10 of the best hotels in Charleston, from historic landmarks to hipster hotspots

This city in South Carolina combines Southern charm with East Coast chic.

Camellia's, Hotel Bennett's Champagne and oyster bar

Photograph by Hotel Bennett
By Jonathan Thompson
Published 20 Mar 2023, 07:00 GMT

With its architectural beauty, garland of golden beaches and feted food scene, Charleston in South Carolina is the perfect blend of Southern charm and East Coast chic. It’s relatively small by US standards, with a population of just 150,000, and its palmetto tree-lined streets are easily walkable. History suffuses everything here, from the town’s dark days as a slaving port in the mid-19th century — soon to be tackled head on by the International African American Museum, opening later this year — to its wealthy colonial, Civil War and even pirate past (Blackbeard is said to have lived here). And the best accommodation is on Charleston’s thumb-shaped historic peninsula. 

1. Best for design gurus


Offering impeccable style mixed with a wry sense of humour and served with a generous splash of colour, the Emeline wouldn’t look out of place in hipster hotspots such as Nashville or Austin. Each of the 212 rooms comes with its own record player and a selection of vinyl, as well as a refillable glass bottle for the duration of your stay (there are water dispensing stations throughout the hotel, with both still and sparkling on offer). The main restaurant, Frannie & The Fox, serves thoughtful Italian-influenced food, including mouth-watering wood-fired pizzas; the best seat in the house is the  ‘foxhole’ to the side of the kitchen, with its hidden cocktail hatch for speedy speakeasy-style service. Clerks, the lively lobby coffeeshop, is the perfect place to fuel up before you hop onto one of the hotel’s free cruiser bikes to explore the city.
Rooms: From £375. hotelemeline.com

2. Best for style-lovers

Hotel Bennett

Overlooking Charleston’s historic Marion Square, Hotel Bennett was the most expensive hotel ever built in South Carolina when it opened to much fanfare in early 2019. 
The £210m investment has paid for sumptuous design throughout, from Camellias — the egg-shaped Champagne and oyster bar inspired by the famous Fabergé jewel boxes — to the sleek rooftop pool bar. The onsite restaurant, Gabrielle, is one of the hottest reservations in Charleston, and the Bennett also benefits from a near-unbeatable location at the head of King Street, the centre of Charleston’s shopping scene. 
Rooms: From £415. hotelbennett.com

3. Best for solo travellers

The Ryder

Like strolling into a pool party on Miami’s South Beach, the Ryder is a riot. At the heart of the action is the lush outdoor pool itself, complete with inflatable flamingos. An entire day can be spent here, ordering cocktails and aptly named ‘fun bites’ from the Hawaiian-shirted waiters at the poolside bar. You can also take advantage of the hotel’s ‘wellness passport’, granting a free fitness class at a different local gym daily. Or failing that, 
you can call reception and a Peloton bike 
will be delivered to your room. There’s also 
an £8.35 food-and-drink voucher gifted to guests each day of their stay.
Rooms: From £195. theryderhotel.com

The lobby at the Mills House Hotel

The Lobby at the Mills House Hotel

Photograph by The Mills House Hotel

4. Best for traditionalists

Mills House Hotel

An iconic pink landmark sitting pretty at the busy intersection of Meeting and Queen streets, the Mills House Hotel has been in operation since 1853, but recently underwent a major renovation to become the city’s first Hilton Curio property. The result is an updated aesthetic throughout its 218 rooms, as well as a new rooftop pool. The hotel’s beloved restaurant, Iron Rose, remains the largest dining room in Charleston, specialising in elevated Lowcountry cuisine such as fresh blue crab fritters and moreish oyster gratin, served with lashings of Southern hospitality and delicious, rose-themed cocktails.
Rooms: From £180. themillshousehotel.com

5. Best for peace-seekers

The Pinch

The newest addition to Charleston’s boutique hotel scene, The Pinch sits on a secluded courtyard, insulated from the liveliness of the bars and boutiques on nearby King Street. Once you’re inside and the door is closed, it feels like you’re visiting a rich relative on Manhattan’s Upper West Side who has a keen eye for design. The rooms are generous and stylish, and there’s an onsite spa. The real star of the show, however, is the adjoining Quinte Oyster Bar, a turn of the century-themed oyster house and cocktail lounge.
Rooms: From £310. thepinch.com

6. Best for drama queens

20 South Battery

Built in 1843, this former private mansion is now a B&B, but has retained all of its Victorian charm. A quartet of lavish suites with four-poster beds, chandeliers and huge 19th-century paintings corkscrew off a spiral staircase, while there are an additional 10 cosy rooms out in the old carriage house. The latter sit on a palm-shaded courtyard filled with statues — the perfect spot for an early evening glass of wine. The complimentary breakfast is a particular treat, while wine and cheese are served in the drawing room every day from 5-6pm. Even the location — facing the ocean on Charleston’s windswept Battery — is dramatic.  
Rooms: From £388, B&B. 20southbattery.com

7. Best for people watchers

The Charleston Place

Previously a Belmond flagship hotel, The Charleston Place was bought by a local billionaire in late 2021 and has since undergone a significant facelift. The undisputed grande dame of the French Quarter, it now has an upgraded spa (including an incredible saltwater infinity pool under a retractable roof), and revamped eating options: the fine-dining Charleston Grill, and the breakfast and lunch haunt, The Palmetto Cafe, which feels like a five-star greenhouse. The lobby, which includes the Thoroughbred Club, with its piano player and potent cocktails, doubles as downtown Charleston’s unofficial living room.
Rooms: From £495. charlestonplace.com

The lobby at The Pinch

The lobby at The Pinch

Photograph by Matthew Williams

8. Best for local living

The Restoration

Tucked away on a leafy side street in Charleston’s Historic District, The Restoration has 54 apartment-style suites spread across five intertwined old buildings, with exposed brick walls, high ceilings and private kitchens. The Rise coffee bar on the ground floor helps guests slip into Charleston living, as it’s usually full of chatty locals getting their daily caffeine hit. It’s a similar scene at The Watch, the hotel’s seventh-floor restaurant — a popular local brunch spot with incredible views of the city and ocean beyond. There are also dedicated ‘guest service curators’ to help plan activities including everything from rooftop yoga and carriage rides to private crabbing lessons in the harbour.
Rooms: From £240. therestorationhotel.com

9. Best for high flyers on a budget

The Spectator

Many luxury hotels claim to have butler service, but most of the time that means a glorified concierge. But The Spectator really does have butler service — right down to the old-school uniforms. When you check in, you’ll be assigned one of these doting professionals, who can assist you with everything from securing hard-to-get reservations to drawing candlelit rose petal baths. The hotel itself feels very good value, from its walk-in showers to its complimentary breakfasts and generous mezcal cocktails in the 1920s-themed bar. 
Rooms: From £235, B&B. thespectatorhotel.com

10. Best for trendsetters

The Loutrel

Opened in November 2021, The Loutrel is a 50-room luxury boutique hotel just a stone’s throw from Charleston’s historic City Market. Featuring a breezy, porch-style foyer and a relaxed roof terrace, its vibe is casual and carefree, but there’s keen attention to detail under the surface — including customised experiences for guests, such as organised picnics and guided tours of the city led by in-house historian Dana Levine. From the sofa swing in the lobby to the private club room and armchairs on the roof, The Loutrel is designed to feel very much like a home from home. 
Rooms: From £320. theloutrel.com

Published in the April 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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