Georgetown is officially just a neighborhood in DC, but it's older than the federal city and has a unique charm - and a LOT to do.
It's on the top of our list of places to see in DC - the oldest family-run restaurant, the homes of celebrities and historical figures past and present.
What to do in Georgetown can depend a lot on YOU - traveling with kids, really into the Kennedys, on a budget, a foodie?
I'll try to include something for everyone (I can be any of these depending on the day, to be honest)
This post will explain our top things to do in Georgetown right now (autumn and winter) but most things can be done year-round.
There will be advice on getting to Georgetown - don't let the lack of Metro worry you! - where to eat, shopping, and of course more about our tours.
TOP 10 PLACES TO VISIT IN GEORGETOWN
What should you see in Georgetown? Everything!
But with so many history, architecture, and pop culture references in this neighborhood, you might not have time to see it all.
We've put together our Top Ten List of Must-See places in Georgetown:
The original waterfront was lined with sailing vessels and industrial buildings.
Today it has been reclaimed as a relaxing park and boardwalk lined with restaurants and the occasional yacht.
Watch the kayaks and rowing teams along the river.
For younger visitors, there is a splash park in the summer and a meditation walk (which my kids treat as a maze but hey!)
In summer months, the Washington Harbor Fountain lights up with music and a show and in winter it becomes an outdoor skating rink.
Opened in 2011, it has very little historic feel left to it but it's a great place for people watching.
It also offers good food with views of the Kennedy Center, Watergate, Teddy Roosevelt Island, and sunset over the Potomac River.
- Location: Along K St NW between 31st and 34th St NW
- Cost: Open to the public, no cost.
- Hours: Always!
- Fun Fact: You can get a great view of the Kennedy Center from the waterfront!
2. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal
Used for over a century, the C&O Canal was a lifeline for this port city once the river silted up.
Coal, agriculture, and other raw products traveled down this waterway and canal boatmen and their families created a distinctive community here.
The best place to start is at 1057 Thomas Jefferson Street, NW Washington, DC 20007 - technically the canal extends for 185 miles into Cumberland, MD.
The Georgetown Visitor's Center (closed through renovations) has the most picturesque views of the Georgetown portion of the canal.
- Location: South of M Street, the entire width of Georgetown. But our favorite block is between Thomas Jefferson St NW and 31 St NW
- Cost: It's a public park!
- Hours: 24/7 to visit the Canal.
- Fun Fact: If you hop on the towpath you can walk or bike all the way to Cumberland, MD!
3. Georgetown University
This historic school began in 1789 as the first Catholic/Jesuit school in the United States.
The oldest campus building still standing, Old North, is where George Washington, and many subsequent presidents, stood to address the collegiate body.
The most iconic building, Healy Hall, towers at the main gate.
- Location: 3700 O St NW Washington, DC 20007
- Cost: To wander? Free. To attend school? A lot more.
- Hours: Campus grounds are generally open.
Fun Fact: Georgetown's school colors are Blue for Union uniforms and Grey for the Confederate uniforms, adopted by the rowing team in solidarity with all the student and faculty veterans returning after the Civil War.
4. House Hunting
It's like window shopping for reality!
The cobblestone streets with historic row houses of all shapes and sizes with stunning gardens tucked away, this is a great neighborhood just to wander.
You can walk a few blocks and see a variety of architecture.
If you're looking for the cobblestone streets, those can be found on O and P Streets NW on the west side of Wisconsin Avenue.
Technically, they aren't cobblestones, they are setts but still very photogenic.
Some of our favorite places to look at are the historic alleys - Pomander Walk and Cecil Court are often considered the most beautiful spots in Georgetown.
The history of DC alleys is marred with racism and displacement of poorer, Black, and immigrant families.
We suggest knowing more about that as you visit and find these resources helpful:
5. Exorcist Steps
If you've seen the 1973 film, The Exorcist, then this staircase may look familiar.
They've always been an eerie part of town and were known as the Hitchcock Steps before the movie was filmed here in Georgetown.
The Exorcist House, where the young possessed girl lived, is just to the right of the stairs.
It was movie magic that put the two immediately next to each other.
In reality, there is a small yard and a driveway.
- Location: 3600 Prospect St NW, Washington, DC 20007
- Cost: Just your soul...
- Hours: Whenever you dare.
- Fun Fact: It's not actually haunted. But it is creepy - especially knowing that the movie was based on a true story.
This is the oldest residence in DC still standing, built in 1765, by a German immigrant, Christopher Laymen.
Through the years it has been a clockmaker's shop, a tavern, and a used car sale lot!
Owned today by the National Park Service, the Old Stone House has been restored to its nineteenth-century state.
There is a bookstore and a Park Ranger available during business hours to answer your questions.
Outside of business hours, you can still wander the English-style gardens in the back of the house.
- Location: 3051 M St NW, Washington DC 20007
- Cost: FREE
- Hours: 11 am - 6 pm (various days, depending on the season)
- Fun Fact: This was never George Washington's headquarters, but for many years that was the myth, and a sign-out front advertised visits for a nickel to those who wanted to see where the General slept!
This estate sprawls through the north of Georgetown with its magnificent architecture and garden.
Once the home to the Calhoun family amongst other early owners, it was last privately owned by Robert and Mildred Bliss.
They donated both the property and their large pre-Columbian and Byzantine art collection to Harvard University, which runs it today as a research center.
The Bliss' art collection and museum are open to the public, as is its renowned garden (ranked 6th in the world by National Geographic).
The Washington Conversations were held here in 1944 when the United Kingdom, Soviet Union, China, and the United States all joined together to discuss international peacekeeping and security forces.
It's also known as the Dumbarton Oaks Conference, which would lead to the signing of the United Nations Charter.
- Location: 3120 R Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20007
- Cost: Museum: Free, Garden: $5-8 (March 15 through October 31)/ Free (November 1 through March 14)
- Hours: Museum: 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Closed on Mondays and most Federal Holidays, Garden: 2 pm - 6 pm (March 15 through October 31)/ 2 pm - 5 pm (November 1 through March 14)
8. Tudor Place
Another Federal-style mansion, the residents of this house have always been interested in preserving the history of the house and family.
Descendants of Martha Washington and relatives of Robert E. Lee, the Peter family that lived here documented family heirlooms and architectural details of the house.
Inside you can see George Washington's Revolutionary War camp stool, the family office from the 1920s with added electricity in a unique place to protect the historic floorboards, and a closet full of clothes from the 1960s.
- Location: 1644 31st Street NW Washington, DC 20007
- Cost: $3-$10 Garden Tours: $3
- Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10 am - 4 pm / Sunday 12 pm - 4 pm. Closed on Mondays, Federal Holidays, and the entire month of January!
- Fun Fact: Tudor Place has only been owned by one family - the Peter Family, from 1806-1983.
This rural movement cemetery dates back to 1848 when it was founded by W. W. Corcoran.
Interred here are many well-known DC names: Edwin Station, Lincoln's Secretary of War; Ben Bradlee and the Grahams of the Washington Post; John Howard Payne, composer of Home! Sweet Home!
Listen to more about Oak Hill Cemetery on our podcast (Tour Guide Tell All) episode all about it:
All rest among beautifully maintained walkways, forested areas, and gardens.
Join us on guided tours of Oak Hill Cemetery to learn all about its history and landscapes.
- Location: 3001 R Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20007
- Cost: Free. If you'd like a self-guided walking tour map, you can purchase one at the Gatehouse.
- Hours: 9 am - 4:30 pm Monday-Friday / 11 am - 4 pm Sat / Sun 1 pm - 4 pm. Closed during funerals and federal holidays.
- Fun Fact: The 1850 Renwick Chapel, one of the few Gothic pieces in DC, was designed by James Renwick, architect of St. Patrick's Cathedral in NYC.
10. Take a Walking Tour
Of course, you'll get far more out of a visit to Georgetown if you travel around with an expert guide.
We offer three tours of Georgetown, from a daytime historic tour to a family-friendly humorous but still historical ghost tour or an Adults-Only true crime of Wicked Georgetown.
You could go directly to our booking calendar to see what we offer and when, or you could click on the tours below for more details.
If our scheduled times don't fit, check out our self-guided tours.
A federal-style house was built in 1800 and is preserved today as the headquarters of The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America.
Through the historical interpretation of the architecture, furnishings, and interior design, you can learn about the earliest time of our Nation and the Nourse family who lived here.
- Location: 2715 Q St NW, Washington, DC 20007
- Cost: $5
- Hours: 11 am -3 pm. Closed on Mondays and most Federal Holidays
Have a bit more time or specific interests? There are some great off-the-beaten-path sites in the neighborhood.
This popular dessert stop is the home to the cream cheese icing deliciousness on TLC's DC Cupcakes.
It is not the only (and some argue not the best) cupcakery in Georgetown, but you'll often find a line outside attesting to its popularity.
- Location: 3301 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007
- Cost: Depends on how many cupcakes you get!
- Hours: 10 am - 9 pm
- Fun Fact: Special flavors of the day are free for the first 100 people who order them by name - follow them on social media to find out!
This is a fun addition to Georgetown's nightlife. You can choose from 5 different themed rooms.
- Location: 3345 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007
- Cost: $34.99 per person
- Hours: 1230pm-830pm
- Fun Fact: Escape Game rooms are built from scratch so they aren't like escape rooms you've seen before.
PLAN YOUR VISIT
Georgetown should be on your itinerary for a visit to Washington DC.
There is a lot to do here, great restaurants, and DC by Foot has four tours of the neighborhood!
How long to spend in Georgetown?
You could easily spend a full day here and if you have ample time during your stay in DC, you really should plan on it.
Of course, we think you should take a walking tour, which is about 2 hours.
If you want to explore one of the historic houses like Tudor Place, Dumbarton Oaks, or Dumbarton House, plan on at least an hour there.
Save time for a leisurely meal and a stroll along the waterfront after dessert.
Georgetown is very popular on the weekends and if you'd like to avoid the crowds, traffic, and lines, your best bet is to visit on a weekday or morning before the Brunch rush.
TOURS OF GEORGETOWN
Guided Walking Tours
We are quite partial to our Historic Georgetown Tour for a highlight walk through the neighborhood.
Our tour covers some of the well-known residents and sites, but also some of those you may not know.
For a darker side of the neighborhood, our nighttime Ghosts of Georgetown tour covers eerie coincidences and curses, as well as a few documented haunted houses!
And join our newest tour, the foodie side of Georgetown: Georgetown Cupcakes & Desserts Tour.
If you can't take advantage of our guided tour, then consider one of our themed self-guided tours of Georgetown
We also offer Audio Tours of Georgetown as an addition to our Historic Georgetown Walking tour.
- Book an Audio Tour on our Booking Page
- Receive a confirmation email with a .mp3, .pdf, and embeddable Google Map
- Enjoy the tour(s)!
If you like the Georgetown neighborhood, you may also want to take our Self-Guided Tour of Old Town Alexandria.
Trolley/Hop-On-Off Bus Tours
Many of the city's trolley and bus tours drive through Georgetown, with a few select locations to hop on/off.
Click here to compare the different options.
WHERE IS GEORGETOWN?
The district of Georgetown is located in the northwest quadrant of Washington, DC, with its easternmost border approximately 1 mile northwest of the White House.
Georgetown has a reputation for being difficult to get to, but with a little know-how - it is very accessible!
Trolley/Hop-On-Off Bus Tours
Many of the city's trolley and bus tours drive through Georgetown, with a few select locations to hop on/off. Click here to compare the different options.
By Metro (subway):
Technically, there is no Metro station in Georgetown, but that doesn't mean it isn't Metro accessible.
How long and what route you will take really depends on where you're going in Georgetown.
The maps below show the biggest intersection and center of the shopping district at Wisconsin and M Street NW.
- If you're headed towards the Waterfront, Foggy Bottom will be closer and a shorter walk.
- Making your way to Georgetown University, then Rosslyn is a better option.
The main strip of Georgetown, M Street NW, is about a 20-minute walk from Foggy Bottom/GWU stop on the Blue/Orange/Silver lines.
As you exit the Metro, turn left and walk one block up the hill to Washington Circle, follow the Circle left to Penn Ave NW and that will eventually become M Street NW after you cross over Rock Creek Parkway.
If you're trying to get to the western side of Georgetown, you can also walk from the Metro's Rosslyn station on the Blue/Orange/Silver lines.
When you exit the station, head north (right if you're exiting onto Fort Myer Drive and left if you're on Moore St) to cross the Key Bridge.
The bridge dead-ends on the far western part of M St NW.
There are many bus routes that service Georgetown, both down M St NW and northern areas of the neighborhood.
Visit the Trip Planner at WMATA to get specific directions from your location.
The Circulator is only a $1 ride or accepts SmarTrip cards.
The Dupont-Georgetown-Rosslyn line runs from the Dupont Circle to the Rosslyn metro station, with stops along M Street.
The Union Station-Georgetown line runs from Union Station to Georgetown via K Street and back to Union Station with stops on M Street traveling eastbound.
These buses are distinctive red and black buses with similar-looking signs at the bus stops.
Parking in Georgetown
Like many busy parts of the cities, parking in Georgetown can be difficult!
There is street parking throughout the neighborhood.
Street parking is $2/hr Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays and holidays do not have parking enforcement.
When parking, look for rush hour restrictions - parking on Monday through Friday along M Street and on the 1100-1600 blocks of Wisconsin Avenue, NW from 7 to 9:30 a.m. and 4 to 6:30 p.m. will result in a towed car!
Parking on neighborhood non-metered streets is limited to 2 hours - legally, that is applicable to the whole of Zone 2.
So, moving your car from one spot to another in the same neighborhood may still result in a ticket.
Another easy way to park in Georgetown is through a service called SpotHero.
This website enables drivers to search for, compare, and purchase guaranteed parking spaces ahead of time in garages. They have a bunch of cheap options in Georgetown.
BRIEF HISTORY OF GEORGETOWN
Founded in 1751 in the colony of Maryland, the town of George was founded as a tobacco port city on the Potomac River.
Georgetown, today, is much larger than the original town boundaries.
What is now N St NW (formally Gay Street) was the northern boundary of the city.
The rest was bordered on the south by the river, east by Rock Creek, and west by what is now Georgetown University.
When the founding fathers decided where to put the new federal district, the port of Georgetown was included in its boundaries.
In 1800, it became Georgetown, DC - still, its own city.
This changed in 1871 when Washington City expanded and Georgetown lost its autonomy.
The streets were renamed and the city council disbanded.
The small town grew with the success of its merchants until the mid-1800s.
With the growth of the federal city, the stress of the Civil War, the silting of the Potomac River, and the failure of the C&O Canal, Georgetown fell into a decline that lasted decades.
After the New Deal-ers moved into the affordable neighborhood, cemented by the presence of the Kennedys, Georgetown became once again a neighborhood of businessmen and politicians.
Diverse is not the word you'd use to describe Georgetown today.
But, throughout its history, it has been the home of leading political figures and simple merchants and enslaved persons, full of Scottish and German immigrants, and a thriving community of freedmen at Herring Hill.
It went from mansions to slums and back again.
A walk through this pre-Revolutionary War neighborhood takes you through 250 years of history, its architecture, and the stories of the people who once and still live there.
If you'd like to learn more, our guide, Canden, has had two books published on Georgetown!
Wicked Georgetown: Scoundrels, Sinners and Spies, and Images of America: Georgetown. Both are available on her Amazon author page!
ACCOMMODATIONS IN GEORGETOWN
As the oldest and one of the most affluent neighborhoods in DC, Georgetown is home to some of the most beautiful and luxurious hotels in the city.
There are many hotels to choose from, but here are some of our favorites.
Rosewood Washington, D.C. Georgetown: 1050 31st St NW, Washington, DC 20007 - $$$$
The Melrose Georgetown: 2430 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20037 - $$$$
Georgetown Inn: 1310 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007 - $$$
Georgetown Inn West End: 1121 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC 20037 - $$
Looking to learn more about accommodation in DC? Check out the following posts:
- Best Hostels in Washington, DC
- Affordable Hotels in Downtown Washington, DC
- Bed and Breakfasts in Washington, DC
RESTAURANTS IN GEORGETOWN
If you've ever been on Canden's Georgetown tours, you'll hear her talk about one and only one restaurant.
By far all of our favorite places to eat in Georgetown, Martin's Tavern is Canden's only recommendation.
It has great food (their grandmother's recipe for crab cakes is amazing), but what we love most is its history.
Martin's Tavern was opened in 1933 by an Irish immigrant, Billy Martin, and is still run by his great-grandson, also Billy Martin, who can sometimes be found behind the bar, and fifth-generation, Lauren Martin.
If you go there and tell them DC By Foot sent you... nothing will happen, they have no idea who we are but we highly recommend it!
Martin’s Tavern: 1264 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC - American Tavern $$
Shanghai Lounge: 1734 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007 - Dumplings/Chinese $
Sequoia: 3000 K St NW, Washington, DC 20007 - American $$$
Filomena: 1063 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007 - Italian $$$
Moby Dick House of Kebab: 1070 31st St NW - Mediterranean $
Il Canale: 1065 31st St NW, Washington, DC 20007 - Italian $$
Chez Billy Sud: 1039 31st St NW, Washington, DC 20007 -French $$
Chaia: 3207 Grace St NW. Washington, DC 20007 - Taco (Vegan & Vegetarian Options) $
Fiola Mare: 3100 K St NW, Washington DC 20007 - Seafood $$$$
DESSERTS IN GEORGETOWN:
Join our newest tour, the foodie side of Georgetown: Georgetown Cupcakes & Desserts Tour.
If you have any interest in desserts, you've likely heard of TLC's "DC Cupcake" television show. It is based on the shop, Georgetown Cupcakes on M St NW.
Fan of the show? By all means, go visit the shop. There will be a line - they even have a bouncer!
If you follow them on Twitter/Facebook, the first 100 guests to order the cupcake of the day by name get it for free!
But Georgetown Cupcakes is not the only place dessert place in Georgetown.
Thomas Sweet's Ice Cream & Chocolate: 3214 P St NW, Washington, DC 20007 - Homemade ice cream and fudge
Sprinkles: 3015 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007 - Also known due to a TV show - Cupcakes
Baked & Wired: 1052 Thomas Jefferson St NW, Washington, DC 20007 - our favorite - delicious desserts of all kinds!
Levain Bakery: 3131 M st NW, Washington DC 20007 - This famous cookie bakery from NYC is noticeable by its VERY long line!
Olivia Macron (one of our FAVS!): 3270 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007 - homemade macrons with a variety of flavors.
SHOPPING IN GEORGETOWN
Georgetown is the go-to shopping area inside the District.
While walking along the two main streets of Georgetown - M Street NW and Wisconsin Ave NW you'll find everything from staples such as Urban Outfitters and Nike to secondhand stores to vintage shops that carry designer brands.
- 14 Stylish Georgetown Shops
- 10 Best Vintage and Consignment Shops in Georgetown (technically, only the first 3 are in Georgetown but the rest aren't far!)
- The 9 Best Places to Shop in Georgetown
The northern section of Wisconsin Ave NW (by the Georgetown Library) will have you feeling as if you are wandering the streets of Paris. Book Hill, as this area is known, offers more than the standard retail outlets.
Here you'll find Antiques Row, bespoke jewelry, and curious treasures to take home with you.
Meanwhile, M Street NW offers more of the shopping mall experience without the mall itself.
Off M Street are places like Cady's Alley, historic alleys turned into shopping and dining.
Large chain stores can be found along this main road. Banana Republic, Anthropologie, J. Crew, and more can all be found along M Street.
If you're looking for a few unique finds or you just need to replace a lost suitcase, Georgetown shopping offers a varied experience to add to your visit to DC.
For a complete list of all the stores you can find in Georgetown, check out: http://www.georgetowndc.com/explore/fashion