Washington D.C. is bustling with politics, lawyers, and businessmen, but the truth is that D.C. really is a city of art. The buildings, the museums, the locals – all of it is caked in art and aesthetics. The beauty of the city is the balance – the balance between the politicians and the musicians, the painters and the government workers. They all marvel at the same white stoned architecture, and stare at the same famous paintings hanging around their city. Washington D.C. unites people and we think that in itself, makes it worth a visit.
When visiting Washington D.C., it’s very important to keep in mind two things: you will be on your feet constantly and there will be quite long lines for activities. To prepare for your visit, bring good walking shoes and plan your day according to the lines. Do the more touristy things during off-peak hours when the attractions and activities may not be as crowded, and eat the same way. We recommend doing the national monuments (hello Mr. Lincoln!) in the morning before the crowds. They are within walking distance of each other, and it will be a nice way to get some fresh air. Enjoy the magnificent architecture and let yourself be inspired. It is truly beautiful, so have your camera ready.
Grab brunch instead of breakfast, since the early morning commuters will crowd the coffee shops and bakeries. D.C. is a working city and crowded so aim to grab your breakfast when they are in the office. We love the pastries at Dolcezza, a local Italian chain. They have the smoothest coffee and they serve gelato. The tables are lined with fresh flowers, and the service is always great no matter which location you choose to try.
Save the bulk of your daylight for visiting the museums. They close at 5pm usually, and you won’t want to miss their exhibits! Our favourite spots are the National Gallery of Art, The Natural History Museum, American History Museum, and The Portrait Gallery.
Admission is free to all of the Smithsonian Museums, and the things on display range from Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, to original Van Gogh paintings, famous fossils and dinosaurs, to U.S. Presidential portraits.
The most crowded museums are the Natural, American and Space Museums so if you do those, make sure to carve out more time than usual.
While you can grab lunch in the museums, we suggest going elsewhere. Lining the museums are a bunch of delicious food trucks. They serve everything from waffles to Egyptian food, so definitely check those out while you’re there. It’s a great way to get a diverse taste of the city, all while sticking close to the museums in the process. If you end up wanting a snack in between, D.C. is famous for its frozen lemonade vendors, so keep your eye out for those!
If you plan on buying souvenirs on your trip, we love purchasing them in any of the museum gift shops, and we adored the National Gallery of Art one in particular. Watches engraved with Monet paintings, Degas coloruing books, prints of Picasso, and mugs with Andy Warhol quotes fill the shop – definitely opt for these if you prefer something a little more unique.
Wander the neighbourhoods of Capitol Hill, and enjoy the local artists painting, musicians panhandling, and farmers markets throughout the year.
The town homes are brick and lined with ivy, and the views of the Capitol are wonderful – make sure to tour it for free. Their ceilings are masterpieces in themselves, but the art is especially beautiful. Afterwards, head down the hill to the Botanic Garden. This is by far our favourite thing to do in the city and will leave you awestruck. Entry is once again free, and the garden itself is dreamy. Jungle plants, fountains, and glass reflecting it all… it’s paradise right in the middle of a typically busy, bustling city.
If you end up wanting to use the metro, we suggest heading to Georgetown – a suburb of D.C.. It’s home to the scenic Georgetown University, famous Georgetown Cupcakes shop, and the coolest little bookstores. Being very walk-able, you can taste wine in little cellars and explore old art galleries.
When it comes to dinner time, we suggest one of two places. There’s Pi Pizzeria, which is near the Portrait Gallery, and has the best pizza the city has to offer in our opinion. Huge slices, local ingredients, and a great local vibe had us swooning over this little brick shop. The second option is GCDC, and this grilled cheese eatery is closer to the Reagan Building. Think gourmet grilled cheese (gluten free and vegan options too!) and the best sangria. Both restaurants are insanely good, and great options for a locally sourced menu.
While these eateries have fabulous dessert menus, we love the options in Union Station. The train station has stunning vault ceilings, European decor, and yes, lots of options for dessert! It’s a fun way to munch on something sweet, while taking in the grandeur of European influenced artistry.
To end your day, we love finding a spot near the monuments or on the National Mall itself, and watching the sun go down over the Potomac and marble buildings of the city.
The sunset colours reflect off the water, and turn the white buildings peach and pink like a kaleidoscope. It’s truly beautiful, and we don’t think anyone should miss it while in D.C.
While the city may be very political, Washington D.C. is so much more than that. It’s sangria with grilled cheese and morning gelato, white marble and painted ceilings, and hours of museum hopping… but most importantly, it is art.