Where is Washington DC?

Learn About the Geography, Geology and Climate of the District of Columbia

Washington DC aerial
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Washington DC is located in the Mid-Atlantic region of the East Coast of the United States between Maryland and Virginia. The nation's capital is approximately 40 miles south of Baltimore, 30 miles west of Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay and 108 miles north of Richmond. To learn more about the geographic locations of cites and towns surrounding Washington DC, See a Guide to Driving Times and Distances Around the Mid-Atlantic Region.

The City of Washington was founded in 1791 to serve as the U.S. capital under the jurisdiction of Congress. It was established as a federal city and is not a state or part of any other state. The city is 68 square miles and has its own government to establish and enforce local laws. The federal government oversees its operations. For more information, read DC Government 101 - Things to Know About DC Officials, Laws, Agencies and More.

Geography, Geology and Climate

Washington DC is relatively flat and located at 410 feet above sea level at its highest point and at sea level at its lowest point. The city’s natural features are similar to the physical geography of much of Maryland. Three bodies of water flow through DC: the Potomac River, the Anacostia River and Rock Creek. DC is located in the humid subtropical climate zone and has four distinct seasons.  Its climate is typical of the South. The USDA plant hardiness zone is 8a near downtown, and zone 7b throughout the rest of the city.

Washington DC is divided into four quadrants: NW, NE, SW and SE, with the street numbers centered around the U.S. Capitol Building. Numbered streets increase in number as they run east and west of North and South Capitol Streets. Lettered streets increase alphabetically as they run north and south of the National Mall and East Capitol Street. The four quadrants are not equal in size.

  • Northwest DC is located north of the National Mall and west of North Capitol Street. The largest of the four quadrants, it contains most of the city’s federal buildings, tourist destinations, and wealthier neighborhoods. It encompasses the areas known as Penn Quarter, Foggy Bottom, Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Adams-Morgan, Columbia Heights, among others. See a map
  • Northeast DC is north of East Capitol Street and east of North Capitol Street. This part of the city includes part of Capitol Hill but is mostly residential. Neighborhoods in NE include Brentwood, Brookland, Ivy City, Marshall Heights, Pleasant Hill, Stanton Park, Trinidad, Michigan Park, Riggs Park, Fort Totten, Fort Lincoln, Edgewood, Deanwood, and Kenilworth. See a map
  • Southwest DC is the smallest quadrant of the city. It contains the museums and memorials along the south side of the National Mall, L'Enfant Plaza, numerous federal office buildings, several marinas, the Maine Avenue Fish Market, Arena Stage, Fort McNair, Hains Point and East Potomac Park, West Potomac Park, and Bolling Air Force Base. See a map
  • Southeast DC is located south of East Capitol Street and east of South Capitol Street. The Anacostia River runs through the quadrant. Major attractions include Capitol Hill, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, the Washington Navy Yard, Fort Dupont Park, the Anacostia Waterfront, Eastern Market, St. Elizabeths Hospital, RFK Stadium, Nationals Park, the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site and the Anacostia Community Museum. See a map

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