The Historic Downtown District of Charleston, South Carolina, spreads itself elegantly over almost 800 acres in one of America's most colorful antebellum cities. Referred to by many as the cultural capital of the South, Charleston's cobblestone streets, infamous harbor and grand architecture are a central component of historic hotels located here. Visitors can walk through history itself and sleep in structures built by the area's most prominent citizens. Expect to pay premium prices to stay in this downtown area, especially in the summer.
The most prevalent lodging choices in the historic district of Charleston are restored, historic mansions that have been converted to hotels, many operated as bed-and-breakfast inns, carriage houses or cottages. One highly recognizable and prominent property in the historic district, overlooking Charleston Harbor, is the Palmer Home View on Battery Street. Also referred to as the "Pink Palace," this bed-and-breakfast inn has been recommended and highlighted in numerous travel guides and magazines, including Travel & Leisure. A grand staircase leads to guest rooms on the third floor that open to balconies with views of the harbor, as well as Fort Sumter. The Wentworth Mansion oozes luxury with elegant antiques and furnishings, including Austrian crystal chandeliers, original stained-glass windows, velvet drapes and hand-carved marble fireplace mantels.
The market area downtown is bustling with activity day and night, as a working city market offering local paintings, pottery, sweetgrass baskets and Southern gourmet foods. It is also near some of the city's most renowned historical structures, including the infamous slave auction house. Boutique hotels in this area include the Market Pavilion Hotel, a throwback to the 18th-century days of grand prosperity with uniformed bellmen and butlers to wait on you hand and foot. The decor is austere, with dark wood and tapestries. Sipping martinis or mint juleps at the poolside rooftop lounge makes any wayfaring travelers feel like genteel Southern aristocrats.
Some of the most interesting lodging choices in the Charleston Historic District are buildings that have been converted from their original uses, often tied to the city's past commercial enterprises. The Indigo Inn in the lower King Street area was once a mid-19th century warehouse built to accommodate the booming commercial cash crops of blue indigo dye from the Lowcountry plantations. Guests can now stroll in its private courtyard and sleep in one of 40 rooms decorated in period antiques and reproductions. Another converted structure is an 1860 railroad warehouse that now houses the Hampton Inn, located in the upper King area. It is adjacent to the Charleston Museum.
Still within the Charleston Historic District, the busy strip of Meeting Street provides a wider array of hotels, with major chain properties operating here. Some, however, carry on the tradition of historic conversions, including the Embassy Suites, which is housed in the original Citadel Military College and is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. The Meeting Street Inn is an 1874 former tavern with hand-woven rugs and canopy beds, adorned with white columns and balconies, situated across from the City Market.
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