I will spend two days visiting Washington DC at the end of May (on my way to a professional meeting in Baltimore). I intend to see basic stuff: exterior of the White House, Capitol and/or SCOTUS, Washington monument, etc.

I am looking for a hotel for two nights. I'd like to avoid the huge prices of a hotel right in the center, but still find a place well-connected (metro line, ≤ 20 minutes from the center) and in a safe area (I'm not a particularly frightened person, I just want intend to walk back from the metro late in the evening). My budget would typically be 100-130 € per night (accommodation only, taxes included), and a two-star level of comfort would be perfect (basically, a clean and quiet room to sleep is all I require from a hotel).

I looked at hotels online, with the use of a map, and it seems doable (that one seems like what I am looking for; also this and this). However, I do not know the area at all, so: what areas/neighborhoods would you advise me to favor? For example, is the area of the hotels linked above (Arlington, if I understand correctly) a safe place to stay, and well-connected to the center?

  • I remember staying around Dupont Circle and it was fine, I went back at 10pm-midnight without issues (I don't remember if I walked or took metro back though). – Vince Apr 16 '13 at 8:33

Arlington is a safe and well connected suburb of DC. Depending on the area of Arlington you stay, there is a somewhat vibrant nightlife with shops and restaurants abound - which can be nice to visit as you unwind after a day of sightseeing. The area is well served by the blue/orange lines of the DC Metro.

From a personal preference -

  1. Pick the "Courthouse" area of Arlington, if that's where you've narrowed down your hotel.
  2. The second link for the District Hotel is in an area that is mostly commercial - so it can get a bit deserted after business hours. On the flip side, you will be in the heart of the city. You could even walk 10-15 min to the National mall.
  3. For visitors, I usually recommend DuPont circle, which is the located midtown. You are well connected to all the tourist hubs, and the area comes alive at night, more so over the weekend.
  4. For a short stay such as yours, I would not recommend hotels located in the North-East, South-East or South-West quadrants, in case some show up in your search query. The H St NE corridor does have some great restaurants, though.
  • I live in Courthouse, and it would not be my first recommendation. On the Wilson Blvd corridor, Rosslyn is better for proximity and connectivity. Clarendon is better for restaurants and bars, though it has no large hotels. Courthouse is a quiet medium (why I live here). Second, there are only three hotels in Courthouse, serving people with County business. Third, Court House station is home to the "Orange Crush," the most crowded section anywhere on the Metro, and a chore in the morning rush that I would not will upon a first-time visitor. – choster Apr 16 '13 at 20:13
  • 1
    @choster thanks for the comment… regarding subway crowd, I lived in London and Paris, so I am somewhat used to that :) – F'x Apr 17 '13 at 6:08

For discounts, I would look to the large number of hotels just across the river in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington. Crystal City is right next to Reagan National Airport (DCA) and on the Blue and Yellow Lines of the Metro, and hotels that are a longish walk from the station will run free shuttles to the Crystal City Metro, Pentagon City (one stop north), or the airport (one stop south).

From Crystal City it is three stops on the Yellow Line to L'Enfant Plaza and the National Mall, four stops to Penn Quarter museums and restaurants. Sit on the left side of the train and you will have a nice view of the Jefferson Memorial as you cross the bridge into the District. On the Virginia side you are near the Pentagon Memorial, Air Force Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, and the Marine Corps War Memorial, and you can walk from the Arlington Cemetery stop to the Lincoln Memorial across Memorial Bridge.

The Crystal City neighborhood is safe, but rather boring (and ugly) even by DC standards, with no real nightlife and just a handful of restaurants on two strips, 23rd Street and Crystal Drive. Your hotel will be a charmless high-rise from an international chain. If this doesn't suit you, you'll need to pay a bit more. I would look into hotels or bed-and-breakfast inns in the Foggy Bottom or Dupont Circle areas, which are on the western outskirts of downtown, but have more going on after dark. The Ritz Carleton, the Fairmont, and the Park Hyatt are situated in between in an area recently known as the West End.

Most places within a 20-minute Metro ride north, west, or south of the National Mall have gentrified in the last 10-15 years, at least for a 2-3 block radius from the Metro station (e.g. Columbia Heights), though I would caution that "danger" and "safety" can be subjective.

The Rosslyn area of Arlington is mostly high-rise office buildings. It has a very low crime rate, but because there are few people around after work hours, I have more than a few friends who feel uncomfortable walking around there alone at night. Directly across the river, Georgetown is a wealthy neighborhood of historic homes and chi-chi shops that is always bustling with tourists and preppy students. Yet, in the 14 years I have lived in the Washington area, I have met more people who have been mugged in Georgetown than in any other neighborhood (granted, there are not very many people in my circles who frequent Anacostia or Ivy City). Perhaps everyone is off guard after their $50 steak, or perhaps the canal and the old buildings offer great locations for criminals to hide and to escape. My point is that feeling safe and being safe are not necessarily correlated, and that even in a "safe" area you should always be aware of your surroundings and be cautious.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.