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Savannah or Charleston?! Two Southern gems, Savannah in Georgia and Charleston in South Carolina, have been rivaling for the love of travelers for over two centuries. Both cities will strike you with their Southern charm, good food, and beautiful historic districts. However, if you have time only for one city, which one should you choose?

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Savannah vs. Charleston

Savannah or Charleston?! It’s something I’ve tried to figure out for myself, but I just couldn’t make that decision. So I ended up visiting both, Savannah and Charleston.

Here are the highlights of my trips, which I hope will help you to decide where to go.

Savannah or Charleston: Sightseeing

I spent three days in Savannah. It was enough to see all major attractions, as well as to go to The Wormsloe Historic Site, which is a must if you’re in Savannah.

The historic district (where I ended up spending most of my time) obviously has more tourists than other parts of Savannah but it gives you a good understanding of the cultural heritage of the city. Many buildings play an important role not only in Savannah’s history but in the history of the whole country. For example, there is a house museum of Juliette Gordon Low, who created Girl Scouts of the USA. Kind of a big deal, right?

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Another magnificent landmark is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist which transfers you through the centuries of Savannah’s history.

If you’re a fan of Forrest Gump movie, then you can’t miss its filming location – Chippewa Square. Even though the bench was placed there only during the movie shooting, you can see it in the Savannah History Museum.

The Wormsloe Historic Site in Savannah, USA
The Wormsloe Historic Site, Savannah

Chippewa Square is not the only square in Savannah. There are 22 absolutely enchanting squares and if you want to enjoy them to the fullest, then the best time to visit is spring when the city is in full bloom.  

Moreover, you can take a walk in Forsyth Park and check out its gorgeous water fountain.

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All in all, most attractions in the city are within walkable distance and if you want to understand Savannah, you have to walk through it and breathe in its history through architecture.

Beautiful architecture in Savannah, Georgia, USA

While in Savannah you don’t need more than three days, for Charleston it’s the minimum requirement. I would even say that four days is a perfect choice. Even though Charleston is also a walkable city, it is more spread out than Savannah, so it takes more time to see everything. Make sure to check out “Rainbow Row”, a series of houses in bright pastels.

Then take a walk in Waterfront Park and take a picture of a pineapple fountain.

A pineapple fountain in Waterfront Park in Charleston, USA
A pineapple fountain in Waterfront Park / Charleston

I also really enjoyed the 8 Historic Houses of Charleston, especially the Aiken-Rhett House, Nathaniel Russell House, Joseph Manigault House, and Edmondston-Alston House. The magnificent history and architecture make you forget about time and feel that old Southern aristocracy.

Nathaniel Russell House in Charleston, USA
Nathaniel Russell House, Charleston

You can rent a car for a day and visit Angel Oak Tree on Johns Island, as well as one of the plantations, such as Boone Hall plantation, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, and Middleton Place.

You could also book one of the unique Charleston Tours to experience the city to the max.

Savannah or Charleston: Food

If you want to understand what ‘Southern hospitality’ means, then Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room in Savannah is a must. It has served traditional Southern food since 1943. There is always a line and they take no reservations. But if you’re a foodie, then it might be worth spending your morning waiting for a hearty breakfast. However, if you’re not a fan of lines, there are other great places like Mirabelle Cafe (Historic District), Narobia’s Grits & Gravy (Thomas Square), and Back In The Day Bakery (Metropolitan District).

Another famous and crowded location is Leopold’s Ice Cream. Even though it has big lines, I don’t think it’s worth waiting for too long. The homemade ice cream flavors and the atmosphere are good, but I wouldn’t spend 1 hour waiting for it. Luckily, I came when it just stopped raining, so there was no line and I really enjoyed the whole experience.

Leopold’s Ice Cream in Savannah, Georgia, USA
Leopold’s Ice Cream

Savannah has many restaurants with interesting, sometimes spooky, history, including restaurants such as The Olde Pink House, The Pirates’ House, and The Cotton Exchange Tavern. If you have a sweet tooth, then you’ll love River Street Sweets. Their homemade pralines will melt in your mouth and leave you wanting more.

Charleston is a perfect destination for foodies, even though it’s quite expensive. You can find all kinds of experiences in the city, from little pastry shops to magnificent historic restaurants. I’m a big fan of sweets, so the first place I visited was WildFlour Pastry, where I tried a sticky bun. It was warm, soft, and delicious.

I also really loved Persimmon Cafe. It’s a casual eatery with tasty food. I enjoyed Grilled Cheese and Nutella and toasted marshmallow custard – it’s everything you can dream of and more! If you want a sophisticated restaurant experience, then you can try Magnolias or Circa 1886 Restaurant. Finally, you can’t leave Charleston without trying its nasty biscuit and melting your mind with deliciousness.

Savannah or Charleston: Shopping

I wouldn’t call Savannah a shopping destination, but if you want something unique, then you might find it in a small shop on Broughton Street. Some of the shops had that authentic feel to them,  I especially loved: Savannah Bee Company (specialty honey and natural body care),  Paris Market & Brocante (home accessories and books), and Salt Table (various kinds of salt, sugar, seasoning, and more). 

Charleston has much more to offer when it comes to shopping. Consequently, it is more crowded and busy. King Street is where most stores are. You can find almost everything you need, starting from authentic gift shops and art galleries to high-end boutiques. If you’re a bookworm, then you can’t miss Blue Bicycle Books. I highly recommend spending some time exploring the secret treasures of King Street.

Colorful Streets of Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Streets of Charleston

Savannah or Charleston: Other Expenses

Savannah is more affordable than Charleston when it comes to accommodation. I advise staying in the historic district, so you can save money on transportation, as well as see all of the sights. The only time when you might need a car is if you want to visit The Wormsloe Historic Site. However, I didn’t want to rent a car, so I ordered Uber both ways. I paid $40 in total, which was cheaper and more convenient for me.

Be ready to spend more money in Charleston, whether it’s housing, food, or shopping. You don’t need a car if you plan to stay only in the historic district. Parking in the hotel is usually expensive and not included in the room price. So the car would be an unnecessary expense. However, I highly advise renting a car for a plantation trip.

Overall Experience

While the two cities look similar at first glance, they are actually very different. That’s why I recommend visiting both of them. The decision on where to go first depends on what you’re interested in as a traveler.

While Charleston has been included in the top destinations in the world, Savannah is off the radar. However, I believe that Savannah is one of the most charming and underrated US cities.

Charleston is more touristy and has more places to visit and to eat at. Savannah is more laid back and less crowded.

Even though both cities are quite romantic, Savannah seems more personal and quaint with charming squares and parks. However, considering that one of my favorite romantic movies (The Notebook) was shot in Charleston and its suburbs, I couldn’t help but feel like I was a part of that love story while exploring the city.

When it comes to culture and history, Charleston has more things to do and see, so you will need more time than in Savannah. At the same time, Savannah has some buildings that played a crucial role in the history of the US. 


So, Savannah or Charleston?!

All in all, if you want a rather secluded experience or a romantic trip for a weekend, then your destination is Savannah. But if you want to focus more on sightseeing while mixing it with shopping and strolls along the waterfront, then Charleston would be the place to do it.

Just remember, whatever your decision is, you won’t regret going to either one of these cities, so just book the flight and get ready for your next adventure!

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