artists on every level of success.

Prohibition – Classic 1920’s speakeasy. Voted as the best downtown bar in Charleston, this vintage bar has a great variety of designer cocktails and flavor packed menu. There’s live music with The Quentin Ravenel Experience every Thursday. One of our favorite Charleston nightlife spots!

The Commodore – A touch of class. A well preserved Jazz club atmosphere with vintage brass and green velvet bar stools. It has live music 5 times a week featuring many local house jazz and funk bands.

The Royal American – Original local music. Comfortable and friendly atmosphere with a no-nonsense approach. This bar hosts many local original music acts and has a fully loaded cocktail and grub menu. Music performers range from local and regional to well established national acts.

Thoroughbred Club – Refined and relaxing. This luxurious lobby bar inside the hotel Belmont serves unique tapas and creative cocktails with smooth live music everyday in the afternoon. We suggests bartender Mouzon’s legendary mash made with fresh South Carolina peaches.

Tin Roof – Home away from home. Touring musical acts from all walks can be seen performing here since it opened several years ago. They also host game nights, movie nights, stand-up comedy, private parties and much more. There is something for everyone at the Tin Roof.

The Best Nightclubs in Charleston

Dance the night away in these energetic and vibrant places! The best Charleston nightclubs:

Cure Nightclub – Queer epicenter. Known to have the best music and club atmosphere in the city, Cure is a queer nightclub with stunning drag performances, dancing and affordable drinks. The club is an ideal dancing hot spot.

Deco Nightclub – The ultimate Charleston nightlife experience. Lavish downtown club with live DJ music performance, superb bottle service, large VIP seating areas and an enormous dance floor.

Trio – Premier multi-level nightclub. One of the longest-standing and best nightclubs in Charleston. It offers great music, a fun atmosphere, and spacious dance floor. And if you are in need of fresh air, it also offers gorgeous patio sitting.

Mynt – 2 in 1. Atmospheric bar during the week that serves great drinks and even better food with Tuesday karaoke nights and $1 drink Thursdays. Come Thursday night, it transforms into a sophisticated dance club with live resident DJ.

Silver Dollar – A place to unwind for generations.  With inventive drink specials, dance floor, and nightly music the Silver Dollar creates a lively yet loose atmosphere. It has become one of the most popular places to visit on a weekend night. More of a bar than anything else, it’s still a great place for the late night crowd.

Duddley’s – Divas and Drag shows. The oldest gay bar in Charleston, Duddley’s is an LGBTQA2S+ and Charleston nightlife staple. They start the weekend early with amazing drag shows on Thursday nights and Diva spectacles on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Best Restaurants in Charleston

Of course before you get your dancing shoes on you should start your evening with a worthwhile dinner. Below are our favourite places, where chefs with all types of culinary backgrounds and influences produce remarkable food:

Butcher and BeeHonest to goodness eats. What started out as a late-night sandwich place that boasted unique gourmet food combinations between buns, has grown to include a bigger variety of Southern-meets-Mediterranean foods. They purchase from local farmers for sustainability and richer flavor.

Chez Nous – Pint-size, convivial, neighborhood restaurant. Chef Jill Mathias has created a  romantically rustic space where a different menu is created daily that is influenced by southern France cuisine as well as northern Italy and Spain. Come hungry with an adventurous palate and enjoy the specials of the day.

Chubby Fish – Dock to Table. Chef James London partnered with local fishermen and farmers to bring you the freshest seafood the lowcountry has to offer. All meals are prepared with seasonal ingredients and the menu changes daily. No matter how many times you come, there will always be something new and delicious to experience at Chubby Fish.

Hannibal’s Soul Kitchen – Feeding the soul of the city. Authentic lowcountry Gullah cuisine at an affordable price, Hannibal’s is a local family-own staple since 1985. Every plate of lima beans, okra soup, fried chicken, pork chops, and collard greens is seasoned with classic rich southern flavor. Their signature dish “Crab and Shrimp Rice,” was feature in the 2020 March issue of Southern Living.

Leon’s Oyster ShopFine poultry and oyster shop. Retrofitted out of an auto body shop, this restaurant’s menu is heavily influenced by various southern soul food plates. Come try their staple fried chicken with a sparkling glass of Champagne, or some of their fresh oysters with  a rosé pairing straight from the tap.

Lewis BarbecueTrue central Texas barbecue. From the man that designed the BBQ flavor profile that put Austin barbecue on Texas’ “top 50 list”, BBQ Pitmaster John Lewis has brought his legendary meat-cooking skills to Charleston. His briquet, in particular, has been a huge hit since opening day. This is a must-visit BBQ spot.

Rodney Scott’s BBQThe glass is always half full here. The Whole Hog BBQ technique used here is an important part of history and a traditional type of cooking that gives a very unique flavor to the meats. We recommend the flavor-stunning, smoky pulled pork with a delicate hint of vinegar, paired with collards and cornbread.

Maison – Beautiful juxtaposition of innovation and simplicity. A small french bistro by Vandy Vanderwarker and Will Love, Maison has seasonal menus of complex flavor arrangements with beautifully simple presentation. Come for the $5 champagne happy hour, let the bubbles open up your appetite, and stay for dinner.

Zero Restaurant & Bar – A culinary gem within Zero George Street Hotel. Everything, from the beautifully seasoned meals to the old world elegance, is an experience to the senses. Ranked one of Conde Nast’s Top 5 Foodie Hotels in the World, Chef Vinson Petrillo brings us the most artful fine dining in all of Charleston

Xiao Bao Biscuit – Comfort food. This one-of-a-kind Asian soul food eatery is inspired by the owners’ seven month honeymoon throughout Asia. The menu shifts with the seasons, consisting of “kickass asian grandmothers’ recipes,” and homestyle meals from China, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Late Night Food Spots in Charleston

After a long night of pleasure and entertainment, end it with decadent late-night food at one of these late night food joints:

Tattooed Moose – The best sandwich and ingenious combinations. Open everyday until 1 a.m. You must try their famous duck club and duck fat fries at least once.

Home Team BBQ – Carnivore dreams. Open until 1 a.m. they have a special post-10 pm exclusive late night grub menu

The Rarebit – Uncomplicated and delicious. This upscale diner serves delectable breakfast food all day, everyday until 1 a.m. closing time

Gilroy’s Pizza Pub – Every undergrad’s pizzeria. Popular with the college crowd of Charleston, this eatery is open until 4 a.m. everyday of the week, with a wide variety of late night food.

Kickin’ Chicken – Exceptional food at a great value. Have one of their signature chicken sandwiches or any of the 16 different flavors of wings. No wonder it’s so popular with the late night crowd. Open until 1 a.m all week except Sundays.

Nightlife in Charleston Tips

Charleston’s nightlife is vibrant, full of diverse locations to satisfy anyone’s fancy at any given mood. As you get ready to enjoy your night of elaborate cocktails, stirring live music or indulgent late-night fare, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Last call tends to be at 2 a.m. so plan your night with this deadline in mind.
  • Public transportation and taxis are scarce in Charleston at night, so make sure you are either at a walking distance of where you need to go, or have organised a way home.
  • Open containers are strictly prohibited! Be aware of the law so that your fun night out doesn’t turn into a bad situation.
  • Many of the restaurants, bars, and clubs don’t take reservations and prefer a first-come-first-serve approach. Plan your destinations ahead so that you don’t miss out on anything for lack of space or time.
  • Charleston is generally a safe area. However, always take extra precautions, specially if you’re unfamiliar with the area. Whether alone or in a group, try to be mindful of yourself and your surroundings. Don’t walk down unlit roads or streets.