It calls itself a boutique hotel, perhaps because each room is totally different and sumptuously appointed. But the charming Andrew Pinckney Inn (199 Church St., 843/937-8800, www.andrewpinckneyinn.com , $200–290) is very nearly in a class by itself in Charleston  not only for its great rates, but for its casual, West Indies–style decor, charming courtyard, gorgeous three-story atrium, and rooftop terrace on which you can enjoy your complimentary (and delicious) breakfast. For the money and the amenities, it’s possibly the single best lodging package in town.
Free parking, a great location, friendly staff, and reasonable prices are the highlights of the Best Western King Charles Inn (237 Meeting St., 843/723-7451, www.kingcharlesinn.com , $200–250). It’s not where you’d want to spend your honeymoon, but it’s plenty nice enough and frequent visitors to town swear by it.
If you plan on some serious shopping, you might want to stay right on the city’s main shopping thoroughfare at the Kings Courtyard Inn (198 King St., 866/720-2949, www.kingscourtyardinn.com , $240–270). This 1853 Greek Revival building houses a lot more rooms—more than 40—than meets the eye, and can get a little crowded at times. Still, its charming courtyard and awesome location on King Street are big bonuses, as is the convenient but cramped parking lot right next door (about $12 a day, a bargain for this part of town), with free in/out privileges.
Though a newer building by Charleston standards, the Mills House Hotel (115 Meeting St., 843/577-2400, www.ichotelsgroup.com , $285–380) boasts an important pedigree and still tries hard to maintain the old tradition of impeccable Southern service at this historic location. An extensive round of renovations completed in 2007 has been well-received. Dating to 1853, the first incarnation was a grand edifice that hosted luminaries such as Robert E. Lee. Through the years fire and restoration wrought their changes, and the modern version basically dates from an extensive renovation in the 1970s.
Because of its healthy banquet and event schedule—much of it centering around the very good restaurant and lounge inside—the Mills House isn’t the place to go for peace and quiet. Rather, this Holiday Inn–affilated property is where you go to feel the bustle of downtown Charleston, and be conveniently close to its main sightseeing and shopping attractions. Some of the upper floors of this seven-story building offer spectacular views.
Considered Charleston ’s premier hotel,
Charleston Place (205 Meeting St., 843/722-4900, www.charlestonplace.com , $419–590) maintains a surprisingly high level of service and decor considering its massive, 440-room size. Now owned by the London-based Orient-Express Hotels, Charleston Place is routinely rated as one of the best hotels in North America by Condé Nast Traveler and other publications.
The rooms aren’t especially large but they are well appointed, featuring Italian marble baths, high-speed Internet, and voice messaging—and, of course, there’s a pool available. A series of suite offerings—Junior, Junior Executive, Parlor, and the 800-square-foot Senior—feature enlarged living areas and multiple TVs and phones. A Manager’s Suite on the Private Club level up top comprises 1,200 square feet of total luxury that will set you back at least $1,600 a night.
It’s the additional offerings that make Charleston Place closer to a lifestyle decision than a lodging decision. The on-site spa (843/937-8522) offers all kinds of massages, including couples and “mommy to be” sessions. Diners and tipplers have three fine options to choose from: the famous Charleston Grill (843/577-4522, dinner daily beginning at 6 p.m.) for fine dining; the breakfast, lunch, and brunch hot spot Palmetto Cafe (843/722-4900, breakfast daily 6:30 a.m.–11 a.m., lunch daily 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.); and the Thoroughbred Club (daily 11 a.m.–midnight) for cocktails and afternoon tea.
On the north side of Broad Street, the magnificent John Rutledge House Inn (116 Broad St., 843/723-7999, www.johnrutledgehouseinn.com , $300–442) is very close to the old South of Broad  neighborhood not only in geography, but in feel. Known as “America’s most historic inn,” the Rutledge House boasts a fine old pedigree indeed: Built for Constitution signer John Rutledge in 1763, it’s one of only 15 homes belonging to the original signers to survive. George Washington breakfasted here with Mrs. Rutledge in 1791. The interior is stunning: Italian marble fireplaces, original plaster moldings, and masterful ironwork abound in the public spaces. The inn’s 19 rooms are divided among the original mansion and two carriage houses. All have antique furnishings and canopy beds, and some suites have fireplaces and whirlpool baths. A friendly and knowledgeable concierge will give you all kinds of tips and make reservations for you.
Affiliated with the Kings Courtyard—and right next door, in fact—is the smaller, cozier Fulton Lane Inn (202 King St., 866/720-2940, www.fultonlaneinn.com , $300), with its lobby entrance on tiny Fulton Lane between the two inns. Small, simple guest rooms—some with fireplaces—have comfortable beds and spacious bathrooms. This is the kind of place for active people who plan to spend most of their days out and about, but want a cozy place to come back to at night. You mark down your Continental breakfast order at night, leave it on your doorknob, and it shows up at the exact time you requested the next morning. Then when you’re ready to shop and walk, just go down the stairs and take the exit right out onto busy King Street. Also nice is the $12-a-day parking with free in/out privileges.