Hotel Emeline Charleston Review: Is This Chic Boutique Hotel Worth It?

Study or work corner of Collectors Suite at Hotel Emeline in Charleston, SC

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you buy or book through one of these links, I may earn a small commission .

I first discovered Emeline a few years back when I popped into its charming coffee shop, Clerks during a trip to Charleston, South Carolina with my mom. Immediately intrigued by the refreshingly bright airy space and retro mint green espresso machine, I was so curious about what a stay at the hotel would be like.

When I returned a few years later for my first solo trip to Charleston, SC, I knew Emeline would be the perfect place to treat myself. Not only is Emeline one of the nicest and top rated hotels in Charleston, but it inspires wanderlust with its travel-themed rooms and decor. How could a travel blogger like me say no to that?

As my stay in Charleston was part of a greater one-week road trip itinerary that would end in Savannah, I only stayed two nights at Emeline. Below, I am giving a full review of my stay, and whether it was everything I’d hoped it would be. Let’s dive in!

What to Know About Hotel Emeline in Charleston, SC

Lantern lit exterior of the Hotel Emeline in Charleston, SC

Emeline is located at 181 Church Street, which is one of the most gorgeous streets in Charleston, and certainly one of my favorite to stroll. This boutique hotel prides itself on offering a “luxury lifestyle”, if only for just a few days.

From the minute you arrive outside Emeline’s front doors, you know you are about to enter somewhere special. You may first notice the lovely historic front door in the center of the building, nestled between two flickering lanterns. Romantic as it is, you’ll make a scene squeezing your bags through there, so enter through the double doors to the right instead.

Immediately upon entering into the spacious lobby, you’ll be immersed into a high-end, curated atmosphere that feels studious, retro, and imaginative all at once. Look right to find a sitting area with couches and tables and left to see customers in line for coffee at Clerks.

Reception is a bit hidden, being up a small set of stairs straight ahead and to the left. You’ll run into the restaurant Frannie & The Fox and the hotel’s small travel shop before you see it. After checking in, head back past Frannie & The Fox to find elevators to the guest rooms.

Hotel Design

Sitting area of Collector's Suite at Emeline

At Emeline, every piece of furniture and artwork has been selected with the intention of evoking feelings of wanderlust and creativity, while also staying sophisticated and grounded. Little decorative touches in the lobby and rooms include velvet couches, leather chairs, brass knobs, and wooden details.

I would not call the hotel’s overall style bright and dreamy, but more smart and serious, fostering a pensive, thought-provoking type of environment. It’s the perfect retreat for a writer holing up to jot down reflections after a busy day of adventures, or even an artist sketching scenery that inspired them that day.

Hotel Emeline Charleston Location

St. Philip's Church steeple on Church Street
St. Philip’s Church

Besides the chic design and lux feel, my favorite part about staying at Emeline is the location. The hotel is located in the best part of town for getting around on foot just about anywhere.

The following sights can be easily reached within a five-minute walk:

  • Shops on King Street
  • Dock Street Theatre
  • Charleston City Market
  • Powder Magazine
  • St. Philip’s Church
  • Philadelphia Alley

You also don’t need to go far for good food. Be sure to visit the following top-rated eateries within five minutes of Emeline: Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, FIG, Hyman’s Seafood, and Peninsula Grill.

The Rooms

King Bed in suite with large flat screen tv and yellow velvet curtains

Emeline features vintage touches in every room, including turntables with custom records and mirrors that look aged. A modern color palette of dark green and teal mixed with yellow and orange tones keeps the room design from feeling stuffy and dated.

I stayed on the second floor in the Collector’s Suite, which was very spacious with a living/working area, bedroom, and giant bathroom.  I was particularly impressed by the bathroom, which was spacious with separate tub, shower, and toilet areas. Local touches in the bathroom include custom ceramic vanity accessories sourced from Charleston artist, Susan Gregory.

Book This Room at Hotel Emeline Here

Large bright bathroom with separate tub, shower, toilet, and vanity

My king-sized bed was super comfortable with soft cotton sheets and pillows with just the right amount of firmness. A mild NBA fan myself, I was able to watch Lebron brake the scoring record on the giant tv across from the bed. This helped tune out the bit of noise I could hear from my suite, which included doors slamming shut, a whining dog, and faint voices coming from other rooms.

Although the website states that all rooms have views of historic Charleston, take this with a grain of salt. From the second floor, all I could see were some palmetto treetops and the buildings across the street, colorful as they were. If you want to see steeples, you’ll likely pay a premium for that.

Hotel Amenities

Keep Shop with clothing and souvenirs inside Hotel Emeline

One of my favorite features at Emeline was “The Nook” on each floor near the elevator. This is where you can get complimentary hot and cold water, fruit, and periodicals.

The water is legitimately cold, if slow to pour, and I was constantly filling the reusable bottles provided in my room. Ice is also readily available, although for me the water was cold enough without it.

I also loved the sheet provided upon arrival that listed events around Charleston the week of my stay. A box in my room also contained info about additional local activities.

Here are some of Emeline’s other notable amenities:

  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Spa Robes
  • Keep Shop that features quality travel-inspired clothing and goods
  • Valet parking (pricey in Charleston)
  • Fitness center
  • Same-day dry cleaning
  • Pet friendly (dogs only, up to two less than 40 lbs, $100 cleaning fee)
  • Emeline Bikes – inquire about reserving a bike for exploring Charleston

Eating at Hotel Emeline in Charleston

Bright, retro interior of Clerk's Coffee in Charleston

It is not necessary to venture far from the hotel for food, with both Clerks Coffee and Frannie & the Fox being attached to the property. Personally, I adore the bright, cheerful atmosphere at Clerks and went there every day for a decaf cappuccino.  

Clerks also has a breakfast menu with pastries, sandwiches, and other small items.  Keep in mind that the cafe does get busy during mornings and afternoons.

Frannie & the Fox is Emeline’s main restaurant that specializes in wood-fired pizzas and a handful of high-end Italian entrees. The hotel recommends making reservations to dine here, especially if you want to take advantage of the cozy courtyard seating next to the fireplace.

This pricey restaurant was constantly busy with couples, coworkers, and friend groups. Therefore, I wasn’t too keen on dining here as a solo traveler. While there are menus provided for in-room dining, I opted to take a Charleston food tour instead.

The Staff

As nice as Emeline was, I didn’t necessarily find the staff to be very overly warm and welcoming. Even though Emeline’s website promises “warm hospitality”, I didn’t experience much interaction with the staff at all beyond checking in. Plus, reception is tucked too far back from the hotel entrance and any main areas to greet anyone.

Many people may prefer the ability to come and go as they please without being bothered. Just don’t expect that welcoming personal touch that you often find at other small inns and bed and breakfasts around Charleston.

To be fair, I should mention that the person I contacted over email for my room upgrade was friendly and accommodating. Additionally, this is only my experience, which may be somewhat influenced by the unfortunate interaction I had below.

My Unfortunate Booking Error

Working area in interior of Collectors Suite

Full disclosure: I initially, I booked “The Atelier” room for a total of $590.40 for a Tuesday and Wednesday night. Granted, I don’t think this price has taxes and fees added to it yet. I later nabbed a free upgrade to the Collector’s Suite.

However, I was shocked upon check-in to learn that I had accidentally booked my room at the “local rate”, which is only for people who live in South Carolina. Therefore, my charges in reality totaled a stomach-churning $896.36.

No, they did not charge me for the upgrade; believe me, I checked. However, I was able to confirm with the hotel that I was charged the current rate on the day of my check in. This amounted to $389 and $379 for each night I stayed, compared to the $295.20 nightly rate I initially booked in January.

This was whatever, except for it rubbed me the wrong way when the young receptionist said, “A lot of people try to book at the local rate and in the past we’ve let it go, but we’re starting to crack down.” I couldn’t help feeling like this was a mild accusation, which left me irritated and feeling a little out of place.

To avoid your own sticker shock and a potentially substantial increase in your rate, be careful when booking on Emeline’s website. When reserving your room, you will see that there are different booking boxes at various rates. I’ve added a screenshot below for clarity.

Room booking calendar for Emeline
Note that the prices shown above are at the nonrefundable rate
Nonrefundable, locals only, and flexible booking rates at Emeline

• • •

Overall, Emeline mostly lived up to its reputation of being one of the top-rated boutique hotels in Charleston. While I missed the typical warmth and welcoming atmosphere of Charleston hospitality, I overall loved the design concept of this hotel and felt like I was treating myself. If you find inspiration in chic and imaginative interior design or want to stay in a place with a luxurious feel, Emeline is for you.

Emeline, located in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, is one of the city’s best boutique hotels. With two restaurants, chic antique-inspired rooms, and high-end amenities, Emeline promises a comfortable stay in style for any girls trip, honeymoon, or even a solo trip to the Holy City. Here is my complete review as to whether this luxury Charleston hotel was worth it.
Emeline, located in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, is one of the city’s best boutique hotels. With two restaurants, chic antique-inspired rooms, and high-end amenities, Emeline promises a comfortable stay in style for any girls trip, honeymoon, or even a solo trip to the Holy City. Here is my complete review as to whether this luxury Charleston hotel was worth it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *