Where to stay in Washington DC for first time: 8 Safe areas

Hi guys, on my website, I already wrote articles about staying in Washington DC without a car and for families (I will put the links to them at the end of this article). In today’s article, I will help you to find the safe places to stay in Washington DC for first-time visitors.

I will share with you what I believe are the best and safe areas to stay in Washington DC for first-timers and tourists, along with a helpful map and areas to avoid. I’ll also share where I stayed in Washington DC and recommend some of the best hotels in Washington DC for all budgets.

Washington DC, which stands for Washington, District of Columbia, is the capital city of the United States, located along the Potomac River. It is not part of any state but is instead an independent federal district. 

Washington DC is the seat of the federal government of the United States. It is home to the White House (the official residence of the President), the U.S. Capitol (where Congress meets), the Supreme Court, and numerous federal agencies and departments.

The city is known for its iconic landmarks, including the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the National Mall, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

The National Mall is home to several world-class Smithsonian museums, most of which offer free admission. Don’t miss the National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American History, and National Museum of Natural History.

The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, during which cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin bloom, is a major attraction. From late March to early April, the Tidal Basin is covered in pink and white blooms. It’s a stunning sight and a great time for outdoor activities like paddle boating.

Washington, D.C. has an extensive public transportation system, including trains, buses, and commuter rail services, making it easy to get around for car-free travelers.

The city is served by several major airports, including Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall, and Washington Dulles International Airport.

Is Washington D.C. safe to visit?

Yes, Washington, D.C. is generally a safe city to visit. While it does have its share of crime, particularly in certain neighborhoods, the overall safety level is relatively high. 

The city’s extensive law enforcement presence, including the Metropolitan Police Department and federal agencies, contributes to its security. Tourist areas and government buildings are well-patrolled, reducing the risk to visitors. 

But, like any urban area, you should exercise common-sense precautions, such as staying aware of their surroundings, avoiding poorly lit areas at night, and securing your belongings to avoid pickpocketing and muggings, especially in public transport and crowded places.

Where to stay in Washington DC for the first time?

The best and safe areas to stay in Washington DC for first-timers and tourists are Downtown, Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Capitol Hill, Georgetown, and Adams Morgan. Safety can vary within any neighborhood, so it’s essential to stay alert, no matter where you stay.

If you want the most central and safe locations with lots of choices in accommodations and easiest access to major attractions, I recommend booking hotels in Downtown DC, Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle, and Logan Circle.

These areas are very well connected to public transportation. If you stay in these areas, you’ll be located within walking distance/ short train ride to all main sights.

Georgetown is an upscale neighborhood along the Potomac River known for its vibrant shopping and dining scene. It is a bit farther from some attractions, but a unique experience.

Adams Morgan is an eclectic and budget-friendly neighborhood known for its nightlife, diverse dining, and music scene. It can be lively and noisy. Capitol Hill has limited hotel options.

All of these tourist areas are fine and safe for tourists to book accommodation, but it’s wise to avoid certain areas such as Southeast D.C., Anacostia, Benning Road, and Columbia Heights at Night. If you plan to visit, do so during daylight hours and be cautious.

On my trip to Washington DC, I stayed at the 3-star budget-friendly Embassy Suites by Hilton in Downtown DC. Its central location offers easy access to restaurants, shops, and most museums and monuments, both on foot and by using public transportation.

Below is a map of the popular areas in Washington DC for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the best and safest areas to stay in Washington DC first time
Map of the best and safest areas to stay in Washington DC first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in Washington DC, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in Washington DC have been carefully selected by me, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

8 Safe areas to stay in Washington DC for first-timers and tourists:

1. Downtown DC

Downtown D.C. is one of the most popular areas to stay in Washington DC for first-time visitors because it provides easy access to many of the city’s major attractions and landmarks.

Downtown D.C. is home to iconic sites such as the National Mall, the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian museums. Most of these attractions are within walking distance or a short metro ride away.

Downtown D.C. is well-connected by the Metro system, making it convenient to explore other parts of the city. Metro stations like Metro Center, Farragut North, McPherson Square Metrorail Station, and Gallery Place-Chinatown are some of the metro stations in Downtown DC.

You’ll find a wide range of dining options, from casual eateries to upscale restaurants, as well as theaters, bars, and nightlife venues in the area. Downtown D.C. features shopping areas like CityCenterDC and the historic F Street shopping district.

The neighborhood itself has historical significance and offers opportunities to explore D.C.’s political and cultural heritage.

When staying in Downtown D.C., you’ll have the advantage of being in the heart of the city’s most famous attractions. Be sure to book your accommodations well in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, to secure the best rates and availability.

Best places to stay in Downtown Washington DC for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): The Hay – Adams, great 5-star hotel, centrally located in Downtown DC, offering views of the White House, a short walk/train ride from major attractions, easy access to the McPherson Square Metrorail Station.
  • Mid-range ($$): Hotel Washington, this is a very popular 4-star hotel in Downtown DC, located within easy walking distance from the White House and National Mall. Great base to do sightseeing.
  • Budget ($): Embassy Suites by Hilton, 3-star accommodation, conveniently located in Downtown DC, featuring an Indoor swimming pool, Family rooms, and 24-hour front desk.

2. Foggy Bottom

Foggy Bottom is a safe and centrally located neighborhood in Washington, D.C. It’s an excellent choice for visitors looking for a mix of cultural attractions, proximity to major landmarks, and a more relaxed atmosphere compared to the bustling Downtown area. 

Foggy Bottom is within walking distance of the National Mall, which means you can easily visit landmarks such as the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the World War II Memorial.

The neighborhood is home to John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Watergate complex, and the George Washington University campus. You can catch performances, concerts, and events at the Kennedy Center.

Foggy Bottom is situated along the Potomac River, offering scenic waterfront views and the opportunity for leisurely walks along the riverbanks.

The Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro station provides easy access to other parts of the city, making it convenient for exploring D.C.

You’ll find a range of dining options in Foggy Bottom, from casual eateries to upscale restaurants. It’s a great area to explore local food scenes.

Best places to stay in Foggy Bottom for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): Melrose Georgetown Hotel, great 5-star hotel located Pennsylvania Avenue, near Georgetown and a short walk from metro station Foggy Bottom. It has quiet, comfortable and warm rooms.
  • Mid-range ($$): State Plaza Hotel, 4-star hotel, located a quiet safe area within a short distance from major sights and restaurants. You’ll have easy access to George Washington University, National Mall, World Bank, Foggy Bottom – GWU Metro station, and Lincoln Memorial.
  • Budget ($): Hotel Hive, great 3-star pet-friendly accommodation located in a quiet street, close to the Kennedy Center in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood with lots of college students, but close to all main sights such as the Lincoln Memorial and the White House.

3. Penn Quarter

Penn Quarter is a great base for visitors who want to experience the vibrant arts and entertainment scene in Washington, D.C. It’s a lively neighborhood located in the heart of the city, known for its theaters, restaurants, and proximity to cultural attractions.

Penn Quarter is home to several theaters, including the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Ford’s Theatre, and the Capital One Arena. If you’re interested in performing arts and live entertainment, this is an excellent neighborhood to be in.

You’ll find a diverse range of dining options, from trendy restaurants to casual eateries and food markets like Union Market. Penn Quarter also has a thriving nightlife scene with bars, clubs, and live music venues.

The neighborhood is within walking distance of the National Mall, making it easy to visit landmarks like the Smithsonian museums, the National Gallery of Art, and the U.S. Capitol.

The Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station serves as a major transportation hub, providing access to multiple Metro lines, making it easy to explore other parts of the city.

Penn Quarter can be busy, especially during evenings and weekends, due to its popularity for entertainment and dining.

Best places to stay in Washington DC in Penn Quarter:

  • Luxury ($$$): Riggs Washington DC, 5-star hotels, located within a short walk from Gallery Place – Chinatown Metro Station. Offering Very good breakfast according to guests’ reviews. Easy access attractions, and restaurants on foot.
  • Luxury ($$$): JW Marriott Washington, DC , 5-star hotel, centrally located within a short distance from important sights such as the White House and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
  • Mid-range ($$): Grand Hyatt Washington, great 4-star hotel, centrally located, direct access to a metro station, and also close to major landmarks. It’s around 10 mins walk to theWhite House, 5 mins walk to the Capitol and Smithsonian. 

4. Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill is a great area for travelers who want to explore the city’s political and cultural heritage, enjoy a quieter and more residential atmosphere, and have easy access to the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall.

Capitol Hill is home to the U.S. Capitol Building, which is one of the most iconic landmarks in Washington, D.C. You can easily visit the Capitol, take guided tours, and explore the nearby Capitol Visitor Center.

The neighborhood is steeped in history, with historic row houses, tree-lined streets, and the Library of Congress nearby. Eastern Market, a historic public market, is also a popular attraction.

Capitol Hill has a more residential and local feel compared to some other neighborhoods in D.C., allowing you to experience the city from a different perspective.

You’ll find a variety of dining options, including local eateries, cafes, and restaurants serving a range of cuisines. Barracks Row is a popular dining destination.

While it’s a bit of a walk, you can reach the National Mall and its monuments on foot, making it convenient for sightseeing.

Capitol Hill is served by several metro stations including Capitol South Station (blue, orange, silver lines), Eastern Market Station, and Union Station.

Best places to stay in Washington DC in Capitol Hill for first-time visitors:

  • Mid-range ($$): Capitol Hill Hotel, 4-star hotel, located within a short distance from the Capitol Building, Capitol South Metro Station, as well as the National Aquarium, and the National Mall.
  • Budget ($) Duo Nomad: a backpacker hostel located in a safe neighborhood, great base in Washington DC for those on a budget, easy access to Eastern Market metro station, also within 20 mins walk from the Capitol. Close to numerous restaurants, weekly artisan/ farmers market, and super markets .

5. Dupont Circle 

Dupont Circle is a popular neighborhood for visitors looking to experience a vibrant and diverse neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Dupont Circle, located just north of Downtown DC, offers a mix of culture, dining, nightlife, and historic charm. 

Dupont Circle is known for its diverse and eclectic dining scene. You’ll find a wide range of restaurants, from international cuisines to local eateries, cafes, and upscale dining options.

The neighborhood has a lively nightlife with bars, clubs, and music venues catering to a variety of tastes. It’s particularly known for its LGBTQ+ nightlife scene.

Dupont Circle is home to embassies, art galleries, and cultural institutions like the Phillips Collection, a renowned art museum. You can explore these cultural offerings at your leisure.

The neighborhood has boutique shops, bookstores, and specialty stores, making it a great place for shopping.

Dupont Circle is a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, and many attractions are within walking distance. You can easily explore on foot. The Dupont Circle Metro station provides access to the Red Line, making it convenient for traveling to other parts of the city.

Due to its popularity and vibrant nightlife, some areas of Dupont Circle can be noisy, especially on weekends. Consider this if you’re seeking a quieter stay.

Best places to stay in Dupont Circle for first-time tourists:

  • Luxury ($$$): The Dupont Circle Hotel, 5-star hotel, conveniently located within an easy distance from The Dupont Circle Metro station on the red line  and the city’s main historical landmarks.
  • Mid-range ($$): Hotel Madera, great good value for money 4-star hotel located only 2 mins from Dupont Circle, located in a relatively quiet neighborhood, close to most things.
  • Budget ($): Canopy by Hilton Washington DC Embassy Row, 3-star hotel, located within a short distance from Three metro stations, Dupont Circle, Farragut North, and Farragut West.

6. Logan Circle

Logan Circle is a great area for visitors who want to experience a trendy and lively neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Known for its hip atmosphere, vibrant dining scene, and artistic community, Logan Circle offers a unique urban experience.

Logan Circle is located right next to Downtown and Dupont Circle, making it a convenient base to see major landmarks in the city, both on foot and by using public transportation.

Logan Circle is renowned for its diverse dining scene, with a wide range of restaurants, cafes, bars, and coffee shops. It’s a food lover’s paradise with options for all tastes and budgets.

The neighborhood is home to numerous art galleries and cultural institutions, making it a hub for the arts in D.C. You can explore local galleries and attend exhibitions.

The nearby 14th Street Corridor is a trendy area with boutique shops, wine bars, and entertainment options. It’s a great place to explore for shopping and nightlife.

The neighborhood features local farmers’ markets and artisanal markets, offering fresh produce and unique goods. Logan Circle is a pedestrian-friendly area with many attractions within walking distance.

Best places to stay in Logan Circle for first-time visitors:

  • Mid-range ($$): The Darcy Hotel, Washington DC, great 4-star hotel, surrounded by embassies,  located in a reasonably safe neighborhood, 10 mins walk from the White House, easy access to many attractions, shops and restaurants. You can have complimentary access to bikes, strollers and scooters.
  • Mid-range ($$): Washington Plaza Hotel, popular 4-star hotel, located in Thomas Circle Northwest,  just blocks from the White House, short distance from Washington Convention Center, Metro Center station, and Dupont Circle. Also close to lots of nice restaurants.
  • Mid-range ($$): Viceroy Washington DC, 4-star accommodation set in central quiet location, a few mins walk from Logan Circle, offering custom-designed PUBLIC bikes for cycling around the area.

7. Georgetown

Georgetown is a safe, quiet, and upscale neighborhood in Washington, D.C. It offers a charming and picturesque setting with its cobblestone streets, waterfront views, high-end shopping, and vibrant dining scene.

Georgetown is one of D.C.’s oldest neighborhoods and is known for its historic architecture, including well-preserved rowhouses, and a quaint, village-like atmosphere.

M Street and Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown offer a wide range of shopping options, from boutique shops and high-end fashion to antiques and home decor.

Georgetown sits along the Potomac River, providing scenic views and opportunities for waterfront strolls or boat tours. The historic Georgetown University campus is a notable landmark in the neighborhood. 

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal runs through Georgetown, providing a picturesque setting for leisurely walks and bike rides.

Georgetown does not have its own Metro station, so you may need to rely on buses, taxis, or ride-sharing services to access other parts of the city.

Best places to stay in Washington DC in Georgetown:

  • Mid-range ($$): The Graham Georgetown, 4-star hotel located in a fairly quiet area off M street in Georgetown, close to Georgetown Waterfront Park, easy access to shops, restaurants, and bars.
  • Mid-range ($$): Sonder Georgetown C&O, 4-star accommodation close to the River and public transportation for connections to several tourist attractions.
  • Mid-range ($$): Georgetown Inn, 4-star hotel in a cool neighborhood of Washington DC, within walking distance from restaurants and shops, short Uber ride from major historical landmarks.

8. Adams Morgan

Adams Morgan is a great choice for visitors who want to experience a lively, eclectic, and culturally diverse neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Known for its vibrant nightlife, diverse dining options, and artistic community, Adams Morgan offers a unique and energetic atmosphere. 

The neighborhood boasts a lively nightlife with bars, clubs, live music venues, and dance spots. It’s a hub for nightlife in D.C., especially along 18th Street NW.

Adams Morgan has a strong artistic community, with galleries, street art, and cultural events. You can explore local art and cultural offerings.

Adams Morgan hosts farmers’ markets and artisanal markets, offering fresh produce and artisan goods.

Adams Morgan is known for its nightlife and diversity. While it’s generally safe, it can get lively and crowded on weekend nights. Exercise standard precautions when out late.

Best places to stay in Washington DC in Adams Morgan:

  • Mid-range ($$): Omni Shoreham Hotel, 4-star hotel located on Calvert Street, in a nice quiet safe area with a variety of shops and restaurants. It’s close to Smithsonian National Zoological Park, and Woodley Park-Zoo/ Adams Morgan on the Red line, offering easy access to main attractions such as the White House .
  • Budget ($): HighRoad Washington DC, great 3-star good value for money hostel, great location in Adams Morgan, lots of restaurants nearby, 8 minutes walk from bus stop to downtown DC. Buses 90 and 96 take you directly to Smithsonian museums.
  • luxury ($$$): The LINE Hotel DC, 5-star hotel situated in the heart of Adams Morgan, between Dupont Circle metro and Columbia Heights metro stations (long walk though).

In conclusion, Downtown DC, Foggy Bottom, Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Georgetown, and Adams Morgan are the best places to stay in Washington DC for first-timers and tourists. These are safe areas offering easy access to major attractions and plenty of hotels for all budgets.

You can continue reading about Washington DC in these articles:

There you have it, my recommendations for the most popular and safest neighborhoods that you can stay during your first trip to Washington DC. I hope you found my article helpful and enjoy your holiday!

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality travel guides.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

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