5 Charming Neighborhoods to Visit in Washington, D.C.

These neighborhoods showcase the rich history and diverse culture found in the nation's capital.

By Jennifer Lubell, ContributorNov. 23, 2016
U.S. News & World Report

5 Charming Neighborhoods in Washington, D.C.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Georgetown Washington DC.

From downtown to uptown, these areas have something for everyone.(Getty Images)

There's a lot more to the District of Columbia than historic sites and monuments. The nation's capital is a very eclectic city, featuring a number of quaint and colorful areas visitors should explore.

"D.C. has over 30 neighborhoods, all of them unique. The area is growing in popularity and in size – by about 1,000 new residents per month," says Joaquin McPeek, director of communications at the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development in the District.

Thanks to its walkability and extensive public transportation system, it's easy to explore well-known neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and Georgetown, and discover some of the up-and-coming areas like the Shaw-U Street Corridor. To get a sense of the city's historic beginnings, its stunning architecture and rich and varied culture, local experts recommend that visitors explore these five neighborhoods.

Capitol Hill

Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.(Courtesy of Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Stretching across the city's Northeast and Southeast quadrants, Capitol Hill is one of the District's oldest neighborhoods. Famously known for the U.S. Capitol, Library of Congress, Supreme Court and congressional buildings, it's also a draw for enthusiasts of Victorian architecture.

"Well-manicured townhouses along East Capitol Street stretch from the front grounds of the Capitol building to fashionable Lincoln Park, and boast beautiful stained glass, handsome brick work and neighborhoods like those in Norman Rockwell paintings," observes Erich Hosbach, director of sales and marketing at The Graham Georgetown hotel.

Once you're done touring the buildings in Capitol Hill's government and residential districts, pop in to the historic Union Station train station for a bite to eat or some shopping, as there are numerous options for both.

Georgetown

Martin's Tavern in D.C.(Courtesy of Martin's Tavern)

Georgetown's cobblestone streets flank the Potomac River on the city's Northwest side, and is the quintessential neighborhood for any visitor. "I think it has a perfect combination of attractions – interesting shops, good restaurants, lovely streets full of pretty row houses, and a beautiful park along the waterfront," says Sherri Dalphonse, executive editor of Washingtonian magazine.

Visit Martin's Tavern, where John F. Kennedy allegedly proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier. Hosbach says, "You can sit in the very booth where it all began." The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath, which originates in Georgetown, is a great place to take a quiet walk.

Shaw-U Street Corridor

Lincoln Theatre in D.C.(Courtesy of Garbage at Lincoln Theatre/Jason Dixson Photography)

Once known as the "Black Broadway," Shaw is home to the Lincoln and Howard theaters and is rich with African-American history. "On his way to his cottage in the northern part of the city, Abraham Lincoln used to drive up by carriage from the White House to this neighborhood," says Julie Saunders, chef concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC.

This Northwest neighborhood has recently come into its own with trendy restaurants and shops. Visit Ben's Chili Bowl for a hearty meal, or hop on over to the 9:30 Club on nearby V Street for some live music.

Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle Fountain.(Courtesy of Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Dupont Circle isn't as widely traveled as some other neighborhoods, but it's worth the visit, Dalphonse says. She suggests that visitors stop in at the Phillips Collection museum to see French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party" and the Rothko Room, which features four paintings by abstract expressionist Mark Rothko. Afterward, relax with a ginger scone and pot of tea at Teaism, or visit the historic Tabard Inn, where you can enjoy a drink by the fire in its intimate parlor or a meal in the dining room, Dalphonse says. "If it's a Sunday morning, check out the Dupont farmers market, one of the city's best," she recommends.

Stroll through Dupont Circle's residential streets and admire the lovely architecture of the 19th-century row houses. And be sure to visit the Dupont Underground, an old trolley system that has been transformed into a unique arts and cultural center, says Bria Del Villar, concierge at the Rosewood Washington, D.C.

Old Town Alexandria

To explore a charming, historic neighborhood just outside the city limits, ride the Yellow or Blue line on the Metro - the region's subway system - to Old Town Alexandria in Northern Virginia. Old Town's main drag, King Street, is lined with a variety of shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants. Old Town features historic homes, churches and buildings – some dating back to the 1700s – red brick sidewalks, cobblestone streets and gas lanterns, all reminiscent of the neighborhood's early residents.

Looking for some breathtaking views of the Potomac River? Take the free trolley that runs from the King Street-Old Town Metro Station to the waterfront. There, the Potomac Riverboat Company provides water taxi services and riverboat cruises to the monuments or Mount Vernon, George Washington's home. For a unique art experience, visit the Torpedo Factory Art Center, where you can interact with working artists in their studios.

To experience more of what Washington, D.C., has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.

Jennifer Lubell, Contributor

Jennifer Lubell writes about real estate and travel trends for U.S. News & World Report. Much ...  Read more

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