Washington DC has always been one of my favorite places to visit, not just because of all the history on display, but because of all the wonderful things to do and see.
I lived there for nearly 10 years, which helped me really thoroughly understand it and which are the best areas to stay in Washington DC. Now when I go back to visit, I only ever stay in these top areas that are in close proximity to the Metro so I can get around to all the top sights easily.
This bustling capital is relatively compact, in the shape of a diamond, with the winding Potomac River dividing it from Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, in the southwest quadrant.
While you might think that the only best place to stay is along the National Mall where all the action is, that’s not necessarily true. There are multiple exciting and interesting neighborhoods in DC to check out.
If you’re looking for where to stay for your next trip to Washington DC, here’s our in-depth guide to where we personally stay when we’re visiting. I really don’t think you can go wrong with any of these neighborhoods or specific hotels. What you choose will come down to personal preference.
Best Places to Stay in Washington DC + Top Hotels
Washington DC has an array of neighborhoods, each with its own unique architectural style and cultural flare. Whether you’re going to DC for sightseeing, shopping, or a vibrant night scene—we’ve got you.
Downtown: Best Area to Stay Without a Car
Downtown is a great place to stay when you’re visiting Washington DC for the first time, especially if you don’t have a rental car, which is extremely unnecessary for a first time visitor.
The downtown area of Washington DC covers quite a bit of territory, though there’s no official designation, it encompasses pretty much everything from east of Georgetown to Union Station, and Dupont Circle down to the U.S. Capitol Building and across the top of the National Mall. Others may argue with me on this, but it’s just a rough guide so you know where you’re at.
This is the heart of the nation’s capital. The bustling cosmopolitan neighborhood is dotted with swanky hotels, old-school bars, retail shopping chains, and many must-see museums.
Along with these DC landmarks you must see, you’ll also find many cultural and government institutions like the U.S. Capitol, Renwick Gallery, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the State Department, and the country’s most famous address, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue—the White House.
The area is explorable on foot and there are abundant transport services, particularly the Metrorail and Metrobus, which connect the Downtown district to other DC neighborhoods.
Tip: You can tour the city’s top attractions through a moonlight tour via a trolley.
Best Downtown Hotels
- Willard Intercontinental – this is an exceptional hotel that’s just a 6-minut walk from the Mall. It’s very classy inside and gives the perfect feel for a trip to DC.
- Conrad Washington DC – this is my favorite area to stay in DC because it’s easy to get around to everything, it right next to the Capital One Arena, and the restaurants are best here.
- Westin Washington DC City Center – I’ve stayed here numerous times and always find it incredibly convenient because it’s pretty much right in the center of everything – equidistant from it all.
Capitol Hill: Best Area for Politics & History Fans
If you’re the ultimate history buff, Capitol Hill is the best neighborhood to stay in in Washington, DC. The district is home to some of the nation’s most popular government buildings. You’ll find the Supreme Court and the U.S. House and Senate here, not to mention the picturesque Capitol Dome.
Capital Hill also has some of the best hotels in Washington, DC, for sightseeing. From the stunning neoclassical architecture to the colorful row houses and trendy dining scene, you’ll be spoiled for choice on things to explore.
Take a hop-on hop-off tour on an open-top bus and see government buildings where laws get passed. You must (yes, must) visit the popular Eastern Market, where you can buy fresh produce, meat, and cheese during the week and handicrafts and antiques on weekends.
The best way to explore Capitol Hill is via a guided walking tour with entry to the US Capitol and Library of Congress buildings.
Best Capitol Hill Hotels
- Capital Hill Hotel – This iconic hotel features modern decor, a business center, and an on-site bar and restaurant. It’s very close to the Capital Building, the Library of Congress, Folger Shakespeare Library, and the House office buildings.
- Hilton Capital Hill – This Capital Hill hotel is close to the United States Capitol and other branches of government and the Library of Congress. It’s easy walking to the Postal Museum and Union Station.
Foggy Bottom: Best Place for Students
Nestled along the banks of the Potomac River and just a skip away from Theodore Roosevelt Island, Foggy Bottom is a melting pot of government institutions and local culture. And don’t let the funky name fool you; Foggy Bottom is one of the oldest neighborhoods in DC.
The name comes from the ethereal mist that naturally lingers here. Foggy Bottom is one of DC’s most photogenic places to stay, thanks to the tree-filled islands across the river and the serene Rock Creek Park.
George Washington University is located here, making the area popular among students and academic professionals. That’s why you’ll find plenty of lively bars and quirky ways to explore the city, like segway tours and dinner cruises.
It’s also very close to the State Department, the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, and the Watergate Hotel. I used to work at the State Department, so I sent a lot of time in this. While it’s a bit more removed from the main stuff, it’s a quieter place to stay for access to the Mall.
Best Foggy Bottom Hotels
- State Plaza Hotel– This hotel features elegant decor throughout. The suites boast a fully equipped kitchenette, dressing area, and work table for you to get a bit of work done. The hotel also has a fitness center, business center, and event facilities with access to experienced planners.
- Courtyard by Marriott Washington DC– If you’re hoping to meet some fellow students, hotels in the DC area don’t get any better than the Courtyard. This hotel is located on the George Washington University campus and offers an indoor pool, gym, and traditional-style rooms.
Chinatown: Best Area for Foodies & Shoppers
Chinatown is one of the most diverse places to stay in Washington, DC. This vibrant neighborhood is brimming with museums, theaters, restaurants, and a sports center. The area gives you a break from the stately architecture and national landmarks, giving you a more intimate experience of DC. Chinatown is also a great place to meet some DC locals.
You’ll easily stumble upon the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery and Shakespeare Theater Company. Take a break from smash burgers and visit Chinese eateries and restaurants serving Asian cuisine.
Chinatown is a fantastic place to stay for foodies, history buffs, and anyone who’d like to see more than just neoclassical buildings. Sports fans will love attending a Washington Wizards basketball game or a Washington Capitals hockey game at the Capital One Arena.
Best Chinatown Hotels
- Motto by Hilton Washington DC– Just a few feet from the Chinese gate or Friendship Arch, Motto by Hilton is chic, elegant, and classy. The hotel features a minimalistic decor throughout, and you’ll also find a rooftop bar serving delicious cocktails.
- Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington DC– If basic hotel furniture is not your cup of tea, look no further than Kimpton. Drawing inspiration from Washinton’s state buildings, the Kimpton Hotel Monaco boasts a neoclassical structure. It stands complete with over-the-top furnishings and the eclectic Dirty Habit, on-site restaurant, and lounge.
Dupont Circle: Best Area for a Vibrant Cultural Life
If you’re looking for the best neighborhood to stay in DC with a laid-back atmosphere and city-center amenities, Dupont Circle is the place. In this popular park, you may spot people walking their dogs, an impromptu yoga session, or a heated chess game.
The neighborhood offers a blend of trendy nightlife and a seemingly endless list of institutions. Here, you can find plenty of funky bars, upscale bistros, galleries, and embassies.
You’ll have a good time at the Eighteenth Street Lounge, a favorite dance club among locals. A more laidback activity would be going to the famous Dupont Circle fountain for pictures and people-watching.
Best Dupont Circle Hotels
- Beacon Hotel & Corporate Quarters– This hotel boasts plenty of upscale amenities, including a gym, terrace restaurant, and complimentary Wi-Fi throughout. The spacious rooms are loaded with elegant art deco furniture and impressive city views.
- The Dupont Circle Hotel – As the name suggests, this hotel sits on the edge of Dupont Circle. The rooms feature modern decor, marble bathrooms, and expansive glass windows. The hotel’s stunning on-site restaurant, the Pembroke, offers farm-to-table cuisine, and the mid-century Doyle Bar offers a drink list with cocktails from the 1950s and 1960s.
Logan Circle: Best Location for Nightlife
Logan Circle is one of the oldest DC neighborhoods. The lively district spreads out and around the bustling roundabout and verdant park. Although much of the neighborhood boasts turn-of-the-century townhouses, it is one of Washington DC’s most modern and trendy areas.
The area has a vibrant nightlife and many sidewalk cafés, theaters, and bars running along P Street and stretching north along 14th Street. Despite having far fewer historical landmarks than other DC neighborhoods, Logan Circle has excellent shopping malls, hip eateries, and lots of Victorian architecture.
Logan Circle has a youthful energy. The revitalized and gentrified urban area attracted many city dwellers to the suburbs in the 1980s and 1990s, thus breathing a new life into the formerly run-down neighborhood.
Did you know? Logan Circle’s Fourteenth Street Historic District has approximately 765 properties that are considered to be historically significant.
Best Logan Circle Hotels
- Washington Plaza Hotel – This hotel boasts traditional mahogany furniture with colorful red accents. Each room has a work desk, Wi-Fi, and a coffee maker. You can enjoy superb American cuisine and a la carte dinner at the Number Ten Thomas or grab a cocktail at International Bar.
- Hotel Zena – This Viceroy urban retreat offers modern decor with stunning art deco elements. The hotel features state-of-the-art rooms, suites, studios, on-site dining options, and a rooftop swimming pool. You’ll also find a convenience shop, fitness center, and pool table to wind down after a long day of exploring.
Georgetown: Safest Area to Stay in Washington DC
Georgetown is one of the most picturesque DC neighborhoods. The district is an upmarket residential area featuring Federal-style architecture, cobblestoned streets, colorful townhouses, and many student bars.
Along with Capitol Hill, Logan Circle, and Dupont Circle, Georgetown is among the safest neighborhoods in DC. It is a popular place to stay among politicians and lobbyists and is home to some of the best hotels in DC for tourists.
You get the best of both worlds in Georgetown, from fun college bars to a shimmering riverside promenade with bike paths. A great way to see the neighborhood is via a bike tour or a historical walking tour around the city.
The ghosts of Georgetown walking tour is also popular among tourists, you get to learn about true crime stories and supernatural occurrences that happened here. Foodies and gourmets will love exploring the neighborhood through a gastronomic food tour.
Best Georgetown Hotels
- Four Seasons Washington DC – For the best amenities in town, it doesn’t get better than the Four Seasons. This luxury hotel boasts high-end furnishings, a heated lap pool, sauna, spa, gym, and a whirlpool. You can enjoy fine dining at the award-winning Michael Mina Bourbon Steak restaurant and ENO Wine Bar.
- Sonder Georgetown C&O – If you want the “home away from home” feel, this stunning condo hotel is what you need. The suites feature a modern and simplistic decor and a fully equipped kitchenette, with enough seating for dining, chilling, and working. You’ll also find a fitness center and games room on the property.
The state capital is known for its upscale neighborhoods and neoclassical architecture. Each DC neighborhood has its cultural flare, vibrant sidewalk eateries, and plenty of touristy and unconventional things to do.
So deciding where to stay in Washington DC may be challenging. The city boasts many excellent amenities, hotels, and tourist attractions dotted across its neighborhoods.
But once you’ve narrowed down your itinerary and carefully read this guide, you’ll be well equipped to find the best neighborhood to stay in DC that suits your travel needs.
Be Prepared For Travel
Planning is the most important part of any successful trip. Do it the easy way: