This year’s World’s Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three-year period. We hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.
It’s near-impossible to visit Charleston and not be charmed — the pastel-colored houses, the oaks draped with Spanish moss, the palm trees by the waterfront. And you’re sure to encounter a warm welcome and a just-like-home ease, whether you find yourself in a low-key seafood shack on the outskirts of town, a buzzy restaurant that has raked in widespread acclaim, or one of the properties on this year’s list of the best hotels in Charleston.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.
Southern hospitality is often portrayed as a locked-in-amber relic, but at the properties on this list, you’ll find plenty of modern edge. Take Emeline, which opened in July 2020 in a historic building on Church Street and nabbed our eighth-place spot: furnishings upholstered in jewel-toned velvet recall an earlier time, but Wildsam Field Guides and Crosley record players in the suites speak to a fresh, fun sensibility that feels entirely of-the-moment. “An exceptional hotel in every way,” touted one fan. At Hotel Bennett, ranked No. 2 on this year’s list, rooms speak to the buttoned-up refinement of the region, but head to the buzzy rooftop bar, Fiat Lux, and you’ll find drinks that are anything but traditional — the quirky libations may include carrot juice, butterfly pea extract, or boba. One reader described the Bennet as a “beautiful hotel filled with luxury and Southern hospitality.”
That’s not to say Charleston has completely abandoned its old-fashioned sensibility. You’ll find plenty at this year’s fourth-place finisher, the Wentworth Mansion, which is steeped in Second Empire grandeur, with original fireplaces in most rooms and port and sherry on offer in the parlor. One Travel + Leisure reader called the Wentworth “hands down, the most fantastic hotel I’ve ever stayed in” and praised its “impeccable service and rooms”; another wrote that staying there was “the absolute best experience we have had at any hotel.”
It’s a similar story at this year’s No. 1 pick for the top city hotel in Charleston. Read on to find out what makes this winner, the John Rutledge House Inn, so special — and for the full list of 15 spots.
1. John Rutledge House Inn
A frequent refrain among T+L readers is how the team at this 19-room B&B treats every guest with “outstanding” warmth and personal attention. One called out the exceptional service of staffers like Maurice, whose familiar face is a welcome sight for returning visitors. Another mentioned that the inn is “ideal for couples seeking some peace and quiet,” no small feat for a property that’s right around the corner from King Street, the city’s best stretch for shopping and strolling. Wake each morning with a made-to-order breakfast under the courtyard palm trees or the 12-foot ceilings of your personal suite, perk up with afternoon tea and hors d’oeuvres, and unwind with a glass of port as you watch the flames in your room’s Italian marble fireplace. With a stay this nice, you’ll have to force yourself to head out the doors and experience everything else Charleston has to offer.
More information: johnrutledgehouseinn.com
2. Hotel Bennett
More information: hotelbennett.com
3. The Restoration
More information: therestorationhotel.com
4. Wentworth Mansion
More information: wentworthmansion.com
5. The Spectator Hotel
More information: thespectatorhotel.com
6. Market Pavilion Hotel
More information: marketpavilion.com
7. The Vendue, Charleston’s Art Hotel
More information: thevendue.com
More information: hotelemeline.com
9. HarbourView Inn
More information: harbourviewcharleston.com
10. Charleston Place, a Belmond Hotel
More information: belmond.com
11. Zero George
More information: zerogeorge.com
12. Grand Bohemian Hotel
More information: kesslercollection.com
13. Planters Inn
More information: plantersinn.com
14. The Dewberry
More information: thedewberrycharleston.com
15. French Quarter Inn
More information: fqicharleston.com
See all of our readers’ favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World’s Best Awards for 2021.