The United States capital, Washington, DC, is an iconic hub of history and politics. Attractions like the White House, Washington Monument, and Smithsonian museums are just the tip of the iceberg for what there is to see and do in this bustling city, so it’s little wonder you’ve been drawn to visit.
Washington is a diverse city home to embassies from around the world. This is reflected in the diversity of its locales, from the world-famous political centre of Downtown Washington to historic cobblestone streets in Georgetown and the affluent, family-friendly neighbourhood of Woodly Park.
Washington has a diverse array of districts to choose from, which may seem a little overwhelming when deciding where best to set up a base during your trip to the city. That is why I’ve compiled this list of the six best areas to stay in Washington DC to help you out.
- Where To Stay In Washington, DC
- Downtown DC
- Capitol Hill
- Southwest Waterfront
- Foggy Bottom
- Woodley Park
Where To Stay In Washington, DC
Downtown DC is the most central area of the city and is one of the best choices for first-time visitors to the capital, as well as those who simply want to prioritise sightseeing.
Located at the northern end of the National Mall, the area is packed to the brim with world famous tourist attractions.
Arguably the main attraction, the White House sits right at the heart of Downtown Washington in the sprawling Presidents Park.
Visitors can take guided tours of the house but you’ll need to book well in advance.
If you’re not a U.S. citizen, you’ll need to apply for the tour through your country’s embassy.
Heading South, you’ll come to the Washington Monument, which is a soaring stone obelisk that memorialises the first United States President.
It’s set in immaculately landscaped gardens overlooking the Tidal Basin, so it’s a particularly lovely spot to stop for an afternoon picnic in between sightseeing.
If you like museums then you are sure to love Washington, as could easily spend a few days just exploring the various museums and their seemingly endless exhibits.
This includes the iconic Smithsonian, one of the most famous museums in the world, which is located right next to the Washington Monument.
You have the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian Castle.
There are also museums catering to more specific interests, like the National Museum of Asian Art, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Children’s Museum.
Of course, there’s plenty to do here aside from sightseeing.
Downtown has some of the best and most diverse hospitality options in the city.
You’ll have a wide array of cuisines and cultural charms to enjoy across the range of restaurants, cafes, and bars filling the Downtown area.
The district stays lively even after dark, and you’ll find a fantastic array of bars and nightclubs around Downtown to suit all tastes.
Connecticut Avenue to Dupont Circle is especially lively with nightclubs.
If you’re after somewhere quieter in the evenings, this is probably not the best area for you though.
Where To Stay In Downtown DC
Luxury – Waldorf Astoria Washington DC
Mid-range – The Mayflower Hotel, Autograph Collection
Budget – State Plaza Hotel
If you’re drawn to Washington’s political history but would rather avoid the rowdy nightlife of the Downtown area, then Capitol Hill might be the better choice for you.
Located about a mile east of Downtown DC, you should be able to avoid the worst of the crowds here.
One of the drawbacks of being further from the city centre is the comparative lack of shopping and hospitality options to choose from.
If you don’t want to spend all your time in the city sightseeing, you may have to look outside this local area for things to keep yourself entertained.
On the other hand, it is one of the more affordable locations to stay in Washington, especially in the inner city, so it’s still worth considering even if you do have to do a little commuting.
Capitol Hill is so named for being home to the United States Capitol which houses the U.S. Senate.
The Capitol Building marks the eastern end of the National Mall, a stretch of manicured lawns lined with various branches of the Smithsonian Museum.
Visitors can take guided tours of the capitol and learn more about the building and the country’s political history.
Right behind the Capitol you can also see the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court, both impressive buildings in their own rights.
The museums closest to Capitol Hill include the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the National Gallery of Art and its sculpture garden, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the United States Botanic Garden.
Where To Stay In Capital Hill
Luxury – The Royal Sonesta Washington DC Capitol Hill
Mid-range – Capitol Hill Hotel
For more things to see around Washington DC read:
Southwest Waterfront is an increasingly fashionable area south of the National Mall.
Although a bit removed from the bustling city centre, the neighbourhood still has plenty of life, both day and night.
If you stay in Southwest Waterfront, you’ll be a short walk from many of the city’s main attractions, like the Smithsonian museums, the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the White House.
Within the neighbourhood you also have several eclectic sights and museums.
The International Spy Museum, Rubell Art Museum, and the Bible Museum are all
within a short walk of one another.
The National Museum of the United States Navy is just a quick trip east in Navy Yard.
Take a walk through Southwest Waterfront Park and you’ll be able to find the Titanic memorial overlooking the Washington Canal.
As for hospitality and entertainment, Southwest Waterfront is a hub of trendy restaurants and bars.
The area has grown in popularity in recent years, bringing with it a wealth of fashionable venues.
This is particularly true along the marina, where guests and diners can enjoy beautiful views of the canal.
Where To Stay In Southwest Waterfront
Luxury – Pendry Washington DC – The Wharf
Mid-range – Hyatt House Washington DC – The Wharf
Mid-range – Cambria Hotel Washington DC Capitol Riverfront
Surrounding the George Washington University campus and stretching to the west of the White House, Foggy Bottom is a lively neighbourhood blending an academic and scholarly atmosphere with a vibrant social energy.
Presidents Park runs along its east edge and Constitution Gardens its south, so the neighbourhood is surrounded by major attractions just a short walk away.
It’s also just across Arlington Bridge from the attractions of the neighbouring city of Arlington, Virginia, with notable landmarks like the Pentagon.
Constitution Gardens houses the Lincoln Memorial, one of the most iconic symbols of the United States.
The Lincoln Memorial is surrounded by various other monuments, including the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
On a small island in the Constitution Gardens Pond, you can also find the Signers’ Memorial, a group of stone slabs carved with the signatures of those who signed the Declaration of Independence.
Between the university and the politics, Foggy Bottom also boasts a decent array of museums to see.
The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum display artefacts dating back as far as 3000bce, while the U.S. Department of the Interior Museum and the Art Museum of the Americas provide more insights into the country’s artistic heritage.
If you prefer performing arts, then head over to the John F. Kennedy Centre to see what’s on.
Containing several performance venues, the centre boasts a packed calendar of theatre, dance, and music productions, so visitors can get a taste for the talent of Washington’s performing artists.
If there’s nothing on at the John F. Kennedy Centre to interest you, you might have better luck at Constitution Hall.
Housed within a stunning neoclassical building, Constitution Hall hosts an eclectic calendar of events including performances by big name acts.
If you’re interested in Science but don’t what to schlep all the way over to the Smithsonian, you can visit the National Academy of Sciences instead.
Along with the fascinating displays, it hosts frequent guest speakers on a range of subjects.
Not super budget friendly
Where To Stay In Foggy Bottom
Luxury – The River Inn-A Modus Hotel
Luxury – Residence Inn by Marriot DC/Foggy Bottom
Mid-range – Arc Hotel Washington DC Georgetown
Budget – Hotel Hive
Historic Georgetown is a charming neighbourhood in DC known for its quaint cobbled streets, upscale shopping and dining scene, and for being particularly aesthetic in general.
Along with the historic lanes, and beautiful buildings, visitors can also enjoy lovely views of the Potomac River.
Georgetown Park in particular offers sweeping views of Roosevelt Island and Francis Scott Key Memorial Bridge.
If you’re after a laid back and sophisticated experience but don’t want to stray miles from the city centre, then Georgetown is ideal.
Less than a mile from Downtown Dc, you’ll still be able to easily get around the big attractions, without having to stay among the noisy crowds.
Georgetown has plenty of its own attractions to enjoy when you don’t want to head into the city.
Tudor Place, Dumbarton House, and the Old Stone House all showcase the historic architecture of the neighbourhood.
Movie fans might also want to visit the Exorcist Steps, a narrow stone staircase featured in the classic 1973 film.
Where To Stay In Georgetown
Luxury – The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown
Mid-range – The Graham Georgetown
Apartment – Georgetown Residences by LuxUrban
Leafy Woodley Park is ideal for anyone planning a relaxing break.
A little over a mile from the Downtown area, Woodley Park is much quieter and less crowded, making it ideal for those travelling with small children.
It’s also right next to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, home to thousands of critters from sloths and armadillos to elephants and bears.
It’s certain to entertain visitors of all ages, making the perfect family day out.
Alternately, the United States National Observatory is found on the other side of the neighbourhood.
Anyone interested in the science of space will enjoy a tour around the state-of-the-art facility.
Meanwhile, anyone with an appreciation for architecture will want to visit the Washington National Cathedral.
The stunning structure includes three towers, dozens of exquisite stained-glass windows, and innumerous arches, spires, and architectural details to marvel at.
Visitors can even head to the top of the main tower to enjoy stunning panoramic views of the city.
One downside to Woodley Park is that, being less of a tourist hotspot, you’ll have fewer accommodation options to choose from, so you’ll want to book well in advance to make sure the limited options don’t fill up.
You’ll also have rather fewer dining options than you would in the city centre, which is worth considering if you’re travelling with any particularly fussy eaters.
Where To Stay In Woodley Park
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