People come to Charleston for many reasons. For one, the city’s wedding industrial complex is formidable—Charleston’s Post and Courier reports that on any given weekend, there are likely to be more than 100 couples tying the knot here, which means that thousands of wedding guests are booking hotel rooms weekly. Because of the Lowcountry region’s wealth of colleges, others come to tour, visit, attend football games and graduations (and to ease the transition from helicopter parent to empty nester). Business travelers come to work and enjoy the slower pace and leisure options of the city. And with the city’s music festivals, historic events, and garden tours, groups traveling together flock to Charleston, looking for suitable lodging for a crew.
These different types of Charleston visitors have different hotel needs—whether it’s suites with space for entertaining, rooms with a full or partial kitchen, or amenities like golf courses and beaches. For a city of its size, Charleston has a wide range of hotel and resort accommodations for visitors of all sorts.
Best For: Visitors looking for romance and luxury
What We Like: Five 19th-century buildings are clustered around several landscaped piazzas lit by gas lanterns at night. While the vibe throughout is intimate and romantic, the 12 luxurious guest rooms, which share verandas, are airy and light filled, with period furnishings and hardwood floors. The complimentary breakfast, built around the delightful offerings of Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, includes house-made jams, smoked salmon, cured ham, and fresh berries. The generous daily wine and cheese happy hour for guests is worth returning from your day’s activities for. Guests should take advantage of the free bikes to explore the waterfront and the lovely streets of the surrounding Ansonborough neighborhood.
Noteworthy: The hotel restaurant, which is open to the public, serves 14-course tasting menu dinners and offers cooking demonstrations.
Best For: Business travelers, serious shoppers, groups traveling together
What We Like: This big, amenity-rich, luxury brand hotel enjoys a perfect location in the heart of Charleston with entrances on Meeting and King streets. With its extensive shopping arcade, the Charleston Grill (one of the city’s noted fine dining restaurants), a hotel bar that looks like a movie location, and a big, beautiful indoor pool, you won’t have to leave the building if you don’t want to (but of course, you do!). Guest rooms are large and elegant in an understated way. Turndown service includes a card noting the following day’s weather, a nice touch.
Noteworthy: The pool doesn’t seem particularly kid-friendly, which may be a good thing for some guests and not for others. Even with its central location in town, the hotel’s size and branding make it easy to forget you’re in Charleston unless you’re looking out the window.
Best For: The short-term resident, group or family trips, guests who plan on entertaining
What We Like: The property, which has five historic buildings around a courtyard, contains hotel rooms that range from a 500-square-foot studio suite to a three-bedroom deluxe residential suite with a full kitchen, a generously sized living room, and a washing machine and dryer. The rooftop bar, The Watch, is popular with locals for viewing the sunset with a cool beverage (and has air-conditioned indoor space for refuge during summer storms or oppressive heat). The Amethyst Spa has a Goop vibe; weekly yoga classes are held on the roof.
Noteworthy: While there are a few guest rooms set aside for ADA compliance, passageways between buildings (and even within loft rooms) often mean navigating steps—a fact that may hinder older guests and those with mobility issues. There is no gym or on-site food options other than a coffee shop.
Best For: Honeymooners, seekers of the next new thing
What We Like: You’d never know by its stately facade that the Hotel Bennett is new. The hotel, which opened in January 2019 on the edge of Charleston’s Marion Park, has a classical gravitas on the outside and an airy lightness in its lobby. Built on the site of the former Charleston Public Library (and reusing much of the pink marble salvaged from that structure in the lobby’s art deco–styled Camellia Bar), the Bennett has snapped up the role of the opulent luxury hotel in town. On the ground level, three restaurants, including a French patisserie, and outdoor seating on a terrace overlooking the park welcome guests and locals. Extraordinary tilework on the floors throughout the ground level—from encaustic tiles in the patisserie, to curved, metal-edged and geometric pavement patterns in a rotunda entrance—will delight design lovers. Guest rooms range in size from modest to expansive, all sharing a tasteful beachy palette of pale pink, white, and tan. The rooftop bar, Fiat Lux, with nautical blue decor and panoramic views of the peninsula, is destined to become a local favorite for sundowners.
Noteworthy: In the guest rooms, the freestanding bathtubs that open (via pocket doors) to the bedroom are not for everyone. Some smaller guest rooms look over bland interior courtyards. The extensive use of marble, crystal chandeliers, and shiny surfaces may strike some as ostentatious.
Best For: History lovers, romantics
What We Like: If you’re excited when the exterior of your hotel plays a starring role in city tours, you are in the right place. John Rutledge, a signer of the U.S. Constitution and the first governor of South Carolina, built this tall and 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 that struck the house during the Civil War). The elaborate ironwork that climbs the front of the building merits examination before you enter. The house has been lovingly restored (with lots of space reserved for cabinets full of artifacts and photos) and converted into an inn, with guest rooms in the main house and in two carriage houses on the property. Guest rooms have nice touches that newer buildings usually lack—towering ceiling heights, carved marble mantelpieces, working gas fireplaces—as well as amenities you may not expect in historic lodgings like thoroughly modern bathrooms and Tempur-Pedic mattresses. Port and sherry are poured for guests in the evening and a complimentary and extensive breakfast can be brought to your room or served at tables in the garden or ballroom. The inn’s location, on Broad Street, means easy access to all of historic downtown Charleston; guests get to wake up to the sounds of church bells and the clopping of horse hooves on cobblestones.
Noteworthy: The rooms in the main house are not recommended for guests who can’t climb stairs. All guest rooms are at least a flight up from the street level and there were no elevators in 1763. (Ground floor rooms and entrances are available in the carriage houses.)
Best For: Short-term residents, guests who plan to entertain, Marriott brand loyalists
What We Like: This Residence Inn by Marriott opened in 2018, with the 19th-century front building housing public areas, such as the breakfast room, event space, and a veranda where drinks are served to guests in the evening. Spacious guest rooms and suites, each with a kitchenette (full-size refrigerator, stovetop, sink, and dishwasher), occupy a newly constructed building behind. In the suites, the kitchen and a larger living room mean that entertaining is an easy option, making the property nice for longer stays and groups in town for weddings or events.
Noteworthy: In spite of the hotel’s oh-so-Charleston location across Calhoun Street from historic Mother Emanuel AME Church and just down from Marion Square, its decor is less Lowcountry antique and more sumptuous—think velvet couches and faux-marble wallpaper.
Best For: Multigenerational family groups, golfers, nature nuts, beachgoers
What We Like: If you’re looking for a beach getaway, a golf weekend, or a chance to reconnect with nature, this is the spot. Because the hotel is right on the beach of a barrier island south of Charleston, guests can wake up to the sound of the ocean. Built in 2004 at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, the hotel is modeled after a historic Southern resort and is more fancy and formal than barefoot casual. With several different pools and restaurants to pick from, you could stay here for an extended weekend and keep everyone in the family busy and happy. Bird-watchers can enjoy the Audubon Society–protected wetlands or go on a nature hike to see the island’s local river dolphin population feed.
Noteworthy: If guests want to spend time exploring Charleston proper, the 25-mile drive may make this the wrong hotel to stay in. And the upscale vibe inside the resort is decidedly unbeachy.
Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel
Best For: Families, couples, visitors looking for proximity to historic Charleston; wedding guests; Wyndham brand loyalists
What We Like: Location, location, location. The Mills House, ideally placed in historic downtown, across from staples of Charleston cuisine like 82 Queen and Poogan’s Porch, is an easy stroll to all things downtown. The pink facade of Mills House, which opened in 1970, is adorned with lovely ironwork salvaged from the original 1853 Mills House Hotel, but inside there are no historic charms or foibles. The hotel entertains a lot: There are many weddings in ballrooms and suites, meetings in conference rooms, and groups of traveling friends gathering in the hotel’s Best Friend Lounge. The rooftop pool area and ground floor garden are pleasant and popular.
Noteworthy: The lobby is allegedly haunted. Some guests like this fact. Others avoid the lobby at night.
Best For: Families visiting College of Charleston, groups traveling together
What We Like: If you’re traveling with friends or kids and want an affordable space to spread out, the Quarters on King, at the intersection of King and Society, may be what you’re looking for. This is less of a hotel than serviced apartments: Guests check in through a real estate office (which keeps business hours) and enter the property through a locked and anonymous doorway on the street. While the steep stairs and hallway of the public areas are charmless, the property’s guest suites are well suited for longer stays and for groups. The fully equipped kitchens come in handy if you’re inspired by the bounty on sale at the Charleston Farmers’ Market right up the street at Marion Square. The Quarters on King benefits from proximity to the College of Charleston and the many restaurants and shops nearby.
Noteworthy: All accommodations are reached by climbing a steep staircase. Some guests may miss hotel amenities or a 24-hour front desk. The property offers no strong sense of being in Charleston until you walk out the building door and find yourself in the middle of everything.
>>Next: Plan Your Trip With AFAR’s Travel Guide to Charleston