A surprisingly metropolitan neighborhood of classic historical homes, Georgetown is perfect for folks looking for city life with plenty of natural feeling. A newly revitalized waterfront on the Potomac River and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (now a national park) run parallel to a slew of modern shops and restaurants that perfectly mix the old town feeling with contemporary comforts.
This new neighborhood is quite possibly the fastest growing in DC, and between its proximity to the riverfront, the Nationals Stadium, and the new restaurants and bars opening there every week, it’s not hard to see why. A unique neighborhood blending vintage vibe-artistry with a culture of activism, Adams Morgan is the perfect place to live if you intend to do more than just sleep there.
It may not be the cheapest Washington, DC neighborhood to call home, but for the right kind of resident, life in Adams Morgan is worth it. Just a few steps from Georgetown and downtown is Foggy Bottom (sometimes referred to as the West End), home to some of DC’s most iconic sights and riverfront views.
If you want to look in a classic Victorian row house, Bloomingdale is the Washington, DC neighborhood to call home. Living in the heart of downtown Washington, DC is an expensive challenge, but if you’re up for it, there’s no better place to call home than the Penn Quarter.
It may be constantly crowded with tourists and weekday workers alike, but having such easy access to Washington, DC’s greatest cultural hubs is hard to beat. But the neighborhood will feel much more like a suburb than a city center: be ready to drive to get downtown, to the grocery store, or anywhere but your neighbor’s house.
In this guide, we’ll give you the rundown on all the major neighborhoods surrounding the DC metro area. For the purposes of this post, we don’t have time to go deep into the nuances that differentiate each ward.
It’s good to keep in mind, while a neighborhood may be extremely trendy and conveniently located for your commute to work, those benefits may be drastically outweighed by insane rent prices. These are just averages meant to give you an idea of what’s out there, but our Moving to DC Guide has a ton of resources to help you find a wider array of properties.
With an abundance of restaurants, accessibility to the active nightlife of 18th St, and a diverse population, Adams Morgan offers a unique charm that you can’t find many other places in the city. Adams Morgan is located in DC’s First Ward, the central cluster of neighborhoods surrounding Downtown.
This cost vs. convenience tends to attract people with a slightly higher income than you’ll find in the rest of the city. Noteworthy Local Hotspots Dupont and Logan Circle are the hubs of young professionals.
The nightlife is slightly less happening than Adams Morgan, but the lunch, brunch, and happy hour scene is real. Rent average is higher than Ammo (which is very expensive), but definitely a great spot to be if you can afford it.
Median Household Income DuPont and Logan Circles are two incredibly trendy areas in the Second Ward. They are all Metro accessible, relatively safe areas (you need to keep a watchful eye out no matter where you live), and offer their own unique flair/nightlife scene.
They’re a bit further out than places like Adams Morgan, but you’ll find more variation in rent price because of it with Wooden and Glover Park attracting higher-paid residents and Columbia Heights residents earning closer to the city’s average. Noteworthy Local Hotspots Although in totally different quadrants, these are the “up and coming” neighborhoods in DC.
New restaurants, renovated row homes, and a refreshing new vibe to what once were “watch your back” type of neighborhoods. Since Navy Yard and Nova are still somewhat under-the-radar areas, there isn’t a ton of demo graphical data available on them yet, but the average rent price being on the higher end of the spectrum implies that they attract a crowd that makes slightly above the city’s median.
Although gentrification has been on the rise the past decade, there are parts that stay true to its core with a dense music and historical culture. U-Street occupies a nine block stretch throughout Shaw and Dupont Circle in DC’s Second Ward.
Now, between the centralized location and the proliferation of nightlife and gentrification tends to attract residents with pretty high household incomes. The pristine nature of this neighborhood is due in part to the fact that they have successfully steered clear of implementing a Metro stop (making it rather hard to get to) and have a law banning all bar crawls.
This neighborhood is always full of tourists, Georgetown University students, and residents carrying multiple shopping bags. We’d recommend this neighborhood to (wealthy because rent is outrageous) people/families who are seeking a quieter part of the city with a more suburban vibe.
This has also leaded to some high real estate prices though, so the majority of Georgetown residents are probably making somewhere near a six-figure salary just to be able to afford to live there. It’s much more commercialized, however, this neighborhood offers a hip vibe with a diverse set of restaurants/bars, museums, and street art.
Chinatown encompasses the area between 5th and 8ths Street Northwest, directly to the east of Downtown in DC’s First Ward. It packs a lot of fun and amenities into 12 blocks, like open mic night on Mondays at The Boundary Stone a cool whiskey bar, and some of the best food in the city at The Red Hen, chef Mike Friedman’s award-winning restaurant.
Beautifully renovated brick and stone row houses line the streets, but it’s the well-maintained gardens that prove Bloomingdale residents have a green thumb. In bouquiniste-fashion, Connecticut Avenue vendors sell trinkets and share sidewalk space with swanky chocolate shops like Chocolate House and Kramer books & Afterwords Café, a claustrophobic but beloved bookstore and coffee shop Harry Potter would find familiar.
Dining options are plentiful and if you’re on a budget Food Corner Nabob House is a hidden gem that’s low on ambiance but earns high marks for Afghan dishes like fresh tandoor-baked naan and roasted meats. Just two blocks away, is Ankara, an elegant mid-priced Turkish restaurant the locals favor for the succulent and plentiful smoked eggplant and lamb.
In a nutshell, Dupont Circle is where modern art at The Phillips Collection shares borders with embassies, outdoor chess games, and Sushi Taro, a one-star Michelin restaurant. When movies show exterior shots of D.C. it’s often a riverside view of Watergate, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the Memorial Bridge that gives people chill, and that’s because Foggy Bottom, one of the oldest neighborhoods, is Washington with a capital W. On any day of the week, there are diplomatic receptions at the U.S. State Department, K Street lobbyists are busy peddling influence with members of Congress, and George Washington University students and faculty scurry between classes and rounds at the university’s hospital next door.
Hours later, they can all be seen sharing Sham mi kebabs and biryani in tented booths at Asia West End where the food, drink, and decor feels like an Indian dream. Today, they pack the dive bars, trendy eateries, and tattoo shops till the wee hours with nary an idea of the neighborhood’s colorful past.
A once blighted area became party central, and today, brilliant murals add energy and color to the cityscape. Diaspora dining makes it possible to eat Lebanese fast casual at Micro’s Grill, nibble on small bites and wines-by-the-glass at The Pursuit Wine Bar, or dine at star chef Erik Brunei Yang’s places, either retail/restaurant Amaretto or Loki Underground, D.C.’s first ramen shop.
Victorian homes and multicolored storefronts make Logan Circle historic and hot for young urban professionals and their more affluent elders living in expensive three-story Edwardian manses. It serves street food from Denmark, Malaysia, Peru, Basque Country, and anyplace else the owner’s travels take her.
Washington, D.C. is finally realizing the priceless value of Potomac River waterfront access and is spiffing up older areas while building new and exciting developments. The U.S. Navy Museum has some not so new neighbors like the early adopter Bluejacket micro brewery, acclaimed Italian cuisine guru Michael White’s Astoria Morin, and the Washington Nationals.
Ted Lerner, the team’s owner, figured the area was a home run and built a beautiful stadium for major league baseball games. The first floor is a chicken ramen shop, and upstairs, the Malaya serves Japanese drinks and inspired dishes such as grilled avocado and firefly squid with fresh grapefruit.
If, post-dinner, you are still in need of libations and socializing, walk over to Cuba Libre for creative rum drinks and cardio-strength salsa dancing on Friday and Saturday nights. Brick Federal and Victorian row houses, modern minimalist, and renovated industrial, loft-style buildings make Shaw a truly urban neighborhood where Art house-style movie theaters, spice shops, and trending restaurants are serving original food to packed dining rooms.
Busboys and Poets, a quirky restaurant and bookstore inspired by Langston Hughes’ early days as a starving poet and busboy is a longtime staple and is joined by Duke Ethiopian Restaurant, and DC Noodles, a hidden Asian gem with a focus on Thai dishes. Although the Southwest Waterfront neighborhood is the city’s smallest, it has plenty of amenities that instill loyalty in its residents, and it’s below the radar for most tourists.
People live here for the quiet, the incredible views of the Potomac River sunsets, and because it’s easy to get to downtown D.C., the National Mall, and museums in minutes. Plus, the public will be able to patronize dozens of retail, dining, and nightlife options, shop at a newly renovated fish market, and tour and sample the wares produced at a new rum distillery and brewery.
There’s no harm in visiting a typical tourist spot or two -- DC is fraught with them, after all -- but once you start to feel like you’re on a middle school field trip, spend some quality time in one of these DC neighborhoods to know the true character of the District. The DC outpost was carved out of an early-20th century church leaving behind details like vaulted ceilings and a grand exterior to shine alongside indie posh decor.
The Luke yet approachable hotel is situated smack dab in the middle of the two neighborhoods and sits atop a hill overlooking Adams Morgan (and much of the city! Each Peach Market is a dreamy store with sandwiches, a carefully curated selection of wine, and mostly local products, so it’s the perfect place to gear up for an afternoon picnic in nearby Meridian Hill Park.
You can scope out a quiet spot on Saturday or eat listening to a roaring drum circle and watching the cascading fountains on Sunday. Mint wood Place, a French-American bistro serving up the classics with a spin, is a romantic choice, while Laps offers a collection Afghan fare unlike anything else in the city.
Stop into Jack Rose Dining Saloon for a whiskey tasting experience you won’t soon forget, or head across the street to its sister spot, The Imperial, to further explore the owners’ vast collection of rare spirits. Up the street, continue drinking cocktails at Middle Eastern bar The Green Zone, or visit the hidden gem of the neighborhood, Grand Duchess.
Wherever you spend your night, ease your duchies with seriously huge pizza at one of the aptly named Jumbo Slice locations on 18th Street or a pita at Amsterdam Falafel Shop. With a prime location bordering the Potomac River and Rock Creek Park and bars and restaurants seeking to rid this neighborhood of its tourist trap reputation, there’s never been a better time to visit Georgetown.
Georgetown is known for cobblestoned streets with gorgeous historic row houses -- so your best bet is to grab an Airbnb a few blocks up from the riverside. For the less adventurous, you can have tea in the gardens at the Lumberton Oaks estates or climb the steps that led to Father Damien Arras’ death in The Exorcist.
The cobblestoned streets and tiny shops of Old Town are Metro accessible, but come Sunday, you’ll feel like you left the District behind for a true getaway. Things to do: Whether holiday lights are strung overhead or the sun is glistening off the Potomac River, King Street is a gorgeous destination for your small town getaway.
You could easily spend all day exploring locally owned boutiques, home decor stores, and antique shops that fill worn-brick buildings. Check out indie clothes and accessories at Thread leaf, mid-century-modern cocktail glassware at The Hour, adorable kids’ gifts at Hooray for Books, or obscure records at Crooked Beat.
For a quick history lesson, visit the Mount Vernon Estate just eight miles south of Old Town to tour George Washington’s old home (and distillery!) Check out Vermilion, a cozy, farm-to-table restaurant visited by Barack and Michelle Obama for a Valentine’s Day dinner in the midst of his reelection campaign.
Take a trip around the world without leaving the ‘hood with Ethiopian at Takeda, high-end sashimi at Name, or Indian and Nepalese at the tiny Royal Nepal. For more casual fare, enjoy a dozen at Hank’s Oyster Bar, tacos and craft beer at Chop Shop, or gelato at the family-owned Casey Rosado.
Bars and nightlife: We’ve said Virginia is for (beer) lovers and Alexandria is no exception -- so spend the weekend at Port City Brewing, one of the most well-known hops spots in the area. Or, if you really want to go under the radar for the weekend, pull a lever on the wall inside of Sugar Shack Donuts to reveal Captain Gregory’s, a speakeasy where you can hold court all night while enjoying the cocktails worthy of a trip to Alexandria just to drink.
Once a far-out and largely inaccessible region, the H Street Corridor in Northeast DC is now seen as a foodie destination, music lover’s paradise, and even a historical site perfect well worth exploring over a few days. Sort of like a mini-Smithsonian museum, Gallery O on H is a community space that hosts art shows and even features outdoor jazz concerts in its courtyard.
There’s another Bruner-Yang spot, Amaretto, that has an amazing dim-sum brunch; Cane, a brother-sister act dishing stand out Caribbean cuisine; and Thames, the city’s first Burmese restaurant, which keeps collecting national accolades. But it’s hard to deny that the city’s newest tourist haven has become a hot spot for those seeking waterfront views and splashy names in food, drink, and entertainment.
Where to stay: The rapidly growing development at The Wharf means there’s a new tasting menu restaurant, top-notch cocktail bar, or luxury hotel is seemingly every time you turn around. So lean into that and check out one of the new hotels overlooking the Potomac River like the Intercontinental, which is gold-plated from top to bottom and is located just steps from all the bars and restaurants nearby.
Yards Park has an Instagram-famous bridge you can explore and a water basin that pays homage to the historic canal that once ran from the Anatolia River to the Capitol Building. You won’t find greener pastures than Yards Park, but if you leave in search of them, get a scoop at Ice Cream Jubilee -- arguably the best cone in the District.
The Best restaurants: You’ll find that DC chain lets like Ta Korean and District Doughnut abound near The Wharf, so use this opportunity to grab lunch at one of them. And another local culinary star, Fabio Trabocchi, plays with Spanish seafood in a dreamy spot called Del Mar that will make you feel like you took a quick flight to Mallorca.
Liz Provence recently accomplished her life goal of staying at The Line Hotel and has spent many a day camped out at Elle.