Monday, 21 Oct 2019

Where to stay in Washington D.C. – a neighbourhood guide

If you’re planning a trip to the US capital, you’re one of 20 million annual visitors also hunting out the best area to stay in Washington D.C. Located on the banks of the Potomac River, this impeccably-clean city feels instantly familiar due to its iconic buildings being splattered across every news channel and cinema-screen since time began. D.C. was founded after the American Revolution in 1790, and was named after the first President of the United States and one of the Founding Fathers, George Washington. Prepare to be wowed – every building and boulevard is lined with things to gawp at, whether it’s grand museums, sky high monuments, or buildings where history is made. Aside from all the swank, the city knows how to let its hair down, and its restaurant, bar and live music scene is as eclectic as it is exciting. Read on for our top 9 neighbourhoods in Washington D.C.

where to stay in washington dc, the capitol building

Capitol Building, ?: @caleblaz

Getting around

One massive perk of D.C. is that it’s very walkable, so enjoying a self-guided walking tour of a few neighbourhoods is a great way to get a feel for it. Cultural Tourism D.C. offers 15 self-guided heritage trails that will wow you with facts and point out all the good stuff. Segway tours (£60) are a popular way to see the sights, or you could hop in a pedicab for your very own personalised tour of whichever end of town takes your fancy. Prefer a spot of exercise? Check out Capital bikeshare. Snap up a 24-hour pass for $8 (£6.30) per day, or a three-day pass for $17 (£13.30). Keep things under 30-minutes and all rides are free, after the half hour point you start getting charged. Buy a ticket at one of the kiosks around town, or download the app.

D.C.’s Metro system connects all corners of the capital with suburban Maryland and Virginia. It’s an easy and affordable way to get from A to B and runs from 5am – 11:30pm Monday to Thursday, and until 1am on Friday and Saturday. Depending on what time you travel and how far you are going, a single fare will cost between $1.85-$6 (£1.45-£4.70). If you plan on multiple journeys, do yourself a favour and snap up a SmarTrip card. Load it up with credit and use it for rides on the Metro and Metrobus. To get between major tourist attractions, hop on the DC Circulator. It comes every ten minutes and is free. For a private alternative, Uber, Lyft and Ola all operate here.

If you mean business, and plan on hitting up as many major tourist attractions as you can squeeze in, definitely check out Go Washington DC Card Explorer Passes. These offer discounts off three or more featured attractions over a set number of days, plus you can build your own pass to best suit your taste. One of these bad boys can knock up to 50% off standard entry prices.

Jump straight to:

Downtown: the best area to stay in Washington D.C.for sightseeing

  1. What to do Downtown
  2. Best places to eat Downtown

Capitol Hill: the best area to stay in Washington D.C for politics fanatics

  1. What to do in Capitol Hill
  2. Best places to eat in Capitol Hill
  3. Best place to stay in Capitol Hill

Dupont Circle: the best area to stay in Washington D.C. for embassy hopping

  1. What to do in Dupont Circle
  2. Best places to eat in Dupont Circle
  3. Best places to stay in Dupont Circle

Adams Morgan: the best area to stay in Washington D.C. for nightlife

  1. What to do in Adams Morgan
  2. Best places to eat in Adams Morgan
  3. Best place to stay in Adams Morgan

Penn Quarter/Chinatown: the best area to stay in Washington D.C. for museums

  1. What to do in Penn Quarter/Chinatown
  2. Best places to eat in Penn Quarter/Chinatown
  3. Best places to stay in Penn Quarter/Chinatown

Logan Circle: the best area to stay in Washington D.C. for foodies

  1. What to do in Logan Circle
  2. Best places to eat in Logan Circle
  3. Best place to stay in Logan Circle

U-Street Corridor: the best area to stay in Washington D.C. for live music

  1. What to do in U Street Corridor
  2. Best places to eat in U Street Corridor
  3. Best places to stay in U Street Corridor

H Street NE: the best area to stay in Washington D.C. for hipsters

  1. What to do in H Street
  2. Best places to eat in H Street
  3. Best places to stay near H Street

Georgetown: the best area to stay in Washington D.C. for history lovers

  1. What to do in Georgetown
  2. Best places to eat in Georgetown

1. Downtown: the best area to stay in Washington D.C. for sightseeing

If you have a tourist to-do list as long as your arm, basing yourself Downtown makes sense. Not only are you surrounded by places to fuel up for a long day of sightseeing, but you’re just a short stroll from some of Washington D.C.’s biggest showstoppers, and a stagger away from the best nights out.

where to stay in washington dc, view of the capitol building from the road

?: @mcoswalt

What is the area best for?

Most of D.C.’s sights are located on or around the National Mall, which you could easily spend a whole week exploring. Go (monu)mental with a self-guided tour of D.C.’s many monuments, honouring veterans and commemorating legacies. Most are located in the 50-acres that make up the National Mall and Memorial Parks. Here you can see  the Lincoln Memorial, andstroll beside the Reflecting Pool, there’s also the Constitution Gardens,, Korean War and World War II monuments – all erected to pay legacy to its veterans. Arguably the most recognisable of the selection is the Washington Monument, an 170m obelisk which has proudly towered over the D.C. skyline since 1888.

Downtown is also a superb base for the city’s best museums. To keep costs down, hit up any of the Smithsonian museums, all of which are free of charge. Highlights are the Renwick Gallery, the National Museum of American History, the Natural History Museum and the National Air and Space Museum. If you plan on visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture, book in advance rather than taking your chance in the queue. Swing by Sweet Home Café – the museum’s top-notch café, which whips up sensational African American fare from locally-sourced ingredients.

What to do Downtown

Get the obligatory selfie by the front lawn outside The White House and have a mooch around the White House Visitor Centre. Should you want to get inside those hallowed corridors, you can book a tour, but you should do it in advance because the waiting list can be as long as six months. Twice a year in spring and autumn, you can enjoy a free tour of the White House Gardens and lawns. To hear more about what’s gone down behind closed doors at the White House, join the Secrets and Scandals night time walking tour for political gossip about secrets, affairs, and mischief galore.

Visit West Potomac Park, home to the city’s tidal pools which come alive with cherry blossoms each spring and become the setting for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, celebrating Japanese culture. This is a gorgeous part of the city for a picnic. Visit the Martin Luther King, Franklin Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson Memorials, and wave across the river at Virginia. If you’d prefer to boat around the tidal pool, you can do so aboard a paddleboat, or a swan! Prices start from $20 (£16) for one hour. If you have any leftover time and a love of peace and quiet, we recommend Theodore Roosevelt Island, a national park in the middle of the Potomac, known for its bird life, lack of vehicles and peaceful hiking trails.

If you’re keen to keep the political adventures rolling, cross the river to Arlington. Pay your respects at JFKs grave in Arlington National Cemetery, which is also home to the US Marine Corps War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Take a tour of The Pentagon and maybe rub shoulders with some of Capitol Hill’s elites. It’s a freebie but you must book a minimum of 14-days in advance. We recommend doing so at least three months out to avoid disappointment. 

where to stay in washington dc, view of the white house with lawn outside

?:@mktgmantra

Best places to eat Downtown

An ‘unpresidented’ cup of coffee in Downtown D.C. is found at Swing’s Coffee or Compass. For something cheap and ginormous that’ll keep you full up to dinner, hit up Potbelly’s for a monster sub sandwich, or &Pizza for an organic build-you-own pizza. How about hitting up the oldest restaurant in the city, the Old Ibbitt Grill? The interior may be fancy, but the prices are not. If you’re partial to an oyster, head there for happy hour to get 50% off. For sushi rolls the same size as a burrito, head to Buredo. Pre or post dinner, head to Underground Comedy for some belly laughs, or if you’re in the market for a late night feed with some good tunes, hit up The Hamilton Live. This underground music venue has concerts every night of the week, and a menu featuring reasonably-priced burgers, sushi, pizzas and sharing platters.

2. Capitol Hill: the best area to stay in Washington D.C. for politics fanatics

If you can’t get enough of U.S politics, this is your chance to let that freak flag fly. You are in the same town as the politicians you love, and those you love to hate, who knows who you’ll bump into.

where to stay in washington dc, inside the library of congress from the balcony

Library of Congress, ?:@srphnwlkr

What is Capitol Hill best for?

The first stop for anyone obsessed with politics should be the US Capitol. Here, you have the opportunity to see Congress and the Supreme Court in full swing. To get your place in the gallery of the House of Representatives or the Senate, you must stand in line for a first-come-first served seat. For a tour of the Capitol Building, you must – you guessed it – book well in advance. The Reading Room in the Library of Congress is also pretty darn special.

What to do in Capitol Hill

Museums-wise, there’s some real beauties at this end of town. Feel like a real James Bond at the International Spy Museum, which is home to more that 200 gadgets, weapons, vehicles and technologies that are used for spying like a boss all around the world. If you want to delve deeper into the espionage past of D.C., you can go on a Spies of Washington tour, led by an ex real-life spy, named Carol. The National Gallery of Art is a free option, showcasing rotating exhibitions from new artists, as well as classic works of art from old faithful’s, Picasso, Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Monet and friends. If visiting in the summer, check out the free concerts they host in their Sculpture Garden. If you’re more into street art than oil paintings, check out The Fridge, a gallery located in the alley between E and G on 8th St SE. It can prove tricky to locate, but here’s a tip – follow the graffiti.

From Capitol Hill, it’s an easy stroll down to the river to the District Wharf on the Southwest Waterfront, an area of the city known for its history, arts, watersports, and range of bars and restaurants. Swing by the Titanic Memorial, then work up an appetite before dinner with a stand-up paddleboard yoga class, offered by Potomac Paddlesports and Boating in DC. For outdoor fun that’s close to this side of town, head to the United States National Arboretum, or go roller-skating for free in Anacostia Park.

where to stay in washington dc, district wharf at sunset

?:@saintcitydesign

Best places to eat in Capitol Hill

Should you have a picky eater in your midst, check out Eastern Market for a range of tasty options for everyone. The market covers a four-block radius, and in addition to all the meats, cheeses and sweet treats you can fit in your backpack, you can snap up crafts, gifts and clothes. This is an excellent place to grab a coffee before a day exploring D.C or to fuel up with brunch. Check out the jalapeño grits or the blueberry buckwheat pancakes at the cash-only joint, Market Lunch. Other popular spots at the market include Matchbox for pizza, and nostalgic diner, Ted’s Bulletin for classic American fare, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. For the tastiest donut in town, head to District Donut.

Best place to stay in Capitol Hill

For a place to rest your head that’s slightly more chilled than D.C.’s other hostels, check out Duo Nomad. This spot has more of a long-term-guest kind of vibe, and is known for keeping things spotless.

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3. Dupont Circle: the best area to stay in Washington D.C. for embassy hopping

If you had to pick a city centre for D.C. Dupont Circle would be it. It may not be where laws are made, but it is where law makers come to rest their heads at the end of the day. Whether you’re in the market for another walking tour, or you simply fancy a boozy brunch, that turns into dinner, that turns into dancing the night away – Dupont Circle’s 24-hour energy more than delivers.

where to stay in washington dc, busy road in dupont circle area

?:@jeremyyappy

What is the area best for?

If you want to see whether Ferrero Rocher really are served at every embassy, a visit to DC is your chance! One of Dupont Circles many highlights is its proximity to the ritziest zip code in the city – Embassy Row (Massachusetts Avenue), home to D.C.’s foreign embassies. You can opt for a self-guided walking tour starting from Scott Circle, to drink in the architecture, flags, decorative doors and statues of international figures, but if you long to witness first-hand diplomats and ambassadors pow-wowing over how to enhance foreign relations, you’re going to want to get inside. Every year in May, the city celebrates Passport D.C., and more than 70 embassies open their doors to visitors. These events are swanky as hell so definitely no flip flops allowed. Book those tickets well in advance and pack your glad rags.

What to do in Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle deserves some day time exploration too. It’s a pricey place to live, but its residents are treated to a backdrop of galleries, boutiques, hip restaurants, and lovely little spots that deserve a place on Instagram. Go see the Spanish Steps on 22nd Street, take a picnic and enjoy some people watching. Dupont Circle itself is a nice place to chill for a while to take in the surroundings.

D.C. is home to some of the most progressive thinkers of our time, so a visit to the city is your chance to mingle with them…or at least see them at work. There are think tanks all over town, and many host talks and discussions, followed by drinks, that you can attend. Check out Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Brookings Institution to see what’s popping.

The Dupont Underground is an abandoned trolley station, and the surviving tunnels have been transformed into an art space. Local artists have done their thing and transformed the tunnels into installations that incorporate light and sound to play with the acoustics of the tunnels. There’s also a fair amount of awesome graffiti and little pieces sprinkled around the rubbly remains of what was once a food court. The entrance is a bit tricky to locate – find it on 19th Street between Café Dupont and Starbucks. Buy your tickets online and make sure you wear closed-toe shoes.

where to stay in washington dc, Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building

Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, ?:@saralea

Best places to eat in Dupont Circle

For freshly-baked, melt-in-your-mouth empanadas, head to Julia’s, where they’re just $5. Another bargain spot for lunch on-the-go is The Well Dressed Burrito. Their enchiladas, fajitas, tacos and chimichangas are all under $10. For something quick and nutritious, head to Beefsteak. While not strictly a veggie joint, these guys take their vegetables seriously…it’s their motto. They cook your veg in front of you and then whack it in a bowl with salads, grains and lashings of healthy dressings. The perfect brain food for a politician!

Best places to stay in Dupont Circle

Set up shop in the same neighbourhood as the diplomats in the aptly-named, Hotel Baron. Their private rooms have en-suites and WIFI, and they have a great pub on-site, The Bier Baron Tavern, which stocks hundreds of beers from around the world. The Windsor Inn Hotel is another more private option close to all the attractions and a whole host of restaurants and bars.

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4. Adams Morgan: the best area to stay in Washington D.C. for nightlife

While there are a fair few corners of D.C. that really bring the party, one of the most raucous is Adams Morgan. The area enjoys a village-style vibe and is home to young professionals, artists and activists, all of which make sensational drinking buddies. It’s a great place to grab a bite or a beer, and there are plenty of places to dance until the wee hours.

where to stay in washington dc - fountains at world war 2 memorial & washington monument

World War 2 Memorial & Washington Monument, ?:@thejroc

What is the area best for?

Adams Morgan is great for boozing, especially post office hours on Friday’s when D.C.’s work force hit the bars. For rooftop options, hit up Perry’s – get there during Happy Hour for $4 cocktails. Roofers Union is spot on for American fare and great views of the city. Jack Rose Dining Saloon is another winner. For more of a dive bar vibe, head to Dan’s Café, which has a Make Your Own Cocktail option, using squeezy condiment bottles. Also, definitely check out Madam’s Organ, if only to doff your cap at the owner for his excellent name choice. This blues bar and soul food restaurant is an Adams Morgan landmark, which hosts nightly live music. Mellow Mushroom is a two-story pizza place, complete with a rooftop deck/ dance floor. Depending on what night you swing by, you could be treated to live music, DJs, trivia or a make your own pizza party. If you want to show off your moves on the dancefloor, Habana Village is a four-story Cuban restaurant and dance club where you can salsa, tango and samba until you drop. They offer lessons, but book in advance. For reggae nights, head to Bukom Café.

What to do in Adams Morgan

Besides getting your party on, Adams Morgan has lots of excellent places to eat, and some of the city’s best shops. Visit Meeps, D.C.’s premier vintage store, with treasures salvaged from as far back as the 60s. Smash! is another vintage option serving up punk looks and records. Idle Time Books is the dusty second-hand bookstore of your dreams. If you’re in the market for some new kicks, Commonwealth and Fleet Feet are top options. The latter hosts free runs every Saturday morning at 9am, which is a cool way to meet some locals.

Best places to eat in Adams Morgan

For the best coffee in Adams Morgan, head to Tryst, or check out its sister restaurant next door, The Diner which is popular for brunch. Lucky Buns is a burger-lovers playground. Their menu boasts 10 burger varieties – classics and innovative options. Also, they take real care with their dips, so don’t be afraid to go wild and branch out from ketchup. Doors are open from 11:30 until 2am. For some musical accompaniment for your meal, head to Songbyrd Record Café, where you can listen to their selection of vinyl as you eat. Get your ramen fix at Sakuramen – choose from seven varieties, including pork belly and ribeye. For Japanese comfort food, served from a hole in the wall, hit up Donburi or for beer and barbeque, check out Smoke and Barrel, famous for its brisket, draft beers, and whiskies. Surprisingly, it also caters well to veggies and vegans. They host a bottomless brunch every Saturday and Sunday for $25. The best late-night spot to grab a bite before you hit the hay is Jumbo Slice, D.C.’s famous cash-only pizza place, which more than lives up to its name.

Best place to stay in Adams Morgan

To be close to Adams Morgan’s nightlife, set up shop at HighRoad Hostel, a spacious hostel with the best bathrooms in D.C. These guys take your comfort seriously, with memory mattresses, free lockers and towels, reading lights and luxury linens. The hostel even comes complete with its own roaring fire for those colder nights in the District.

where to stay in washington dc, highroad hostel dorm

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5. Penn Quarter/ Chinatown: the best area to stay in Washington D.C. for museums

You can’t argue with the convenience of the Penn Quarter and Chinatown. Located just to the north of the National Mall, it’s another ideal spot if you plan on ticking off as many museums as possible.  Nestled in between the neighbourhood’s historic sights and world-class museums, you’ll find a range of food and drink options to suit all budgets. It’s also incredibly well-connected on the metro, making all of D.C. just a short train ride away.

where to stay in washington dc, national archives building

National Archives building, ?: @wisconsinpictures

What is the area best for?

With such a huge number of tourists descending on D.C. at all times of year, sometimes you have to be savvy to beat the crowds. Many of the city’s best museums will have lines forming outside before the doors open. Basing yourself in the Penn Quarter or Chinatown ensures easy access, and means you won’t have to travel too far to be at the front of that queue.

What to do in Penn Quarter/ Chinatown

Hot off the press! The Newseum is one of D.C.’s most fun and interactive museums – you even get to pretend to be a journalist reporting live from the White House. Over its seven levels, you can visit 15 galleries and 15 theatres, hosting moving exhibits covering the likes of 9/11, the Berlin Wall, and every Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph dating back to 1942. Note: the museum is closing at the end of 2019, with possible relocation plans. The National Museum of Crime and Punishment is a fun few hours, in particular the hands-on exhibitions that teach you about forensics and crime scene investigation.

Go back in time and visit the National Archives to see the original Bill of Rights, US Constitution and Declaration of Independence. One not to be missed is the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the world’s only major museum dedicated solely to women’s contributions to art. You can check out over 4,500 works from more than 1,000 female artists, including Frida Kahlo. They also host an impressive array of talks, so check the events schedule in advance. The National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum is also worth a visit.

For a spot of culture, you can take in a show at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Some of their shows are free of charge and star actors you’ll probably know from the silver screen. Or, if sports are more your thing, check whether the Washington Wizards, or Washington Capitals are playing at the Verizon Centre.

Best places to eat in the Penn Quarter/ Chinatown

For a classic American breakfast complete with whipped cream covered waffles and pancakes the size of your face, hit up Lincoln’s Waffle Shop. The Dirty South Deli within the National Museum of Women in the Arts, serves up impressive sandwiches. There are around 20 Chinese and Asian restaurants in D.C.’s Chinatown. Daikaya, a two-storey Japanese restaurant, with a chicken ramen shop on the first floor, and more of a sushi vibe upstairs and Chinatown Express are two of the best. Their menu is made up of fresh hand-made noodles, dumplings and steam pork buns. Their fresh noodle duck soup is exquisite, and nothing on the menu costs more than $15.

Best place to stay in the Penn Quarter/Chinatown

Hi Washington DC is a popular option with backpackers in Washington D.C. The eco-friendly hostel is just a few blocks from the White House and the National Mall. It offers free breakfast, movie nights and – most importantly, there’s no curfew. Plus, they have a huge terrace, which is the perfect setting for their summer barbeques.

where to stay in washington dc, girl standing by reception at HI Washington DC hostel

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6. Logan Circle: the best area to stay in Washington D.C. for foodies

This perfectly-located neighbourhood is within walking distance from all of the capital’s best bits. The historic neighbourhood’s young population enjoys a thriving LGBTQ scene, many of D.C.’s top restaurants and some seriously cool bars. While there are number of conveniently-placed metro stations close by, the neighbourhood doesn’t have its own, which means the tourist masses haven’t quite clocked on to area’s excellence yet. This allows you to mingle mostly with D.C. locals at their favourite haunts.

where to stay in washington dc, bike with basket in washington dc

?:@calebjamesfisher

What is the area best for?

You are in for a whole host of delicious treats in Logan Circle. If you enjoy taking a wander and seeing what takes your fancy, we recommend pointing yourself towards P Street NW, or 14th Street NW, where you’ll find some of D.C.’s best restaurants. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to international cuisine options; Thai, Spanish, Ethiopian, Salvadoran, Mexican – the list goes on. Another strength of this part of town is how close it is to other neighbourhoods. You’re surrounded by all the good stuff – Dupont Circle to the west, Shaw to the east and all the musical magic of U Street to the north. It’s a great place to be for the best of D.C.!

What to do in Logan Circle

Mosey to the iconic Logan Circle Park for a wander and maybe a picnic. If you fancy taking in a play while in town, check out what’s on at the Studio Theatre, which is known for producing edgy dramas, fresh comedy and the odd musical for good measure. The theatre is also a cool space to grab a beer or two. For live music, the Black Cat, is a great shout. The two-level music hall has DJs, rock, punk or electronic acts every night of the week, old-school arcade games to enjoy, and their café dishes up damn tasty vegan and veggie fare. ChurchKey beer bar is a D.C. institution. It has such a tip top reputation that breweries around the US send their finest products in the hope of being stocked. It’s an impressive sight – 50 beers and ales on tap, over 500 bottled beers, a serious amount of spirits. If you like sampling rare and experimental beers, this is the place for you. Most beers start from $7. Should you be in town in summer, you’re going to be after some beer garden action – and Logan Circle is ideal for this. Join the neighbourhood’s hipster population on the rooftop of El Centro D.F, for tacos, margaritas, mezcal and tequila. Masa 14 also has an excellent rooftop bar, plus different Happy Hour deals every day, including half price sushi on Wednesday’s. For banging DJ sets, costume parties and raucous viewings of RuPaul’s Drag Race, head to Trade, a gay dive bar where a good night is always guaranteed.

Best places to eat in Logan Circle

Start the day at Slipstream for sensational coffee and the best damn avocado on toast in the city. They also serve up decent pastries, rice bowls, and cocktails after dark. Stoney’s is a D.C. classic, in particular their super grilled cheese sandwich. They host trivia nights on Wednesday’s and offer some bargain Happy Hour specials, including beers for $3 (£2.30) and 20 wings for $15 (£12). If you’re in the market for pub grub, head to The Commodore for staples like chicken wings, brisket and burgers that will keep you satiated for weeks. For something seriously spicy to accompany your beer, Baan Thai gets two thumbs up for its affordable, delicious Thai fare. Or, if you’re in the market for a tasty taco (and maybe some decent tequila) head to El Sol Restaurante & Tequileria for the best Mexican food in the city. El Sol is also open late, 1am on weekdays, and 2am at the weekend.

Best place to stay in Logan Circle

Head to clean-as-a-whistle, Duo Housing DC to enjoy its homely atmosphere and friendly staff. Advance warning – it’s a shoe free zone! Interestingly, your fellow guests are likely to be interns who’ve made the move to D.C. to embark on exciting careers in politics. The hostel is in a fab location, just five minutes from Chinatown, and a 15-minute walk to the US Capitol.

where to stay in washington dc, comfy social area with leather sofa at duo housing DC hostel

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7. U Street Corridor: the best area to stay in Washington D.C. for live music

To mingle with D.C.’s cool kids, you need to head to this end of town, known for its trendy restaurants, speakeasy bars, and incredible music scene. In fact, U Street is thought of as the birthplace of jazz, and is where jazz legends, Duke Ellington and Billy Taylor, earnt their stripes on ‘Black Broadway’ as it was known back in the 1920s. Some of the greatest musicians, writers, artists, educators and business people to come out of the United States started life in this corner of D.C. To be in the thick of the action, head to the triangle made up of Georgia and Florida Avenues and 9th Street.

where to stay in washington dc, lincoln memorial

Lincoln Memorial, ?:@maartenbrakkee

What is the area best for?

Being the birthplace of jazz, U Street has some of D.C.’s best music venues. For something more intimate, head to JoJo, Twins Jazz or Utopia, which pride themselves in hosting local musicians.

U Street Music Hall hosts an eclectic mix of artists and dance parties, and the 9:30 Club is a must-see for music lovers. The venue hosted everyone from Adele to Beastie Boys before they made it big. Who knows what future star you’ll see on the come up. An added bonus is that tickets are cheap compared to other D.C. music venues, which is handy for that all-important budget. You’ll mingle with a fun crowd or creative types, and enjoy a party atmosphere, no matter the day of the week. Other great nightlife options include Nellie’s gay bar which is always a fun night out whether they’re hosting Smart Ass trivia, Drag Brunch, or one of their infamous dance parties. Archipelago is a Tiki bar serving strong and tasty cocktails with naughty names.

What to do in the U Street Corridor

Visit the African American Civil War Museum to hear the untold stories of African American serviceman. They host some incredible photographic exhibitions, including ‘From Slavery to the White House: the USCT Ancestors of First Lady Michelle Obama.’ Be sure to check out Blagden Alley – home to loads of cool bars, shops, restaurants, and the city’s best street art. Swing by DC Alley Museum for incredible murals painted on garage doors and the sides of buildings. Be sure to get a snap of the LOVE mural for the ‘gram. Over on 708th Street NW, you’ll find a statue of Duke Ellington, D.C.’s legendary musician.

Nearby Shaw, is also a great neighbourhood for a little bar crawl. Head to Dacha Beer Garden for sunny day-time beer garden vibes, complete with German beer. Maxwell Park is a laid-back option if you’re in the market for decent wine in cool surroundings, or for $13 (£10) cocktails head to Morris American Bar. Takoda is a fab rooftop option, or if you prefer a dive bar, hit up All Souls, which is open until 3am on Friday and Saturday.

Best places to eat in U Street Corridor

The Royal is a superb place for breakfast and decent coffee. Their arepas served with avocado and runny eggs are a real winner, as are their Nutella-filled pastries. It is also a great choice for some evening fun too, and the bartenders really know their stuff. Check out Busboys and Poets, a favourite hang out with locals. They host open mic nights and poetry slams, making it a great place to mingle with some of the city’s most creative folk.

U Street is known for its Ethiopian delights, in particular Queen of Sheba and Chercher Ethiopian really bring the flavour. Check out Marvin’s for soul food and live music, Shouk, a vegan restaurant serving up healthy Israeli dishes, or the Amsterdam Falafel Shop for $10 wraps. Come Happy Hour, head to Dino’s Grotto, to make the most of their daily offers – $2 tacos on Wednesday and half price lasagne on Thursday. Happy hour is 5-7pm every day and all day Sunday. If meaty delights are more your bag, you can’t venture to this part of town without sampling D.C.’s national dish – the half smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl, a half beef, half pork sausage that is perfect for soaking up some booze post a U Street bar hop. This is one of Washington’s must-visit hangouts, so don’t be surprised if you see a few famous faces amongst the locals.

Best places to stay in U Street Corridor

For those wanting to be close to U Street, check out the futuristic sleeping pods at U Street Hostel, a great option with free breakfast, lots of sociable communal spaces, and a coffee bar.

where to stay in washington dc, u street capsule hostel bed

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8. H Street NE: the best area to stay in Washington D.C. for hipsters

This is by far one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the city so base yourself here if you want to mingle with locals rather than tourists once the sun goes down. There’s not really a huge amount of attractions to see during the day, this is more a night time location. Whether you’re in the market for dive bars, live music, cheap grub, or cocktail lounges, you’ll find something that delights no matter your mood or budget.

where to stay in washington dc, stalls under the arches at union station

Union Station, ?:@susieho

What is H Street NE best for?

H Street NE is home to all the best things in life – good food, good company, and a good tattoo parlours, especially Fatty’s Tattoos and Piercings. Maketto, a communal marketplace, is great for shopping, eating, or getting your caffeine fix. If you’re in town in autumn, be sure to time your visit with the H Street Festival, a banging street party covering ten blocks, offering live music, art, street food and more.

What to do in H Street

Eat, drink and be merry. Nearby Ivy City is ideal if you’re a bit of a booze hound, as it’s home to the city’s distilleries. There are loads to choose from, so do your homework and establish which option is most up your street. Check out Green HatOne EightRepublic Restoratives, Jos. A. Magnus, and Atlas Brew Works. H Street’s best rooftop bars include Ben’s Upstairs, and H Street Country Club, which also hosts a bottomless brunch, and turns out sensational Mexican food. Biergarten Haus is always slammed on sunny days. For live music, you’ve got plenty of options, including Rock and Roll Hotel or Little Miss Whiskeys.

Best places to eat in H Street

For bargain no-frills bagels, Bullfrog Bagels is a must. Check out Fare Well for veggie comfort food and a mean brunch. For the best Ethiopian head to Ethiopic. Union Market is a cool ‘artisanal marketplace’ where you can find everything from fancy cheeses, to bargain tacos. It’s open every day, bar Mondays, and there is always a minimum of 30 artisans flogging tasty treats. If you’re in the market for sushi, head to Sticky Rice. Toki Underground serves up Taiwanese ramen, bao, dumplings, and plenty of kimchi. Toki can get hectic, so Bantam King is another option if you’ve got a serious hankering for some ramen.

Best places to stay near H Street

Hostel Comfort Zone is a cosy hostel located in the north east of D.C. You can opt for male or female only dorms, and enjoy the large fully-equipped kitchen, living room and dining area. The hostel also offers free parking and WiFi.

where to stay in washington dc, hostel comfort zone reception

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9. Georgetown: the best area to stay in Washington D.C. for history lovers

To mingle with politicians of the past and future, make your way to the cobblestoned streets of Georgetown. Marvel at 18th century homes, and browse boutiques where everything costs more than a month’s rent. All jokes aside, this is a lovely part of the city, full of cupcake shops, pavement cafés, and, as it’s home to Georgetown University, one of the best in the country, with plenty of student hangouts. It’s easy to get to Georgetown; Either hop on the free D.C. Circulator bus or catch the Metro to Foggy Bottom station (LOL) and walk for 15-minutes.

where to stay in washington dc, chinatown

?:@jasonw

What is the area best for?

Georgetown is one of the most historically-significant corners of D.C. This is where the Founding Fathers planned out Washington D.C. as we know it on a tavern bar top, and where past Presidents have laid their hats. You can visit the Old Stone House – the oldest structure in the city, or Tudor Place, enjoy a Ghost Tour, or simply take in the ambience along M Street, where most of the Georgetown magic happens. Here you’ll find the best shopping, restaurants and cafés. The Georgetown Waterfront Park is a picturesque setting for a spot of lunch or dinner. Or, if you’re keen to stretch your legs while in the capital, you might like to enjoy a run, walk or cycle along the C&O Canal, a 184-mile track and National Park, which starts in Georgetown.

What to do in Georgetown

Take a stroll down M Street and the streets surrounding it, or join a free walking tour to learn more about the neighbourhoods historic spots and hidden delights. Opt for a sightseeing cruise, or rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and check out Key Bridge, the Georgetown Waterfront and the C&O Canal from the water. Georgetown Flea Market is a great place to search for stylish souvenirs if you’re in town on a Sunday.

Time your trip to Georgetown for dusk and take in sunset at the Graffiti Cliffs just by Key Bridge. The cliffs here are covered with colourful art, and you can lap up views of the Potomac River, Georgetown Waterfront, and the skyline of Arlington. Once the sun has gone down, it’s time to freak yourself out at The Exorcist Steps, the creepy setting for the finale of the iconic movie.

Best places to eat in Georgetown

Georgetown is famous for its cupcakes, so when in Rome and all that! In addition to Georgetown Cupcake (which will probably have a queue), the best options for your sugar fix are Baked and Wired – a family-owned coffee shop and bakery, and Georgetown Sprinkles. If you enjoy cuddles with your coffee, head to Crumbs & Whiskers – D.C.’s first cat café, which is also housed in a fancy-as-hell Georgetown row house. To really feel like a policy-maker, dine in a quintessentially Washington D.C. saloon – Clyde’s of Georgetown. Fill up on enormous portions and enjoy half-price wine on Sunday’s. Pizzeria Paradiso offers cheap and sensational pizza, plus it has more than 170 beers up for grabs. The popular restaurant has locations around the city, but the Georgetown outpost also has its very own games room, complete with retro arcade games. The perfect stomach settler.

where to stay in washington dc, view of the monument in front of the lincoln memorial

Whether you’re a worldly activist ready to take on The West Wing, or an easy-going backpacker wanting a taste of history and culture, there’s something for everyone in this fast-paced city. If you have any insider travel tips to this mysterious capital, let us know in the comments!

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About the author

Amy Baker is the author of Miss-Adventures: A Tale of Ignoring Life Advice While Backpacking Around South America, and founder of The Riff Raff, a writers’ community that supports aspiring writers and champions debut authors. You can follow Amy on Twitter here.

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