Avant Garde, $$ (From $139)
Although Charleston's French Quarter, located on the southeastern peninsula of the original walled-in city, is technically only a six-block radius, you could spend all day discovering its charm. Charleston likes to put its beauty on display, including its centuries-old warehouses, rainbow facades, and Greek revival architectural gems that are appropriately sunbaked from the humid subtropical heat. It is also a place that likes to celebrate its art and artists. This is true at The Vendue, a hotel that proudly defines itself as "Charleston's Art Hotel," where it is both a place to lay one's head and hang one's art on the walls of two historic warehouses dating back to 1780. With a full-time art docent on site and rotating exhibits of over 300 contemporary artworks located throughout, including the museum-size gallery and guest rooms, the hotel is a dynamic and lively space that encourages eclectic, art-loving visitors. Eighty-four rooms offer a mix of industrial elements (exposed brick, high ceilings) with vintage, dark-wood decor and unique furnishings that make each stay feel like an artistic escape. The rooftop bar, with views of downtown Charleston and Cooper River, is a hip, modern hangout with a lively crowd sampling the extensive house-made cocktail list and snacks. Champagne is served at check-in, along with free wine and daily tours of the art collection.
At a Glance
The Vibe: A modern revival of Charleston's art scene.
Standout Detail: Over 300 pieces of original artwork line the hotel walls, curated by an in-house team of curators who tap local and international artists for rotating exhibitions in the main gallery. The hotel also hosts an artist-in-residence program with a working studio located in the lobby and daily open-studio hours wherein guests can watch the artists at work.
This Place Is Perfect For: Art lovers and romantics.
Rooms: Centuries-old exposed-brick walls, high ceilings, and functioning fireplaces (now gas) can be found in each of the 84 rooms (42 in each building). And if you haven't gotten the hint that this place is all about the art, the eclectic collection of paintings and drawings in each room will be the "ah ha" moment. Antique furnishings like wooden sleigh beds, worn-in leather furniture, and gilded lamps and chandeliers offer a vintage, lived-in vibe. A cookie cart roams the hallways nightly, dishing out bedtime treats.
On Site: After strolling Charleston's cobblestoned French Quarter, head back to the hotel for the daily happy hour artist reception with free wine and docent-led tours of the collection.
Food + Drink: Given the town's raved-about foodie culture, hotel restaurants have to step up their game. That's why The Vendue has three on-site dining, drinking, and lounge options. Revival is a fine-dining restaurant with a focus on recipes and ingredients from Charleston's folklore past including Mr. Williams Deas's she crab soup. The Drawing Room is a wood-floored space filled with banquettes and serving Southern-style snacks (think: crispy okra, shrimp skewers, prosciutto with pickled peaches) and live music daily. To get the lay of the land, head to the rooftop bar, where sweeping views of the skyline, with its church spirals and winding Cooper River, tug at your heart strings. Sample the bar's creative cocktail list or linger for an alfresco dinner at sunset.
What to Do Nearby
You're an oyster-throw away from the must-see spots like Charleston City Market, which has been in operation in some form or another since 1804. Present-day vendors sell a variety of goods, including sweetgrass baskets, a Lowcountry specialty of the Gullah Geechee people. Plan a picnic lunch overlooking the Cooper River at Riverfront Park and stroll among massive oak trees and art sculptures, and hear live music at the open-air pavilion. For more visual stimulation, head to "Museum Mile" where the Gibbes Museum of Art's small Beaux Arts museum showcases watercolors and decorative arts from the American South.