Planning a trip to the Deep South? Figuring out where to stay in Charleston, SC, should be near the top of your agenda. The largest city in South Carolina, Charleston is famed for its rich history and Southern hospitality. It’s one of Southeast USA’s most surprising urban escapes.
The best areas to stay in Charleston radiate from its peninsular downtown. Wedged between two rivers and Charleston Harbor, the city center teems with cool neighborhoods. Many of the best hotels in Charleston hide within centuries-old buildings in the Historic District and French Quarter. Want further-flung adventures? Areas outside the center like West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, or Folly Beach are great alternatives, too.
Want to launch your Charleston accommodation search? Get started with this complete guide to the best places to stay in Charleston, SC.
Best places to stay in Charleston, SC
Founded in 1670, Charleston is the oldest city in South Carolina and brims with Southern charm. In Charleston’s historic downtown, the city’s illustrious past takes center stage. Its leafy cobblestone streets overflow with graceful antebellum homes and pastel-hued townhouses.
The historic downtown area is home to more than 1,400 historic buildings. Inside, you’ll find trendy boutique shops, restaurants, and, of course, some of the best Charleston hotels.
Outside the city center, you’ll trade a central location for lower accommodation prices. Areas like North Charleston and West Ashley offer budget-friendly lodgings. You’ll also enjoy easier access to the state’s natural wonders. On the outskirts of the city, you’ll discover white-sand beaches, barrier islands, and national forests.
The best areas to stay in Charleston, SC, are:
✔ Best area to stay in Charleston for first-time visitors
Need a quick answer for where to stay in Charleston? Settle down in Downtown Charleston. The bustling city center has a little of everything for travelers. It’s the perfect place to stay for first-time visitors and anyone keen on squeezing the most out of their Charleston itinerary.
Despite its age, Downtown Charleston is young and vibrant. It’s the best area to enjoy great food or a night out on the town. Many of the city’s finest restaurants and bars call the city center home.
If you love to shop, Downtown won’t disappoint. King Street is more than 300 years old. In this bustling popular spot, the city’s past and present meet. On Upper King Street, trendy restaurants and stylish bars brush shoulders with art galleries and flashy hotels.
Foodies will find refuge here, too. From fine-dining seafood restaurants to modern American grills, Downtown Charleston has got it all.
To relax, spend time exploring Waterfront Park. Covering 12 acres, the park overlooks Charleston Harbor. From its swings, park benches, and pier, you’ll marvel at spectacular views over the water and towards Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant. Families will enjoy the striking Pineapple Fountain, splashing in its chill waters after sunset.
While at the harbor, take a boat ride to Fort Sumter. The military fortress is one of the foremost relics of the American Civil War. From the fort, the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Damaged during the war, the ruins of Fort Sumter have been well-preserved. They’re well worth a visit for military buffs.
On Downtown Charleston’s waterfront, the South Carolina Aquarium is a perfect spot for families. It features a stunning array of tanks with a wide range of aquatic and marine life. Features include a touch tank where you can get up close and personal with your favorite aquatic species.
Located about 30 minutes from Downtown Charleston is Folly Beach. The small resort town is a surfer’s mecca. Folly Beach also has a wide variety of seafront restaurants and pubs. Spend a day splashing in the Atlantic and relaxing by its popular pier.
Recommended hotels in Downtown
Offering both rooms and suites, Homewood Suites by Hilton is a great choice for travelers on a tighter budget. The suites all have full-service kitchens and offer a free hot breakfast. Take a splash in the enormous outdoor pool or work out at the fully-equipped 24-hour fitness center. With its location a block from King Street, the hotel is within walking distance of some of Charleston’s best restaurants. It also offers a complimentary shuttle service to any destination within a five-mile radius of the hotel.
Steps from Marion Square and the South Carolina Aquarium, Hyatt Place offers guests superb lodgings with a great location. Rooms include a Grand Bed and a cozy corner equipped with a sleeper couch. The on-site bar offers 18-hour coffee, snacks, and alcoholic beverages. The Market, stocked with takeaway meal packs, remains open 24/7. The hotel boasts modern amenities like a heated indoor pool and a 24-hour fitness center.
You’ll love the stylish rooms at the recently renovated Charleston Marriott. All are equipped with a microwave and refrigerator, and other modern amenities. Enjoy stunning views of the Ashley River from full-length windows or the rooftop bar and outdoor terrace. While Charleston Marriott isn’t within walking distance of the Historic District, the hotel offers a free shuttle. On-site amenities include a fitness center, hot tub, and palm-fringed outdoor pool.
Styled as a grand hotel, the Hotel Bennett offers guests top-notch luxury accommodation in classic European style. It boasts a terraced restaurant, French patisserie, and stunning views from the rooftop pool & bar. The rooms are spacious. The on-suites are equipped with oversized free-standing tubs. The hotel boasts customized furnishings and local works of art. Book a pamper at the spa. You won’t regret it.
A few minutes’ walk from the Farmer’s Market and the Charleston Museum, the Dewberry is one of the city’s best boutique hotels. Rooms boast floor-to-ceiling windows, offering fantastic views of the city. Luxury amenities at The Dewberry include a fitness center, a library, and a fully-equipped spa. The French bistro restaurant, Henrietta’s, offers three meals a day from an a-la-carte menu. The Citrus Bar, with its Caribbean cuisine, is open for dinner.
✔ Best neighborhood to stay in Charleston for sightseeing
Occupying much of the downtown, the Historic District is the best place to stay in Charleston for historical sightseeing. In the district, beautiful antebellum homes and colorful merchant houses line leafy avenues.
For a classic Charleston Historic District sightseeing experience, take a tour on a horse-drawn carriage. As the horses clip-clop over the cobbled streets, passing church spires and elegant old mansions, you’ll be whisked back to the 18th century.
The Historic District is home to many of the most popular things to do in Charleston, SC. Take a trip to the historic Charleston City Market along Market Street. Dating back 200 years, the market enjoys a long & rich history. In its four blocks, dozens of vendors sell arts and crafts along with traditional food and refreshments. Shop for souvenirs or sweetgrass baskets made on-site by the Gullah artisans.
The Battery and White Point Gardens sit at the edge of the historic area. From White Point, the views over Fort Sumner and Charleston Harbor are spectacular. At the public garden, you’ll also see historic canons that defended the city during the Civil War.
Not far from the top of The Battery, look out for Rainbow Row. The colorful collection of 13 Georgian-style townhouses on East Bay Street is one of the city’s most Instagrammable scenes.
Recommended hotels in Historic District
Built around a central atrium, the Indigo Inn is a historic boutique hotel. It offers all the modern amenities of the area’s newer establishments. Built in a former indigo dye warehouse, this charming hotel is within walking distance of the city’s best tourist attractions. Guests are treated to complimentary breakfast and an evening wine & cheese reception.
Recently restored, the historic Andrew Pinckney Inn was built in 1840. Some rooms still boast the original wooden floors and brick walls. The hotel is steps away from Waterfront Park and the City Market. The inn offers free breakfast, served on the charming rooftop terrace. Organize a horse-drawn carriage tour through the hotel concierge. Suites include sofa beds.
One of the best luxury hotels in Charleston, the Grand Bohemian is close to all the main attractions in the Historic District. At the hotel, you’ll enjoy European cuisine and great views from the rooftop restaurant. Or sip classic cocktails or quaff fine wine from the rooftop bar. The hotel also boasts a splendid collection of art in its on-site art gallery. To sweat out Southern comfort food, the hotel also has a fully-equipped fitness center.
The five-star Belmont Charleston Place exudes opulence and style. Towering chandeliers and marble counters vie for space with plush antique furniture and works of fine art. On the rooftop, a saltwater pool languishes beneath a retractable roof. The hotel has three restaurants to choose from. Enjoy live jazz and fine dining in the Charleston Grill. Spoil yourself at the full-treatment spa.
✔ Best place to stay in Charleston for couples
Bounded by the Cooper River to the east, the French Quarter is in the original walled city of Charleston. The area was once settled by French Huguenots escaping religious persecution. Today, the narrow cobblestone streets are lined with some of the city’s oldest churches and historic hotels.
The 400-year-old Dock Street Theatre was the first building in the US designed for theatrical performances. Opening in 1736, the theatre hosted America’s first-ever Opera.
One of the most photographed houses in Charleston, the Pink House Tavern was built in 1712. It was the oldest standing tavern in the South. Today, the colorful historic home hosts a museum and art gallery.
Also in Charleston’s French Quarter is the remnants of the Old Slave Mart. Constructed in 1859, the building now houses one of the most popular museums in Charleston. To even out your sightseeing experience, it’s one of the city’s most important places to visit.
The French Quarter isn’t large. Nonetheless, the neighborhood has plenty to see & do. Its amazing restaurants, pubs, and dozens of art galleries could keep you occupied for days.
Recommended hotels in French Quarter
The historic Vendue Hotel is housed in warehouse buildings that date back to the 1780s. The location is perfect. It sits alongside the Historic District and within walking distance of galleries and museums. The hotel prides itself on its art-directed feel. It holds bi-annual exhibitions of local and international works of art.
The Harbor View Inn exudes rustic charm, from its exposed brick walls to its British West Indies furnishing. Rooms feature imposing four-poster beds and original works of art. The hotel was a cotton warehouse in the 1930s. It overlooks Waterfront Park and Charleston Harbor. Enjoy a complimentary wine & cheese reception and skyline views from the rooftop.
Overlooking City Market and close to Waterfront Park, French Quarter Inn charms guests with its luxurious rooms. Its location offers easy access to the city’s best tourist destinations. The plush rooms are vintage-inspired, boasting magnificent marble bathrooms. A gourmet continental breakfast is served for free daily. The hotel boasts amenities like an on-site spa and complimentary bikes.
With its location a block from City Market, the award-winning Spectator Hotel recalls the Roaring Twenties. The hotel is filled with 1920s era details like luxurious furnishings and sparkling chandeliers. Enjoy a free gourmet breakfast to start the day. Go back in time at the Speakeasy pub, serving up sophisticated bar food and cocktails inspired by prohibition.
✔ Top neighborhood to stay in Charleston for budget travelers
To escape the higher accommodation prices of the city center, venture over the Ashley River to West Ashley. Minutes from downtown, West Ashley offers excellent value hotels. It even has a few charms of its own.
Founded in 1676, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is the oldest public garden in America. When his house burnt down in the Civil War, founder John Drayton opened the gardens to make money to live on. The 464-acre Magnolia Plantation & Gardens is located on the Ashley River.
In West Ashley, you’ll also America’s oldest landscaped gardens at Middleton Place. The 65-acre formal garden was first planted in 1741. The Middleton Place house museum, rice mill, and spring house are all worth visiting, too. The newly renovated Plantation Stable Yards offer insight into the working life of slaves.
Located on the Ashley River, Drayton Hall is the only plantation house to have survived the American Revolution and Civil War with no damage. Built in the 1730s, the interior contains fine examples of European and local artwork and furniture.
Recommended hotels in West Ashley
The Town and Country Inn Suites offer modern and comfortable rooms at an affordable price. The hotel features an outdoor pool and an on-site restaurant. The Trotters is open for three meals a day, offering delicious Southern cuisine. Each room is equipped with a fridge and microwave oven. The suites include a full kitchenette.
Within walking distance of the Cultural Arts Center and the Antique Mall of Charleston, the Comfort Suites West of Ashley is a modern hotel. It’s affixed with all the amenities you might need on your trip. The hotel offers free breakfast and an outdoor pool.
It’s always nice to know what to expect. And the Holiday Inn does just that wherever in the world you stay. Their West Ashley location offers a modern, comfortable stay. And although five miles from downtown, the hotel will arrange transport to all the central Charleston tourist points. Grab a complimentary breakfast before you go. Take some time to relax at the palm-shaded pool at the end of the day.
✔ Recommended area to stay in Charleston for nature lovers
Craving an escape from the city buzz? Consider staying in North Charleston. Located north of Charleston, North Charleston is a politically separate city. In fact, it’s the third-biggest city in the state!
North Charleston offers plenty of urban charms of its own, like boutique shops, restaurants, and pubs. The city is better known, though, for its outdoor charms.
Riverfront Park is a favorite destination in North Charleston for locals and tourists alike. On the banks of the Cooper River, the park sits alongside the homes of naval officers who once worked at the Charleston Naval Base.
Military history buffs should head over to the Greater Charleston Naval Base. Closed in 1996 after 95 years in operation, the base brims with maritime history. The memorial walls are covered with stories of the exploits of its sailors.
Since you’re close to the ocean and the Cooper River, take time out for a sightseeing or fishing boating expedition. Dolphin and shark watching are also popular. Regular night boating trips depart from the city’s shores.
Find arts & crafts and fresh vegetables at the North Charleston Farmers Market between May and October every year. Look out for the live music concerts that take place every week.
Recommended hotels in North Charleston
A mile from the Tanger Outlets, the renovated Comfort Inn and Suites Convention Center is a great option for shoppers. The value-laden hotel is comfortable and well-equipped. Amenities include a fully-equipped fitness center and a heated pool. It also serves a complimentary hot breakfast every day.
The pristine Hampton Inn & Suites Charleston Airport is both modern and comfortable. It sports both an outdoor pool and a fully-equipped gym. Choose between a hot breakfast or grab & go before taking the free shuttle to a destination of your choice within a five-mile radius of the hotel.
The Homewood Suites by Hilton Airport combines traditional style with modern comfort. Amenities include an outdoor pool and a fully-equipped fitness center. Each suite has a kitchen. Enjoy a hot complimentary breakfast before you hop onto the free shuttle. Charleston International Airport is a quick drive away.
Other areas in Charleston
Located across the Cooper River from Downtown Charleston, Mount Pleasant is one of the best areas to stay for families. Hotels in Mount Pleasant are cheaper than in the city center. Mount Pleasant has even got a few draws of its own. Attractions include Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum and the Mount Pleasant Historic District. Shem Creek Park and Sullivan’s Island are also close by.
For a quiet SC beach vacation, lay down your head at Folly Beach. The seaside town makes for a fantastic Atlantic Ocean escape. Accommodation is limited. Prices in Folly Beach tend towards the mid-range and above.
Mid-range and luxury travelers needing sea breeze should set their eyes on Kiawah Island. Located 25 miles from downtown, the barrier island comprises mostly a private beach & golf resort. Its golf courses are considered some of the best along the East Coast. Staying on Kiawah Island, you’ll also be able to hit up neighboring Seabrook Island. It’s a fantastic destination for golfers and offers a handful of quiet beaches for pure bliss.
Isle of Palms
Most travelers visit Isle of Palms as a day trip from Charleston. Spending the night, though, will let you explore its seaside charms at a more languid pace. The accommodation selection in Isle of Palms isn’t large, consisting mostly of short-term rentals. You’ll often find better value lodgings in nearby Mount Pleasant.