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9 Must-See Washington DC Neighborhoods and How To Visit

See all the different sides of the US capital on your next trip.

A colorfully-painted street in Washington DC.
Hi, I'm Laura!

Laura Ratliff is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor with more than a decade of experience in the travel and lifestyle space, who regularly spends more than 200,000 miles on a plane each year. As a freelancer, her work has appeared in Architectural Digest, Condé Nast Traveler, GQ, Jetsetter, Bon Appétit, and more. She has also held staff positions at Architectural Digest, Bloomberg News, and Condé Nast Traveler, and was most recently the senior editorial director at TripSavvy.

Washington DC is famous for its rich history, iconic monuments, and political presence, but the city's true character shines through its diverse and vibrant neighborhoods, where you can rub elbows with diplomats while having a beer at a bar. We've compiled a list of the best-known neighborhoods in the US capital, showcasing popular tourist attractions and some hidden, local gems. Discover each neighborhood’s unique culture and charm on your next trip to the nation’s capital.

1. Georgetown

The bridge in Georgetown in Washington DC.
Georgetown is one of the prettiest parts of Washington DC.Foto: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Where historic charm meets modern chic.

Stroll along Georgetown's cobblestone streets and take in its federal architecture, quaint shops, trendy boutiques, and gorgeous waterfront. Enjoy the picturesque campus of Georgetown University, or relax by the C&O Canal for a blend of history and modernity.

Visit Dumbarton Oaks, a historic estate with beautiful gardens and a specialized interest in Byzantine art, and indulge in delicious cupcakes from the famous Georgetown Cupcake. The Old Stone House, the oldest building in DC, is another must-see attraction in this welcoming neighborhood.

2. Dupont Circle

A leafy historic street in Dupont Circle in Washington DC.
Dupont Circle is known for its architecture for good reason.Foto: Manokhina Natalia / Shutterstock

For art, architecture, and international flair.

Famous for its iconic fountain, Dupont Circle boasts embassies, museums, and stunning architecture—it’s a great place to take a walking tour. Visit The Phillips Collection for modern art, or explore the Anderson House, a grand Beaux-Arts mansion turned museum.

Grab a bite at one of Connecticut Avenue's many diverse restaurants or peruse the local farmers market on Sundays. The neighborhood also hosts various cultural events and festivals throughout the year (it’s home to the Capital Pride Parade in the summer and famed snowball fights in the winter)—there's always something happening in Dupont Circle.

3. Capitol Hill

A rainbow walk on a busy street in Capitol Hill in Washington DC.
Capitol Hill is home to the world's largest library.Foto: CineCam / Shutterstock

A political hub with a lively local scene.

Beyond the Capitol Building and Supreme Court, discover a neighborhood filled with historic row houses. Capitol Hill is also home to Eastern Market and Barracks Row, offering great dining and shopping options catering to both visitors and locals.

Visit the Library of Congress, the world's largest library, or stroll through the lush grounds of the United States Botanic Garden. Capitol Hill is also home to the Folger Shakespeare Library, which houses the world's most extensive collection of the famous playwright's works.

Related: Visiting Washington DC for the First Time? Here’s What To See and Do

4. Adams Morgan

Bright flower beds on a quiet street in Adams Morgan in Washington DC.
Go to Adams Morgan for picnics and people-watching.Foto: Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

A colorful melting pot of culture and cuisine.

This vibrant neighborhood is known for its eclectic mix of restaurants, with a strong emphasis on international flavors, ranging from Vietnamese to Ethiopian. Don't miss the bold street murals and quirky, colorful row houses that add a touch of artistic flair to the area.

Adams Morgan is also home to the historic Meridian Hill Park, a favorite spot for picnics and people-watching. The park's cascading fountain and Sunday drum circles are local highlights worth experiencing.

5. U Street Corridor

A wide street in U Street Corridor in Washington DC.
U Street Corridor is known for its jazz scene.Foto: TJ Brown / Shutterstock

The heart of DC's music and nightlife scene.

Once dubbed Washington’s Black Broadway, U Street is famous for its historic jazz clubs, diverse dining options, and pulsating nightlife. Catch a show at the legendary 9:30 Club or the landmark Lincoln Theatre for an exciting night out on the town.

During the daytime hours, learn about African-American history and culture at the African-American Civil War Museum or sample the food DC icon Ben's Chili Bowl. U Street also hosts numerous festivals and events annually that showcase the neighborhood's rich cultural heritage.

6. Navy Yard

On the waterfront at Navy Yard on a somber day in Washington DC.
Explore the waterfront at Navy Yard.Foto: Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

Waterfront leisure with a touch of greenery.

Relax by the Anacostia River in this revitalized Washington DC neighborhood, featuring parks, waterfront trails, and great views. Check out The Yards Park, an urban green space with a splash pool, or visit the nearby National Museum of the US Navy.

Catch a game at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals baseball team, or enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants and breweries in the area. The neighborhood also offers kayak and paddleboard rentals for those looking to explore the river up close.

7. Shaw

Historic Victorian homes in the Shaw area of Washington DC.
Shaw has a buzzing arts scene going on.Foto: srhtk / Shutterstock

Historic roots with a trendy twist.

Discover Shaw's rich history, beautiful Victorian architecture, and thriving arts scene, including the colorful murals and public art installations that adorn the neighborhood. Visit the historic Howard Theatre, a landmark in African-American history, or explore the extensive dining and nightlife options around Blagden Alley and the nearby U Street Corridor.

8. Cleveland Park

Green trees flourishing in Cleveland Park in Washington DC.
Cleveland Park is a family-friendly place to go visit.Foto: refrina / Shutterstock

A charming, family-friendly oasis.

Nestled in Northwest DC, Cleveland Park offers a quaint, family-friendly atmosphere with its tree-lined streets, historic homes, and a variety of restaurants and shops along Connecticut Avenue. Visit the Smithsonian's National Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the United States, or enjoy a movie at the historic Uptown Theater. Nature lovers can explore Rock Creek Park, which offers trails, picnic areas, and even horseback riding.

9. Southwest Waterfront

Buildings and green trees in Washington's DC's Southwest Waterfront area.
You might better know this area as The Wharf.Foto: Andrei Medvedev / Shutterstock

A modern gem with a nautical twist.

Southwest Waterfront, also known as The Wharf, is a recently revitalized area with stunning waterfront views, great dining options, and endless entertainment choices. Visit the Municipal Fish Market, the oldest continuously operating open-air fish market in the United States, or take a scenic cruise along the Potomac River. Catch a concert at The Anthem, a state-of-the-art music venue, or enjoy a leisurely stroll along the waterfront promenade.

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