Hostelworld Guide for Washington DC

By Colm Hanratty


Home to some of the world's most iconic landmarks, as well as the world's most powerful man, Washington DC is a surprisingly laid back city. When compared to the pace of life in other big American cities, things here are notably more relaxed. In saying that, this doesn't mean it lacks things to do or can't be enjoyable as its counterparts. It can - just on a different level. In one afternoon here you can see more instantly recognisable buildings than anywhere else in the States. You can also explore its various neighbourhoods, enjoy a host of different cuisines, or party into the early hours. Make no mistake about it - 'DC' isn't like other American cities, but this only makes it a breath of fresh air when travelling through this vast country.



In this Guide...      

Useful Information
After Dark
Places to Eat
Top Attractions
Budget Tips
Where to Shop

 The Essentials


Getting There

By air: Washington DC is served by two airports - Dulles International and Regan National. The former serves arrivals from all over the world, while the latter is purely for domestic flights. Regan is connected to the city by both the blue and yellow train lines. Dulles is also, although only from a particular stop making it more difficult to get to on train. For Dulles the bus shuttle may be the easier way to get to the city.

By rail: Amtrak serves Washington DC, with the trains stopping at Union Station on the outskirts of the city centre - a building worth visiting in its own right. It is well connected to other US cities.

By bus: If you travel to Washington DC by Greyhound Bus you will arrive at the station at 1005 1st Street NE, located very close to Union Station. For those travelling from NYC you may want to look into the Chinatown Bus which leaves and arrives in the Chinatown neighbourhoods of both cities as this is considerably cheaper than the Greyhound bus.

Getting Around

On foot: You can explore all the sights of Downtown Washington DC easily on foot. In fact, a lot of its premier attractions are within close proximity of each other. To get to other parts of the city, notably its neighbourhoods, you will need to use public transport.

By subway: DC's subway is known as the Metro and is operated by the WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority). There are five lines, each of which have a different colour. There are some very convenient stops, particularly for the city's neighbourhoods.

By bus: The city's bus network, also operated by the WMATA can also be extremely useful as buses will take you to those areas the Metro won't.

Weather in Washington DC is easily distinguishable by the seasons - winters are extremely cold. The average temperature for January is just below °C although it can get to double minus figures sometimes. Summers are extremely hot and temperatures can soar past 30°C. Like so many cities around the world, the most pleasant times to visit are in the spring or summer, when you'll experience mildly hot or mildly cold days, depending on what months you visit.

 Good to know...

Language: English
Currency: US Dollar
Electricity: 220 volts, 50 cycles
Telephone Code: +1 (USA), 0202 (Washington DC)
Emergency Code: 911 (Police / Fire / Ambulance)
Time Zone: Central Standard Time
General Post Office: 1700 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Downtown
Main Tourist Office: ???


UK: +1 202 588 6500
Canada: +1 202 682 1740
Australia: +1 202 797 3000
South Africa: +1 202 232 4400
Ireland: +1 202 462 3939
Germany: +1 202 298 4000
Spain: +1 202 728 2371
Italy: +1 202 612 4400
New Zealand: +1 202 328 4800
France: +1 202 232 6854

Hostelworld Guide for Washington DC

 Cheap Eats

 After Dark

Potbelly Sandwich Shop, 12th Street, NW, Downtown Starting off as a small antique store that doubled up as a sandwich shop back in 1977, Potbelly Sandwich Shops can be found throughout DC. Their popularity is no surprise - staff are friendly, sandwiches are fairly priced and extremely big, and there is lots to choose from. Open Mon-Fri 7am-8pm, Sat & Sun 11am-6pm

Wok and Roll, 604 H St NW, Chinatown Specialising in both Chinese food and sushi, this is one of the best value places to eat in the neighbourhood. Everything you would expect can be found on the menu, in quite large portions. Share a starter and a main with your eating partners and you'll be set. Open daily 11am-1am.

Dalchini, 1736 Connecticut Ave NW, Dupont Circle Easily one of the most affordable restaurants in the Dupont Circle neighbourhood, this is an Indian restaurant offering a host of staple Indian dishes at affordable prices. Imagine curries, rogan joshs and more. Staff are helpful and will explain anything on the menu that you don't. Open daily 11am-11pm.

 A DC institution

Ben's Chili Bowl, 1213 U Street NW, U Street Area Something of an institution in DC, this fast food restaurant specialises in all types of hot dog. Their smoked dog is their specialty though. Try one of those along with some fries and a drink and you'll leave not only full, but also feeling like you've just eaten a piece of the city's history. Open Mon-Thurs 6am-2am, Fri 6am-4am, Sat 7am-4am, Sun 11am-11pm.

Meze, 2437 18th St. NW, Adams Morgan If you're one who enjoys late night eats, this restaurant is perfect for you. After 10pm their menu changes, when you can enjoy sirloin steaks, doner kebabs, gyros and burgers for in and around $10. Open Mon-Fri 5.30pm-1.30am (2.30am Fri), Sat & Sun 11am-1.30am.

Capitol City Brewery, 1100 New York Ave. NW, Downtown If you've never experienced a 'flight' of beers, you may pay this bar a visit. A 'flight' is a selection of brews served in shooter style glasses, giving you the chance to sample the best on offer, while catching up with friends. Open 11am-midnight (Mon-Thurs), 1am (Fri & Sat), 10pm (Sun).

Public Bar, 1214 18th St NW, Dupont Circle You may think you have seen many sports bars around the world, but none can compare to this one. It's hard to imagine a bar with as many TVs. So if there’s a major sporting event taking place, and you want to soak up the atmosphere like you were at it, this is where to go. Open daily 11am-11pm (2am Fri & Sat).

 Gay / Lesbian Washington DC

When it comes to gay bars many can be found in the Dupont Circle area. JR's (1519 17th St. NW, Dupont Circle) is one of the city's best-known bars among the LGBT community, as is The Fireplace (2161 P St., NW, Dupont Circle). But if you're looking for a mega club then Town Danceboutique (2009 8th St., NW, U Street Corridor) is the place for you.

Mr Smith's, 3104 M Street NW, Georgetown Located in Washington DC's charming Georgetown neighbourhood, Mr Smith's is one of those bars that you know if you stay long enough you'll know the barmen's names by the end of the night. That, along with the singer on the piano tickling the ivory keys with familiar tunes make this one of the city's most welcoming bars. Open daily 11am-1am (2am Fri & Sat).

Madam's Organ, 2461 18th Street NW, Adam's Morgan Every now and then you find a bar that stages live bands every night of the week and Madam’s Organ is one of them. Those who grace the stage play are mainly blues/bluegrass musicians, but this well-known bar in the Adam’s Morgan neighbourhood is known to host reggae and other type bands too. Open daily 5pm-2am (3am Fri & Sat).

18th St Lounge, 1212 18th ST NW, Dupont Circle Located in a house where Teddy Roosevelt once live, 18th St Lounge is one for the cooler cats out there. With a strict dress code (no shorts allowed here guys) and a slightly pretentious feel, it's still hard to deny the fact that it's an ultra cool bar. There are different DJs playing each night of the week, giving it a slightly different vibe daily. Worth getting dressed up for. Open Tues-Sat 5.30pm-2am (3am Fri), Sat 9.30pm--3am, Sun 10pm-2am.

 Don't Miss

 Washington DC for free

Lincoln Memorial, 900 Ohio Drive SW, Downtown Honouring the USA's 16th president Abraham Lincoln - seen as one of the country's most influential leaders and one who was sadly assassinated - the Lincoln Memorial is one of the most famous memorials in the world and home to oe of the planet's most iconic statues. Aside from the statue, inside you can read two of Lincoln's most famous speeches which are inscribed its walls.

 Hello Mr President

The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Dowtown Arguably the most famous house in the world, this iconic building is where the most powerful man in the world resides. It may surprise you as to how close you can get to the railings that guards it, but this means you can get great photos for the album to show others in years to come. For a detailed history of the building, visit the White House Visitors Center at the southeast corner of 15th and E Streets.

Capitol Building, East Capitol Street NE, Downtown DC's United States Capitol Building is a monument, a working office building, and one of the most recognizable symbols of democracy all in one. Overlooking the National Mall, a number of architects worked on the building, with its famous dome being designed by Thomas U. Walter and August Schoenborn. Visitors can check out the visitors center (ocated on the East front at First Street and East Capitol Street, NE) for a detailed history of the building.

Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Downtown This extremely interactive museum has 14 major galleries and 15 theaters that will immerse you in the world's greatest news stories. Highlights include the largest display of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany, an exhibition dedicated to the events of 9/11, the taped door that led to the Watergate scandal involving Richard Nixon, and a huge collection of Pulitzer Prize photographs. Open daily 9am-5pm; admission €19.95.

National Museum of American History, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Downtown This museum showcases all kinds of artifacts (it has over 3 million in its collection) to preserve for the American people an enduring record of their past. Highlights include the original American flag, a collection of iconic dresses worn by First Ladies, and exhibitions on the most famous inventions by people from the United States. Open daily from 10am-5.30pm.

National Gallery of Art, National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW, Downtown DC's premier art gallery showcases paintings from American, British, Dutch and Flemish, Italian artists and more. Along with that you can also view sculpture, photography, architecture and more. Divided into two buildings, one focuses on older artworks while the other has a more contemporary collection. Open Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11am-6pm.

 The world we live in

National Museum of Natural History, National Mall at 10th Street and Constitution Ave., NW, Downtown Opened in 1910, this fascinating museum is dedicated to inspiring curiosity, discovery, and learning about the natural world. This is done through unparalleled research, collections, exhibitions, and education outreach programs. Make sure to leave enough time to explore it - in total it is the size of 18 football fields. Open daily from 10am-5.30pm.

National Air and Space Museum, Independence Ave at 6th Street, SW, Downtown Housing the the largest collection of historic air and spacecraft in the world, this museum is a vital center for research into the history, science, and technology of aviation and space flight. Highlights include the original Wright 1903 Flyer, the Apollo 11 command module, and a lunar rock sample that visitors actually can touch. Open daily 10am-5.30pm.

Hostelworld Guide for Washington DC