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Where to Stay in Charleston
If you really want the genuine Charleston vacation experience, you’ll want to find a nice hotel in the Downtown Charleston Peninsula area. Downtown is separated from the outlying areas by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, which converge in Charleston Harbor at the peninsula’s tip. This area is also divided into three distinct segments; the Historic District is bordered by Broad Street to the north and Murray Street, which runs along the harbor, to the south. Sometimes referred to as “South of Broad,” this neighborhood has but a few exclusive hotels and B&Bs. North of Broad Street and south of Marion Square is considered Downtown Charleston, and that’s where you’ll find the majority of the hotels, numerous boutiques and some of the best restaurants. There are no real hotel options north of Marion Square, though there are a few notable museums and shops in this area.
You may find more economical Charleston hotel deals in the surrounding communities of Mount Pleasant to the east, North Charleston to the north and the West Ashley district of Charleston to the west.
Charleston Hotel Tips
Charleston is the oldest city in South Carolina, and many of its hotels and B&Bs are historic landmark properties. These tend to be located closer to the Historic District, and also tend to be more expensive. And while they’ve all been modernized to the point that they’re perfectly comfortable, many of them have been preserved with their original low ceilings, narrow doorways and other features that may seem quirky compared to truly modern hotels. Several historic B&Bs embrace the historical feel fully, furnishing rooms with antiques, period furniture and no electronics.
Downtown hotels include both modern and historic properties, which are generally luxurious with higher rates. For economy hotels, you’ll need to leave the peninsula, but you can find great deals within 20 minutes of Downtown.
Charleston Hotel Recommendations
If you’re going to Charleston to experience history firsthand, consider staying in the Governor’s House Inn. It was originally the pre-Revolution mansion of Edward Rutledge, the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence and eventual Governor of South Carolina. Situated on the edge of the Historic District, the inn features 11 individually appointed suites, a magnificent garden, daily afternoon tea and a reception with wine, cheese and sherry each evening.
Perhaps the all-around finest hotel in Charleston is the Charleston Place Hotel, an Orient-Express hotel with a rooftop pool, spacious club-level rooms and the on-site Charleston Grill, one of the city’s finer restaurants. The most modest rooms are actually quite affordable for a property of this caliber, but there are several levels of luxury to choose from.
The HarbourView Inn, as the name implies, offers some of the best views of Charleston Harbor and charming sea captain décor. Its unique furnishings and superior service make this one of Charleston’s favorite boutique properties. On the north end of Downtown, the Francis Marion Hotel has some of the most competitive rates for formal, elegant and luxurious accommodations.
It helps to consider your itinerary when deciding whether or not to rent a car after your flight to Charleston lands. If you’d like to see the Charles Towne Landing Historic Site, Fort Moultrie or any of the other points of interest in the outer reaches of the area, you’re better off having your own ground transportation. This is also true if you’ll be staying in North Charleston, Mount Pleasant or any of the peripheral neighborhoods, because you’ll likely be making lots of trips to Downtown.
However, if you’re staying in a Downtown or Historic District hotel and plan on doing all of your sightseeing on the peninsula, you can take a cheap taxi or shuttle ride to your hotel from the airport. These areas are very pedestrian friendly and make for scenic walks, so you may want to travel on foot most of the time. But if you need to give your feet a rest, the Downtown Area Shuttle—DASH for short—runs multiple routes through this part of town. You can pay your one-way fare with exact change or purchase daily unlimited ride passes; ask your hotel front desk for route maps and information.