Struggling to decide where to stay in Washington, DC is a common problem for visitors to the US capital. It’s one of the most populous cities in the country and the center of politics and US history.
Where to Stay in Washington, DC
Over 20 million people visit Washington, DC each year, mostly due to the city’s historical importance as the capital of the United States. The area is overflowing with historical sites, museums, and other attractions.
Washington, DC is formally called the District of Columbia. It sits on the Potomac River and covers just under 70 square miles, but it is a large city with a population of close to 700,000.
Most visitors tend to stay near the historical attractions around Capitol Hill and downtown Washington, DC. However, the city has much more to explore. Outside of the city center, you’ll come across vibrant neighborhoods with unique features.
The 6 Main Parts of Town
Washington DC has a couple of dozen distinct neighborhoods, each with separate attractions and reasons to visit. Out of the many areas to stay in Washington, DC, the following parts of the city are among the most popular:
- Downtown DC: Best for first-time visitors and history buffs
- Logan Circle: Best for nightlife
- Chinatown: Best for budget travelers and foodies
- Georgetown: Best for families and shopping
- Capitol Hill: Best for political junkies
- Dupont Circle: Best for culture and museums
Washington DC’s Best Parts of Town
If you’re ready to plan your trip to the capitol city, you should first decide where to stay in Washington, DC. Here’s a quick look at the best areas of DC.
1. Downtown DC
The downtown area is the most visited part of Washington, DC. It’s where you’ll find the most luxurious hotels, restaurants, and shops. It’s also where you’re likely to spot a politician or news personality grabbing a drink or bite from a local restaurant or bar.
People typically come to downtown DC for the variety of historical and cultural institutions in the area. It’s home to the White House, the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art, and more.
Downtown DC also offers dining and shopping. Head over to CityCenterDC to browse over 40 world-famous restaurants and stores. CityCenterDC is a sprawling mixed-use development with over two million square feet of residential and commercial space.
Downtown DC is the perfect spot for first-time visitors, as everyone should visit the White House and the Smithsonian at least once. However, it’s also one of the more costly places to stay in the DC area.
Things to Do
- Take a public tour of the White House, but check the available time slots before you go, as self-guided tours are only available during limited intervals.
- Visit the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, which houses some of the most famous artifacts in the world.
- Spend the day shopping and eating at CityCenterDC.
- View priceless works of art and illuminating exhibits at the National Gallery of Art.
Where to Eat
- Surfside Taco Stand offers low-priced Mexican food and a cafeteria-style setting.
- Try the Shake Shack for tasty burgers and shakes at decent prices.
- Iron Gate Restaurant. Fancy Mediterranean restaurant with dine-in, takeout, and delivery options.
Downtown DC Budget Hotels
- Washington Plaza Hotel. Affordable hotel with a restaurant, lounge, gym, and outdoor pool. It’s about a 15-minute walk to the White House.
- The Darcy Hotel. Located several blocks directly north of the White House. The rooms are small but affordable. Some rooms also include views of the city.
Downtown DC Mid-Range Hotels
- Hilton Garden Inn Washington DC Downtown. This hotel is a short walk from the National Mall and the White House. You’ll also enjoy food from an onsite restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Hamilton Hotel – Washington DC. Located 600 feet from the nearest Metro Station, this hotel features an onsite restaurant and luxurious rooms at mid-range prices. It’s a short walk from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
Downtown DC Luxury Hotels
- The Hay – Adams. The traditional furniture and décor give this hotel a stately atmosphere. The rooms are fit for kings and queens.
- Marriott Marquis Washington, DC. This premium hotel is often booked with business travelers coming to visit the connected convention center. It’s also one of the top hotels in downtown DC. The rooms have terraces with views of the city center.
2. Logan Circle
The Logan Circle neighborhood gets its name from a traffic circle at the intersection of Vermont Avenue, Rhode Island Avenue, and 13th Street.
Logan Circle caters to the young, hip crowd. The trendy boutiques, small galleries, gay nightclubs, and cafes make it the trendiest neighborhood in DC. It’s also home to a wide assortment of bars and pubs.
Most of the action is found on 14th Street, which is a block west of the traffic circle. Dupont Circle and downtown DC also border the Logan Circle neighborhood. You can walk to many nearby landmarks, including the White House and the National Geographic Museum.
Logan Circle is considered the best place to stay in Washington, DC for its nightlife. While it’s a quiet area during the daytime, families may prefer one of the other neighborhoods.
Things to Do
- Catch a play at the Studio Theatre, which often gets plays that were recently on Broadway.
- Visit the National Geographic Museum to see some of the greatest wildlife photographs and exhibits.
- Stroll around the Logan Circle traffic circle, which is surrounded by Victorian mansions.
- Learn more about one of the nation’s civil rights pioneers with a trip to the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site.
Where to Eat
- Le Diplomate is a luxurious French restaurant on 14th street.
- Enjoy Thai dining in a minimalist setting at Rice Restaurant.
- Pizzoli’s Pizzeria is the top pizza place in Logan Circle and is a short walk from the traffic circle.
Logan Circle Budget Hotels
- Cambria Hotel. Low-cost hotel near the eastern edge of the Logan Circle neighborhood. It’s a bit further from the attractions but includes spacious, comfortable rooms.
- Henley Park Hotel. This hotel is conveniently located near the metro station, making it easy to get around the city. The rooms include classy furnishings and décor and may offer a view of the city.
Logan Circle Mid-Range Hotels
- Viceroy Washington DC. The elegant, art deco furnishings give this hotel a unique charm. It’s a short walk from the center of Logan Circle.
- Courtyard by Marriott Washington. Located between downtown and Logan Circle, this three-star hotel offers several breakfast options and access to a business center.
Logan Circle Luxury Hotels
- Liz by Black Swan. This is an apartment rental, as Logan Circle doesn’t have any luxury hotels. Yet, you can stay in luxury in a one-bedroom apartment with a private kitchen and washing machine.
- Lyle DC. This hotel offers premium bedding and stylish modern décor. It’s further from the center of Logan Circle, but also offers the fanciest accommodations in the area.
Chinatown stands out from the other DC neighborhoods due to its rich culture. It’s a small area just east of Downtown DC and packed with buildings and storefronts featuring Chinese architecture and décor. Crossing under the iconic arch that marks the start of Chinatown is like stepping into a different city.
While Chinatown appears crowded, it has a relatively laid back atmosphere compared to other areas of DC. The streets are always busy, but the neighborhood feels less hectic.
Chinatown tends to offer lower prices for accommodations, eating, and shopping. You can find a variety of small restaurants and street vendors that serve large meals without breaking your budget.
Along with budget meals and street food, Chinatown has many highly rated restaurants. It’s considered one of the best neighborhoods in DC for foodies.
Chinatown is a fun place to stay and visit, but the area has fewer hotel options compared to other parts of Washington, DC.
Things to Do
- Snap a photo as you walk under the Friendship Archway, which marks the entrance to Chinatown.
- Watch the Washington Capitals or the Washington Wizards play, or catch a show, at the Capital One Arena.
- Gaze at the vibrant displays and performances during the Chinese New Year Parade, when visiting during the Lunar New Year.
- Visit the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which are just a few minutes away on foot.
Where to Eat
- Choose from a wide range of sushi and ramen dishes at Kofuku Ramen & Sushi.
- Tony Cheng is a popular two-floor restaurant with Chinese cuisine upstairs and Mongolian barbecue downstairs.
- Reren Lamen & Bar offers affordable ramen dishes, dumplings, and more.
- If you want something other than Chinese cuisine, visit Nando’s PERi-PERi for Afro-Portuguese grilled chicken.
Chinatown Budget Hotels
- Fairfield Inn & Suites. This chain hotel is a few blocks east of Chinatown. The hotel has an onsite restaurant, but many other dining options are available in the area.
- Hotel Harrington. This historic hotel is a short trip from the White House and has three onsite restaurants. It even has a gift shop with an eclectic mixture of knickknacks.
Chinatown Mid-Range Hotels
- Metro Suite DC. Located just north of Chinatown, this rental is a fully furnished apartment with a living area and a fully equipped kitchen. It’s a good choice if you plan on staying for more than a couple of days.
- Motto by Hilton Washington DC City Center. Enjoy views of Chinatown from this three-star hotel. It’s a small hotel, which means that space is limited.
Chinatown Luxury Hotels
- Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington DC. A stay at this luxurious hotel is surprisingly affordable. You’ll get the celebrity treatment without breaking your budget. The hotel also boasts an onsite restaurant and lounge.
- Riggs Washington DC. Riggs is another decently priced hotel with high-end furnishings and large rooms. Many of the rooms also include views of the city.
Georgetown is an upscale neighborhood and contains more residential areas compared to other parts of Washington, DC. With fewer historical attractions and landmarks, Georgetown is also less crowded.
Georgetown is mostly known for being home to Georgetown University, which helps prepare the next generation of leaders and public policy decision-makers. The area near the university includes bookstores and college bars.
If you want to shop or eat, walk over to Wisconsin Avenue, which runs through the center of the neighborhood. It’s the main commercial strip and where you’ll find the most shops and restaurants.
Georgetown isn’t as busy or crowded as most of the other parts of DC, making it a great choice for families. While the area has college bars, it doesn’t have the most vibrant nightlife scene.
Those wanting to party or see the most important historical sites may want to stay in other areas. Georgetown is further from the main sights in Washington, DC. You’ll likely need to take a taxi, bus, or subway line to reach the attractions in and around downtown DC.
Things to Do
- Shop and dine on Wisconsin Avenue.
- Ride a kayak or a paddleboard down the Potomac River.
- Take a tour of Tudor Place, which is a historic home that belonged to the descendants of Martha Washington for six generations.
- Take a stroll through the 27-acre Dumbarton Oaks Park, which sits at the highest point in Georgetown.
Where to Eat
- Clyde’s of Georgetown is a local chain with burgers and other classic menu items.
- 1310 Kitchen & Bar is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike, with craft cocktails and fancy dishes.
- Visit Falafel Inc for falafel, sandwiches, or salad.
Georgetown Budget Hotels
- ARC HOTEL Washington DC. Located further from Georgetown, this is one of the most affordable places in the area. You can grab breakfast each morning from the onsite café and order drinks at night from the bar.
- The Georgetown House Inn. This small hotel offers comfy accommodations at low prices for the Georgetown neighborhood. The rooms also include a shared kitchen, with access to coffee, orange juice, and tea.
Georgetown Mid-Range Hotels
- The Graham Georgetown. The waterfront park is a short walk from this stylish hotel. It’s a trendy spot with a rooftop bar and a cocktail cellar. It also has a fitness center and a business center.
- Georgetown Inn. The antique and traditional décor give this hotel a ritzy atmosphere. It’s also near the waterfront and a short walk from Tudor Place.
Georgetown Luxury Hotels
- Four Seasons Washington DC. Stay near the waterfront at this renowned luxury hotel. You’ll receive in-room dining options and access to an indoor heated lap pool.
- The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown. This is one of the priciest hotels in Washington, DC. It has two onsite restaurants and a full-service fitness center but stands out for the large guest rooms with fantastic views of the river and downtown DC.
5. Capitol Hill
As the name suggests, the Capitol Hill area is home to the US Capitol. The Capitol sits on top of Jenkins’ Hill, which is now commonly called “Capitol Hill”.
The US Capitol Building and the National Mall are iconic sights that you must see, even if you choose not to stay on Capitol Hill. The Capitol Visitor Center is open Monday through Saturday throughout the year.
Along with the capitol, this neighborhood has the Library of Congress and the United States Botanic Garden. Barracks Row is another must-see destination known for its selection of high-end restaurants.
If you come during baseball season, you can also try to catch a home game at Nationals Park, which is the home field for the Washington Nationals.
As with downtown DC, Capitol Hill is a great place to stay for those that want to visit the capitol’s landmarks. It’s also a little pricey and crowded, which may not appeal to those traveling with a large group.
Things to Do
- Take a tour of the US Capitol Building and see the rotunda, the crypt, and other historic areas of the building.
- Tour the Library of Congress, which has the honor of being the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution.
- Admire the plant life at the United States Botanic Garden on the grounds of the US Capitol.
- Enjoy baseball and hotdogs at Nationals Park.
Where to Eat
- Crazy Aunt Helen’s offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner at great prices.
- Visit Good Stuff Eatery for burgers, shakes, fries, and salads.
- Ted’s Bulletin is a favorite spot for DC workers and politicians needing a quick lunch, with a menu that includes burgers, sandwiches, and more.
- Enjoy pizza and beer at the posh Matchbox restaurant on 8th Street.
Capitol Hill Budget Hotels
- Phoenix Park Hotel. Due to the limited selection of hotels in Capitol Hill, you may need to stay just outside the neighborhood, such as at this hotel a few blocks northeast. It’s cheap and shielded from the hustle and bustle of the city.
- YOTEL Washington DC. Affordable hotel next to the Phoenix Park Hotel. The rooms are small, but you’ll likely spend most of your time exploring the city.
Capitol Hill Mid-Range Hotels
- Homewood Suites by Hilton. Located south of I-695, this hotel is just a few steps away from the metro station, allowing you to quickly reach the center of Capitol Hill or any other area of DC. The guest rooms resemble just about any other business hotel.
- Sonder Callisto. This quaint little hotel has charming guest rooms with modern furniture and lots of natural sunlight. You’ll also get a fully equipped kitchen.
Capitol Hill Luxury Hotels
- AC Hotel. This is another option located across the highway from Capitol Hill. The hotel has a terrace that gives you one of the best views of the DC skyline.
- Capitol Hill Hotel. As one of the only hotels in the immediate Capitol Hill area, this is a popular choice for those wanting to stay in the neighborhood. The rooms include modern conveniences, including a fully equipped kitchen.
6. Dupont Circle
Dupont Circle is the cultural center of the capitol. The “circle” is at the intersection of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire Avenues, but the surrounding blocks are part of this vibrant neighborhood.
Dupont Circle is home to many art galleries, museums, and other cultural attractions. You’ll also find an assortment of the hip, trendy coffee shops, boutiques, and restaurants. Head over to Connecticut Avenue for the neighborhood’s best dive bars and dance clubs.
Visitors also typically enjoy walking around and admiring the architecture. Embassy Row is a section of Massachusetts Avenue with stately manors built in the late 1800s. Several embassies and attractions are also found on Embassy Row, including the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial.
The variety of galleries and important sites make Dupont Circle the best area in DC for culture. It also has a lively nightlife scene but remains a great place for families during the daytime.
Things to Do
- Take a walk down Embassy Row to see the historic homes and embassies that line the street.
- View works of art from Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and other masters at The Phillips Collection.
- Take a tour of the inside of the Heurich House Museum, which is a gilded age mansion in the center of the neighborhood.
- Check out the latest upcoming local artists at the Dupont Underground Art Gallery.
Where to Eat
- Alero Restaurant is a Mexican restaurant known for its margaritas and vibrant atmosphere.
- Sit outdoors while feasting on Greek cuisine at Zorba’s Café.
- BIBIBOP Asian Grill offers health-minded cuisine inspired by Korean bibimbap.
- Pizzeria Paradiso is a casual pizzeria with wood-fired pizzas and a large selection of beer.
Dupont Circle Budget Hotels
- The Churchill Hotel. Located near Embassy Row and the metro station, this hotel is a top choice for those traveling on a budget. The hotel has a lounge and grill with cocktails and snacks.
- Hotel Madera. Low-cost hotel near the center of Dupont Circle. The rooms are cozy and decorated in muted colors.
Dupont Circle Mid-Range Hotels
- The Ven at Embassy Row. Enjoy views of Embassy Row from the rooftop terrace. The hotel also has an outdoor pool with cabanas and a lounge.
- Residence Inn Washington DC. Located in the center of Dupont Circle, this hotel offers comfortable accommodations with full kitchens. Your room will have an oven and a fridge.
Dupont Circle Luxury Hotels
- The Dupont Circle Hotel. This is one of the most luxurious hotels in the area but includes a variety of rooms for almost any budget. The hotel also offers first-class service and a 24-hour front desk.
- The Mansion on O Street. As the name suggests, this hotel is a converted mansion found on O Street. The rooms are furnished with antiques and traditional décor.
Where Should You Stay in Washington, DC?
You’ve now explored six of the best places to stay in Washington, DC. If you’re visiting for the first time, consider staying in the downtown or Capitol Hill areas.
Georgetown and Dupont Circle are great for families while Logan Circle has the best nightlife.
If you want the best prices, look for a hotel in Chinatown. Pick the spot that offers access to the attractions you want and find a hotel that fits your budget and itinerary for visiting Washington, DC.