Where to stay in Charleston for first time: 4 Safe areas

Hi guys, on my blog, I already wrote articles about staying in Charleston without a car and with kids (I will leave the links to them at the end of this article). In today’s post, I will help you to find the safest places to stay in Charleston for first-time visitors.

I will share with you what I believe are the best and safe areas to stay in Charleston for tourists, along with a useful map and neighborhoods to avoid. I’ll also tell you where I stayed in Charleston and recommend the best hotels in Charleston for all budgets.

Charleston is a historic city in South Carolina. With a rich history dating back to the 17th century, the city played a significant role in the American Revolution and Civil War.

The city is famous for its well-preserved historic architecture, including antebellum homes, cobblestone streets, and beautiful gardens. The historic district, often referred to as the Charleston Historic District, is a popular destination for tourists interested in history and architecture.

Charleston is a popular tourist destination due to its historic charm, beautiful waterfront, and vibrant culinary scene. You can visit attractions such as Fort Sumter, Charleston City Market, Rainbow Row, Michael’s Episcopal Church, and Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The area surrounding Charleston has several historic plantations, such as Boone Hall Plantation, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, and Middleton Place where you can learn about the region’s history and its role in the antebellum South.

When visiting the city, you can enjoy Lowcountry dishes like shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, and classic Southern fried chicken. It has numerous restaurants offering a mix of traditional and modern Southern cuisine.

Charleston is situated along the coast, and there are several beautiful beaches nearby, including  Isle of Palms and Folly Beach, making it a popular destination for beach lovers.

Is Charleston safe to visit?

Yes, Charleston is generally a safe and welcoming destination for travelers. The city boasts a low crime rate compared to national averages, with its historic downtown area being particularly safe. 

But, as with any tourist destination, it’s recommended to exercise common-sense precautions such as being aware of your surroundings, staying in well-traveled areas after dark, and securing your belongings.

Where to stay in Charleston for the first time?

The best and safe areas to stay in Charleston for first-timers and tourists are the Historic District, French Quarter, Mount Pleasant, and West Ashley. It’s always essential to exercise common-sense precautions no matter where you stay. 

Charleston Historic District is one of the most popular and safest areas for tourists. Staying in this area allows you to explore many attractions on foot, including Waterfront Park, The Battery, and King Street. Crime rates in this area tend to be lower compared to other parts of the city.

French Quarter is a safe and charming area located within the Historic District. It’s home to galleries, boutiques, and some of the city’s best restaurants. This area is known for its romantic atmosphere and historic landmarks like the historic Market Street.

Mount Pleasant is a suburban area located across the Cooper River from downtown Charleston. It’s a safe and family-friendly neighborhood with easy access to downtown Charleston via the Ravenel Bridge.

West Ashley is a suburban area on the west bank of the Ashley River. It offers a quieter atmosphere compared to downtown Charleston while still being relatively safe. West Ashley has shopping centers and restaurants, and it’s a short drive from downtown.

When visiting Charleston, I stayed at the Francis Marion Hotel, a 4-star hotel located on King Street, in the heart of Charleston’s Historic District, very close to Marion Square. Its central location offers easy access to major attractions, restaurants, and shops.

Below is a map of the popular areas in Charleston for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the safe areas to stay in Charleston first time
Map of the safe areas to stay in Charleston first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in Charleston, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in Charleston have been carefully selected by me, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

4 Safe areas to stay in Charleston for first-timers and tourists:

1. Charleston Historic District

Charleston Historic District is one of the best areas in Charleston for first-time visitors who want to explore the city’s historic sites, dine at excellent restaurants, and enjoy the picturesque waterfront.

The Historic District is located in the heart of downtown Charleston, bounded by the Ashley River to the west, the Cooper River to the east, Broad Street to the south, and Mount Pleasant Street to the north.

Staying in this area means you’ll be within walking distance of many of Charleston’s top attractions, including historic homes, museums, churches, and iconic landmarks like the Battery and Waterfront Park.

The Historic District is home to a wide variety of restaurants, cafes, and shops, making it easy to explore Charleston’s culinary scene and find unique souvenirs.

You can enjoy scenic views of Charleston Harbor and the picturesque streets lined with cobblestones and historic buildings.

There are various accommodation options in the Historic District, including boutique hotels, charming bed and breakfasts, and luxury resorts. Keep in mind that prices can vary, so it’s a good idea to book in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.

While most of the attractions are within walking distance, the Historic District is also served by public transportation, including the free DASH trolley, which can help you explore the area further.

The Historic District is an excellent starting point for guided walking tours and carriage rides that will provide you with insights into the city’s history and culture.

Best places to stay in Charleston Historic District for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): Hotel Bennett Charleston, great 5-star hotel, centrally located on King Street, in Downtown Charleston, within a short walk from Charleston Museum and  Marion Square. It has an outdoor swimming pool, a 24-hour front desk, and 4 restaurants.
  • Mid-range ($$): Francis Marion Hotel, popular 4-star hotel, conveniently located in the central location, close to Marion Square, easy access to major attractions such as the Charleston Museum, College of Charleston, and Gibbes Museum of Art.
  • Budget ($): Homewood Suites By Hilton Charleston Historic District, great 3-star hotel located on Meeting Street, close to Cannon Park, Marion Square, and South Carolina Aquarium.

2. French Quarter

The French Quarter is a subset of the Charleston Historic District, located in the eastern part of downtown Charleston. It’s roughly bordered by Market Street to the south, Broad Street to the north, Meeting Street to the west, and the waterfront to the east.

The French Quarter is known for its cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and charming alleyways. It offers a quieter and more residential atmosphere compared to the busier parts of the Historic District.

You’ll be within walking distance of many of Charleston’s top attractions, including the historic Market Street, Waterfront Park, Pineapple Fountain, Rainbow Row, Heyward-Washington House, the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, and renowned restaurants.

The French Quarter is home to unique boutiques and art galleries where you can find locally crafted goods and artwork.

Best places to stay in Charleston in French Quarter for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): The Charleston Place, great 5-star historic hotel conveniently located within a short walk from the Peninsula Grill, Historic District, and Old Slave Mart Museum. It has an Indoor swimming pool and Exceptional breakfast according to guests’ reviews.
  • Mid-range ($$): French Quarter Inn, 4-star good value for money hotel located on Church Street, offering views of Charleston City Market on Market Street, a short walk from Waterfront Park. It features free breakfast, Private parking, and 24-hour front desk.
  • Budget ($): Church Street Inn, Ascend Hotel Collection, great 3-star accommodation located within a short drive from Charleston Historical Museum and the South Carolina Church Street. It is only a few mins walk from Charleston Pirate Tours, as well as several restaurants and shops.

3. Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant is a suburban area located on the eastern side of the Cooper River, directly adjacent to downtown Charleston. The Ravenel Bridge provides convenient access to Charleston’s historic downtown area, and the drive typically takes about 10-15 minutes.

Mount Pleasant provides beautiful views of Charleston’s skyline, historic downtown, and the picturesque Cooper River. Many accommodations in this area offer scenic vistas.

This suburb offers a quieter and more relaxed atmosphere compared to downtown Charleston. It’s an ideal choice if you prefer a tranquil environment.

Mount Pleasant is also close to the beautiful beaches of Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms, making it convenient for beachgoers. Also close to Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens.

Mount Pleasant offers a variety of accommodation options, including hotels, vacation rentals, and charming bed and breakfasts. Prices are often more reasonable than those in the Historic District.

You will typically need a car to get to downtown Charleston and its attractions from Mount Pleasant. There are also water taxis available, which can be a scenic way to reach the Historic District.

Mount Pleasant is a great base for travelers who prefer a quieter atmosphere and are willing to commute a short distance to downtown Charleston’s attractions. 

Best places to stay in Charleston in Mount Pleasant:


4. West Ashley

West Ashley is a good option for budget-conscious travelers who don’t mind a bit of travel to see downtown Charleston’s attractions. It offers a more suburban, local experience while still providing access to the city’s historic and cultural offerings when desired.

West Ashley is situated on the western side of the Ashley River, across from downtown Charleston. It’s a short drive away from the historic district and other attractions.

West Ashley typically offers more budget-friendly accommodation options compared to the Historic District and even Mount Pleasant.

The area has a variety of shopping centers, restaurants, and local eateries, making it convenient for dining and shopping needs.

West Ashley is close to several parks and outdoor recreational areas, such as Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site and West Ashley Park, which can be great for nature enthusiasts.

Best places to stay in Charleston in West Ashley:

  • Budget ($): Holiday Inn Express Charleston US Highway 17 & I-526, an IHG Hotel, 3-star hotel located in a safe area, a short drive by car from historic downtown Charleston, offering free hot buffet breakfast, Outdoor swimming pool, free parking, and 24-hour front desk.
  • Mid-range ($$): Comfort Suites Charleston West Ashley, popular 3-star hotel situated on Savannah Highway, West of the Ashley, only a few mins drive from Charles Towne Landing, Historic Charleston, and Middleton Place historic plantation.
  • Mid-range ($$): Residence Inn Charleston Riverview, 3-star hotel that has an outdoor saltwater pool, free daily hot breakfast buffet, and evening shuttle service to Historic District.

In conclusion, Historic District, French Quarter, Mount Pleasant, and West Ashley are the best and safest places to stay in Charleston for first-timers and tourists. They offer a variety of accommodations, so you’ll have many choices to choose from, especially in the Downtown area.

You can continue reading about Charleston in these articles:

There you have it, my recommendations for the most popular and safest neighborhoods that you can stay during your first trip to Charleston. I hope you found my article helpful and enjoy your holiday!

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality travel guides.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

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