Photo by Ellis Creek Photography
Courtesy of 20 South Battery Hotel
Enjoy breakfast on the porch facing White Point Gardens at 20 South Battery.
Gilded Age mansions, beachfront resorts, and stylish boutiques offer plenty of places to experience Southern hospitality in Charleston.
With its antebellum architecture, laid-back beaches, and top-notch dining scene, it’s no wonder Charleston has shot up in popularity over the last decade. The Holy City now attracts everyone from weekenders and groups of girlfriends to road-tripping families and couples looking for a romantic getaway—and the hotel industry has responded accordingly.
For a relatively small city, Charleston has a large number of hotels—inns housed in historic mansions, boutique hotels oozing character, and larger chains. Wading through all the options is a challenge, so we’ve done the work for you, choosing the properties that ensure a sense of place and celebrate the special city that is Charleston. At these hotels, you’ll never forget you’re in the Holy City.
An intimate boutique hotel in the Ansonborough neighborhood, Zero George occupies three restored residences and two brick carriage houses from 1804 that surround a lush interior courtyard. The hotel embodies elegant, understated luxury with period furnishings and hardwood floors, and many rooms have private or shared verandas. Daily breakfast, wine and cheese happy hour, and complimentary bicycles are included in every stay. In summer 2021, the hotel added five sumptuous suites inside another restored 19th-century building across the street. Known as the Residences at Zero George, these spacious rooms—featuring kitchens outfitted with Le Creuset wares—are meant for long-term stays.
The newest hotel in the Holy City, the Ryder opened in spring 2021 in the Historic District with a beachy, relaxed vibe. The 91-room boutique hotel was designed by local firm Cortney Bishop Design and features earth tones and coastal-inspired details like natural wood headboards and rattan furniture. Little Palm, the on-site restaurant and swim club, channels vintage Miami with tropical drinks, a sherbet color palette, and lots of palm fronds. The sparkling pool always beckons, and the hotel offers barre fitness classes on its deck on Saturday mornings.
For those seeking a beach vacation rather than a city stay, there’s Wild Dunes. One of the Charleston area’s premier resorts, it’s located on Isle of Palms but still just 30 minutes from downtown, giving guests the best of both worlds. In spring 2021, it debuted the Sweetgrass Inn as a new accommodation option, complete with a 10,000-square-foot destination spa and salon, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a zero-entry pool, and a rooftop bar with views of the Atlantic Ocean. The 153 rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows, convertible living spaces, and coastal-modern furnishings. Inn guests also have access to the larger resort, which sits on 1,600 oceanfront acres and offers championship golf and nationally ranked tennis, more pools, award-winning restaurants, and a wide beach.
HarbourView Inn was the first waterfront hotel in the Historic District when it opened inside a former indigo cotton warehouse in 1998. In spring 2021, it unveiled a $1 million refresh by South Carolina interior designer Jenny Keenan and now features a light, airy design that retains the Southern aesthetic. Keenan brought in fresh custom drapery and carpets, added new armoires, and commissioned charcoal drawings by local artist David Boatwright to adorn each of the 52 rooms. The beloved roof terrace was also redone with all-new furniture. Perks for guests include nightly milk and cookies, a daily reception on the roof terrace, and a continental breakfast each morning.
A historic mansion dating back to 1843 in Charleston’s Battery District, 20 South Battery was recently restored to its former glory, opening as a hotel in 2020. The house’s previous owners include preservationist and suffragist Susan Pringle Frost, who started an inn at the back of the home in the first half of the 20th century. New owner Dr. Jack Schaeffer spent 18 months carefully restoring details like hand-painted gold leaf crown molding in the Grand Ballroom, a sweeping staircase with a hand-carved railing, metal tile ceilings, hardwood floors, and intricate tile work in the foyer and hallway. He even filled the hotel’s 11 rooms with lavish antique furnishings and art, which are for sale through a partnership with David Skinner Antiques. Guests can eat breakfast on the porch facing White Point Gardens, stroll the landscaped grounds, and sample complimentary wine and cheese in the parlor each evening.
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This newcomer opened in July 2020 in the city’s historic district, inside a building that dates back to 1852. While the interior is thoroughly modern, it does include Southern touches that ensure a sense of place, like woven-cane furniture, a massive brick fireplace in the breezy courtyard, and a classic grand entrance. Other details we love? A Crosley record player and selection of vinyl in each of the 212 rooms, a nook on each floor with complimentary still and sparkling water, custom ceramic accessories by local artist Susan Gregory, and Wildsam Field Guides to Charleston by every bedside.
On-site restaurant Frannie & the Fox serves wood-fired dishes made with regional ingredients, while cozy café Clerks Coffee Company has coffee from Charleston roaster Second State and kombucha from local favorite Dalia Sophia. Be sure to stop by Keep Shop, the hotel boutique with clothing, accessories, and home goods by more than 40 local makers.
Built where the Charleston Public Library once stood on the edge of Marion Park, Hotel Bennett opened in January 2019 and quickly became one of the Holy City’s most opulent hotels. In addition to an art deco–themed champagne lounge featuring pink marble salvaged from the library building, this European-style grand dame impresses with crystal chandeliers, marble floors, and wrought iron railings. The 179 dog-friendly guest rooms range in size from modest to expansive, but all share a tasteful palette of pale pink, white, and tan plus details like marble vanities, deep-soaking tubs, plush bedding, and locally inspired artwork.
It’s easy to keep busy without leaving the hotel: Reserve a cabana at the heated pool, indulge in a restorative massage or facial at the spa, satisfy your sweet tooth with homemade macarons and éclairs at La Pâtisserie, or have a sunset cocktail at the rooftop bar. Just be sure to save room for dinner at Gabrielle (don’t miss the grilled prime rib eye and pan-seared local flounder).
For a more residential feel, 86 Cannon Inn does the trick—with style. In 2017, owners Lori and Marion Hawkins debuted this chic inn with just seven well-designed rooms. They took over a single-family home that was built in 1862, carefully restored it, and then acquired a small cottage next door, giving the inn a courtyard and two piazzas for ample outdoor space. Details like Farrow & Ball wallpaper, indigo-dyed grasscloth walls in the parlor, and hand-stenciling by local painter Suzanne Allen add thoughtful design touches, while amenities include Frette linens, marble showers, and Nespresso coffee machines. Guests can enjoy complimentary breakfasts and Linus bikes for tooling around town.
If you’re looking for something other than antebellum style, the Dewberry is the ticket. Located inside the 1960s L. Mendel Rivers Federal Building on Marion Square, the hotel instead embraces a midcentury-modern vibe. The wood-paneled lobby gives way to a cozy living room straight out of Mad Men, featuring live music and a brass bar serving classic cocktails and deviled eggs with caviar. The second-floor spa offers tufted-velvet recliners and treatments that incorporate Lowcountry flora, plus a fitness center.
In the 155 light-filled rooms, guests find luxurious Irish linens, marble baths, and armoires clad in custom-printed linen by local illustrator Becca Barnet. Barnet’s work is also on display in the Citrus Club, a rooftop lounge with craft cocktails and light bites overlooking the Holy City’s skyline. Rounding things out are amenities like the Volvo house car service and a boutique curated by Garden & Gun, with fashion, barware, jewelry, and more from Southern artisans and craftspeople.
Local interior designer Jenny Keenan spearheaded the Spectator’s art deco–inspired aesthetic, which includes thoughtful details like hand-painted wallpaper and a three-tiered chandelier that sparkles with 1,800 hand-strung glass crystals. Airy guest rooms show equal care, evident in amenities like local Southern Lady mattresses, custom Harris pillows, and Deep Steep bath products. When morning rolls around, it’s best to stay in bed—a locally sourced in-room breakfast is provided with each night’s stay. Guests here also have access to a personal butler, who can take care of anything from drawing a bath to shining your shoes to scoring dinner reservations at Husk. Before you head out for the night, have a drink at the Bar, a Prohibition-inspired spot with creative cocktails and small bites.
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This boutique hotel is all about the arts. With on-site docents ready to guide you around the property’s exhibition spaces, an artist-in-residence program, and more than 300 artworks throughout the hotel, creative forces are at play everywhere you look. Set in a suite of former warehouses in the city’s French Quarter, the Vendue occupies two separate buildings across the street from one another. Guest rooms vary widely in style; some have a more contemporary vibe, with exposed brick walls and subway-tiled walk-in showers, while others are decked out in Queen Anne–style furniture and brocade fabrics. Head to the rooftop for lunch or a drink with sweeping river views as your backdrop.
Opened in 2010 and renovated in 2016, the Restoration consists of five historic buildings bordering a courtyard. Sleek and modern rooms with exposed brick and high ceilings range from 500-square-foot studios to a three-bedroom residential suite with a full kitchen. Also at the hotel: a rooftop pool and bar known for its sunset views, the Amethyst Spa and Nail Bar, the Mercantile Boutique & Gallery retail store, a farm-to-table restaurant, and a coffee shop that delivers breakfast baskets to your room. The Restoration understands the need for speed and style and offers to hook up guests with vintage car rentals or even help serious riders design and commission their own custom-built motorcycle to pick up on a return trip to Charleston.
The French Quarter Inn welcomes guests with a flute of champagne—and that’s just the beginning. Opened in 2002, the hotel is known for its opulent decor and services, which include port and cookies at evening turndown, a nightly wine and cheese reception, and daily continental breakfast with pastries, fruit, and biscuits delivered to your door or served on the terrace. Rooms are decorated in vibrant shades of red, gold, and black, with toile bedspreads and damask upholstered furniture. A luxe touch: Guests can order from a pillow menu with seven plush options.
Built for a cotton merchant and his bride in the 1880s, this Gilded Age mansion first opened as a hotel in 1998. Since then, it’s been a top accommodation in Charleston, thanks to the meticulous preservation and simultaneous updating of the building. Intricate wood paneling, Tiffany-style stained glass, period furniture, and gas fireplaces are complemented by modern conveniences like whirlpool tubs and gratis valet parking. The Circa 1886 restaurant highlights South Carolina ingredients in dishes like Broken Arrow venison with juniper-chestnut sauce, while the spa, with exposed brick and rustic beams, offers massages and facials in the mansion’s old stables. Cocktail making classes, winetasting workshops, and yoga on the lawn are a few of the exclusive experiences offered here.
This charming inn is located in one of Charleston’s most historic buildings—which is saying a lot in a city full of landmarks. John Rutledge, a signer of the U.S. Constitution and the first governor of South Carolina, built the stately townhouse on Broad Street in 1763. It later served as the state’s first White House and bears a scar left by a Union cannonball during the Civil War. In the 1980s, the house was lovingly restored (with lots of space reserved for cabinets full of artifacts and photos) and converted to an inn, with guest rooms across the main house and two carriage houses on the property. All have towering ceilings, carved marble mantelpieces, canopied beds, and working gas fireplaces. Guests can enjoy nightly port, brandy, and sherry; tea and hors d’oeuvres every afternoon; and an extensive breakfast that can be brought to your room or served in the garden or ballroom.
The largest luxury hotel in the city, Charleston Place takes up a full city block with entrances on King and Meeting Streets, the latter of which leads to the grand lobby, with its imperial open-arm staircase, 12-foot crystal chandelier, and Italian marble floors. Guest rooms are large and feature old-fashioned Southern details like mahogany and damask furnishings. The hotel’s lower level houses fine-dining restaurant Charleston Grill, a stunning hotel bar, a large indoor saltwater pool with a retractable glass roof, and a shopping arcade with designer stores.
Coming fall 2021 to the French Quarter, the 50-room Loutrel is inspired by Charleston’s lush public and private gardens. The Veranda Lounge will bring the Southern porch experience inside with a swing, expansive bar accented with bronze and wood to mimic a ship, plenty of greenery, and a statement art piece honoring the region’s landscape by local artist Linda Fantuzzo. A rooftop terrace and bar will offer sweeping views, and the private Clubroom exclusively for guests will have games and locally sourced drinks and bites.
>>Next: The AFAR Guide to Charleston
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