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    Georgetown: discovering the historic district of Washington DC

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    Often, when one thinks of Washington, one thinks above all of the museums, monuments, memorials and symbolic buildings that arise in the National Mall area, but the capital of the United States has much more to offer. Today we explore a neighborhood, Georgetown, which will especially fascinate the tourist in search of the characteristic attraction: narrow streets with picturesque colored houses, alleys full of history, red brick sidewalks, sumptuous nineteenth-century villas and the typical vitality of a university district make Georgetown one of the most sought after and pleasant districts both to visit and to live (if you can afford it of course) among the great American cities.

    The neighborhood, inhabited in the past by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, Francis Scott Key and Elizabeth Taylor, is full of houses dating back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and perhaps its main peculiarity is precisely that of being able to to bring together different souls, from the historical one to that of entertainment and nightlife, from the university to the more residential one. So let's get ready for a walk to discover the many faces of Georgetown, one of the most fascinating neighborhoods in America.


    • How to reach us
    • What to see in Georgetown: map of areas and main attractions
      • M Street and surroundings: between history, shopping and restaurants
      • Georgetown University
      • Residential streets, red bricks and colorful houses
      • Georgetown Waterfront Park
      • Between museums, parks and historic cemeteries
    • Where to sleep to visit Georgetown

    How to reach us

    Compared to Washington's museum area, the neighborhood is located in the North West in a slightly more peripheral area. The district borders are to the south with the river Potomac, to the west with Foundry Branch Valley park, to the north with Burleith and Hillandale, and to the east with the Rock Creek River. The best way to reach the area is the DC Circulator, a bus that leaves you in the middle of M Street, the main shopping street (for timetables and stops, consult the official website). with the subway it is a bit more inconvenient as you will have to walk 10-15 minutes from the nearest station, Foggy Bottom (blue, orange and gray lines). Cross the bridge over Rock Creek and you will be in Georgetown, right on its main thoroughfare, M Street.

    Are you headed to Washington? You discover...
    • The best areas to sleep
    • What to see in 1 day
    • How to get around the city
    • I National Mall
    • How to outline an itinerary based on the days available
    • The Best Time to Visit Washington
    • Where to eat in Washington

    What to see in Georgetown: map of areas and main attractions

    Unless you limit yourself to just exploring M Street, as many tourists usually do, you will soon realize that the neighborhood is much larger and that a single day will not be enough to visit it thoroughly. So let's see all that Georgetown has to offer:

    M Street and surroundings: between history, shopping and restaurants

    Here is the main thoroughfare of Georgetown, where all await you shops and restaurants of the area, but even if you do not intend to go shopping or have a snack, it is still worth taking a walk along this pleasant street that reveals a little the soul of the neighborhood. Not only that: long M Street and surroundings you will also find some pleasant surprises, for example these historical attractions:

    M Street

    Places of historical interest around M Street

    • at number 3051, near the intersection with Thomas Jefferson Street, you will see a house very different from all the others, it is the pretty Old Stone House, the oldest house in Washington DC, built in 1765 and still perfectly preserved (at the moment it cannot be visited inside)
    • another piece of history, although more modern, is located a little further on: after a block, turning left you will find, on the corner with C&O channel (exactly at 1054 31st Street NW), a red brick building whose importance is explained by the plaque on the wall. This was once the headquarters of the Tabulating Machine Company, manufacturer of one of the first data processing machines designed by Herman Hollerith, essentially the forerunner of modern personal computers.
    • a pleasant long walk C&O Channel: this ancient canal completed in 1850 runs parallel to M Street and is part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, which stretches from Georgetown to Cumberland in Maryland. The canal has operated for nearly 100 years allowing the transport of goods along the region, now, the entire route offers numerous historical and naturalistic points of interest.
    • if your craving for history hasn't subsided yet, don't worry, the is waiting for you down the road Francis Scott Key Memorial, the author of the American anthem The Star-Spangled Banner, a pleasant place to rest for a while after a long walk.
    Old Stone House
    C&O Channel
    Tabulating Machine Company
    Francis Scott Key Memorial. Photo by John Leszczynskii

    Where to eat

    If, on the other hand, it is your appetite that arouses your main interests, know that in this street you will find a remarkable concentration of ethnic restaurants: Vietnamese, French, Indian, Thai, Mexican, Spanish, Spanish and of course the good old American burger.

    • if you want to know the place where JFK asked Jacqueline Kennedy to marry him go to Martin’s Tavern, in Wisconsin Avenue;
    • if you are looking for something sweet Georgetown Cupcake, at the corner of 33rd Street, it is a real institution;
    • if you are in the mood for an Irish pub the Ri Ra | it is an excellent choice not only for the quality of the dishes but also for the evocative setting (have you ever had a beer at the counter in front of a statue of St. Patrick?);
    • also among the most popular in the entire district is the Belgian restaurant Sovereign, ideal for lovers of beer and rustic cuisine.
    Ri Ra |
    Martin’s Tavern

    Music, film locations and shopping

    Here are some other ideas to embellish the visit of M Street and its immediate surroundings:

    • for music lovers there is one place not to be missed, the Blues Alley Club, one of the best places to listen to live blues and jazz music (if you are passionate about the genre you should not miss it U Street, where clubs of this kind abound);
    • horror film fans won't want to miss the Exorcist stairs, at 3600 Prospect Street, a side street off M Street (two blocks up the Francis Scott Key Memorial);
    • those in search of shopping will be spoiled for choice: they can choose from the many shops that camp along M Street and surroundings or fall back on Georgetown Park, the reference shopping center in the area.
    Blues Alley
    Stairway of the Exorcist
    Shopping a Georgetown Park

    Georgetown University

    Georgetown University

    Founded in 1789, this is the first Catholic university in the United States and a truly beautiful building to explore. You can lose even more than 1 hour walking in its beautiful green lawns and admiring its Victorian architecture made of red bricks, turrets topped by pointed spiers, stone windows and wooden doors. The interiors are also worth a visit, especially the gorgeous and elegant Georgetown University Library. In the central courtyard you will find the church Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart, built in 1892.

    Georgetown University Library
    Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart

    Residential streets, red bricks and colorful houses

    36 Street South West

    If there is one particularly pleasant feature of Georgetown it is its residential streets, with the typical colorful townhouses placed side by side on red brick sidewalks. If you are looking for the picturesque corner to photograph, here are some roads that I recommend you take:

    • 36 Street South West, from the intersection with N Street and P Street (38.907053, -77.070317)
    • P Street, in particular from the intersection with 27th Street (38.909389, -77.055606)
    • Prospect Street, at the intersection with 37 Street NW (38.905856, -77.071529)
    • Olive Street, at the intersection with 27th NW Street (38.906102, -77.056111)
    • Along the C&O Channel from Jefferson Street e 31 Street (38.904275, -77.060143)
    • Al 3307 on N Street find the house where JFK and his wife Jackie lived between 1958 and 1961 (38.906963, -77.066428)
    Houses along the C&O canal
    P Street
    Olive Street
    Kennedy house

    To help you in the search you can have located them in this interactive map:

    Georgetown Waterfront Park

    Washington harbor

    Completed only recently (in 2011), the park of the Georgetown Riverfront it quickly became one of the neighborhood's flagships. It extends from the bridge Key Bridge up to Washington harbor for over 400km running more or less parallel to M Street and the C&O Canal, it is a really nice environment to enjoy some relaxation and rest. You can stroll along the promenade along the Potomac River, cycle the Capital Crescent Trail (a 13-mile route), rent a kayak, take a small river cruise, or stop at the Washington harbor, a beautiful shopping complex built around a circular square full of fountains (illuminated at night), which houses restaurants, shops and an ice skating rink.

    Between museums, parks and historic cemeteries


    In the north of the district are some of the most interesting attractions of Georgetown:

    • dumbarton-oaks: splendid nineteenth-century villa which currently serves as an academic study center; the museum, in which interesting exhibitions are often set up, can be visited for free while the gardens are subject to a fee. Guided tours are also available. The site, in addition to the beauty of the architecture and gardens, is interesting from a historical point of view, in fact the conference was held here in 1944 that laid the foundations for the birth of the UN. Official site.
    • Tudor place: beautiful neoclassical villa surrounded by 2 hectares of gardens dating back to 1816 and belonged to the granddaughter of George Washington's wife. Today it houses a collection of over 8000 historical objects (many from Mount Vernon) from the period 1750-1983 and XNUMXth century style gardens which are worth a visit. For info on timetables, tickets and tours visit the official website.
    • Oak Hill Cemetery: this historic cemetery completed in 1853 houses the tombstones of some important historical figures of the city, including the aforementioned Herman Hollerith, but it is much more than a simple cemetery: along the 9 hectares of the park there are memorials and monuments in Victorian style, as well as 2 structures listed on the National Register of Places of Historic Importance: the Cemetery Chapel and the Van Ness Mausoleum. Nearby you will also find the smallest Mount Zion Cemetery, dating back to 1808.
    Giardini at Dumbarton Oaks
    Tudor place
    Tudor Place Gardens
    Oak Hill Cemetery
    Van Ness Mausoleum
    Oak Hill Cemetery Chapel

    Where to sleep to visit Georgetown

    Corner of M Street and Wisconsin Avenue

    When it comes to staying overnight, there are some very good quality hotels in the neighborhood, however, sleeping in Georgetown has its pros and cons:

    • Banco Pro: staying in a beautiful neighborhood, which will give you the feeling of experiencing Washington as a local and not as a tourist, and the convenience of having all the services within walking distance.
    • Cons: the metro is not very close and very often you will want to take the less comfortable DC Circulator bus (the ticket costs 1 dollar and you should stock it up because the driver does not give change ...)

    If for you the beauty of the location is worth a small sacrifice in travel, I refer you to my tips for sleeping in Georgetown, if you prefer to take a look at all the other areas recommended for an overnight stay in the city, I suggest you read the complete guide on where to sleep in Washington.

    Tips for sleeping in Washington

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