Headed to the Palmetto state and wondering where to stay in Charleston, SC? Discover the best areas to base yourself and my favorite hotels in each. I include options for all budgets!
Southern charm, comfort food, rooftop bars, boutique shopping, evening ghost tours, and coastal views...what more could you ask for? There's a reason Charleston made my list of the 10 BEST weekend getaways in the USA.
If you've decided to explore this charming destination, the first question you'll probably ask yourself is "what's the best area to stay in Charleston, SC and what hotel should I book?" This post was written to answer that very question.
I'll show you which areas are perfect for sightseeing and exploring the city with ease. You'll also learn my favorite hotels in each neighborhood. These are the places I've been recommending to family and friends for years!
The best area to stay in Charleston SC Is the historic city center
French Quarter and the area around and south of Marion Square
My first piece of advice for those planning a visit to Charleston, especially if it's your first time, is to stay in the historic city center.
This includes the French Quarter neighborhood and the area surrounding and south of Marion Square.
90% of Charleston's draw is its colorful, walkable, downtown center. I absolutely love that you can walk, or bike if your hotel includes them, to just about everywhere. On my last visit to Charleston, the only time we needed a car was going to and from the airport.
If you're going all the way to Charleston, do it right and stay where the culture, views, restaurants, shops, and action is. You won't regret it. Even if it does mean the hotel will cost a bit extra.
The convenience of being able to walk out the hotel lobby and be minutes away from dinner or your afternoon tour is half the fun. It makes for such an easy getaway. If you base yourself in the historic city center, anywhere worth going will be no more than 25 minutes walking distance.
If you follow my advice on where to stay in Charleston, South Carolina, you'll be surprised at how easy putting your trip together is. No hassle with rental cars, Ubers, or figuring out public transportation.
This map shows the best hotels and where to stay in Charleston, SC. Click the icon in the very top left to see a list view of each pinned location. Click the top right button to enlarge the map. Click the star to save to your own Google Maps account. To access this map once saved (after clicking the star), open Google Maps (on your phone/computer/tablet), click the menu button, go to "your places", select "maps", and you will see this map listed.
- Blue - sights
- Purple- French Quarter area and hotels
- Black - Marion Square area and hotels
- Red - affordable alternative
The absolute best area to stay in Charleston, SC for first-timers who want to be close to the prettiest streets and best sights.
I strongly recommend booking your hotel in the French Quarter if it's your first time in Charleston. This area is towards the southern part of the peninsula and near the water.
The main reason this is my recommendation on where to stay in Charleston, South Carolina is that it's by far the most picturesque. You're steps away from some of the most beautiful streets in Charleston, including Rainbow Row and my personal favorite, Tradd Street.
Ravenel Waterfront Park (with the Pineapple Fountain), the Historic Charleston City Market, and a number of amazing restaurants, cafes, and rooftop bars are located in the French Quarter. This is also the area many tour groups tend to meet at.
All in all, the French Quarter is a very convenient place to stay as you're in the heart of the action. Not to mention, it oozes Southern charm and personality.
If atmosphere is what you're looking for, the French Quarter is where to stay in Charleston, South Carolina!
Consider going a walking tour!
**Please do not support animal cruelty and skip the horse carriage rides where one horse is pulling 10+ people in extreme heat and humidity. Get some exercise and walk or bike the city instead. Same goes for New Orleans.**
The best luxury hotels in Charleston, SC - French Quarter
Luxury Hotels in Charleston
The Spectator Hotel - consistently ranked on travel websites like Travel and Leisure, Conde Nast, US News and World Report, and more, this hotel has been making headlines since they opened in 2015.
The Spectator Hotel was ranked the #5 hotel in the continental US and #98 in the world by Travel & Leisure. Service shines here with a personal butler for your stay. If top-notch service is high on your priority list, this is where to stay in Charleston, South Carolina.
Planters Inn - voted the #1 best US boutique hotel by Travel and Leisure, this 64 room charmer is one of the most romantic hotels in Charleston SC. Book a room with a fireplace for an added touch of luxury.
French Quarter Inn - southern hospitality abounds with champagne at check-in, fresh baked cookies and milk each evening, and a nightly wine and cheese reception. Rooms evoke an elegant guest house vibe.
Charleston Place, A Belmond Hotel - a classic and timeless hotel with a rooftop pool, spa, and award-winning dining. This hotel offers a variety of activities (like a morning HIIT workout by the Ravenel Bridge) and custom walking tours. They'll even pack a gourmet picnic basket for you to enjoy wherever you wish.
The best mid-range hotels in Charleston, SC - French Quarter
Mid-Range Hotels in Charleston
Hotel Emeline - this was the hotel I chose for my most recent stay in Charleston, SC. I didn't have one complaint and attention to detail is the name of the game here.
Local vendors and products are used throughout the hotel, freshly brewed coffee is delivered to your room each morning, and complimentary bikes are available to roam the city.
Don't forget to check out Frannie and the Fox for brunch and enjoy the cozy courtyard after a busy day of sightseeing. The Socialite rooms with two king-sized beds are perfect for a Charleston girls weekend.
The Vendue - this has become my backup hotel when I'm having a really hard time finding a decent rate in the French Quarter. Rooms of all shapes and sizes are available here, including interior rooms with no windows, hence why I'm usually able to find a doable price.
The rooftop bar is one of my favorites in the city and the location can't be beat as it's steps away from the waterfront.
Marriott Hotels in Charleston
*I like to list Marriott hotels because that's our brand of choice for loyalty perks. I am in no way a partner with Marriott, this is just the brand we are currently loyal to.
Grand Bohemian Hotel - this Autograph Collection hotel is a winner for those looking to use or earn Marriott points. It's pet-friendly, offers a trendy rooftop bar and wine tasting room, and has rooms designed with an artistic flair.
Right next door is the Renaissance, though, I prefer the Grand Bohemian.
The best area to stay in Charleston, South Carolina if you want to be close to some of the best restaurants (also one of the most central points).
If being smack dap in the heart of the city center is your aim, Marion Square is the best area to stay in Charleston, SC. This is a great home base if you've been to Charleston before and have already experienced staying in the French Quarter.
Marion Square is located on the main shopping street, King Street. Some of my favorite restaurants are also just north of Marion Square including The Ordinary, The Grocery, and The Darling Oyster Bar. Kudo Coffee, one of my favorite coffee shops, is just across the street.
This is my second favorite area to stay in Charleston. It's ideal if your trip is more focused on restaurants and shopping versus seeing the sights. Though, you're still just a 15-20 minute walk from the heart of the French Quarter, Rainbow Row, etc. so it's still convenient from a tourist's perspective.
The best luxury hotels in Charleston, SC - Marion Square
Luxury Hotels in Charleston
The Dewberry - a mid-century work of art. Sip cocktails on the 8th floor rooftop terrace or cozy up in the Living Room. Amenities include complimentary bikes to cruise around town and Dewberry Volvo house cars to whisk you to dinner.
This is where to stay in Charleston, South Carolina if you're into interior/hotel design. After my stay, I left with a million inspirations on how to design my own home.
The best mid-range hotels in Charleston, SC - Marion Square
Mid-Range Hotels in Charleston
Francis Marion Hotel - the location is ideal facing Marion Square, though the rooms are a bit tired and could use an update. Prices are significantly less than the two options above, making this a great option if you plan on spending most of your time out on the town versus in your room.
Marriott Hotels in Charleston
Hotel Bella Grace - Jake and I stayed here in 2021 and loved the location. The hotel was clean and the rooms were comfortable...though a little to "modern/glam" for my taste.
The Courtyard by Marriott Charleston Historic District is just down the street from Hotel Bella Grace. It's nothing to write home about and is your typical "Courtyard design", but the location is fantastic.
West Side - affordable alternative
The best area to stay in Charleston, SC if budget is the #1 priority but you still want to be close to the city center.
One of the reasons I don't visit Charleston as much as I'd like is because hotel prices can be quite high, especially if you choose a busy weekend. Hence, why I'm including an area most people wouldn't mention. West Side.
This area is by the Ashley River and not far from the Citadel. I only recommend one hotel here. The Charleston Marriott.
I consistently find that hotel rates are a fraction of the cost compared to hotels in the city center. It's exactly what you would expect from a Marriott. Decently sized hotel rooms, spacious public areas, hotel gym, etc.
West Side is just far enough from the center of Charleston that you won't be paying premium rates, but not so far that your Uber bills will stack up.
It's a 30-minute walk to Marion Square from here, though I don't recommend walking. An Uber will take no longer than 10 minutes and cost around $15.
You could hop across the Ashley River where you'll find a Spring Hill Suites, but my personal preference is to stick to the peninsula.
If you're having a hard time finding a feasible hotel rate in the heart of the city, the Charleston Marriott/West Side is the best area to stay in Charleston, SC.
I hope this post steers you in the right direction of where to stay in Charleston, SC. These are my personal favorite areas and some of the best hotels in Charleston.
The French Quarter is the best area to stay in Charleston, SC for first-time visitors who want to be steps from Rainbow Row, the most picturesque streets, and the top sights. Marion Square is ideal for those focusing on shopping and dining at the top restaurants. The Charleston Marriott in West Bend is an affordable option a 10-minute drive away.