Charleston, South Carolina is a city that runs on charm. While Air BnB might be the frequent traveler’s accommodation choice of the moment, the experience of staying at a boutique hotel in Charleston is worth the investment. “Southern charm” is best experienced in a social environment. If you want to experience the luxurious old world hospitality that the Holy City is known for, the hotels on this list are the best places to do so.
Comfort, style, and intrigue bring sophistication to these lovely homes-away-from-home. Moreover, each reflects something interesting about the local culture, aesthetics, and taste of real Charlestonions. (And what could be a better way to experience the city than to live like locals?) Uniquely gorgeous and charming in their own ways, these are the best hotels in Charleston– and possibly the entire country. Read our guide, below.
The Dewberry Hotel
The Dewberry has a prime location on the eastern border of Marion Square, where the epic weekly farmers’ market, a 200-year-old tradition, takes place. This chic hotel has an excellent aesthetic and reputation. We especially love the on-site spa, which offers treatments inspired by elements of the Lowcountry, including the native “dewberry” plant, after which the hotel is named. Here, aestheticians craft signature treatments to include a nourishing blend of botanical extracts that nourish mind, body, and soul. Come for the marble bathrooms and Irish linens, stay for the Dewberry Carolina Cocoon treatment.
Guests can also enjoy a lovely meal at Henrietta’s– the locally influenced, globally inspired French-style brasserie on site. (The restaurant is also part of why the Dewberry is ranked among the best hotels in Charleston. They do a lovely weekend brunch.) Cocktail lovers will also enjoy the Citrus Club– the hotel’s 8th floor rooftop lounge that features citrus-inspired cocktails on the terrace. Try their cheeky, colorful “Panic Button,” made with bourbon, averna, campari, cherry liqueur, and fresh lemon juice.
Open from Wednesday to Sunday, Citrus Club is one of the highest rooftop bars in the city. Naturally, it’s a great place to take in the views on a warm spring evening. Lite bites are also available from early afternoon to 10 PM. Have a mint julep and some lobster hush puppies for us, will you?
The Vendue is one of the most affordable “nice” places to stay in Charleston. Rooms can be as cheap as $169 a night, without sacrificing the incredible charm for which Charleston is known. This millennial-focused boutique hotel is home to a collection of more than 300 works of art. The lovely rooftop bar is also one of the best in the city, with panoramic views of the harbor. No matter what season you’re visiting, the Vendue roof is a great place to have a cocktail, even if you aren’t staying on site. (We also strongly recommend visiting for an al fresco lunch.)
Because of its impressive collection, the hotel is a quintessential destination for art lovers. Every afternoon, The Vendue hosts an art reception for guests, featuring wine, canapés, and local artists. They also feature a rotating exhibit and artists-in-residence that are consistently changing (you can read more about them here).
We also appreciate the spirit of locality at Revival, the hotel’s signature dining experience. As the name suggests, Revival focuses on “reviving” rare and previously threatened local crops. In this case, that includes the previously-extinct Nostrale rice, Jimmy Red grits, and Bradford Watermelon. Today, these items and others, like Lowcountry Pirlou with Carolina Gold rice, are staples on the menu. Come for the art, stay for the food.
The Spectator Hotel
The Spectator is a high design boutique hotel located in the historic French Quarter and Market Street Districts that is “part speakeasy pub, part Gatsby library.” This gilded and refined property exudes five star luxury, offering 41 airy, bright rooms full of thoughtful photography of the city, plush mid-century modern upholstery, and well-appointed windows. (See above image.) We love the views and private en-suite balconies. Inside, plush linens and tastefully minimalist bathrooms delight the senses.
Plus, the location near the City Market is unparalleled. This is a great hotel for people who want to walk to the area’s most popular attractions. King Street, the Historic City Market, and Philadelphia Alley are close by. The picturesque College of Charleston is close by, and so is one of the city’s best farmer’s markets. The Spectator is also the only hotel in Charleston that offers personal butler service— just one of the many features that will make you never want to leave.
The old plantation-style architecture that South Carolina is known for is alive and well at Planters Inn in historic downtown Charleston. This delightful Relais & Châteaux property is an ideal spot for well-heeled travelers looking to stay in the lap of luxury. The hotel bills itself as a “refined urban retreat” and the elegant details of its furniture, art, and overall design reveal it as such. We love this charming little hotel, which captures the old world magic of Charleston with unbridled finesse.
Built in 1844, the Planters Inn has all the trappings of a four star hotel imbued with Southern sophistication. They even offer complimentary macarons with the nightly turndown service! Guests adore the beautifully landscaped interior courtyard and details like the plush, claw-foot armchairs and profusion of gold chandeliers. Also, don’t plan to leave before experiencing world-class dining at the on-site Peninsula Grill. The imaginative decadence inside and throughout the hotel is truly superb. Here, you can have your 19th-century four-poster bed and sleep in it, too.
We love the low-key glamour at this chic hidden gem of a hotel. Zero George is easily one of the most sought-after hotels in the Holy City, and one look at the property makes it clear why. While this boutique hotel has all the trappings of a luxury hideout, the layout feels like a private home– albeit an extremely nice one. Inside, guests appreciate the small details. The notable period woodwork and hand-laid marble bathrooms are fit for royalty. We also love the heart pine floors and fully-furnished piazza in the top floor Anson Suite.
Notably, the hotel also hosts a cooking school. On-site Zero Restaurant + Bar is a lovely respite that helped Zero George secure a rating from Food Network’s “Best Food Hotels in the Country.” While the kitchen may be small, its helmed by celebrity chef Vinson Petrillo, who makes up in personality what the space lacks in size.
Overall, the sophisticated design and culinary finesse has landed Zero George on Conde Nast Traveler‘s Gold List of “Best Hotels in the World” for several years in a row. Mostly, we love it for the secluded entrance, which makes you feel like you’re meandering into a secret garden or private villa. The miraculously private wrap porch is just a bonus. In Charleston, this kind of intimacy is paramount to the city’s charm. It’s fancy without being pretentious, exhibiting Southern hospitality par excellence. Go for a long weekend and you’ll never want to leave.
PSA: the food in Charleston is excellent. Read our guide to The Best Places to Eat in Charleston (and get insider tips on what to see while you’re there).