Exploring Charleston’s Artsy Side

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I’ve had drinks on the rooftop at the Vendue a handful of times, I’ve recommended it to countless friends, I’ve sent my parents to stay there, but until last week I’d never actually been a guest myself at “Charleston’s art hotel”—I can finally say I’ve checked that off my ultimate hotel list (yes, I have one of those in Excel spreadsheet form … don’t you?).

Historic properties are great and all, but when it comes to travel, I love nothing more than a sophisticated boutique hotel with equal parts charm and quirk. The Vendue offers the best of both worlds: Located in Charleston’s French Quarter, it’s housed in a pair of old warehouses that date back to the 1700’s, but also boasts an extensive, alluring contemporary art collection—more than 300 works, in fact—scattered throughout the rooms and in the common areas. It received a major update in 2014 so everything seems shiny and new.

Vendue boutique hotel in Charleston
Vendue boutique hotel in Charleston

Human pin art? Genius. I used to play with one of these things for hours when I was a kid.

We had a corner room, and it was nice and huge and I wanted to take the bed home with me; it was one of the most comfortable I’ve ever slept in. The room also overlooked East Bay Street—and, from it, if you crane your head as far out the window as you could go, you can see the fountains at Waterfront Park—so I could do a little discreet people watching (read: creeping).

Vendue in Charleston

Vendue in Charleston
Vendue boutique hotel in Charleston

Vendue in Charleston

We didn’t take advantage of the complimentary sherry—I know, who have we become?—but it was a very hospitable touch. The truffles on our pillows at night, however, did not last long.

We did, however, drop our bags and head straight up on the rooftop to purchase cocktails instead. Priorities, people.

Vendue in Charleston

Rooftop at the Vendue Charleston
Rooftop at the Vendue Charleston

Even if you’re not staying at the Vendue, that shouldn’t stop you from grabbing a drink or two at the Rooftop. The views at sunset are pretty satisfying, and I was obsessed with the unbreakable plastic glassware (as well as the inventive cocktail concoctions).

We only had time for a quick drink before dinner, though, as we had reservations downstairs. I was happy to find that the Vendue’s flair for the creative carried over into the Drawing Room, the resident fine dining restaurant.

The Drawing Room at the Vendue in Charleston
The Drawing Room at the Vendue in Charleston
The Drawing Room at the Vendue in Charleston
The Drawing Room at the Vendue in Charleston
The Drawing Room at the Vendue in Charleston

 The Drawing Room at the Vendue in Charleston

We settled right in with some bubbly, and the server made our night when he told us that a tasting menu was available if we so chose (we did) and inquired if we had any food allergies or aversions (we do not). If you know me in real life, you know that making decisions is not my strong suit, so the fact that I didn’t have to choose what to order and the chef would do so for me was super appealing.

Plus, as big of foodies as we are, we do like to try a little of everything. There’s nothing worse than getting FOMO when the diners at the next table over ordered better than you did!

The menu was heavy on seafood, no surprise as we were in Charleston and seafood is what they do best, after all. Each plate matched the artistic vibe of the hotel. It was almost too pretty to eat (key word: almost).

The menu was heavy on seafood, no surprise as we were in Charleston and seafood is what they do best, after all. Each plate matched the artistic vibe of the hotel. It was almost too pretty to eat (key word: almost).
The Drawing Room at the Vendue in Charleston
The Drawing Room at the Vendue in Charleston
The Drawing Room at the Vendue in Charleston

P.S. That’s not even a real egg, just ingredients made to look like one! Genius, right? But the chef, who stays in the experimental realm of cooking, is not only an artist, but a magician and a chemist. The things he did with textures and flavors—powdered olive oil? shut the front door!—blew both of our minds. Delightful little white fish crackers came layered with sea urchin custard on top of lump crab and other assorted crunchables. There was even a mango shooter!

The staff was attentive with the right amount of tact to leave you alone just as you’re taking a bite of spicy glazed lamb, or deer tenderloin, or grouper, or Ahi tuna, then swoop in if they see you eying an empty glass with more than a flirty pout. It was by far the best meal we had throughout the course of our five days in Charleston—and we ate a lot, too! (Again, who’s surprised?)

We didn’t get to spend much time in daylight hours enjoying the hotel as we had a food tour one day and wedding festivities for my sister the other, so I’m glad we had the first evening to really delve into what makes this property so special, from the colorful splashes of art to the top-notch service to the nightly cookie hour, which you know went over well with this girl.

 The Drawing Room at the Vendue in Charleston

 The Drawing Room at the Vendue in Charleston

 Art at the Vendue

The Vendue is not only one of the best boutique hotels in Charleston, but one of the best boutique hotels I’ve ever stayed in, period. Our stay at this charming property definitely set the tone for this visit to Charleston being one of our best trips in a long time.

 Vendue in Charleston

The Drawing Room Charleston

COMMENTS
  • July 25, 2015

    Looks like such a lovely place. I’m dying to visit Charleston and will definitely keep it in mind.

    • July 27, 2015

      Ahhhh you must. I’ve been there at least a half dozen times and it tops my list of favorite U.S. cities (if not favorite cities in the world!).

  • July 26, 2015

    Very simple and Luxury, your photos are adorable.
    thank you so much

  • July 27, 2015

    Amazing place! I’m right there with you on the tasting menu love…a little bit of everything AND I don’t have to make decisions? Superb 🙂

    • July 27, 2015

      The only problem is not wanting to move afterwards 😉

  • July 27, 2015

    I dream of going to Charleston. This place looks gorgeous!!

    • July 27, 2015

      All the places you’ve been, I can’t believe you’ve yet to make it there! Put it on the priority list, girlfriend =)

  • July 27, 2015
    Briel K.

    I really hope I can make it back to visit Charleston again someday! The Vendue looks nice! It was nice when we stayed there but I can tell they’ve done some work (as you mentioned). I didn’t know that about the art work there and my sister was underage at the time so we didn’t visit the rooftop bar. Next time! 🙂

    • August 23, 2015

      I think you can visit the rooftop bar without an ID (maybe)? At least during daylight hours…

  • July 28, 2015

    I definitely want to try this hotel next year on my Southern C Summit vacay. Thanks!

    • August 23, 2015

      Nice! What a great city for a conference =)

  • July 31, 2015

    Greats and interesting articles it is nice info in this post.

  • August 1, 2015

    Totally agree with you there. A “sophisticated boutique hotel with equal parts charm and quirk” is simply the best kind and as for a tasting menu? A little bit of this and a little bit of that, and that and that. Never did anyone any harm.
    In my opinion!

    • August 23, 2015

      I bet Berlin has a lot of such hotels, being such an artsy city and all =)

  • August 7, 2015

    This makes me miss Charleston! And the South!!! Food tour road trip when I’m back. All the pastries 🙂

    • August 23, 2015

      I like that plan! I’ll meet you there =)

  • August 7, 2015

    This makes me miss Charleston! And the South!! Food road trip when I’m back. 🙂

  • August 9, 2015

    Thanks so much for this wonderful write-up, Kristin. Headed to Charleston later this month and just booked three nights at The Vendue. Planning to do some walking food tours and general site seeing, so I’ll be reading all your other Charleston posts 🙂

    • August 23, 2015

      My food post is going live in an hour just for you =)

  • April 26, 2016
    Audrey

    Me and my bestie just got back from a long weekend in Charleston! And thanks, in part, to your recommendation here, we stayed and dined at The Vendue! All aspects considered, a more stunning hotel I have never patronized! (Although our room was unfortunately noisy due to its proximity to the building front entrance.)

    The Drawing Room was second only to 82 Queen for our dining satisfaction. Their red snapper was utterly exquisite, as was their crab & calamari starter (not to mention the art surrounding us on every wall)! Thank you, Kristin, for the heads-up!

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