Overview of the Neighborhoods
The following sections should suffice as a good introduction to D.C.'s neighborhoods. We'll begin with the three most frequented areas (downtown, the Mall, and Capitol Hill) and then go on to other neighborhoods in alphabetical order.
Most of the hotels in Washington D.C., both upscale and budget, are located in what is called the downtown area, so this will most likely be your first stop from the airport. Downtown is also the location of many of the city's finest tourist sites that lie outside the Mall.Downtown
This is a fifteen-block area between 7th and 22nd Streets along Pennsylvania Avenue. The downtown area has undergone a major renovation in the past decade. Almost every block has already been renewed or is scheduled to be undergoing construction.
Many of the city's tourist attractions are located in this neighborhood, including the following:
Old Post Office Pavilion
National Museum of Women in the Arts
National Museum of American Art
International Spy Museum
Washington D.C. Convention Center
These are only the standouts in a very concentrated area of things to see. If you have comfortable walking shoes, you can walk throughout the downtown area, but you don't have to because there are frequent Metro stops along the way. Most of them are not named after the nearest street — for example, they include Federal Triangle, Metro Center, National Archives/Navy Memorial, and the far exit of the Gallery Place/Chinatown station. This means you have to carry two maps with you at all times — a street map and a Metro map. There are various maps of the District and a Metro map in Appendix C.
The downtown neighborhood offers plenty to do. There are many fabulous restaurants for every budget and occasion. A strip on 7th Street that's lined with art galleries has become one of the best places to view local art. There's plenty of nightlife in the downtown area, too.
When you exit the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro Station (Yellow, Green, or Red Line) at 7th and H Streets, you will see a gilded arch of gold and red that marks the entrance to Washington's small Chinatown. This, the world's largest Chinese arch, was given to the District by its sister city, Beijing, and is referred to as the Chinese Friendship Archway. During the Chinese New Year celebration, the archway is lit up and topped with 300 painted dragons.
Everyone who comes to D.C. heads to the Mall at some point during his or her stay. Ten of the nineteen Smithsonian museums and galleries are here; so are most of the monuments and memorials. It is easy to find on most street maps, for it is defined by 2½ miles of parkland between Constitution and Independence Avenues from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. Popular sites in this area include:
National Air and Space Museum
National Museum of Natural History
National Museum of American History
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
National Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
National Museum of African Art
Arts and Industries Building (currently closed)
U.S. Holocaust Museum
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
National World War II Memorial
There are few restaurants in this area other than those in the museums. The Smithsonian Metro stop (Orange and Blue Line) will bring you to the middle of the Mall.Capitol Hill
Even though the Capitol and a number of heavily visited sites are in this neighborhood, Capitol Hill is mainly residential, with many apartment buildings and neighborhood restaurants. Consequently, the food is good and less expensive than in other parts of the city. It is also the location of the city's famed Eastern Market (at 7th and C Streets SE), which has been a site of free-for-all commerce since the Victorian days, with vendors selling everything from crafts to produce on a daily basis. It's especially bustling on weekends.
Other sites in the Capitol Hill area include the following:
Library of Congress
Folger Shakespeare Library
National Postal Museum
United States Botanic Garden
Supreme Court Building
Metro stops in this area are Eastern Market or Capital South (Orange or Blue Line), and Judiciary Square or Union Station (Red Line).Adams Morgan and Kalorama
Centered on 18th Street and Columbia Road (NW), Adams Morgan is a slightly off-the-beaten-track neighborhood that features a wealth of ethnic restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, bookstores, and the National Zoo. The Kalorama district (
You just might find yourself returning to Dupont Circle over and over again, even though it is a relatively small part of the city. It has wonderful restaurants of all varieties, bookstores, art galleries, movie theaters, and a thriving nightlife. The Circle is also the center of the District's gay nightlife, with several gay bars within walking distance of one another. Tourist sites in this area include the Heurich and Woodrow Wilson Houses, the Textile Museum, and the Phillips Collection. The Metro stop is Dupont Circle (Red Line).
Dupont Circle is named after Samuel F. Dupont, of New Jersey, a commander in the Navy during the Civil War who captured the Confederate site of Port Royal, South Carolina. A statue of Dupont stands in the center of the circle.
This neighborhood was the industrial area of the city in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In the summertime, the area was marshy and infested with mosquitoes, which is how it got its name. Before it got that nickname, it had been known as Funkstown, named after Jacob Funk, the owner of a particularly nasty local factory. Of course, Foggy Bottom has since been drained and spiffed up.
Foggy Bottom lies just southwest of the downtown tourist district and northwest of Georgetown. Tourist sites in this neighborhood include the U.S. State Department, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the luxurious (and notorious) Watergate complex. The closest Metro stops are Foggy Bottom and Farragut North (Orange or Blue Line).
Foggy Bottom was the industrial center of the city even before the American Revolution. In 1765, Jacob Funk, a German immigrant, bought 130 acres of land, where he placed his factories. The neighborhood also became the home of two universities by the early 1800s — a theological seminary and The Columbian College, which later became George Washington University. After the Civil War, Catholic University was added to the mix.
Georgetown is one of the oldest Colonial townships in the country and has some of the oldest homes in the city. One of its prime tourist sites is the Old Stone House, which was built before the Revolutionary War.
Georgetown was already an independent town when Washington D.C. was in the process of being designed. While it is now part of the city, Georgetown does keep its distance from the heart of downtown by being nearly inaccessible without a car and by having some of the highest-priced homes in the region.
Georgetown is a bit easier to get to since the recent inauguration of the D.C. Circulator. The bus connects Union Station, Georgetown, and many other places in between. Definitely worth visiting, it's one of the most charming parts of the city; many visitors enjoy strolling about to see its historic homes, such as Dumbarton Oaks. Because Georgetown is home to Georgetown University, it is packed with interesting, youth-oriented shops, as well as many restaurants and pubs and a co-op of art galleries. It is also one of the city's nightlife centers, especially on weekends. To reach Georgetown, you can take the Metro to the Foggy Bottom (Orange or Blue Line) stop, but it's a long walk. A cab ride from downtown may be a better option — the fare should be less than $10 — and Georgetown is always full of cabs.Glover Park
This is the residential neighborhood bordering the Washington National Cathedral. There are a number of good restaurants and movie theaters in this area. The former mansions and now embassies that make up Embassy Row (a must-see walk or drive) are located between Glover Park and Woodley Park.
In the midst of Embassy Row lies the Naval Observatory, where the nation's master clocks are set. Next door to the Observatory is the vice president's mansion, which is so far off the road that it can hardly be seen from the street. Across from the British Embassy, you'll find an idyllic park featuring a statue of the Persian poet Kahlil Gibran.
The nearest Metro station is Tenleytown (Red Line), but it's a tenminute walk to the National Cathedral, so take a bus transfer when you exit the train station and you can hop on any bus for thirty-five cents.
Washington's Embassy Row is an entire neighborhood devoted to the city's diplomatic community. It houses fifty-eight different embassies along Massachusetts and New Hampshire Avenues. Many of the embassies and ambassadors' residences are restored mansions. For instance, General Patton's home is now the home of the Australian ambassador. Other ambassadors have commissioned fabulous (and quirky) buildings and homes.
This is a beautiful residential neighborhood that grew up around Martin Van Buren's and Grover Cleveland's summer homes. It borders the Adams Morgan neighborhood and starts at the National Zoo. There are a number of good restaurants in the area. Its largest landmark is the Washington Marriott Wardman Park, and it is also home to the Omni Shoreham, another large hotel. Cleveland Park or Woodley Park-Zoo (Red Line) are the closest Metro stops.
Pay a visit to the U Street Corridor for some culinary treasures. Ben's Chili Bowl, a neighborhood institution for more than fifty years, is world-renowned after being featured on The Cosby Show in the 1990s. Oprah Winfrey's raves about the Love Café; its homemade cakes have put this restaurant on the map.
This stretch of the city between 12th and 16th Streets on U Street NW was once the center of African-American nightlife in the city (known as “Black Broadway”), where such luminaries as Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway performed when they were in town. It still retains its reputation for nightlife, with a number of jazz and rock nightclubs, and now features the Lincoln Theater, recently restored to its 1920s splendor, a cultural landmark for music, dance, theater, and cinema. Metro stops include U Street-Cardozo or Shaw-Howard University (Green Line).Tyson's Corner, Virginia
Though not technically a D.C. neighborhood, Tyson's Corner is a shopping hotspot and a bargain-shopping mecca for tourists and residents alike. It is one of the largest U.S. retail centers outside New York City.
The name comes from two of the malls — Tyson's Corner Center and Tyson's Galleria — which together feature a total of eight major department stores, including Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom's, as well as more than 400 shops and restaurants. Tyson's Corner isn't on the Metro. If you have a car available, take Route 7.