As you’re planning your trip to DC, there are plenty of great neighborhoods for you to stay. However, only one puts you front and center for the city’s most famous attractions: Downtown DC. Here’s everything you need to know about planning a stay in Downtown DC.
Where Is Downtown DC?
Most people consider “downtown” to be the neighborhood directly surrounding the White House. This includes several blocks north, west, and then the few blocks east leading down to the National Mall. To give you an idea, check out the area highlighted in yellow on the map:
One of the best things about staying in Downtown DC is that it’s one of the easiest parts of the city to get around. There are four easily-accessible metro stations: Farragut West, McPherson Square, Metro Center and Federal Triangle.
The Circulator bus also has several routes that conveniently run through the area. The Georgetown to Union Station route runs straight through downtown on K Street. The Woodley Park to McPherson Square route takes you from McPherson Square almost all the way up to the Smithsonian National Zoo.
And if it’s a nice day and you’re up for it, you can walk. Downtown DC is centrally located so sites like the Smithsonians, the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and many others are 1-2 miles or less.
Who Lives in Downtown DC?
People who live downtown typically live here because they really value the convenience. Almost all of the housing is in multi-family buildings and there are almost no individual houses. So this isn’t an area where you expect to see a lot of large families. There’s a good reason for that: $$$$$. Downtown DC is an incredibly expensive area to live.
To give you a sense of what it costs, a 1-bedroom condo in this building sold last year for $500,000, plus an additional $500 per month condo fee.
If you prefer to rent, the asking price for a 1-bedroom apartment in this building is $2,700.
Needless to say, Downtown DC is not a cheap area.
For visitors, the good news is that there are a ton of hotel options downtown—probably more than anywhere else in the city. So you have plenty of choices.
(Note: All of the hotels we recommend are places where we would send our own mothers—or stay if our own apartments flooded. That said, if you do book through the affiliate links below, Trip Hacks DC will earn a small commission.)
First on the list (if you can swing it) is the Willard Hotel. This hotel has come up in several Trip Hacks DC podcast episodes because there is a ton of history associated with it. Of course, the Willard today is not the same brick and mortar that Abe Lincoln stayed in the night before his inauguration—but it’s still a pretty cool claim to fame. Plus, the Round Robin Bar is one of the coolest spots in the city to grab a drink.
Apart from its great history, the location is pretty unbeatable. You’re a two minute walk to the White House, an eight minute walk to the Natural History Museum and a five minute walk to Metro Center, which gives you access to four different Metro lines.
If you’re looking for a more affordable option, I also recommend the Homewood Suites Downtown. It’s farther from the metro, but walkable to a ton of things—like an abundance of restaurants and bars on 14th Street.
One of the best things about Homewood Suites is that it comes with continental breakfast and coffee, making life easy and saving you money. It also has an evening social hour with free snacks, beer and wine.
What to Eat in Downtown DC
The most famous restaurant downtown—and perhaps in the entire city— is the Old Ebbitt Grill. It’s on 15th Street right across the from the White House and a block up from the Willard Hotel. It has a reputation as an institutional restaurant with a lot of history, but the food is actually really tasty, too.
One of Old Ebbit’s most famous offerings are their oysters. They even offer half price oysters during oyster happy hour throughout the week. If you’re in DC the Friday and Saturday before Thanskgiving, you can join them for their “Oyster Riot,” where “nearly 1000 people devour tens of thousands of oysters while enjoying the gold medal winners of the International Wines for Oysters Competition and grooving to some awesome tunes.”
Since this is an area with a lot of office workers, it has generally very good lunch options, including the GCDC Grilled Cheese Bar, which we really like. And if you do want breakfast, there’s Wicked Waffle, which is one of the places featured in the $20 per day challenge.
For more information about eating well on your trip, make sure to check out the Trip Hacks DC podcast episode on this topic.
Things to Do in Downtown DC
The best thing about staying downtown is that it’s close to seemingly everything. Of course, the most famous attraction is the White House—but aside from stopping by to see it from the outside, and maybe taking the tour, you’re not going to spend much time there.
If you’re physically up for it, you can walk down to the monuments and the museums. You can walk up 14th Street for amazing restaurants—or to the west for a game or concert at Capital One Arena.
In all, if you’re looking for a convenient place to stay in DC that puts the whole city at your fingertips, it’s hard to beat Downtown DC.