The Best Neighborhoods in Washington D.C.

Washington DC, DuPont Circle, Street corner with Starbucks Coffee at dusk.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States is one of the best cities to live in. It’s known as a cultural center that is brimming with embassies, monuments, museums, and bustling restaurants, cafes, and musical hot spots. Not only are there an abundance of activities in Washington D.C. but there some really great neighborhoods for families, couples, and singles. Some of the city’s best neighborhoods are known to have low crime rates, access to excellent public schools, great job opportunities, and great local amenities. If you’re thinking about moving or simply want to explore some of the best spots in America’s capital, check out our guide to the best neighborhoods in Washington D.C. 

Logan Circle

The legendary leader of the jazz orchestra, Duke Ellington, grew up in the Logan Circle area of D.C., and it’s not hard to imagine how the place might have influenced his music. It’s one of the more laid back neighborhoods in the city. 

Some of the local’s favorite weekend activities include picnics and lounging out by the circle-named after Civil War general John Logan. Many rows of beautiful Victorian condos surround the circle and the nearby streets, and if you still have the itch to shop, there are some trendy establishments to check out on 14th Street or P Street. Logan Circle is low-key, a perfect place for a refuge from the hectic pace of much of the rest of D.C. 

DuPont Circle

Relative to other neighborhoods in the capital, with their distinct landmarks and cultural identities, DuPont Circle is fairly unremarkable. But it’s that same quality that makes it an attractive place to spend some time. It’s much quieter, more relaxed than the others. The circle itself is a patch of grass with a bust of Samuel DuPont of the famed DuPont family. It’s a nice place for a picnic lunch from one of the nearby eateries, either on Massachusetts or Connecticut Avenue or P Street. 

Aside from the shops and restaurants that line those streets, DuPont’s best feature is Embassy Row. Tucked away on the quiet side of Mass. Ave, Embassy Row is home to a majority of D.C.’s embassies. It’s fun to walk around and stop into whichever embassies suit your diplomatic tastes, or simply snap some photos of the placards and flags that decorate their front gates.

Foggy Bottom

Just south of DuPont Circle, on the west bank of the Potomac River and in the middle of the George Washington University campus is the beautiful neighborhood called Foggy Bottom. This is a lovely place for a day outdoors, perusing the natural gifts of the region or the numerous retail and food attractions. 

Other notable qualities of Foggy Bottom: the IMF building, the World Bank building, and for a more cultural experience, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which puts on theatre, dance, and live music performances. 

It is believed that Foggy Bottom earned its name because of the fog that rises from the nearby Potomac River. It’s also one of D.C.’s oldest neighborhoods, yet it still has a youthful atmosphere due to the GW campus. It’s also worth noting that The neighborhood is home to one of the best public high schools in the District of Columbia called, The School Without Walls High School. 

Adams Morgan

The Adams Morgan neighborhood was named after two segregated elementary schools from the 1950s — the all-white John Quincy Adams and the all-black Thomas P. Morgan. This Northwest neighborhood is now the cultural center of the capital’s Hispanic community. Adams Morgan is an area dense with live music venues, bars, cafes, a collection of ethnic food spots, and houses. If you’re single or simply looking for a neighborhood with the best nightlight, Adams Morgan is the place to be. 

Live music, from jazz to dance, blast from small, chic clubs, and bars on the weekend. Although weekdays can be spent just as well within the five blocks surrounding 18th street and Columbia. You can grab lunch from one of the local Thai, Middle Eastern or Ethiopian restaurants and then spend the rest of the day at a nearby park or café. Adams Morgan is D.C.’s most colorful district, most energetic and probably the loudest corner of the city as well. 

U Street

Much like Adams Morgan, the U Street neighborhood is in the Northwest of the city. It’s a world away from the National Mall and the capital’s main draws but it certainly worth checking out. Like the Adams Morgan neighborhood, U Street has long served locals with nighttime entertainment, vibrant restaurants, and a place where a local art scene can flourish. The street is also home to the 1922 Lincoln Theatre Duke Ellington once performed. 

The U Street area is home to Ben’s Chili Bowl, one of the oldest restaurants in the city and the inventor of the half-smoke (a half beef, half pork sausage). Founded by a Trinidadian immigrant in the late 1950s, Ben’s is indicative of the neighborhood’s African-American roots that extend to today. There is a rich music culture along the U Street corridor, with a number of live jazz venues and theaters. In between monuments and the main tourist draws, a detour up to U Street is more than worth your attention.

Georgetown

Georgetown is one of the most charming neighborhoods in Washington D.C. The cobblestone streets are lined with Federal-style architecture, wonderful restaurants, and many boutiques and cafes. The town is also full of natural beauty too as the city is nestled along the Potomac River. If you’re the active type you’ll enjoy that the town boasts steeply hilled streets and jogging trails that will certainly satisfy your needs.

One thing worth noting is that this town can be quite the bustling tourist destination which can make the streets feel quite crowded at times. But if you enjoy a bustling atmosphere, live music, waterfront seafood spots, and more then Georgetown is definitely the neighborhood for you. 

Capitol Hill

One of the oldest and most residential dense neighborhoods of D.C. is the Capitol Hill area. It is home to the Capitol building, the Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court. The section of Pennsylvania Avenue that runs through Capitol Hill is stocked with restaurants and bars, and a few blocks down is Eastern Market, a public market that runs a fantastic flea market that sells fresh vegetables, fruits, handmade soaps, and various artisan goods on weekends. 

D.C. is a leafy town, and Capitol Hill is far-off from the totally built-up downtown area, giving it an open feel with room to breathe. As is expected, there is a lot of history in this neighborhood, so make sure to check out the Navy Yard, which was established in 1799, as well as the Marine Barracks, one of Thomas Jefferson’s building projects when he was in office in the early years of the 19th century.

Woodley Park/Cleveland Park

This part of the city truly is a natural beauty, a fact that can be lost among the columns and domes of D.C. historical landmarks. Like a few of the other neighborhoods on this list, Woodley Park and Cleveland Park are located in the Northwest of the city, where Rock Creek Park dominates the scenery and landscape. 

This is where the National Zoological Park is located, and where a majority of Rock Creek Park’s 1,752 acres are found. The only thing you may not enjoy about the Northwest neighborhoods is they feature many steep hills. So don’t expect to bike much ground up here, it’s best to walk or drive or use public transportation. On the plus side, you’ll be immersed in nature here. There are also ample dining opportunities as the neighborhood boasts plenty of trendy restaurants and bars. And make sure you check out some of the city’s best brunch spots like Open City which is conveniently located in this lovely neighborhood

Downtown

The downtown section of D.C. is what one might call the most “touristy”. In a city as historically rich as D.C., that is hardly a bad thing. The list of things to do and see is endless. There’s Chinatown, one of the country’s best, also where the Verizon Center can be found, home to the NBA Wizards and the NHL Capitals. And then there are the Smithsonian museums, all of which are free to the public. You can explore the International Spy Museum, the Newseum and Ford’s Theatre, the scene of President Lincoln’s assassination, and more.

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, better known as the White House, is another must-see attraction, along with the National Mall, a nearly two-mile lawn that stretches from the Capitol steps to the 19-foot marble statue of Abraham Lincoln. Along the mall are a number of war memorials, a reflection pool, and hot food and ice cream vendors. Yes, this is the expected area to visit in D.C., but tourists flock here for a reason. Come see what it’s all about!

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