Best Places To Live In South Carolina: Top 5 Palmetto State Cities, According To Experts

Thanks to its low cost of living, natural beauty, and classic Southern charm, South Carolina has long been a popular destination for tourists and transplants alike. The best places to live in South Carolina boast a strong economy and a moderate climate that residents enjoy year round. 

With so much to enjoy, it’s no surprise that South Carolina has seen so much growth in recent years. Recent research using U.S. Census data shows that South Carolina is among the top five states that Americans are moving to. Typical motives for such a move include lowering cost of living, warmer weather, and moving closer to family. 

Thanks to the variety of communities and cultures within the state, South Carolina is a great place for people of all ages. Its many downtowns provide exciting nightlife for young people, while its charming small cities and towns offer comfort and safety for young families and retirees. In fact, a recent StudyFinds roundup named Charleston in the top five U.S. cities to settle in after retirement. 

With cozy beach towns, busy cities, and everything in between, a move to South Carolina could mean many different things. Whether you’re searching for a high-rise apartment or a single-family home, StudyFinds is here to help you find the perfect South Carolina city to call home. To jumpstart your search, we scoured the internet for local expert opinions to make this list of the top five best places to live in South Carolina. The list is comprised of the five most recommended places across expert reviews — but be sure to let us know in the comments if you have a suggestion that didn’t make the cut. 

The List: Best Places To Live In South Carolina, Most Recommended by Experts

1. Charleston

Charleston pairs all the charm of a historic city with all the excitement of a modern downtown. “There is no place quite like Charleston,” says U.S. News. “The region features a unique blend of historic preservation and new development, displayed in its cobblestone walkways and eerie cemeteries, buzzy nightlife and sophisticated art galleries.”

As South Carolina’s largest city, Charleston has earned its glowing reputation. “This city is special — it’s unbelievably charming and lively and modern and tranquil,” UpHomes notes.

“It’s a perfect balance of the best qualities of a city and a coastal town.” The city attracts everyone from singles to young families to retirees. “Charleston is a must-visit (…)and its charm might convince you to live there permanently,” says UpNest.

Rainbow Row in Charleston with a horse-drawn carriage
Rainbow Row in Charleston (Photo by Leonel Heisenberg on Unsplash)

2. Greenville

Life in Greenville earns you access to a close-knit community, bustling downtown, and incredible career opportunities. And if that sounds too good to be true, many citizens may believe it to be an understatement. “Residents of the upstate city of Greenville are so enthusiastic about living there that some even find it annoyingly charming,” UpHomes claims. 

If you’re looking for a new job, Greenville is the place to be. “Greenville consistently ranks as one of the best places to live in the state thanks to its low cost of living, low crime rate, and the strong job market,” says Urban Matter. “This town is known for its health services and pulls many recent graduates from nearby universities. It is a growing city and one you can find work in,” UpNest adds.

But outside of the office, Greenville will keep you occupied. “A revitalized downtown has brought a lot of positive attention to the small city of Greenville,” states Touropia.

“Greenville’s downtown area boasts numerous restaurants, cafes, and small businesses, as well as the popular Liberty Bridge and Falls Park on the Reedy. The city also offers easy access to outdoor activities in nearby mountains and lakes, along with top-rated schools and healthcare facilities,” UpHomes says.

bridge and waterfall in Greenville South Carolina
Downtown Greenville (Photo by Emmy Gaddy on Unsplash)

3. Columbia

This lively college town is home to the University of South Carolina, and its residents are proud of the students, sports, and community culture that the school brings to the city. “There’s a wonderful amount of young people, families, and die-hard Gamecock fans thrown into the mix,” says UpHomes.

As the state’s capital, the city is home to many government offices and tourist attractions. With so many different people coming in and out, Columbia offers a lot to visitors and permanent residents alike.

“The downtown area has seen revitalization in recent years, with new restaurants, shops, and entertainment options,” Urban Matter notes. “Living in Columbia, in particular, has its own advantages. You’ll be close to the Congaree National Park, the Sesquicentennial State Park, and Lake Murray — you won’t run out of places to explore,” adds UpNest.

a river and bridge in Columbia South Carolina
Riverfront Park in Columbia (Photo by Kevin Dunlap on Unsplash)

4. Clemson

Clemson prides itself on being a college town, perhaps even more than Columbia. “If you end up choosing to call Clemson your home, you’ll need to stock your wardrobe with some orange and purple clothes because this town is all about its college and its sports,” says UpHomes.

“If you live in this area, the university will likely be your source of entertainment, sports, and culture. Many people enjoy the community that this provides and live in Clemson for several years,” UpNest adds. 

When school is in session, Clemson University students account for more than half of the city’s population. This means lively semesters and quiet summers in Clemson’s charming downtown. “The town itself is beautiful, with several historic sites to visit, museums to wander through, and performing arts venues for a different kind of night out,” Touropia says. “Almost half of the permanent population comprises young families, with strong local schools and many ways to keep the young ones entertained.”

football stadium at Clemson
Memorial Stadium at Clemson University (Photo by Erin Doering on Unsplash)

5. Myrtle Beach

Beach lovers rejoice! Myrtle Beach is a rapidly growing coastal town perfect for singles, families, and retirees alike. “The tourist town of Myrtle Beach is renowned for its expansive sugar sand shoreline, epic sunrises and a waterfront teeming with exciting attractions,” says Touropia. But tourists aren’t the only ones enjoying Myrtle Beach. “In addition to its bustling beachfront, Myrtle Beach also boasts a strong job market, affordable housing options, and a high quality of life,” Urban Matter adds.

When you’re not hitting the sand, Myrtle Beach still has plenty to offer. “Kids can play on the beach for hours or visit the many amusement parks and activities in the area. From mini-golf to go-cart racing, there is always something to do,” UpNest says. And for the adults, US News adds, “residents also have access to an array of restaurants, many of which are locally owned. Live music and cultural events are never hard to find, with the boardwalk and The Market Common often hosting shows.”

Myrtle Beach sunset in South Carolina
Sunrise at Myrtle Beach (Photo by Kirk Van Nort on Unsplash)

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links.


  1. The crime rate has shot up in Myrtle beach. No one from the Carolinas heads to MB for vacation.
    Charleston is nice but too clicky.
    Greenville should be #1.
    No Rock Hill or Fort Mill? Both areas are exploding in growth.

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