Where to stay in Charleston without a car: 4 Best areas

Wondering where to stay in Charleston without a car? In this post, I will help you to find the best areas to stay in Charleston without a car and the best hotels to stay in Charleston without a car for all budget travelers.

Charleston is a historic city located in South Carolina and is known for its rich history, well-preserved architecture, and charming Southern charm. Founded in 1670, it is one of the oldest cities in the United States.

The city played a significant role in American history, including during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. It is a popular tourist destination, offering guided tours, carriage rides, and boat cruises to explore its history and beauty.

Charleston’s surroundings are dotted with beautiful plantations and gardens that offer a glimpse into the region’s history and natural beauty. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Drayton Hall, Middleton Place, and Boone Hall Plantation are popular destinations.

The city is served by the Charleston International Airport, located 12 miles northwest of the city center. You can rent a car, take a cab or shuttle bus to get from the airport to downtown.

You can easily get around Charleston, South Carolina without a car using a combination of public transportation, walking, biking, and ridesharing services. 

Charleston offers a public bus system operated by CARTA (Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority). CARTA buses serve various routes within the city and nearby areas, including popular destinations like downtown Charleston, historic sites, and shopping centers.

The Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) Trolley is a free trolley service that operates within the historic district, making it convenient for tourists to explore popular attractions like Charleston Museum, Waterfront Park, Charleston Visitors Center, and South Carolina Aquarium.

Downtown Charleston is very walkable, with many attractions, shops, restaurants, and historic sites clustered close together. You can easily explore areas like King Street, Waterfront Park, and the Historic District on foot.

You can also rent bikes from various rental shops or use bike-sharing services available in the city. Services like Uber and Lyft operate in Charleston, and is a great way to reach nearby beaches such as Folly Beach, which is 12 miles from downtown Charleston.

Charleston offers various horse-drawn carriage tours or guided walking tours that offer insights into Charleston’s history and culture while you travel around the city. The guided plantation tour is a great way to visit Plantation without a car.

Since Charleston is located near water, consider using boats and ferries for transportation. The Charleston Water Taxi provides transportation between various points along the harbor and waterfront areas including Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant.

If you need a car for a specific occasion, you can rent one from car rental agencies located throughout the city.

While getting around Charleston without a car is certainly possible, it’s a good idea to plan your transportation options ahead of time to ensure a smooth experience during your visit.

Where to stay in Charleston without a car?

The best areas to stay in Charleston without a car are Downtown Charleston, Historic District, French Quarter, and Mount Pleasant. These are central and safe locations, offering convenient access to attractions, dining, and public transportation options.

All of these areas offer a mix of accommodations, from boutique hotels to charming bed-and-breakfasts, making them ideal for visitors who prefer not to have a car. 

Keep in mind that Charleston is a popular tourist destination, so it’s advisable to book accommodations well in advance, especially if you’re planning to visit during peak travel seasons.

Overviews of best neighborhoods in Charleston without a car

Downtown CharlestonThe Downtown Charleston area, including the Historic District and French Quarter, offers a variety of attractions, dining options, and shops within walking distance. 
Historic DistrictStaying in the heart of the historic district will put you within walking distance of many attractions, restaurants, and shops. You can explore landmarks like The Battery, Waterfront Park, and the bustling King Street
French QuarterThis area is part of the historic district and is known for its cobblestone streets, art galleries, and proximity to the Charleston City Market. It’s a great choice for those interested in history and culture.
Mount PleasantWhile not as central as the Downtown Charleston areas, Mount Pleasant is a popular choice for those who want a slightly quieter stay with proximity to the city. 

Below is the map of areas and neighborhoods in Charleston without a car. You can scroll downt for a live map:

map of best areas to stay in Charleston without a car
map of best areas to stay in Charleston without a car

4 Best areas to stay in Charleston without a car:

1. Downtown Charleston

Downtown Charleston is one of the best areas to stay in Charleston without a car. The downtown area is very pedestrian-friendly and offers a mix of historic charm, cultural attractions, dining options, and shopping, all within a relatively compact area.

Downtown Charleston is located on a peninsula bordered by the Ashley River to the west and the Cooper River to the east, with the Charleston Harbor to the south. 

The heart of Downtown Charleston is characterized by its historic district, charming streets, and a mix of colonial and antebellum architecture.

Many of the city’s popular attractions, such as the Historic Charleston City Market, Waterfront Park, and King Street shopping district, are located in or near downtown.

King Street is a major thoroughfare in Downtown Charleston known for its shopping, dining, and entertainment options. It is divided into the Upper King area, known for its upscale boutiques and restaurants, and the Lower King area, featuring a mix of high-end stores and historic buildings.

Downtown Charleston is home to several historic churches, including St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Circular Congregational Church, and St. Philip’s Episcopal Church. These churches often showcase remarkable architecture and play a significant role in the city’s history.

You’ll find a variety of accommodations, including hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals, within walking distance of the main attractions. 

Public transportation options like buses and trolleys also provide convenient ways to explore other parts of the city and nearby areas.

Additionally, guided walking tours, carriage tours, and boat tours are popular ways to explore Downtown Charleston and learn about its rich history and architecture.

Staying in Downtown Charleston without a car can offer a more immersive experience of the city’s history and culture, as you’ll have the opportunity to explore the charming streets, visit historic sites, and enjoy the local dining scene without the need for a vehicle. 

Just be sure to plan your transportation needs accordingly if you’re looking to venture beyond the downtown area.

Best places to stay in Downtown Charleston without a car:

Luxury ($$$): Hotel Bennett Charleston, 5-star hotel, centrally located in  King Street, Historic District in Downtown Charleston. It is within walking distance from major attractions such as the Charleston Museum, Marion Square, South Carolina Aquarium, and Waterfront Park.

Mid-range ($$): Mills House Charleston, Curio Collection by Hilton, 4-star hotel, conveniently located on Meeting Street, in the heart of Charleston city center, short distance from Charleston City Market and White Point Garden on the Ashley River Waterfront.

Budget ($): The Jasmine House, 3-star historic Greek Revivalist Mansion and adult-only bed and breakfast located in Ansonborough, in Historic Charleston, a short Uber ride from City Market. Daily complimentary wine and cheese reception is offered.

Budget ($): Barksdale House Inn, 3-stat historic inn, decorated in a European-style, located in a central location, ideal place for travelers without a car on a budget, within walking distance from Old City Market, College of Charleston, and Charleston Footprints Walking Tours.


2. Charleston Historic District

The Charleston Historic District is one of the best places to stay in Charleston without a car. This district is compact and walkable, allowing visitors to explore many attractions, restaurants, shops, and cultural sites on foot.

The Historic District is a subset of Downtown Charleston and is known for its well-preserved historic buildings, including elegant mansions and historic churches. This area is rich in history and offers guided walking tours that provide insights into Charleston’s past. 

The district is renowned for its stunning antebellum architecture, featuring a mix of styles including Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian. The colorful row houses, intricate ironwork, and stately mansions are a testament to the city’s past.

Many of the streets in the district are paved with cobblestones, adding to the area’s historic and charming ambiance.

Staying in the Historic District gives you easy access to important landmarks, such as the Nathaniel Russell House, the Aiken-Rhett House, and the Old Slave Mart Museum. These landmarks provide insights into the city’s history, culture, and the lives of its residents.

Visitors can explore cultural institutions like the Charleston Museum, which is one of the oldest museums in the United States, as well as art galleries and theaters showcasing the city’s vibrant arts scene.

Waterfront Park is a park along the Charleston Harbor provides a scenic location to relax, offering picturesque views of the water, shaded areas, fountains, and benches.

Parking can be a challenge in historic areas, but by staying in the Historic District, you can avoid the hassle of finding parking or paying for expensive parking fees.

 Overall, if you’re looking for a car-free experience in Charleston that allows you to enjoy the city’s history and culture, the Historic District is an excellent choice.

Best places to stay in Charleston Historic District without a car:

Luxury ($$$): The Charleston Place, 5-star accommodation, ideal location on Meeting Street, in Charleston Historic District, a short walk from Peninsula Grill, Charleston Historic District, and Old Slave Mart Museum.

Mid-range ($$): Francis Marion Hotel, popular 4-star historic  hotel, located in the heart of Charleston across from Marion Square, borders the King Street shopping district. It has an on-site restaurant serving classic Southern cuisine.  

Budget ($): Homewood Suites By Hilton Charleston Historic District, 3-star hotel in the heart of Charleston historic district, short stroll from Charleston Museum. It has non-smoking rooms, an outdoor swimming pool, a 24-hour front desk and a business center.


3. French Quarter

The French Quarter is one of the best areas to stay in Charleston without a car. It is a charming and walkable neighborhood located within the Charleston Historic District. 

It’s named after the influence of the French Huguenots who settled there in the 17th century. 

This area is known for its cobblestone streets, historic architecture, and artistic community. The French Quarter is home to the Charleston Art Gallery and the Dock Street Theatre, the oldest theater building in the United States. 

The French Quarter is located near several popular attractions, including Waterfront Park, the City Market, Rainbow Row, The Battery, and historic churches. You can easily access these sites without the need for a car.

It’s a great area for art enthusiasts, as you’ll find various galleries and studios showcasing local art.

The French Quarter also offers nightlife options, including bars and live music venues, allowing you to enjoy evenings without having to travel far.

The French Quarter offers a range of accommodations, including historic inns and boutique hotels that capture the essence of Charleston’s past.

Charleston’s historic areas can be challenging for parking, so staying in the French Quarter eliminates the need to worry about finding parking for a car.

Best places to stay in Charleston in French Quarter without a car:

Luxury ($$$): The Spectator Hotel, 5-star 1920s-inspired boutique hotel in the French Quarter, a short stroll from historic Charleston City Market and Port of Charleston. 

Mid-range ($$): French Quarter Inn, 4-star hotel, offering views of  Charleston City Market on Market Street. It has  a free daily gourmet continental breakfast. Waterfront Park and The King Street shopping and dining area are a short walk away.

Budget ($): Church Street Inn, Ascend Hotel Collection, 3-star hotel, that has a courtyard featuring a fountain. Short walk from Charleston Pirate Tours as well as numerous restaurants and shops.


4. Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant is a good option for staying in Charleston without a car, especially if you prefer a more relaxed atmosphere with waterfront views and access to specific attractions. 

Mount Pleasant is a suburban town located across the Cooper River from downtown Charleston and is connected to downtown by the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. You can also take a water taxi to Downtown Charleston from Mount Pleasant.

Mount Pleasant is known for its waterfront views, historic areas, and a mix of residential neighborhoods, shopping centers, and recreational spaces. 

Mount Pleasant is close to some popular attractions, including the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, Boone Hall Plantation, and Shem Creek. These places can be reached relatively easily by walking, biking, or using rideshare services.

The area has a variety of restaurants, shops, and boutiques, especially in the Shem Creek and Old Village areas. You can explore these local establishments on foot.

Mount Pleasant has bike-friendly streets and pathways, making it convenient to get around by bicycle. The Ravenel Bridge has a pedestrian and bike lane, connecting Mount Pleasant to downtown Charleston.

While Charleston does have a bus system, it may not be as comprehensive as in larger cities. Depending on your specific location in Mount Pleasant, accessing public transportation options could be limited.

While Mount Pleasant is relatively close to downtown Charleston, it’s not within immediate walking distance. You might need to rely on rideshare services, biking, or buses to reach the heart of the city.

In summary, Mount Pleasant can be a good option for staying in Charleston without a car due to its proximity to downtown and some walkable areas. But, you should be prepared to use public transportation, biking, and possibly rideshares to fully explore the city and its attractions.  

Best places to stay in Charleston in Mount Pleasant without a car:

Luxury ($$$): The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina, 5-star resort located in Mount Pleasant, featuring an outdoor pool,  free use of bicycles, and direct harbor access. It offers free trolleys to the beach on Sullivan’s Island, which is a bonus for travelers without car.

Mid-range ($$): The Cottages on Charleston Harbor, great waterfront bed and Vacation Rental located onPatriots Point Road, Mount Pleasant, offering an outdoor pool and an oceanfront view. Central Charleston is accessible by a water taxi adjacent to the hotel.

Budget ($): Comfort Inn & Suites Patriots Point, 3-star family-friendly hotel conveniently located at the entrance to Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, which is home to the USS Yorktown. Featuring Complimentary breakfast and a pool. 

Budget ($): Embassy Suites by Hilton Charleston Harbor Mt. Pleasant, 3-star children-friendly hotel, located in a great location, easy access to the historic Charleston. 


Summary – Where is the best place to stay in Charleston without a car?

In conclusion, Downtown, Historic District, French Quarter, and Mount Pleasant are the best places to stay in Charleston without a car. These neighborhoods are known for their walkability, historic charm, and proximity to many attractions, restaurants, and shops.

Downtown Charleston offers charm and accessibility. The Historic District exudes history and walkability. The French Quarter boasts art and culture. Mount Pleasant provides tranquility and suburban comfort, catering to diverse preferences. 

Choose based on your preferences and interests.

If you travel to Charleston as a family, I recommend read this article: Best areas to stay in Charleston with kids. . I also recommend reading this post: 4 safe areas to stay in Charleston for first time.

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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