Some have started to draw comparisons between downtown Charleston, South Carolina, and Venice.
Both are slowly sinking into the sea, both flood at the drop of a hat, and both host some of the most impressive boutique hotels in the world.
It sometimes feels possible to find one of the most unique boutique hotels in downtown Charleston, SC, on every other other block.
There is no question that the downtown Charleston, SC, historic district, is beautiful.
Its picturesque streets are lined with antebellum homes. Historic landmarks and scenic waterfront views add to the appeal. It also has a rich cultural heritage, a vibrant culinary scene and a diverse array of shops, galleries, and museums to explore.
What is the best area to stay in Charleston, SC?
If you’re looking at Charleston hotels in this list, you’re looking for boutique hotels.
Those are all clustered in a few (pricey) neighborhoods in historic downtown Charleston:
- The French Quarter
- Harleston Village
- King Street
But there are hotels scattered all over the peninsula, suiting various tastes and budgets. Check out the best places to stay in Charleston, SC, for more recommendations. And yet, the best boutique hotels in downtown Charleston, SC, are going to remain in the above neighborhoods.
Wait, what is a boutique hotel?
Boutique hotels are an upscale and one-of-a-kind option for a more personalized and intimate experience. These hotels are smaller and privately owned, providing a different experience from chain hotels. They frequently have one-of-a-kind decor, high-end amenities, and exceptional service.
What to expect at any of the best boutique hotels in Charleston, South Carolina
Keep in mind that all the best boutique hotels in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, offer similar amenities. Some of which include:
- Friendly, professional, and attentive staff
- Great locations
- Evening aperitif with some cheese or some other small bites
- Plush, luxurious amenities in your accommodations
And most also feature spas, pools, and fitness centers, though some are limited by their historic structure or location. Check their websites for specifics I haven’t covered. I recommend always booking directly with the business for the best available rates. Several are likely advertising on this website, which helps cover the costs of maintaining this blog.
4 Cool Hotels in Downtown Charleston, SC
The following are my favorites on this list. They’re trendy and just plain cool. They’re also perfect for a drink any night of the week, depending on the vibe you’re looking for. More than a few of these are on my list of the best bars in downtown Charleston, SC. I swear I’m not as big of a lush as I am making myself sound.
The Vendue Hotel
The Vendue Hotel is on the corner of East Bay and Vendue Range, which leads straight to Waterfront Park.
This hotel has two cool things going for it:
The building is a collection of historic warehouses, some of which date from the 1780s. That said, the historic nature of the building does require some lowered expectations for the accommodations. The rooms can be on the small side. That said, the food at their restaurant, Drawing Room, and the service in general is fantastic.
And it’s an easy walk to many of the best Charleston, South Carolina, points of interest:
- Waterfront Park
- Rainbow Row
- Historic Charleston City Market
The Spectator Hotel
Another of the best boutique hotels in downtown Charleston, SC, is only a few blocks away from the Vendue Hotel.
It’s also just as close to all the same attractions. Some of the rooms and balconies have views of the Historic Charleston City Market, for example.
The Spectator Hotel is one of the newest hotels constructed in downtown Charleston. It’s set in a 1920s art deco building on State Street. The rooms here are big with comfortable beds, though cleanliness could be improved.
Having grown-up working at a bed and breakfast in Greenwich, Connecticut, I know a thing or two about cleanliness in hospitality. That said, this place is fancy: amenities are all high-end, with bathrooms graced with marble.
Staff is friendly and professional, even when this writer stood confused in the lobby looking for the bar. They made a point of not matching my subconscious feeling that it was obvious I had no right to be there.
The decor of the bar and lounge is reminiscent of The Great Gatsby.
It’s great for an aperitif before taking advantage of half-price sushi night.
The Grand Bohemian
Again, the Grand Bohemian is a short walk from the other two boutique hotels on this list.
This boutique hotel has a funky decor. While the Vendue Hotel displays art for art’s sake, the selection here is intended to be somewhat off-putting to the casual visitor. The retro decor of the common areas pervades into rooms, which are plush with the standard amenities of a boutique hotel.
This lodging establishment is also pet friendly.
Though I personally wouldn’t want to stay in a hotel room after someone’s pet, no offense.
The Grand Bohemian has more available on the premises than the Spectator:
- Expensive farm-to-table restaurant
- Art gallery
- Fitness center
- Wine bar
But my favorite feature is obviously the rooftop bar and restaurant. The drinks are a little pricey, and the view of Meeting Street isn’t exactly impressive. But it’s still a pleasant, funky place to see and be seen.
The Restoration Hotel
I’ll be honest, the Restoration Hotel is more my style if I were looking for a place to stay in Charleston.
All accommodations are suites, and most have high ceilings, exposed brick walls, and great views of the city.
That said, I can’t afford it.
Accommodations like these extensively restored ones right on King Street don’t come cheap.
Restoration on King describes itself as uniting classic elegance with a natural and easy going Southern touch. And that style pervades the decor, service, and amenities:
- Breakfast is included in the rate, and delivered in picnic baskets
- Evening wine and cheese receptions
- Free bike rentals for guests
- Free access to a nearby fitness club
- Rooftop terrace
The view from the rooftop terrace looks great.
3 Newer Hip Hotels in Downtown Charleston, SC
The next two boutique hotels on the list are a little further away from the others.
I have followed the boutique hotel Zero George since it opened in 2014.
On the corner of George Street and East Bay (hence the name), Zero George is made-up of five restored buildings from the early 1800s. The style of Zero George is elegantly simple, with a mix of period and contemporary decor. The landscaped central courtyard is quite pretty.
- Zero Restaurant & Bar
- Daily breakfast
- Free use of bicycles
- Evening wine and cheese pairing
Cooking classes at the Kitchen Carriage House at Zero George are among the most romantic things to do in Charleston, SC.
This is still a great location. It’s across the street from the Gaillard Auditorium, but also an easy walk to the South Carolina Aquarium and King Street. The hordes of tourists and cars have fewer reasons to be here.
It’s also around the corner from the Harris Teeter, if you’re into that.
This is one of the newer Charleston boutique hotels on this list.
The Dewberry Charleston is on Meeting Street, overlooking Marion Square. This renovation made a marked improvement over the dilapidated Federal building that hunkered there before. And the rooms are gorgeous with a contemporary decor. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer fantastic views of downtown. And the location is just as good as the others.
The Dewberry is an easy walk to:
- The Charleston Museum
- King Street
- The South Carolina Aquarium
The Dewberry’s original plans included a rooftop bar. This detail they neglected to mention to the Board of Architectural Review. When they opened the bar, the BAR immediately shut it down. After that, the neighbors fought it tooth and nail. They were eventually able to open it, after jumping through all sorts of legal hoops. A drink here rewards with soaring views of Marion Square.
And the first floor bar’s quite nice.
The Hotel Bennett is another five-star luxury hotel in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.
It debuted in late 2018 after a never-ending construction.
The hotel is in the heart of the city, overlooking Marion Square.
The Hotel Bennett has 178 guest rooms and suites that are luxurious and elegantly decorated. All rooms feature the expected high-end amenities such as marble bathrooms, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi. A rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the city, a fitness center, and a spa are also available at the hotel.
The hotel also has an on-site restaurant, La Pâtisserie, that serves breakfast and pastries. The rooftop bar, The Rooftop at Hotel Bennett, serves drinks and small plates to enjoy with the city views.
The Hotel Bennett is well-known for its excellent service and is a popular choice among luxury visitors to Charleston. It is also an ideal venue for events and weddings, with a ballroom, terrace, and several meeting rooms.
The hotel is on the corner of King Street and Hutson Street, making it an ideal location for exploring the city. Many of the city’s most popular attractions in Charleston’s historic district, including the Charleston City Market and the Battery, are within walking distance.
5 More of the Best Boutique Hotels in Downtown Charleston, SC
None of the rest of this list are places I’ve personally stayed.
I do snoop when people visiting me decide to take advantage of these accommodations.
All these boutique hotels offer romantic vacation packages. Head over to our article on planning romantic weekend getaways and honeymoons in Charleston to find one that’s a perfect fit for your next trip.
The cupola that graces the top of Wentworth Mansion is hard to miss from much of downtown Charleston. The Wentworth Mansion is a Gilded Age mansion close to Colonial Lake. Today, it’s a family-owned 5-star luxury hotel. Besides typical amenities for a romantic Charleston bed and breakfast like breakfast, this luxury boutique hotel also features to its guests:
- Circa 1886 Restaurant, in the former carriage house
- Afternoon hors d’oeuvres and wine
- Housemade chocolates with turn-down service
- Evening port, sherry, or brandy
Many of the inn’s rooms and suites feature touches like sunrooms and original fireplaces. Some rooms are pet friendly. And none of these rooms are within my personal budget.
French Quarter Inn
Back to the area near the Historic Charleston City Market and Waterfront Park is the French Quarter Inn. The French Quarter Inn touts itself as the most awarded hotel in Charleston, as well as one of the most luxurious retreats.
It also describes the building it’s in as, “striking”.
I believe that translates to late-20th Century modern and inappropriate for its location. But who’s counting?
That said, their awards from Conde Nast Traveler, TripAdvisor, and Travel + Leisure are impressive. Besides many amenities that are standard for the best boutique hotels in downtown Charleston, SC, are some unique ones:
- Champagne at check-in
- Fresh baked cookies and milk each evening
- In-room spa services
And their inn is in a fantastic location, to boot.
At the corner of Market and East Bay Street sits the Planters Inn. This Relais & Chateaux property faces the Historic Charleston City Market. It prides itself for being a well-preserved architectural gem with hushed elegance and a refined Southern style. The writers at Travel + Leisure describe a stay at this property as, “akin to an overnight with well-to-do friends in their old Charleston mansion.” The romantic side courtyard alone makes for a pleasant entrance to the Planters Inn. But the photos on their site do a splendid job of displaying their rooms.
Belmond Charleston Place
The city of Charleston sold the Omni Hotel chain a prime location on Market Street between King Street and Meeting Street in 1986.
The hope was that it would turn-around a dilapidated area. Connecting the more-visited Market Street to the dying King Street shopping districts breathed new life into the area.
Many more hotels began to plan competitors in the area, which snowballed to today.
The fact that you’re reading a list of the best boutique hotels in downtown Charleston, SC, is testament to the success of that plan.
Today, the now called Belmond Charleston Place is the standard in luxury for Charleston. The rooms are beautiful and elegant, and most have fantastic views of the surrounding city. The rooftop pool has a gorgeous view, and is near the spa and fitness center.
The first floor of the Belmond is a small indoor mall full of luxury boutique stores. The shops at Belmond Place contain such options for high-end shopping in Charleston, SC, as:
- Louis Vuitton
- White House / Black Market
- Godiva Chocolatier
It also hosts one of the most high-end fine dining restaurants in downtown Charleston: Charleston Grill.
The second floor will host events accessible to the public, including art exhibitions for SEWE, or the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition.
The Spa at Belmond Place, while expensive, is considered one of the most romantic things to do in Charleston, South Carolina.
Kings Courtyard Inn
The Kings Courtyard Inn is a charming and elegant hotel in the historic district of Charleston. The hotel has elegantly appointed guest rooms and suites, each with its own distinct decor and antique furnishings. Complimentary breakfast, evening wine and cheese receptions, and a charming courtyard garden are among the amenities.
Which boutique hotels in Charleston, SC, offer continental breakfast?
Many boutique hotels in Charleston offer continental breakfast as part of their amenities. Here are a few:
The Kings Courtyard Inn
Every morning, this hotel provides a complimentary continental breakfast. It includes a variety of pastries, fruits, yogurt, and cereal.
The Zero George Street
Each morning, guests can enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast here, which includes fresh baked pastries, fruit, yogurt, and coffee.
The Spectator Hotel
This hotel offers a continental breakfast with fresh pastries, fruit, yogurt, and coffee to guests each morning.
Guests may also enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast at this hotel every morning.
This hotel offers a complimentary continental breakfast to guests each morning which includes the typical breakfast staples.
Please note that these offerings might change, it’s always good to check with the hotel directly for the latest information.
What to do near boutique hotels in Charleston, SC
Visitors can enjoy a wide range of activities and attractions while staying at Charleston historic district hotels. Touring the city’s historic homes and gardens, such as the Nathaniel Russell House and the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, are popular options. The city hosts a number of museums, including the Charleston Museum and the Gibbes Museum of Art.
A visit to Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, is a must-do for history buffs. Visitors can take a ferry to the island and tour the fort while learning about the war’s history.
There are also a number of parks and green spaces in the city. One of the most famous is White Point Gardens, where visitors can enjoy scenic waterfront views and watch ships come in and out of the harbor.
The city is also well-known for its food scene, with many restaurants serving Lowcountry cuisine, seafood, and southern comfort food. McCrady’s and Poogan’s Porch are popular choices.
King Street is a popular shopping destination, with a wide range of unique boutiques, antique shops, and art galleries.
Charleston is also well-known for its festivals and events, which include:
- The annual Charleston Wine + Food Festival
- The Spoleto Festival USA
- And the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition
But there’s so much more! You just may need a car.
There’s a lot to fill a long weekend, or longer.
Spoken from experience.
Tips for Planning a Stay at a Boutique Hotel in Charleston
It is best to book guest rooms at boutique hotels in Charleston well in advance, as they tend to fill up quickly. It’s also a good idea to check their websites for any available special deals or packages.
Bring comfortable walking shoes when packing for your trip, as many of the city’s attractions and activities require a lot of walking. It’s also a good idea to bring a light sweater or jacket in the evenings, as the city can get quite cool. And trust me, a hot night here can still feel cool compared to a much hotter day.
Transportation in Charleston can be difficult, particularly during peak tourist season. Many of the city’s streets are narrow and one-way, making parking difficult to come by. Consider taking a taxi, ride-sharing service, or public transportation to get around.
Many of Charleston’s boutique hotels provide valet parking, so check with your hotel to see if this is an option.
Finally, check with the hotel about check-in and check-out times, as these can differ. And read our full list of Charleston travel tips before you come.
The Best Boutique Hotels in Downtown Charleston, SC, for Multiple Stays
And there you have it, my personal favorites of the many options for boutique hotels in Charleston, South Carolina.
Updated and republished: January 26, 2023