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Every day, thousands of travelers head to the capital of the United States of America: Washington, D.C. While some are heading there on holiday to take in the dozens of historic sites, monuments, and museums that are spread across the city (or centralized at the National Mall), others are headed there on business, whether they’re from the States or diplomats from abroad. And some are there for a mixture of both! With all these travelers, D.C. has a thriving hotel scene, from the major chains to happening boutiques. If it’s the latter you seek, you’ve got myriad options. Are you looking for a budget property that still has great design chops, or maybe a luxurious D.C. icon? Are you traveling with your partner or your entire family? The city has plenty of options across its four quadrants, and we’re here to help you make your selection with our list of favorite boutique hotels in the nation’s capital.
Best Overall: The Watergate Hotel
Yes, the infamous Watergate Complex is back in vogue, thanks to the reopening of its iconic hotel after a $200 million refurbishment in 2016. Though the property remained in business after the 1972 incident that rocked Washington (and the country), it languished over the last few decades, but new owners Jacques and Rakel Cohen completely overhauled the property, infusing it with a bold midcentury-modern look by Ron Arad inspired by the era of the scandal.
There are 336 well-appointed rooms and suites (fun fact: the keys cheekily have “No need to break in.” printed on them) with elegant furnishings in neutral hues, and many have balconies with views of either the Luigi Moretti-designed complex or the Potomac River. The amenities at the hotel are top notch, too, from the serene Argentta Spa that has a large indoor pool to the popular rooftop bar Top of the Gate. While the hotel might not be within walking distance of many of D.C.’s most popular attractions, there are cabs and Ubers aplenty to take you on the short drive to them. Just ask the staff, who don uniforms by the costume designer of Mad Men, to help you out.
Best Historic: The Jefferson
While many D.C. properties feature more modern designs, The Jefferson keeps it traditional. Housed in a 1920s-era residential building, the hotel chose to honor not only the property's history, but also that of its namesake, Thomas Jefferson. As such, the 99-room property features elegant decor elements like marble fireplaces and busts, toile draperies (featuring images of Jefferson’s home, Monticello), and vintage tomes in the library. And don’t miss the Jefferson-signed documents lining the public spaces.
Even with its historic design, the hotel is decidedly modern thanks to a 2009 renovation which saw the introduction of televisions embedded in bathroom mirrors and “smart room” buttons to call housekeeping or request privacy. There’s 24-hour room service here, but most guests opt to dine at one of the three on-site restaurants: the Michelin-starred Plume, the casual Greenhouse, and the jazzy Quill.
Best for Families: Kimpton Hotel Palomar
Though this artsy, fun Kimpton hotel might not look like the most family-friendly property at first glance, the brand is known for its children’s programming — and its pet-friendliness, so the entire family can come. Kids are offered a welcome gift upon arrival, and there are child-friendly menus (and 24-hour room service) to ensure everyone can enjoy a meal. Families are encouraged to book one of the suites, which feature separate king bedrooms, and day beds or sofa beds in the living room.
During the summer, kids and adults alike can enjoy the outdoor pool, but when the grownups need some alone time to enjoy the free happy hour, the fitness center, or an in-room spa treatment, the Kimpton brand also offers babysitting services. When it’s time to leave the hotel for some sightseeing, the Hotel Palomar is conveniently located in Dupont Circle, just a short drive or Metro ride away from the National Mall and all its major attractions.
Best Budget: Hotel Hive
Washington, D.C.’s first micro hotel might have rooms that measure just 125 to 250 square feet, but they’re quite thoughtfully — and chicly — designed. Located in Foggy Bottom, just two blocks from the Metro, the 83-room property is one of the most affordable in the city, with rates often coming in at less than $100 per night. Room categories range from singles with twin beds to a double with bunk beds to more traditional queens and kings. Just note that no more than two people are allowed per room, though a number of them connect for larger groups.
The urban-chic design of the hotel blends the building’s industrial side (the structure is 116 years old) with a sense of refined minimalism. Rooms are clad in white with exposed brick walls and marble elements in the bathrooms, while public spaces are a bit darker, leaning heavily on metal and brick. With the tiny accommodations, guests are encouraged to mingle in the public spaces, like the lobby bar, the rooftop bar, and the pizza restaurant.
Best for Luxury: The Hay-Adams
One of the most famous hotels in all of D.C., if not the most famous, the Hay-Adams sits right across the street from the White House. Built as a hotel in 1928, the classically elegant property, which has been featured in numerous films and TV shows, has 145 rooms and suites adorned with luxurious touches like ornamental fireplaces, handsome wood furnishings, and exquisite ceiling mouldings. The bathrooms are quite lovely too, clad in marble with brass fixtures. With its prime location, the hotel’s restaurant, The Lafayette, caters not only to guests and tourists, but also to visiting dignitaries (many of whom do stay at the hotel), and politicians working at the White House, and the same goes for the bar, Off the Record. While there’s no spa on site — there is a fitness center, however — the Les Clefs d’Or concierge service will be able to book you any treatment you desire.
Best for Romance: Rosewood Washington, D.C.
Amsterdam and Venice might be the canal capitals of the world, but D.C. has its own waterway that can give them a run for its money. The scenic C&O canal runs along the south side of the trendy Georgetown neighborhood, and the Rosewood Washington, D.C. sits right on it. With just 49 rooms, it’s an intimate boutique hotel, but it’s packed with amenities that rival the larger luxury properties in the city, making it perfect for couples looking for a great getaway.
For starters, there’s a four-season rooftop pool with views of the Washington Monument (there’s also an adjacent fitness center), a menu of in-room spa treatments that are great for a date night, and three dining options: the grand Grill Room, the refined Rye Bar, and the open-air Rooftop Bar & Lounge. When you’re ready to retreat to your room, you’ll find sophisticated yet comfortable decor with modern elements and with luxe touches like Pratesi linens, rain showers (or soaking tubs for higher room categories), and touch panels which control all the technology in the room.
Best for Foodies: The LINE DC
If you were to walk by The LINE DC in the city’s hip Adams Morgan neighborhood, you might not know it’s a 220-room hotel — the property is housed in a former church with a neoclassical façade that quite frankly doesn’t look much like a church, either. In addition to the art-filled rooms ( there’s more than 3,000 original works in the hotel), the monument-esque building holds three spectacular restaurants, two bars, and a coffee shop — not to mention 24-hour room service — and a roaming bar car that takes to the halls every day from 4 to 7 PM.
A Rake’s Progress, led by James Beard Award–winning chef Spike Gjerde, serves dishes prepared with ingredients from the Mid-Atlantic region, while A Rake’s Bar serves up local spirits and brews. Erik Bruner-Yang’s Brothers and Sisters is all about global cuisine and afternoon tea with an American flair, plus drinks at its own bar. And finally, there’s the standing-room-only restaurant which specializes in sake and Asian street food–style dishes.
Best for Nightlife: The Graham
Washington, D.C. nightlife isn’t quite as party-hardy as Miami or New York, but there’s certainly a big drinking culture, and much of it revolves around swanky hotel bars. At The Graham in Georgetown, there are two drinking options: The Graham Rooftop and The Alex Craft Cocktail Cellar & Speakeasy. Upstairs, guests can sit on sofas while sipping wines, dining on fresh seafood, and listening to lounge music at sunset; it’s very much a see-and-be-seen scene for locals. Downstairs, The Alex has quite a different vibe, with a romantic yet moody Victorian aesthetic inspired by historic Georgetown local Alexander Graham Bell, for whom the bar is named, and live jazz played every Saturday night. The hotel itself is a 57-room boutique property whose quiet rooms in sedate palettes of grays and whites provide a great retreat from the bar scenes above and below.
Best for Business: AKA White House
While many visitors to the capital are on vacation, there’s probably an equal, if not greater number of visitors who are in town on business. If you do find yourself working on your next trip to D.C., you don’t have to resign yourself to a mediocre chain hotel. Consider AKA White House, a boutique extended stay property that offers luxurious residential-style accommodations, from modern one-bedroom suites with full kitchens to sprawling penthouses.
Though vacationers are more than welcome here, the hotel was designed with business travelers in mind, as there’s a cinema you can rent for presentations (or to simply watch a film), a meeting room, and a well-equipped business center. There’s no on-site restaurant, but the lobby bar is a chic spot for cocktails, and there’s a rooftop terrace, too. The entire property feels like a chic condo, and with a location right next to the White House, it makes for a pretty great stay.