A Visitor’s Guide to Washington, DC, Neighborhoods
Capitol Hill – located just to the east of the National Mall, Capitol Hill begins at the U.S. Capitol Building (the Hill) and extends east and south to include the U.S. Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. The area is about more than government buildings, though. The expansive Eastern Market is a public market in a historical red brick building full of places to eat, small shops, and even an art gallery. Barracks Row on 8th and I St. SE features upscale dining and trendy bars in actual 17th century Marine barracks. Additionally, Capitol Hill is full of historic residential row houses dating back to the 19th and early 20th centuries. Nationals Park sits south of Capitol Hill near the Anacostia River, and RFK Stadium sits east of Capitol Hill along the same river. The environs are very walkable, but stick to populated areas at night.
Georgetown – in addition to being home of its namesake university and its beautiful campus on the western edge of this wealthy neighborhood, Georgetown boasts beautifully restored row houses, and there is a vast array of posh shops, bars and restaurants along both M Street and Wisconsin Avenue worth exploring. This is the prestigious side of town and home to best schools, Embassy Row, the National Zoo, the National Cathedral, Dumbarton Oaks and the “Exorcist Steps”. Along the river is the terminus of The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath.
Dupont Circle – this neighborhood is centered around the Dupont Memorial Fountain and the grand avenues that radiate from it. It’s trendy and the epicenter of the gay community and people who like to drink – either wine, beer, or cocktails. The options for places to drink include night clubs, bars, cafes, art galleries, and bistros. Other attractions include the Phillips Collection, embassies and Kramerbooks and Afterwords Cafe, and stately homes.
Penn Quarter/Chinatown – also known as the East End, this area is located just east of the White House and includes the central business district of DC. Penn Quarter is centered on Pennsylvania Avenue and includes many of the cities finest hotels and restaurants. Attractions include the Verizon Center, Ford’s Theater, The Shakespeare Theatre, the National Portrait Gallery, and the International Spy Museum. Chinatown is just north of Penn Quarter and, in addition to having authentic Chines cuisine, has recently become a nightlife destination, although a number of chain stores and restaurants has recently set up shop there.
Adams Morgan – hip and diverse, with ethnic restaurants, bars, and a party atmosphere that lasts into the wee hours. By day, the neighborhood, with its historic rowhouses, is very beautiful and and offers global cuisine and shopping in quirky boutiques. At night, and especially on weekend, the action centers around 18th St NW between Florida and Columbia Road.
U Street Corridor/Shaw – known at one time as both “Black Broadway” and the “Harlem of DC” for its historical significance as a haven of black culture, U Street was the birthplace of Duke Ellington and home to music clubs that held performances by the legends of jazz and blues music. Ben’s Chili Bowl was there for the good times and has survived the bad times. The Shaw neighborhood, or which U Street is a part, is experiencing a renaissance today with the opening of new music clubs, including the Howard Theatre, Bohemian Caverns, and Busboys and Poets. Howard University is located is located in the neighborhood, as is The African American Civil War Memorial and Museum.
Upper Northwest – wealthy, stately, and tree-lined, this area includes a number of distinct neighborhoods, including Woodley Park, Tenleytown, Cleveland Park, North Cleveland Park, Forest Hills, and Cathedral Heights. Attractions include the National Zoo, the National Cathedral, Hillwood Estate, the US Naval Observatory, and the expansive Rock Creek Park. There’s also upscale shopping.
Columbia Heights – this area is in the midst of a transformation from gritty to desirable. The transformation is being aided partly by an influx of big box stores, but there’s still plenty of independent bars, ethnic restaurants, and family bakeries. Most of the activity is on 14th Street Park and Columbia Road. Be careful at night.
Mount Pleasant – this area is the center of the Salvadoran culture in DC. Come here for the pupuseria restaurants, which serve traditional Salvadoran dishes such as ercilias and haydees. Saturdays are very festive here.
Alexandria – (not shown on map) located across the Potomac, Alexandria’s Old Town boasts cobblestone streets and historic buildings and houses – some dating as far back as the 1600’s, plus an exciting array of small shops and cozy restaurants. It’s great for walking, or taking the trolley that runs through town, and it can be reached by the Metro.