If you’re looking for the best Washington DC neighborhoods, you’ll have a lot to consider. While Washington, DC brings to mind images of iconic monuments like The White House and the Washington Monument, there is so much to the city beyond the surface.
I’m a local who lives in Washington DC.
In this guide, I’ll tell you the best neighborhoods to check out when you visit DC. I’ll share all the popular neighborhoods but also a few lesser-known hidden gems.
Whether you’re coming for a short stay to explore DC’s attractions, or are looking for your next home to settle down, there is something for everyone on this list.
Table of Contents
- Best Neighborhoods in Washington DC
- Downtown / National Mall
- Adams Morgan
- Capitol Hill
- Cardozo / U Street
- Logan Circle
- Dupont Circle
- Columbia Heights
- Navy Yard
- Foggy Bottom
- Woodley Park
- Southwest Waterfront / The Wharf
- FAQs About Washington DC Neighborhoods
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Best Neighborhoods in Washington DC
A lively shopping district with luxury stores, restaurants, a waterfront, and classic colonial row homes.
Georgetown sits on the banks of the Potomac River and is one of the most famous neighborhoods in Washington DC. Georgetown is home to Georgetown University, one of the nation’s most prestigious colleges. The neighborhood is characterized by cobblestone streets and colonial row homes.
Georgetown is also a popular neighborhood for shopping, with many fashionable stores like Alice + Olivia and Reformation. The famous Georgetown Cupcakes also calls this neighborhood home. But I suggest trying the local Baked and Wired to get your cupcake fix.
Walk down the banks of the Potomac or grab a drink and dinner at Nick’s Riverside Grill. From the Georgetown Waterfront Park, you can board a river cruise. Enjoy dinner and drinks with uninterrupted views of the Kennedy Center and the Watergate Hotel.
In the winter, Georgetown hosts DC’s largest outdoor ice skating rink. The summers have movie nights in the park. Rent paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes from The Key Bridge Boathouse to explore the Potomac River.
Pros of Georgetown
- Plenty of indoor and outdoor activities
- Great shopping and dining options
Cons of Georgetown
- Homes in this neighborhood are not the most affordable
- There are no metro stations in Georgetown
A trendy DC neighborhood with restaurants and rapid urban development.
NoMa stands for North of Massachusetts Avenue. This is a trendy neighborhood where many young professionals work and play. NoMa, as it exists now, is a relatively new neighborhood, as the area has gone through drastic development and a name change.
Union Market is one of the biggest draws of the NoMa neighborhood. This food hall features local favorites. I suggest trying Immigrant Food, Lucky Buns, and The Creamery. Union Market also has a rooftop bar called The Hi-Lawn and drive-in movie nights in the summer.
NoMa is nearby downtown and metro accessible, requiring only a few stops to be by the monuments and on the Mall. The metro accessibility also makes NoMa one of the best neighborhoods in Washington DC to live without a car.
Pros of NoMa Neighborhood
- New apartments catered towards young professionals
- Walkable neighborhood and metro accessible
- Many restaurants, eateries, and bars for nightlife
Cons of NoMa Neighborhood
- Many of the apartments are in the higher price range
- There is some crime in the area
Downtown / National Mall
Downtown is home to all the iconic sights of Washington, DC.
Downtown Washington is home to The National Mall. Downtown Washington is not a very residential neighborhood, but it is one of the best DC neighborhoods for tourists looking for a central place to stay near DC’s attractions.
The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial are also all in the area. The White House on Pennsylvania Avenue sits above the mall. Spend the day touring the White House or taking the elevator to the top of the Washington Monument.
The best way to get around the National Mall is by scooter, biking, or walking. DC’s Capital Bikeshare is great for renting a bike for the day.
The Tidal Basin is the home of the iconic cherry blossoms, which bloom in bright pink and white in the springtime. Downtown, visit DC’s famous Smithsonian Museums and the US Botanic Garden. Gallery Nights at the National Gallery of Art are a sought-after event in the city.
At the end of the National Mall are the Capitol and the Library of Congress, both of which offer tours. The Library of Congress is known for having a Gutenberg Bible and exceptional rotating exhibits.
Pros of Downtown / National Mall Neighborhood
- Many iconic sights and monuments
- Plenty of museums, most of which have free admission
- Metro and public transit are accessible
Cons of Downtown / National Mall Neighborhood
- It can be busy and have lots of traffic
- More spread out than many realize, so prepare to walk
- Not very residential
A funky neighborhood with locally owned stores and vibrant nightlife.
Adams Morgan has historic row homes and new apartment buildings, making it one of the most popular Washington DC neighborhoods for young professionals and families.
18th Street, which runs through the center of the Adams Morgan neighborhood, is a vibrant commercial area. Tryst is a go-to all-day coffee shop that is an ideal place to work or read a book. The DINER is the spot for a classic breakfast or brunch. Head to Roofers Union for food and drinks and to Madam’s Organ to enjoy live music every night.
Adams Morgan Day is an annual street festival with music and local vendors. Though the evenings and nights may see the bustle from the bar crowd, the residential areas are generally quiet. The neighborhood borders Meridian Hill Park, which regularly hosts weekend events.
Pros of Adams Morgan Neighborhood
- Vibrant commercial district with stores, restaurants, and bars
- Quiet streets are good for both families and young adults
- Walkable neighborhoods and close-knit communities
Cons of Adams Morgan Neighborhood
- Not the most metro accessible, but it’s a short walk from surrounding metro stops
- Renting and buying in this area of DC can be expensive
A historic neighborhood with classic row houses near the seat of government.
Classic 19th-century row houses and mature trees line the streets of Capitol Hill. Restaurants like Santa Rosa Taqueria and eat brgz are Capitol Hill favorites for casual dining. Nearby Barracks Row is a quick walk, and the micro-neighborhood has pubs such as Valor Brewpub.
Eastern Market is another draw to Capitol Hill. The late 19th-century building is the home for local pasta makers, bakers, and grocers. On the weekends, Eastern Market hosts one of the biggest markets in the city. Vendors from around the area sell handmade goods, food, and vintage finds.
Pros of Capitol Hill Neighborhood
- Historic and beautiful row homes in quiet neighborhoods
- Walkable neighborhood with nearby amenities
- Close to downtown
Cons of Capitol Hill Neighborhood
- Expensive single-family homes
Cardozo / U Street
A lively neighborhood steeped in Black history and culture.
📍 Google Maps | School Districts: District of Columbia Public Schools
Cardozo has beautiful row homes. But what this DC neighborhood is especially known for is the U Street Corridor. U Street was a center for black culture, where jazz musician Duke Ellington often played.
Ben’s Chili Bowl is probably the street’s most famous restaurant and a favorite of celebrities, politicians, and locals. 14th Street features an eclectic mix of locally owned stores. Check out Joint Custody for records, Little Leaf Shop for plants, and Ice Cream Jubilee.
U Street Corridor and surrounding streets are now one of DC’s go-to places for nightlife. Sully’s offers a charming dive bar experience. Rooftop nightclub Lost Society is the perfect place for a night out with friends. Concert venues 9:30 Club and Black Cat host large artists as well as local musicians.
Pros of Cardozo / U Street Neighborhood
- Plenty of black history and culture
- Lively nightlife and entertainment
- Great dining and shopping
- Metro and transit accessible
Cons of Cardozo / U Street Neighborhood
- The area can be busy and rowdy, especially at night
- There are some instances of crime
Logan Circle mixes hip and trendy entertainment with historic architecture.
The Logan Circle neighborhood of DC is characterized by marvelous architecture. Logan Circle is also where you’ll find the childhood home of jazz musician Duke Ellington.
Luxury apartments and historic row homes are the main housing options. Restaurants like Le Diplomate are a favorite amongst locals in and outside of Logan Circle.
14th Street is the main commercial thoroughfare and runs into U Street. Logan Circle is very walkable, with U Street, Adams Morgan, and Dupont Circle being a quick walk.
Pros of Logan Circle Neighborhood
- Walkable and near other neighborhoods
- Good for dining and nightlife
- Quiet streets
Cons of Logan Circle Neighborhood
- No close stops on the metro
A neighborhood with deep ties to Black history and culture.
📍 Google Maps | Neighborhood Website | School Districts: District of Columbia Public Schools
Anacostia is one of DC’s oldest neighborhoods with a rich Black history. The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site and house in Anacostia preserves much of the abolitionist’s life and objects. Take a guided tour of this historic house and the grounds to get a glance into history.
The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum is dedicated to current Anacostia. The life and challenges of the neighborhood’s Black residents are on display. Walk and bike the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail or explore the Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens.
Visit local eateries like Mama’s Pizza. See a performance at the Anacostia Playhouse and go skating at the Skating Pavilion. This DC neighborhood has many affordable single-family homes. Many young adults and families are buying their first homes in the neighborhood.
Pros of Anacostia Neighborhood
- Affordable homes for families and young adults
- Close-knit community feel
- Many small and locally owned businesses
- Metro accessible and walkable
- Public parks and river walks
Cons of Anacostia Neighborhood
- Pockets of crime in the neighborhood
Dupont Circle offers a social meeting spot with a vibrant energy.
Dupont has a central circle with a park and a fountain that many people enjoy picnicking and reading on a nice day. Off the circle, restaurants like Pizza Paradiso, Kramers, and Mi Casa offer great casual dining. Board Room, a board game bar, offers a unique weekend night out with friends.
Dupont Circle is the home to The Phillips Collection, the country’s first museum for modern art. Check out the architecture of Embassy Row. Embassy events welcome visitors to learn more about their country’s culture and heritage.
The Dupont Circle farmers’ market is a favorite in the city. The year-round market on Sundays is a great place to buy produce and support local businesses.
Pros of Dupont Circle Neighborhood
- Walkable neighborhood
- Nearby other trendy DC neighborhoods
- Great local shops, restaurants, and bars
- Metro accessible
- Interesting events
Cons of Dupont Circle Neighborhood
- Can get busy, especially on the weekends
- More expensive area to rent and buy
A diverse and close-knit community with a variety of entertainment options.
📍 Google Maps | School Districts: District of Columbia Public Schools
Columbia Heights is diverse in population, entertainment, and architecture. This DC neighborhood has a large Hispanic population. Eat at Mi Cuba Cafe and visit the GALA Hispanic Theater for productions.
There are embassies on 16th Street and residential streets lined with rowhomes. Residents enjoy picnicking in Meridian Hill Park, biking through the neighborhood, and close access to Rock Creek Park.
Pros of Columbia Heights Neighborhood
- Residential and commercial districts
- More affordable housing and housing diversity
- Close to parks
- Metro accessible
Cons of Columbia Heights Neighborhood
- Traffic and congestion in commercial areas
- Some crime in the area
Shaw is a historic DC neighborhood with trendy shops and restaurants.
Shaw is steeped in Black history and current Black culture. The neighborhood is most well-known for being the home of Howard University, a historically black university.
The historic Howard Theatre has hosted many black artists, including Kendrick Lamar and Chaka Khan. Get a view of the neighborhood from the rooftop of Takoda, or grab a drink and a snack from food trucks at Electric Cool-Aid.
Many of the young people of Shaw enjoy being within walking distance of the bars and restaurants of U Street and Chinatown. Nearby Le Droit Park offers a more residential feel with rowhomes on quiet streets.
Pros of Shaw Neighborhood
- Central location that’s very walkable.
- Nearby other trendy entertainment districts.
- Metro accessible.
- The Convention Center is in the area.
Cons of Shaw Neighborhood
- It can be a congested and busy area.
- Some crime in the area.
A small historic district with a big personality near Downtown DC.
Chinatown is one of the smallest neighborhoods in DC, but it has a big personality. The large arch with Chinese architecture welcomes people to the neighborhood. Many of the building’s signs have Chinese script.
The metro entrance leads onto the main road, where you’ll find restaurants and the rooftop bar Crimson Whiskey Bar. There’s also a Regal movie theater. Capital One Arena is what draws visitors and locals to the area.
In the neighboring Penn Quarter, there are luxury shops like Paul Stuart and Carolina Herrera.
Pros of Chinatown Neighborhood
- Walkable and metro accessible
- Many entertainment options
- Near downtown and other entertainment districts
Cons of Chinatown Neighborhood
- Busy and congested
- Some crime in the area
A waterfront neighborhood that’s also an entertainment haven.
Navy Yard has undergone rapid redevelopment and has become a place for Washingtonians to unwind. Nationals’ Park, the baseball stadium, and Audi Field, the soccer arena, are where sports fans enjoy spending their weekends.
Check out the Bullpen for live music, food and drink vendors, and a space to hang out with friends. All Purpose and Dacha Beer Garden are great for date nights and friend meetups. The Capitol Riverfront has Friday night concerts, and the stadium often hosts bigger bands.
- Sports venues, restaurants, and river walks offer entertainment options
- Metro-accessible and walkable
- Some areas are expensive to live
A historic and beautiful DC neighborhood situated along the water.
Foggy Bottom is beloved for its downtown and waterfront location and its historical significance. The Kennedy Center overlooks the Potomac River and is one of the largest performing arts centers. The concert hall has near-daily performances featuring musicals, plays, and concerts.
The Watergate Building, which houses apartments, a hotel, and a French restaurant, is also a draw to the neighborhood. The southernmost tip of Rock Creek Park extends to Foggy Bottom, creating a place for riverside walks and bike rides.
The George Washington University campus calls several blocks of the neighborhood home. Georgetown and Downtown are within a few blocks walk.
Pros of Foggy Bottom Neighborhood
- Walkable neighborhood and central location
- Urban downtown setting with restaurants and shops
- Close to George Washington University
Cons of Foggy Bottom Neighborhood
- Can be congested
A quiet, outdoor-centric neighborhood with iconic attractions.
Woodley Park is one of the best neighborhoods in DC to get a quiet suburban feel mixed with some urban influences. The Smithsonian Zoological Park is the neighborhood’s biggest draw for locals and visitors alike.
Part of Rock Creek extends near Woodley Park. There are walking and biking trails and picnic spots along the babbling creek. Quaint cafes and restaurants like Open City and Han Palace are neighborhood favorites. Neighboring Cleveland Park is a similar area within a quick walk.
Pros of Woodley Park Neighborhood
- The zoo and Rock Creek Park are within walking distance
- A mix of apartments, condos, and single-family homes
- Metro accessible
Cons of Woodley Park Neighborhood
- Homes in the area are on the expensive end
👉 Read Next: Best Day Trips from Washington DC
Southwest Waterfront / The Wharf
A historic DC neighborhood with newly developed entertainment and dining spots and panoramic views of the river.
The Southwest Waterfront is located right on the Potomac River and takes full advantage of its location. Purchase crabs, crab legs, shrimp, and lobster at the long-running open-air market right on the water.
The Wharf has vibrant nightlife and dining that draws crowds. Rappahannock Oyster Bar is the place for fresh seafood. Mi Vida, a Mexican restaurant, has a second floor with uninterrupted views of the water. Visit The Anthem or see an outdoor movie.
Overall, it is one of the best DC neighborhoods for dining, entertainment, and beautiful waterfront views.
Pros of Southwest Waterfront / The Wharf Neighborhood
- Plenty of dining, bars, and entertainment areas
- Beautiful views of the water and the city
Cons of Southwest Waterfront / The Wharf Neighborhood
- Cost of living and entertainment can be higher
👉 Wondering About DC School Districts? Washington DC’s single public school district is the District of Columbia Public Schools. DC also has a charter school system. You can use this DC school finder to find nearby schools by entering a DC address.
FAQs About Washington DC Neighborhoods
What are some affordable neighborhoods to live in Washington, DC?
Affordable neighborhoods in Washington DC include Takoma, Brookland, Mount Pleasant, and many neighborhoods in Southeast. Washington, DC has a higher cost of living than other cities, but these are examples of more relatively affordable areas.
What are family-friendly neighborhoods in Washington, DC?
Washington, DC neighborhoods are diverse. Each neighborhood has different cultural and historical backgrounds and offers entertainment options and unique things to do.
I hope this guide has helped you find the best neighborhoods in DC for you. Next up, check out our guide to the best things to do in DC.
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