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Best Charleston Shopping

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Once one of the wealthiest cities on the Eastern seaboard, Charleston has long been a shopping destination. Today, King Street is home to international luxury brands like Gucci, BCBG and Saks, as well as dozens of local boutiques, jewelers and antiques stores. Keep wandering north and you'll reach the trendy Upper King district, home to younger, edgier stores. Art galleries abound all over the Historic District, some of them tucked away on tiny cobblestone lanes. It pays to wander. North Charleston is rife with outlet malls, though nothing you can't find in other major American cities. When shopping in Charleston, keep your eyes open for crafts produced by the Gullah people (the descendents of West African slaves who inhabit South Carolina's Sea Islands) like sweetgrass baskets, carved figurines and indigo-dyed fabrics. When it comes to food, Southern candies and boxed mixes for foods like benne wafers (sesame seed cookies) make great presents. While City Market is temping for souvenirs, you'll find better prices and better quality elsewhere.

Charleston Cooks!

Neighborhood: Historic District
Need a Charleston rice spoon or a stainless steel fish scaler? This ritzy kitchenware store is your place, with a well-edited selection of everything you need for the modern kitchen (and some things you probably don't—citrus peel garnish maker, anyone?). The store also offers cooking classes, where students learn to make Lowcountry specialties like Frogmore stew (don't worry, no frogs), shrimp and grits, and lemon buttermilk pie. They're immensely popular, so sign up early.

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Charleston Crafts Cooperative

Neighborhood: Historic District
This cooperative gallery features the work of dozens of Lowcountry artists and artisans. Some of the most distinctive offerings include sweetgrass baskets, painstakingly hand-woven from native South Carolina reeds, carved wooden bowls and plates, and organic silk scarves. Prices are high, but so is quality. Goods are artfully displayed, and staff is knowledgeable and friendly. The gallery holds monthly receptions for a featured artist—check the website for event details.

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Charleston Crafts Cooperative  

Historic Charleston Reproductions

Neighborhood: Historic District
Run by the preservation-minded Historic Charleston Foundation, this shop specializes in jewelry and home goods designed to reproduce works found in grand Charleston homes. You'll find china patterns from the Nathanial Russell House and other historic homes, antique-style dressers and chairs, and jewelry inspired by Charleston icons like rice grains and wrought iron gates. Look out for anything adorned with a pineapple motif, a classic Southern symbol of welcome. Prices are high, but where else are you going to find a pair of 19th century decorative ceramic parrots or a hand-painted oyster plate?

Upper King

Neighborhood: Upper King
Near the College of Charleston, the Upper King district is increasingly becoming the go-to place for hip young shoppers. You'll find trendy home goods stores and graphic design studios, boutiques showcasing local designers, art galleries displaying edgy contemporary works, tiny bakeries and cafes that wouldn't be out of place in Paris. As you get to the far north end of King Street, the area becomes grittier. But that's rapidly changing as Charleston gentrifies. Stores are increasingly spilling onto side streets too, so plan to do a bit of exploring.

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Upper King  

Scents of Charleston

Neighborhood: Historic District
Visitors to Charleston can't help but notice the heavy fragrances that hang over the city—gardenia, night-blooming jasmine, honeysuckle. It's one of the things that make Charleston such a memorable, sense-stimulating city. Capture some of those scents for yourself at this unique perfume store, selling both pre-made and custom perfumes, colognes and home fragrances. Buy essential oils in scents like magnolia or Southern Rain, or pick up a bottle of gardenia bath gel for a present. If you're looking for something slightly more, uh, intimate, check out the Kama Sutra line of massage oils and edible body powders in flavors like sweet almond or honey.

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Scents of Charleston  
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