Uncover the diverse neighbourhoods of Washington DC

From cultural corners to history-laden streets, there’s a lot more to Washington, DC than you might think. Come and wander its varied districts…

Visit DC

Visit DC

From the White House to the Washington Monument, the American capital boasts some of the country’s most iconic sights but look beyond the politics and you’ll discover lively neighbourhoods fizzing with great heritage, nature, art and food experiences. With over 100 things to do for free in DC, it can be tough to choose where to start.

Here’s how to go deeper into DC’s rich canvas of culture...

Destination DC

Destination DC

Destination DC

Destination DC

Getting There and Around

Washington, DC, has never been easier to get to. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and United all offer daily flights from London Heathrow to Washington Dulles International Airport. Upon arrival, take the newly opened Silver Line Metro train extension, for an easy, affordable and convenient way to reach Downtown in just one hour from the airport.

Downtown itself is surprisingly walkable for a large American city and exploring Washington’s museums, gardens and boulevards on foot is ideal for soaking in the city’s buzzing atmosphere. Although the quick and efficient Metro system is a great way to whizz around DC's neighbourhoods, taking the time to wander through each place on foot is really your best bet.

For a breezy way of seeing Washington, make the most of the Capital Bikeshare program, located throughout the city and major attractions.

Explore Classic DC

Destination DC

Destination DC

Fringing the Potomac River’s eastern banks, the National Mall unfurls into an expansive 2-mile tree-lined boulevard and it's where the classic DC experience truly begins. Understandably, it’s always pretty tourist-heavy here but such is the size of the National Mall that you can be out in tranquil parkland fairly quickly and admire the sights from afar. One of the most iconic US national parks, the National Mall boasts historic landmarks, larger-than-life monuments and vast green spaces, making it a must-visit when in the nation’s capital.

At the eastern end, you’ll find the thought-provoking Lincoln Memorial while high on Capitol Hill at the western end is the grandeur of the Capitol Building, all flanked by some of the world’s finest museums – all with free admission. The hill gently rises but the journey is worth it, as you’ll find a charming tree-lined neighbourhood packed with vibrant cafes, bars and bistros awash with the buzz of daily life in Washington. So order a drink, take a seat and soak it all up. Don't forget to visit and pause for a while at the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world, home to inspiring murals and mosaics.

Don't miss...

Start with catching a glimpse of the White House, the Neoclassical home of the President since 1800, before strolling south to some of the poignant parts of the National Mall, including the fountains of the World War II Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial’s quiet waterside home. The Jefferson Memorial sits on the Tidal Basin, an iconic spot to admire cherry blossoms in spring and to attend the National Cherry Blossom Festival from March to April each year.

The Smithsonian Institution houses America’s greatest museums (there are 17 around the city, all free to visit) and few are as spectacular as the National Air and Space Museum, where the Wright Brothers’ pioneering Wright Flyer sits near the entrance. Don’t miss the National Museum of the American Indian to uncover more about the culture of America’s Indigenous people. Take the time to visit the ornate Renwick Gallery, the city's first art gallery. Today its spacious, high-ceilinged rooms showcase American crafts and decorative arts spanning the 19th to 21st centuries.

Where to eat

Begin with the diverse vendors of the famous Eastern Market, who serve everything from Filipino chicken to handmade crepes at this 150-year-old venue. Over inside the airy atrium of the National Portrait Gallery sits the Courtyard Cafe, where its pastries and sandwiches make for a perfect museum pit stop.

And right on Capitol Hill, Michelin-starred restaurant Rose's Luxury dishes up fresh, New American small plates and expertly crafted creations in a wonderfully eclectic converted townhouse.

Destination DC

Destination DC

Go Back in Time

Destination DC

Destination DC

With its handsome cobbled streets, frame row houses, manicured gardens and well-preserved Federal period architecture, Georgetown and Foggy Bottom offer a romantic window into Washington’s early years, with parts dating from the early 18th century. Led by passionate guides, historic neighbourhood walks and quirky ghost tours are two of the best ways to explore this heritage district. But don’t be fooled into thinking it's all history here, however.

Georgetown’s smart European-esque streets are also flanked by designer boutiques, modern art galleries and world-class restaurants and bars for sipping cocktails into the small hours. And sitting just south of the neighbourhood is the green tranquillity of Georgetown Waterfront Park, where the Potomac River meanders south toward the Chesapeake Bay. Take a stroll, enjoy seafood around the Washington Harbour or take in rare views of the American capital by renting a paddleboard or kayak and easing out into the river’s expanse.

Don't miss...

The golden dome of the Farmers and Mechanics Bank is probably what you’ll notice first in Georgetown, but hidden away down graffiti-splashed Blues Alley is the oldest continuously operated jazz supper club in America. So take in a performance from the Blues Alley Club’s small stage, a platform once graced by Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald.

Further around the Potomac River as it bends south, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts puts on performances on a much larger scale. A vast, modernist structure surrounded by a wide colonnade of thin golden columns, it’s also famed for its excellent reinforced acoustics due to aircraft regularly passing by above.

Where to eat

Named for the year Georgetown University was founded and led by chef Charles Kreiser, 1789 Restaurant prides itself on refined, seasonal American food and, with its period decor, the quintessential Georgetown dining experience.

Back down at the waterfront, Founding Farmers Fishers & Bakers is a farmer-owned joint serving up an intriguing mix of sushi, tacos and pizza. Though for more traditional seafood, make the short stroll to Fiola Mare. Inspired by Italy’s glittering Amalfi Coast, don’t miss their spectacular seafood tower.

Destination DC

Destination DC

Discover DC's Hidden Corners

Destination DC

Destination DC

Downtown and Dupont Circle are the beating hearts of Washington, yet most visitors immediately head south to see the sights of the National Mall. But not only are there some magnificent - and often missed - attractions here, they’re also great spots for meeting locals and shooting the breeze over a beer or two. And especially if it’s before a sparkling local theatre performance.

One of the most popular neighbourhoods for visitors to stay, Dupont Circle is a historic roundabout fountain park fanning out in all directions, spawning vibrant streets lined with sleek bistros, busy bars and restaurants cooking up cuisine from all over the world. It’s also a hub for DC’s LGBTQ+ community and is host to Capital Pride, the fourth-largest Pride event in the US.

And speaking of festivals, this is a place that loves to celebrate so look out for Passport DC, a cultural celebration every May that includes embassy open houses, street festivals, performances, exhibitions and workshops. Another great celebration is the Dupont Festival, honouring DC's vibrant arts and culture scene with year-round events.

Don't miss...

While the Smithsonian has grandeur, here you’ll find a more unconventional mix of museums beginning with Planet Word - the world's only language arts museum dedicated to the love of words. Over on New York Avenue, the National Museum of Women in the Arts is the first museum in the world solely dedicated to championing women through the arts.

Showcasing work by Renoir, Degas and Monet, the Phillips Collection hosts one of Washington’s finest Impressionist collections, all set within a splendid redbrick Georgian Revival house. And for something a little quirkier, open the 80 secret doors to 100 weird and wonderful rooms at the O Museum in The Mansion.

Where to eat

The first spot in DC offering food and wine straight from the Republic of Georgia, Supra distills the welcoming nature of this area into one excellent restaurant. Make sure to sample authentic Greek souvlaki chicken at Zorba’s cafe, while the area’s magnificent Michelin-star cuisine is exemplified by chef José Andrés’ sublime two-star restaurant Minibar.

See the night out with well-crafted cocktails in low-lit confines at classy speakeasies like The Mirror and Allegory.

Destination DC

Destination DC

Soak up Culture and Entertainment

Destination DC

Destination DC

North of Downtown, the roofs get lower and the hoods get hipper. So between Adams Morgan and U Street, expect a chic canvas of gaudy murals, craft beer taprooms, thriving cultural centres, vintage clothes boutiques and some of DC’s most creative cooking. 

In Adams Morgan, the colourful hodgepodge of buildings lining 18th Street is a delight on a sunny day and comes alive at night with dozens of bars and restaurants spilling onto the sidewalks. 

U Street digs into a deep African American heritage to offer, perhaps, a more culturally diverse experience that’s an eye-opener for many visitors who’d usually stick to the sights. From eclectic soul food to intimate music clubs, you shouldn’t expect anything less from the birthplace of jazz icon Duke Ellington. So head north and discover why the cool kids call this scintillating corner of DC home.

Don't miss...

You won’t find art like this at the Smithsonian. Stretching for 12 blocks through the historic U Street Corridor, Murals DC’s self-guided walking tour is a bright celebration of the city’s culture, with the especially striking DC Jazz Heroes mural on 624 T Street – one of the many murals found throughout the city. Continuing in that vein, Author Briana A. Thomas’s Black Broadway Tour shines a light on DC’s greatest African Americans and their contributions to life here.

Back in Adams Morgan, the DC Arts Center is a gallery and performance space supporting emerging artists in the city, while across the street is the wonderfully named Madam’s Organ, where the thump of blues guitar rings out into the early hours.

Where to eat

DC's 14th Street is the city's main street for varied dining options and vibrant nightlife. Whether you're hankering after a cocktail, fine-dining or simply to browse chic boutiques, 14th Street is a must-visit while in DC.

If you’re willing to go extravagant, then Bresca’s Michelin-star fare will be just the ticket, and this Parisian-style bistro masterfully combines American produce with French techniques. Staying European, The Red Hen’s take on Cacio e Pepe would make a Roman smile and their short wine list features unusual bottles like Slovenian whites.

For something a little more playful, prepare some glitter for Adams Morgan sushi institution Perry’s and their popular drag brunch.

Destination DC

Destination DC

Embrace DC's wild Oasis

Destination DC

Destination DC

Washington’s a big busy city, but the soothing presence of the Potomac River, Anacostia River and acres of green space mean that escaping into nature is never far away. From intrepid kayak paddles to serene parkland walks, The Wharf and Capitol Riverfront just south of the National Mall are two of the best areas for accessing DC’s outdoor offerings and waterfront wonders.

Following a $3.6 billion redevelopment, The Wharf has been upgraded with sustainable practices, mixed-use spaces and eclectic experiences. Beginning with luxury stays at the brand new 5-star Pendry Hotel, the Wharf is home to over 80 restaurants, both indoor and outdoor live music venues, unique museums and boating docks for river cruises. Swinging around Greenleaf Point to the Anacostia River, Nationals Park rises up and is a hub of activity throughout the balmy summer months. Before a big baseball game, make sure to relish in the atmosphere at the lively bars and food joints lining the waterfront.

Don't miss...

In the city where the famous Watergate Scandal took place, it’s perhaps unsurprising that DC is home to the fascinating International Spy Museum at L’Enfant Plaza (don’t miss the exhibition on James Bond’s iconic vehicles). Just a short walk from here, ARTECHOUSE hosts rotating installations and digital art from some of the world’s most innovative artists.

But of course this district is also about getting outdoors, so take the Wharf Jitney ferry from Recreation Pier to East Potomac Park where its 400-acre expanse includes a public swimming pool, tennis courts, a mini-golf course and a picnic area looking across the water.

This neighbourhood is a hub for live music and performance venues. Most notably.  The Wharf serves as the backdrop to the annual signature summer event – DC JazzFest, a celebration of jazz past, present and future.

Where to eat

There are tons of choices for eating on the riverfront, starting with aromatic Lebanese dishes like Shakshuka and Mekanek from ilili. Chef Roberto Santibañez brings an authentic taste of Mexico to The Wharf with his jaunty restaurant Mi Vida, while there’s nowhere better to sample fine Italian food than the breezy rooftop terrazza at Officina.

Light up the night with signature tropical cocktails at Tiki TNT or perhaps kick back with a dram of spiced Thrashers Rum from Potomac Distilling.

Destination DC

Destination DC

Destination DC

Destination DC

Travel with trusted experts to Washington DC and ensure a seamless, carefully curated trip taking in the highlights of the city.

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