The Best Neighborhoods in Washington, D.C.
When you think of Washington, D.C., what’s the first thing that comes to mind? The White House? The Capitol Building? One of the many memorials that fill the district?
While the nation’s capital is known for its historical relevance and political influence, it’s also brimming with trendy restaurants, intimate coffee shops, and charming neighborhoods that can truly make this city feel like home.
If you’re looking to set up shop within the district’s 68 square miles, you won’t lack when it comes to finding a nearby D.C. neighborhood that meets your needs. This guide will explore the best neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., including:
- The Georgetown neighborhood
- The Foggy Bottom neighborhood
- The H Street NE neighborhood
- The Adams Morgan neighborhood
- The Shaw neighborhood
Let’s get started!
As Washington, D.C.’s oldest neighborhood, Georgetown sits on the edge of the Potomac River and features cobblestone streets and great waterfront views. Although it’s probably best known for housing Georgetown University, this is more than just a college neighborhood.
Some of what Georgetown has to offer includes:
- Classic restaurants: Whether you’re looking for fancy dining or a casual bite to eat, Georgetown has numerous options. Some standouts include Bourbon Steak, featuring butter steaks from James Beard Award-winner Michael Mina, or Cafe Milano, which has been a renowned D.C. destination for over 25 years.
- Unparalleled groceries: Georgetown has your typical Safeway and Trader Joe’s but also smaller, local options like Dent Place Market and Wisemiller’s Deli (where you can get groceries and a homemade sandwich).
- Trendy coffee shops: Unsurprisingly in a college/politics town, there are plenty of places to recharge with caffeine. Check out Blue Bottle Coffee or Baked and Wired, if you want some pastries with your brew.
- Unique recreation spots: One advantage of a neighborhood on the water is that there are plenty of picturesque outdoor spots to enjoy. In the winter, be sure to check out the Washington Harbor Ice Rink, too. If you prefer to get your sweat on indoors, you can check out Fitness Together or the Yates Field House at Georgetown University.
- Lavish nightlife locales: If you’re looking for a swanky backdrop to your night out, Georgetown has you covered. Check out Fiola Mare or Nick’s Riverside Grill for waterfront dining.
You only have to travel a little southwest from Georgetown before you reach the Foggy Bottom neighborhood. This area is another riverside neighborhood that can claim home to some of the best sites of D.C., including The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the State Department, and George Washington University.
In addition to its landmarks, Foggy Bottom also offers residents:
- Diverse restaurants: You’ll have plenty of dining options to choose from in Foggy Bottom. Try Rasika West End for modern Indian cuisine or, if Japanese-Peruvian fusion is more your speed, check out Nobu.
- Elevated grocery markets: Pick up your liquor, wine, and groceries at Novel Grocery on Tunlaw Road, or head down to the Foggy Bottom Whole Foods.
- Contemporary coffee spots: You can always swing by the Starbucks on George Washington University’s campus for your caffeine fix. Or, try out local spots Swing’s Coffee Roasters or Uptowner Cafe for a more intimate experience.
- Outdoor recreation and community centers: Enjoy some outdoor fun with a hike on the Rock Creek Trails, or rent a kayak or canoe at the Thompson Boat Center. For gyms, look to Balance Gym Foggy Bottom or the Lerner Health and Wellness Center.
- Down-to-earth nightlife: Have some tots with your brews at Tonic at Quigley’s Pharmacy or, if you prefer a bowl of pho with your libations, check out Froggy Bottom Pub.
H Street NE
Take a trip away from the college areas to the H Street NE area of D.C. While this historic neighborhood is home to The Atlas Performing Arts Center and host of the annual H Street Festival, it’s also off the beaten path, insulating residents from the heavy foot traffic of tourism. This neighborhood is also near Rock Creek Park, if you enjoy hiking.
In fact, H Street NE is known for its eclectic shops and cafes and its many artistic festivals. If you’re taking a stroll down to H Street, you’ll also find:
- International eats: Dine on Japanese-inspired dishes at Toki Underground, or check out the industrial-chic setting of Le Grenier for American-French bites like duck pate charcuterie and seafood stew.
- Organic groceries: Planning on making dinner within your cozy H Street bungalow? Stock up at the nearby Whole Foods or the family-owned H Street Organic Market for all of the essentials.
- Revolutionary coffee shops: The H Street corridor is known as a bit of a hipster area, which of course, means there’s plenty of places to grab a coffee. Check out The Wydown or Sidamo Coffee and Tea for your morning cup. If you prefer to peruse literature while sipping, take a stroll to Solid State Books, an independent bookstore and cafe that acts as a social hub to the neighborhood’s writers, artists, students, and activists.
- Healthy options: Don’t miss the weekly H Street Farmer’s Market for your chance to enjoy the sun and pick up delicious local goods. As for gyms, H Street has plenty of places to get fit, such as OrangeTheory Fitness, Crossfit DC, and Solidcore.
- Unconventional haunts: For a New Orleans-themed night out, check out Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar. The bar features a two-level outdoor patio, a DJ booth, and exclusive screenings of New Orleans Saint football games. If you’re craving late-night dumplings, swing by CopyCat Co.
Looking to learn more about what D.C. neighborhood you can afford to live in? Check out our blog post, “What Is the Cost of Living in Washington, D.C.?”
In Northwest D.C. sits the historic neighborhood of Adams Morgan, which offers a bustling and diverse culture. This is a high-end neighborhood known for its historic homes and luxury apartment buildings. But you’ll understand why it is more expensive once you see all it has to offer to residents, including:
- Classy restaurants: You want restaurants? Adams Morgan has you covered. Longtime Adams Morgan residents are in charge of the Michelin star recipient Tail Up Goat. If you’re looking for some Middle Eastern cuisine, look no further than long-time staple Mama Ayesha’s.
- Local shops: You’ve got your big brands like Safeway, your smaller options like Streets Market, and your locally owned shops like Yes! Organic Market for all your grocery needs.
- Neighborhood coffee: There’s no shortage of refueling stops in Adams Morgan. You can check out Philz Coffee or spend a day people-watching at local staple Tryst Coffeehouse, which has been in Adams Morgan since 1998.
- Cultured outings: Swing by performance space and art gallery DC Arts Center or find your next great read at used and rare book specialist Lost City Bookstore. Once you’re ready to get moving, Adams Morgan has numerous fitness centers, including another Solidcore location and CenterPointe Studio.
- Bustling nightlife: Adams Morgan is known for its nightlife so there’s plenty to explore. Check out both indoor and rooftop options at Roofer’s Union or check out the nearly 3,000 bottles of whiskey on the wall at Jack Rose Dining Saloon.
Hip, trendy, and full of things to do, Shaw is the final stop on our D.C. neighborhood tour. Full of African American history and home to several new bars and restaurants, Shaw is an area with plenty to keep you busy, including:
- Trendy eateries: Foodies, rejoice! Shaw has so many hip, new restaurants that it’s hard to keep up. Start with Michelin Star winner (and Oprah favorite) at Kinship, or try something a little different with the Georgian (country, not state) cuisine offered at Supra.
- Ample grocery shops: The area has its own Giant Foods and Whole Foods options when you’re looking for the comfort of name brands. If you want to avoid the crowds, you can also check out smaller, local spots like Capitol Supermarket.
- Comfortable cafes: Compass Coffee was founded in 2014 by two Marines and calls D.C. home. It has numerous locations in the city, including one in Shaw. You can also grab a java at the neighborhood spot The Roasted Boon.
- Parkland and gyms: On nice days, be sure to take a walk down to Logan Circle Park. Then, when you’re ready to test your physical limits, check out the offerings at Urban Athletic Club or the small classes at Reformation Fitness.
- Eclectic entertainment: Once the sun goes down, there may be even more to do in Shaw. Catch big acts at The Lincoln Theater, check out top-notch music at the famed 9:30 Club, or just grab a couple of brews with friends at the Dacha Beer Garden.
Note about transportation
As you can see, there’s a ton of fun things to do in Washington, D.C. And, so long as you stick to one neighborhood, most of it is walkable.
However, if you are planning on bouncing around, you will need either a car (traffic in the district can be tough) or you can check out the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to plan your trip using Metrobus, Metrorail, or the DC Circulator Bus.
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