Charleston’s newest luxury hotel was more than a decade in the making — and it was worth the wait.
by Blake Miller
When you live in Charlotte, driving-distance destinations such as Asheville and Charleston, South Carolina, tend to be frequent getaways. So when a new hotel opens in the heart of historic Charleston, interest is piqued.
And for good reason: Hotel Bennett, which opened in January, had been in the works for more than a decade. Michael Bennett of Charleston-based Bennett Hospitality, the property’s owner, put plans for the 179-room hotel in motion back in 2005. After legal and construction delays, work started in 2015 on the project on King Street overlooking the famed Marion Square.
The previous structure that stood on the site was the original west wing of The Citadel military academy and, more recently, the Charleston County Public Library. The latter was razed, and erected in its place is a stunning, nine-story hotel that pays homage to Charleston’s rich culture and history through architectural details and interior aesthetics. The property is managed by Salamander Hotels & Resorts, the luxury hospitality company based in Middleburg, Va.
Once approved, the project took nearly four years to complete. While Hotel Bennett feels elegant and grand, it’s also comfortable and welcoming. By day, guests sip coffee and tea on the patio just feet from Marion Square, a 10-acre park that hosts festivals, picnics, farmers markets and more, while couples stroll across the breathtaking two-story atrium you pass through as you enter the hotel. By night, the place buzzes with the chatter of patrons sipping on artisan cocktails in the lobby lounge. This casual, approachable elegance is exactly the feeling you get when visiting Charleston’s newest luxury hotel.
You could easily spend the entire day without ever leaving Hotel Bennett and be perfectly satisfied. On the rooftop deck overlooking the park, private cabanas with luxe daybeds encourage poolside lounging. The Fiat Lux rooftop restaurant and bar offers updated, classic Southern cocktails such as a Southern June Bug — a concoction of Wheatly vodka, Midori, Giffar banana liqueur, Cruzan coconut rum and fresh lemon-lime and pineapple juices — and small plates including spicy tuna poke or snapper ceviche. An in-house spa offers various facial and body treatments.
If you do leave the property, channel your inner child and rent bikes from the city’s bike-share program, Holy Spokes — there’s a drop-off area right by the hotel. Tour the city by bike cruiser, and explore the tiny side streets too narrow for horse-drawn carriages. You can wind your way through the charming College of Charleston campus before heading down to the Battery and back again along the waterfront.
Head to Leyla on King Street for lunch, where you’re likely to find a crowd waiting for its falafel, kabobs and other authentic Lebanese dishes. If you don’t want to wait for a table, grab a seat at the bar and watch the passersby on King Street.
Kick off the evening with a cocktail at Camellias, Hotel Bennett’s chic champagne bar. Swathed in pink from floor to ceiling, the lounge serves afternoon tea with petit fours and tea sandwiches. At night, it’s champagne and caviar. For a fine-dining experience, plan on dinner at Hotel Bennett’s own Gabrielle. A more casual option is 5Church, a quick Uber ride from the hotel and located near the Historic Charleston City Market. Like its Charlotte sibling, the restaurant inhabits a former church and sports a modern, eclectic interior. The menu is similar to 5Church in Charlotte, with subtle distinctions.
Finish the evening with a nightcap at Bourbon n’ Bubbles on Upper King Street, a short walk from the hotel. Handcrafted cocktails such as the Hemingway — Bacardi rum, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, grapefruit and lime — are delicious but not overly sweet. The bourbon selection is impressive, as well. If you’re not too stuffed from dinner, order a handful of small plates such as the tuna tartare, classic deviled eggs or King Street crab dip.
A three-and-a-half-hour drive from Charlotte down Interstate 77 South to Interstate 26 takes you right into the heart of Charleston. Rates start at $450. hotelbennett.com SP