Get to Know Washington, D.C. Neighborhoods

Colorful Historic Row Houses in Georgetown

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The Washington, D.C. area has a wide diversity of neighborhoods - from urban communities bustling with activity to family-friendly suburban communities to quiet rural areas with lots of green space. This guide to the neighborhoods of the Washington, D.C. Capital Region provides information about demographics, public transportation, major attractions, annual events, community resources and much more.

Washington, D.C. is not only the home to the federal government, but is also a vibrant city where people live, work and play. The city is known for its monuments and museums, national landmarks, cultural events, musical and theatrical entertainment and sporting events. The District of Columbia has a population of more than 600,000 however, with the surrounding suburbs the metropolitan area has a population of approximately 5.3 million making it the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the country. Read more to learn about each of the largest and most popular neighborhoods in the capital region.

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Capitol Hill: A Washington, D.C. Neighborhood

U.S. Capitol Building
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The neighborhood surrounding the U.S. Capitol Building is the largest residential historic district in Washington, D.C. with many 19th and 20th century row houses that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Capitol Hill is the most prestigious address in Washington, D.C. and the political center of the nation’s capitol.

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Georgetown: A Washington, D.C. Neighborhood

People walking along the sidewalk by historic houses in Georgetown

TripSavvy / Victoria Chamberlain

Georgetown served as a major port and commercial center during colonial times because of its prime location on the Potomac River. The neighborhood of restored row houses is a popular tourist destination because of its upscale shops, bars and restaurants. Georgetown University is located on the western edge of the neighborhood. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal begins in Georgetown and runs 184 miles to Cumberland, Maryland.

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Dupont Circle / Embassy Row: Washington, D.C. Neighborhoods

Dupont Circle
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This cosmopolitan neighborhood boasts some of Washington, D.C.'s finest museums, historic homes and foreign embassies as well as a variety of ethnic restaurants, bookstores, and private art galleries. It is also one of the most popular destinations for nightlife and the center of gay life in Washington, D.C.

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Adams Morgan / U Street: Washington, D.C. Neighborhoods

Adams Morgan
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Adams Morgan is the center of Washington, D.C.'s liveliest nightlife and is popular with young professionals. The neighborhood has a wide variety of restaurants, nightclubs, coffee houses, bars, bookstores, art galleries and unique specialty shops. The nearby U Street Corridor is home to some of the city’s best nightclubs and theaters and is rapidly changing into an arts and entertainment district.

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Penn Quarter / Chinatown: Washington DC Neighborhoods

Chinatown DC
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In recent years, the neighborhood just north of Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Washington, D.C. has been revitalized with world class museums, trendy restaurants, upscale hotels and nightclubs, contemporary art galleries and theaters.

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Anacostia / Southwest Washington, D.C. Neighborhoods

Nationals Park
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The neighborhoods along the Potomac and the Anacostia Rivers are undergoing a massive transformation and are among DC’s fastest-growing areas of employment, entertainment and residential development. Construction of Nationals Park, the new baseball stadium, began the revitalization of a long neglected part of the city. The Southwest Waterfront with its prime location along the Potomac River is currently being transformed into a vibrant world class urban community. Look for these areas to continue to change a great deal in the coming years.

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Rockville / Bethesda / Chevy Chase: Maryland Neighborhoods

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Because of their close proximity to the nation’s capital, these neighborhoods in Montgomery County, Maryland are among the most affluent and highly educated in the country. Bethesda is home to important institutions including the National Institutes of Health, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division and the National Naval Medical Center. Rockville is the county seat and the second largest city in Maryland. Chevy Chase is primarily a residential suburb of Washington, D.C.

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National Harbor: A Maryland Neighborhood

boating at national harbor maryland
Courtesy of National Harbor

 The 300-acre waterfront community opened in the spring of 2008. Set along a prime spot on the Potomac River, National Harbor, includes hotels, restaurants, retail stores, condominiums, a full-service marina, a convention center, and commercial office space. Major attractions include an outlet shopping mall, a giant Ferris wheel and a Vegas-style casino.

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Gaithersburg / Germantown: Maryland Neighborhoods

Gaithersburg Train Station
Steve Lathrop / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Gaithersburg is a diverse community located in the center of Montgomery County, Maryland. It is the third largest incorporated city in the state of Maryland. It is comprised of a historic Old Town, multiple new urban communities, and many suburban subdivisions. Nearby, Germantown has experienced great growth since the 1980s, both in residential and commercial development.

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Silver Spring / Kensington / Takoma Park: Maryland Neighborhoods

Silver Spring, MD
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This part of Montgomery County, Maryland is just north of Washington, D.C. and has good access to I-495. The communities are residential with lots of shopping, restaurants and other amenities.

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College Park: Maryland Neighborhood

University of Maryland McKeldin Library
Daniel Borman / Flickr

As home to the main campus of the University of Maryland and with the close proximity to the Capital Beltway, I-95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, this area is among the busiest of Prince George's County, Maryland. Within the area there are a diverse variety of neighborhoods, each with their own character. 

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Alexandria: A Virginia Neighborhood

Old Town Alexandria

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Alexandria, Virginia is an independent city located along the Potomac River, six miles south of downtown Washington, D.C. The historic center of Alexandria, known as Old Town, is the third oldest historic district in the United States. The charming neighborhood contains more than 4,200 historic buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, including homes, churches, museums, shops, small businesses and restaurants.

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Fairfax: A Virginia Neighborhood

Fairfax Courthouse

Rachel Cooper

The City of Fairfax is an independent city and the county seat of Fairfax County located in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. During the Colonial and Revolutionary periods, Historic Fairfax was frequented by George Washington, George Mason, and William Fairfax. Today, the region is known for its high ranking schools, a stable economy, a highly educated population and a good quality of life.

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Arlington / Rosslyn / Crystal City: Virginia Neighborhoods

Arlington county aerial
Arlington County / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Arlington, the county seat of Arlington County, Virginia, has been named (in a study by BizJournals) as the wealthiest and most highly educated community in the country. Although best known to visitors as the home of the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington is a residential community and an employment center. Rosslyn and Crystal City are urban communities just across the Potomac River from Downtown Washington, D.C.

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McLean / Tysons Corner

Tysons Corner Center
Courtesy of Visit Fairfax

This part of Fairfax County, Virginia is located right off of I-495 with good access to Downtown Washington, D.C. A 40 development plans is underway to transform this part of Northern Virginia into a walkable downtown. Tysons Corner Center and the Tysons Galleria, the largest shopping malls in the Washington metropolitan area draw visitors from around the region. The area offers a variety of sports and recreational facilities, including major parks, recreation centers, and golf courses.

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Reston / Centreville / Chantilly: Virginia Neighborhoods

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These Northern Virginia neighborhoods are located in the heart of the rapidly growing technology corridor near Dulles International Airport. Planned communities were built with a variety of restaurants, hotels, and shopping centers.