Charleston is on almost every "must see" city list. The city has so much to offer. This was my first visit and I loved walking around the city....after eating some amazing food :) This is sort of what Charleston is known for...
Charleston is steeped in history and you don't need a guide to see the beautiful architecture---many old buildings have been well maintained and preserved. I like to wander around on my own and take everything in, but as I've gotten older, I also like to balance that wandering with a few hours with a guide so I know what I'm seeing. During my private tour with Brian, owner of Charleston Sole Walking Tours, I was amazed at how many things I had simply walked past the day before and never even noticed. Charleston has lots of wonderful stories to go along with the character and Brian brought the history to life.
When I wasn't walking around exploring, I was eating. Charleston is for sure a foodie city and the eat (and drink) local movement has been at the forefront for years. New restaurants open frequently and they are balanced with options that have been around forever. While ten plus years isn't forever, in the restaurant world, that is often considered a long run. I was fortunate to score a reservation at Husk one evening (reservations are still a little difficult to get) and experience what was once the most famous option in Charleston. My photos don't do justice as I was eating outside at 9:30pm, but the food was incredibly fresh and the menu describes where the ingredient is sourced. Husk, and much of Charleston for that matter, isn't especially vegetarian friendly...and with the local food movement, menus at places like Husk are released each day...meaning you have to take a leap of faith when reserving a table. Husk and others will accommodate dietary restrictions, but I wanted to eat off menu as that is what the chef thought was freshest that day. I had the choice of 3 small plates the night I dined and I chose 2--- pimento cheese triangles with pickled green tomatoes (they were AMAZING) with pepper jelly and local greens AND a gorgeous salad of local greens, oranges, strawberries, golden beets and yogurt. I loved every bit, but the dessert was what was especially memorable. I had a chocolate and peanut butter torte with buttermilk ice cream...peanut brittle was sprinkled over everything and added a nice crunch. I am drooling thinking about it! The signature cocktails were also inventive. I could describe every meal with this much adoration....every place I tried in Charleston presented amazing and fresh food. Bring your stretchy pants :)
Ok, so now you know you need to visit Charleston, so where to stay?? For a relatively small city, Charleston has many accommodation choices and staying in the historic center means you can do most of your exploring on foot (no need to rent a car, except for a day or two to explore outside the city center).
I started off at the Grand Bohemian. This is a part of a small group of hotels that focus on art and design. There is a gallery on-site and art is placed all throughout the property----much of it is also for sale if you find something you like. This is not a cookie-cutter property. Grand Bohemian has a rooftop where you can have drinks or a meal and they have a ground floor shaded patio near the wine bar that has a very European feel. You can even do a wine mixology course and create your own wine blend. Your blend is bottled and makes an awesome souvenir.
My next stop was the iconic Belmond Charleston Place. This is a beautiful property full of old school luxury touches, like marble floors and fresh flower arrangements. I stayed on the club level which offers several food and beverage presentations throughout the day. During COVID, it was nice to have a small space to enjoy a drink or snack---masks are required when you are standing, but can be taken off when seated (eating and drinking). They have a rooftop spa and pool---the pool can be used year round which is a nice feature. The location of Belmond can't be beat---you are minutes away from everything and the staff is EXCELLENT. You will be well cared for if you stay at the Belmond.
I also toured several other properties while I was in Charleston. Hotel Bennett and Zero George were two of my favorites---total different from one another, but both great properties.
Hotel Bennett is a newer property and they have really thought about having great spaces to spread out. Even if you book an entry level room, there is an outdoor lounge where you can relax. You can upgrade to a Club Level room for another outdoor space with amazing views of the city (specifically overlooking Marion Square). Speaking of Marion Square, that is a great location for the weekly Farmers Market and outdoor concerts and events. Hotel Bennett was built on the location of the former city library and they brought that theme into the hotel (all of the rooms have bookshelves with decorative books). There are several options for dining, including Camellia's----they serve afternoon tea on weekends and Champagne all night long.
Zero George is a historical property and you feel like you are visiting friends as opposed to staying at a hotel (in a good way!). They have thought about outdoor space and each room has a little nook to themselves to have breakfast, tea, or read a book. There is a great restaurant on-site and the chef is one of the few in Charleston to offer cooking classes (both the restaurant and classes fill up well in advance). The rooms vary in size and are comfortable with a few luxury touches. Zero George is a great respite from the busy city, but still close to the action to be walkable.
Please send me a message to start planning your trip to Charleston. I can offer exclusive perks at all of these properties, as well as many others.
Tracey is the owner of Unraveled Travel and has traveled to every continent except Antarctica.