Travel + Leisure readers name Charleston No. 1 U.S. city for 7th year in a row

July 11, 2019

By Emily Williams –

Charleston is the No. 1 U.S. city for the seventh year in a row, according to the Travel + Leisure magazine’s “World’s Best” awards.

Charleston also ranked 12th on the magazine’s list of the 15 best cities in the world, making it one of only two U.S. destinations to make the cut. Charleston came in at No. 10 on the world rankings last year and took the top spot in 2016.

The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Jacqui Gifford, announced the results of the annual reader survey Wednesday morning on NBC’s “Today” show.

“It’s been exciting to watch the evolution of this uniquely American city, beloved by our readers for its welcoming spirit, nourishing, inventive food and world-class cultural events,” Gifford said of Charleston’s 2019 showing.

On its list, which was published online Wednesday and will appear in the August print edition of Travel + Leisure, the magazine noted a couple of respondents’ comments, including one that described Charleston as “Southern charm at its best,” and another that called Rainbow Row “an absolute Instagram dream.”

“Its magic, perhaps, lies in an alchemy of old and new, genteel and unpretentious, city glamour and nature at your fingertips,” the magazine noted in its list.

Southeast cities took five of the other spots: New Orleans (No. 3), Savannah (No. 4), Nashville (No. 7), Asheville (No. 8) and Williamsburg, Va. (No. 13).

The rankings were collected from a reader survey that was available online from early November through March. Each city was assigned a score based on those responses.

This year, Charleston earned a score of 87.04, less than a point above No. 2-ranked Santa Fe and about 7 points above No. 15, Washington, D.C.

The Holy City has also earned a place in the magazine’s “WBA Hall of Fame,” which means the destination has been voted onto the list of best cities in the U.S. for at least the last decade.

This year’s No. 2 and No. 3 cities, Santa Fe and New Orleans, respectively, are “Hall of Fame” honorees, too, as well as New York City and Chicago, which earned the fifth and sixth spots on this year’s list.

The Spectator Hotel in downtown Charleston also ranked fifth on the magazine’s ranking of the best hotels in the continental U.S., tied with The Lowell Hotel in New York City. The lodgings also share the 98th spot on the list of the 100 best hotels in the world.

Hilton Head Island and Kiawah Island were bookends on this year’s ranking of the top 10 islands in the continental U.S., with Hilton Head in the top spot and Kiawah at No. 10.

Though Charleston has earned this particular accolade for seven years and counting, Explore Charleston board chair and Charlestowne Hotels president Michael Tall said that the city hasn’t lost sight of its value.

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