Ever thought of visiting Washington DC? Need to know where to eat after walking here, there, and everywhere and where to get Instagram worthy views? I’ve got you covered! Washington DC is a city of visitors, almost everyone comes from somewhere else. Even though I lived here in high school, it never completely felt like my city. Growing up in a nomadic, military childhood my concept of home has always been very fluid, more of a feeling and the people I love rather than a place. In my twenty two years, I found home in four different countries and nine different cities, having moved six times in the past four years alone. Now that I’ve moved back to Washington DC from Europe, the highlight of my weeks is getting to discover a new side to this city as an adult. My love of photography and travel pushed me to play tourist and explore DC as much as possible. If you want to live like a local on your trip to the district, here are a list of my favorite finds so far.
As a student growing up in Northern Virginia it seemed that every year like clockwork our school would pile us into eye-wateringly yellow school buses and cart us down to tour the monuments, The Capital, The Library of Congress or some other site of American history. After a while, it definitely lost its charm (teenage attention spans and all of that), but now having come back, I’ve made a few trips down to the National Mall. Watching the sunrise, piping hot coffee and pastry in hand, on the steps of the Lincoln memorial is a beautiful way to get a jumpstart on your stay in the city. If the weather is cooperating, early mornings on the mall are the perfect time to explore and get photos of the iconic architecture, reflecting pool and the Potomac river waterfront. Everyone goes absolutely mad for the Cherry Blossom festival every year in April but, I prefer late October’s orange and gold leaves. For Insta-ops the Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Washington memorials are some of the prettiest and most iconic around.
If you’ve ever seen seminal classics Night of the Museum and National Treasure, you might think you already know everything worth knowing about museums in DC. Not so fast! The Smithsonian is the big name, with Natural History, Air and Space, American History and the Portrait Gallery pulling in millions of visitors a year. If you’re not a fan of feeling like you’re in a mosh pit or want to go a bit rogue, head to some hidden gems like the Renwick Gallery, filled with installation art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, or the Newseum, home to the Pulitzer prize winning photographs and a section of the Berlin Wall (closing its doors in 2020, so there’s only 6 weeks left to go). If you like a good historic home museum, the eclectic O Street Mansion is filled with 100 rooms and 70 secret doors and feels like you’ve gone down the rabbit hole.
D.C has become a city for foodies, and with its international crowd has a restaurant for about any craving physically possible! From down to earth comfort food to ‘food is art’ experiences, there’s a new culinary destination for every day of the year. I’ve narrowed down by mood/category to help you make your decision before your stomach growling sounds like the jets taking off at National Airport.
Coffeeshop/Café: Dolcezza, for artisan gelato and coffee at nine unique locations. Feeling classic? Head to Logan Circle for marble café table and dark wood counters. Modern? They have a shop at the Hirshhorn Gallery so you can feed all your senses. If you’re looking off the beaten path, head to La Colombe in Blagden Alley- the coffee shop is set up in a renovated garage and it’s surrounded by some of the best street art in the city.
Restaurants: For a romantic, classic dinner or lunch Le Diplomate’s dreamy french fare can’t be beat. For adventure, head down to the Wharf and the sublime afro-Caribbean haute cuisine at Kith and Kin. (I went here for my birthday over the summer and every dish was phenomenal). For the best ramen in the city that will warm you up from the inside out, pop over to Oki Bowl in Georgetown.
Bars: For a girly soiree or boozy brunch, The Pembroke in Dupont Circle is a dreamy place to treat yourself champagne cocktails. For a cozy Autumn night, head to Maxwell Park, a wine bar that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and has patio seating with fire pits and stacks of blankets (I highly recommend the truffle grilled cheese).
Of all of my favourite places to wander in DC, Georgetown has to be at the top of the list. While a little tricky to get to at first, (no metro means Lyft or Uber is your best bet), once you’re there everything is so walkable. With beautiful weather you can even stroll across the Key Bridge from Roslyn to M Street. It also has some of the prettiest architecture and residential neighbourhoods around, and during the festive season is decorated with gourds and creative Halloween displays or wreaths and Christmas decor. Shopping-wise there are so many great brands like Anthropologie, Reformation and Madewell, as well as lovely independent boutiques like Take Care (an adorable wellness, skincare and beauty shop- BE STILL MY HEART). Should you need a pick me up after all the exploring, there’s Bluestone Lane for all your caffeinated needs. If you’re familiar with Georgetown’s infamous cupcake rivalries, I’m team Georgetown Cupcakes or if I’m really hungry team Baked & Wired. Sprinkles is not welcome in this household thank you very much (despite their Insta-iconic Cupcake Vending Machine, their frosting is way too sweet and the cake a bit dry in my expert opinion). Strolling along the Washington Harbor and connecting C&O Canal makes for a lovely walk and brings all the modern cityscape vibes to your photo op.
BEWARE- if you have a set of wheels, you may want to put aside any roadtrip ambitions as parking in most of the city can cost an arm and a leg. Save the car for day trips- popping across the river to Old Town Alexandria, up to the charming harbor of Annapolis or south to Charlottesville, Virginia’s rolling hills and bougie winery tours.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this little city guide! I’m constantly playing tourist myself so if you have any recommendations I missed, comment below.