by Katy Koontz
This upscale 435-room historic hotel (voted among the Top 10 Hotels in North America by Conde Nast Traveler) sits right in the middle of a ton of family-friendly activities and sights in the heart of Charleston’s historic district. Located on the corners of King, Market and Meeting streets, Charleston Place is adjacent to the Old City Market, where women have sat for generations weaving sweetgrass basket creations to sell. It’s also within walking distance of all of the historic district’s sights and attractions and is surrounded by the district’s centuries-old architecture, cobblestoned streets, intricate ironwork and general, all-round antebellum ambiance.
The hotel itself is quite grand, starting with the Italian marble lobby featuring a Georgian Open Arm staircase and a 12-foot hand-blown Venetian crystal chandelier. The hotel’s spa, indoor/outdoor pool, three restaurants, club-level lounge and 24-hour room service will also not fail to make an impression. The likes of Richard Gere, Prince Charles, Oprah Winfrey and Julia Roberts have slept here, not to mention several U.S. presidents and even the emperor of Japan. No wonder it’s held in high regard.
Our Editor Loves
- Located in the heart of Charleston's historic district
- Indoor/outdoor saltwater rooftop pool
- Oversized suites and onsite family dining
- Horse Back Riding
- Water Sports
- Family Room 5+
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
All guestrooms come with hair dryers, irons and ironing boards, plush bathrobes, Wi-Fi, and TVs that have DVD/VCR players. The housekeeping staff attends to rooms twice a day, including an evening turndown service with chocolate. Overnight valet parking is available for an extra charge. Rollaway beds and cribs are available to all guests at no charge. If you have older kids and want them to stay in their own room, adjoining rooms are available.
Charleston Place's standard rooms (which the hotel calls deluxe rooms) come with either a king-sized bed or with two double beds and a mini-fridge.
Club Level Rooms
The top two floors of the hotel house only Club Level rooms, which come with either a king-sized bed or with two double beds. Although these rooms are the same size as the standard rooms, they have fancier furnishings and a better view of the surrounding historic district. The biggest advantage to reserving one of these rooms, though, is the private lounge just as you come off the elevator. Here, you can get a continental-plus breakfast, afternoon snacks and tea, evening hors d'oeuvres and cocktails, and after-dinner desserts and cordials, not to mention all-day beverage service -- all complimentary. The Club Level also has its own concierge, just outside of the lounge.
The junior and one-bedroom suites offer a separate living area, sleeper sofa, mini-fridge and a dining table.
We flew to Charleston for our Babymoon and booked this hotel based on these TA reviews through Amex’s Fine Hotels and Resorts program. I had requested a king size bed, but none were available upon check in so I spent this precious vacation sleeping alone (and poorly) in an uncomfortable double bed. As mentioned in other reviews, both of the double beds in our room were old and squeaked with any slight movement throughout the night. As a pregnant person, I just wanted a comfy, quiet sleep with my partner. I was very disappointed and wish I had read (and trusted) more reviews about the beds. One of our beds had a friendly spider in it upon arrival. It’s that time in the south, so I get bugs seeking refuge, but just another unfortunate issue. Check in was a madhouse (too many guests for number of registration desk staff, no line organization, very little greeting) and it reminded me of giant conference hotels absent any character, warm southern greeting and complete with an unapologetic trainee checking us in. I wouldn’t say this is the worst hotel experience I’ve ever had, but based on the TripAdvisor stars and reviews (and the cost of the room), I really was expecting at least a level of decent customer service. Nothing about this hotel experience felt special. From the wait every morning to get a table for breakfast, to the missed room cleaning and turndown services, to the $95 pedicure that left one of my toes bleeding, I cannot imagine recommending this hotel to any friends, family, or work colleagues. I’m not a fan of complaining online, but I’m hoping others don’t make the same mistake we did on a once-in-a-lifetime babymoon. That being said, if you are coming in for a night by yourself and need a room in a conveniently downtown location, this could be a fit.
We ended up coming down a day early and spent one evening at the Spectator. Highly recommend that property for their service, friendliness and accommodations. I had contacted the Belmond sales team via email to try and extend our stay, also asking for some recommendations for spa and food but only heard back about room availability at a rate much higher than expected with no additional follow up or up sell.
As an aside, I’d also recommend Delaney Oyster House, Chubby Fish, and Malagon for dinner — we had outstanding meals at the bars of each of these establishments and would recommend to foodie friends (or just hungry ones!) who like small, local places that are a bit off the main drag!
We’ve stayed in hotels globally and this hotel was not my favorite. They forgot our welcome gift, they told us they were too busy to bring our room service, and overall made us feel in the way. I will say we had very friendly staff at the spa as well as the rooftop bar which redeemed the stay a bit. Overall save your vacation and stay somewhere else. I’ve been to Holiday Inns that were nicer.
The hotel's 50-foot horizon-edge saltwater swimming pool is heated year-round and features a retractable glass roof, which makes it an indoor-outdoor pool. The pool adjoins the spa and a one-room fitness center. Beyond the pool is a rooftop sun terrace with a tiny freshwater children's splash pool and plenty of lounge chairs. The spa/pool/fitness center area is open daily from 6 a.m. (7 a.m. on weekends) to 10 p.m.
The hotel's gym and fitness room is located past the spa and right off the pool and offers free weights and various cardio machines. Professional trainers provide private instruction by appointment and also lead classes in aerobics, body sculpting, yoga, and even power walking through the historic district. (If you visit in the spring, you might see the New York Knicks working out here; they stay at the hotel during their spring training and have been known to use the gym quite a bit!) The Fit Kids program for 3- to 5-year-olds includes games and fun exercises designed to help develop motor skills.
The Shops at Charleston Place
About two-dozen upscale shops and boutiques, including Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Lacoste, and Godiva Chocolatiers, are on the ground floor of the hotel. The hotel's signature VSOE shop sells gifts themed to its sister property, the famous Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train, as well as items from local artists and a limited-edition collection of Charleston Limoges gift boxes.
The Charleston Grill
The hotel's fine dining option, this Mobil Four-Star, AAA Four-Diamond restaurant serves up incredibly delicious cuisine with excellent service. The menu is divided into four sections, each with its own theme. The Lush menu offers substantial French fare (caviar, duck confit with blackberries and prime beef tenderloin among the offerings). The Pure menu concentrates on simpler, lighter dishes (such as vegetarian plates and lamb chops in lemon rosemary jus). The Southern menu is just what it sounds like and includes dishes like Okeechobee catfish and fried oysters and guinea hen with country ham-butternut squash pirlou. The last category, the Cosmopolitan menu, highlights foreign food, such as Thai beef salad, tuna sashimi and creamy polenta and white truffle fondue. The restaurant's award-winning 1,300-label wine list, kept in a $1 million wine cellar, is equally impressive.
The children's menu offers a good selection of standard kid's fare.
The Charleston Grill is open for dinner daily from 5:30 to 10 p.m. The bar is open daily from 5 p.m. to midnight. (Jackets and ties are not required; business casual dress is acceptable.)
The Palmetto Cafe
The hotel's more casual, family-friendly eatery is located in a garden-like setting with potted palms and a central courtyard featuring a lovely bronze fountain. The fare here is American cuisine made with fresh, local ingredients. Saturday and Sunday brunch is a highlight, with gourmet omelets, eggs benedicts, apple wood smoked bacon, stone ground grits, caramel brioche, fresh fruit and pastries. The cafÃ© is open daily for breakfast from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday Brunch begins at 9:00 a.m.)
The Thoroughbred Club
The club is a bar located right off the lobby, adjacent to the grand staircase. It's home to the oldest Jockey Club in America, founded in 1792 (although the track closed in 1882). But this is not just a bar. Traditional English-style tea is served here for parties of 10 or more with a reservation. You can choose from a selection of imported loose leaf teas served in a hand-painted Austrian teapot with an assortment of finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones with preserves and honey, crumpets with whipped cream, fresh cream and lemon tarts, tea cookies, and truffles. Another option during teatime is the special South of Broad Tea, which includes open-faced tea sandwiches with smoked salmon and smoked duck topped with fig. As you sip and munch away, a classic pianist or guitarist performs live. The club is open daily from 11 a.m. until midnight.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The hotel has a top-notch concierge who can arrange tours, make customized sightseeing itineraries, or engage babysitting services.
In case the historic district inspires you, the concierge can also arrange for you to borrow one of the hotel's Inspired Artist kits, consisting of a portable easel, sketch paper, and charcoal. (Additional art supplies -- such as oils, watercolors, pastels or colored pencils -- can be delivered to your room.)
The Art of Smart Timing
If you stay here at Christmastime, your kids will love the miniature replica of the Orient-Express train traveling on a 300-foot track placed between the wings of the hotel's Georgian open-arm staircase. The train looks like the real deal, right down to the smokestack and the whistle, and the winter wonderland it winds through features miniature European Alpine homes, tiny churches, realistic stables and even a blacksmith shop.
The first two weeks in June is an especially good time, thanks to the city's Spoleto Festival, the most comprehensive arts festival in the country. This impressive conglomeration of dancers, musicians, artists and actors culminates in a firework finale at Middleton Plantation. Going on at the same time is the informal (and affordable) Piccolo Spoleto, which showcases the best of the area's regional talent. This offbeat festival includes sidewalk art shows, jazz, classical music, film, poetry readings, crafts, theater, dance, ethnic cultural presentations and a long list of daily activities for children.
Belmont Charleston Place is 10 miles from the Charleston International Airport. The hotel does not have a shuttle bus, but you can book transportation through Lowcountry Limo (800- 222-4771).
When you venture out on the town, you'll find plenty of options. Even for those within walking distance, consider hiring a rickshaw cab (a three-wheeled bicycle-like contraption that has a two-seater carriage for passengers) when little feet get tired. Rickshaws (also called pedicabs) are easier to get in the historic district than standard cabs -- and they're a lot more fun. For attractions and sights within driving distance, you can either take a cab or rent a car (at the hotel itself). Another fun transportation option is a horse-drawn carriage tour.
For Mom and Dad
The hotel spa offers facials, pedicures, manicures, body scrubs and wraps, hot stone therapy, aromatherapy and a variety of massages (including Swedish, deep tissue, reflexology and pregnancy massages). Kid spa services for children 12 years old and under (accompanied by an adult) include manicures, pedicures and gentle facials for both girls and boys. Teenage girls will salivate over the 50-minute Chocolate Cake Body Scrub treatment (exfoliating salt, plus vitamins, herbs and spices in the flavor of your choice, plus a 30-minute body massage). The spa also offers 50-minute acne facial treatments.