Washington, D.C./Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle is a trendy historic neighborhood in Washington D.C.. It is popular due to its night clubs, bars, cafes, art galleries, and shops.


Pierre Charles L'Enfant's original plan for Washington, D.C. included a number of grand boulevards, radiating out and intersecting with one another in a way that would create public squares and green space. One such circle, Dupont Circle, lies at the intersection of Connecticut Ave, which emanates from the White House and runs roughly north-south, New Hampshire Ave, which runs diagonally, and Massachusetts Ave which runs roughly east-west.

The Dupont Circle area remained largely undeveloped until after the Civil War, when demand for housing from returning soldiers and freed slaves spurred additional development in D.C. Construction of the traffic circle, originally called Pacific Circle, began in 1871. In 1884, the circle was renamed after Civil War Rear Admiral Samuel Francis DuPont, partial heir to the DuPont family fortune, and a bronze statue of him was added. The statue was replaced in 1921 with the large marble fountain that remains to this day. The fountain was designed by Daniel Chester French and Henry Bacon, also the designers of the Lincoln Memorial, and features creatures that symbolize sea, the stars and the wind. It is now a popular gathering spot, with many places to sit.

In the early 1900s, the area became a popular place for wealthy Washingtonians to build their mansions, most notably on Massachusetts Ave.

In the late 1940s, a tunnel was built beneath Dupont Circle as part of a Capital Transit streetcar project. Streetcar service ended in 1962, and several ideas have been proposed for what to do with the underground space, which is currently unused. Along with the streetcar tunnel, another tunnel was constructed to allow Connecticut Ave vehicle traffic to pass beneath, helping to alleviate traffic congestion around the circle.

While the neighborhood suffered considerably during the 1968 riots, it recovered faster than the adjacent neighborhoods of Shaw and the East End due in part to the trendiness brought on by the gay community, which brought a Bohemian feel the area, similar to Greenwich Village in New York City. In the 1980s and 1990s several clubs, bars, and shops opened in the area, furthering the gentrification process.

The neighborhood is now a very popular place to live by young people without cars and without children, as well as by the wealthy elite who can afford some of the highest home prices in the city.

Get in

By Metrorail

For more information on riding the Metrorail in Washington DC, see Washington DC#Get around.

Metro is exceptionally convenient in Dupont Circle—the Dupont Circle stop on the Red Line is right under the circle itself.

By bus

The following are the main bus routes operating in Dupont Circle, along with links to timetables and route maps. For more information on riding buses in Washington DC, see Washington DC#Get around.

By car

Unless you are an experienced D.C. driver, it is very easy to get confused in Dupont Circle, or worse yet, wind up on the barbarous circle itself.

Connecticut Ave is the main thoroughfare. Massachusetts Ave is busy as well, but its traffic patterns are too confusing to be of much practical value. If passing through, make sure to stay in the left lanes to go through a tunnel under the circle, not around it. Traffic is terrible on the circle, in volume, confusion, and rage. If you accidentally get stuck driving around the circle and don't know what you are doing, stay in the outer lane and get off to save yourself the headache. P St is the best route west to Georgetown.


Street parking is scarce, and limited to 2 hours during the daytime on weekdays. There are several parking garages, with daily rates in the $15-$20 range. Late at night, you can find street parking in the deserted business district just south of M St in the West End.


The Fountain on Dupont Circle
The French Ambassador's Residence in the upscale Kalorama neighborhood
The Study inside the Woodrow Wilson House

Embassy Row

Many of the buildings that now house embassies were once the luxurious residences of the rich and famous. If you have the opportunity, take a walking tour of embassy row and learn the stories behind these beautiful buildings.


Dupont Circle has relatively few activities and is generally not a great place for kids. The actual Dupont Circle, around which the neighborhood is centered, has a nice park in the middle of the traffic circle. It's a favorite neighborhood spot to read, play chess, and people-watch. On summer weekends there are relatively frequent musical performances.

Comedy clubs

Festivals & events


Shops on Connecticut Ave north of Dupont Circle

Art galleries

Most galleries in Dupont Circle participate in First Friday Dupont, an open house from 6PM-8PM on the first Friday of every month, with a strong social bent (cocktails, music, etc.).

Books and music

Dupont Circle may not have many bookstores, but those that are here are beloved city-wide.




Rowhouses just around the corner from D.C.'s most active nightlife and dining districts

Dupont Circle has plenty of dining options, including some of the best in the city, but keep in mind this is expensive territory with limited budget options aside from chain restaurants. For more affordable local dining, hop on the metro and visit Shaw or Adams Morgan-Columbia Heights.






There are bars, clubs, and lounges catering to all sorts of different people, but the general theme is that they are upscale - you wont find many dive bars here and you likely wont be allowed into a club wearing sneakers or shorts. The main nightlife stretches are along Connecticut Ave just north and south of the Circle, P St west of the Circle, and on 17th between P and T St.

If you just want to sit back and enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee, you are in good hands here. Starbucks and Cosi's lovers will find their every whim catered to on every block. But independent coffee shops are in ample supply as well, most of which offer outdoor seating in nice weather to watch the crowds go by.



Dupont Circle has been dance central in the city for at least 25 years, although booming Adams Morgan has given it a good run for its money. There are plenty of parties going on here nightly, the most famous and established of which are at the Eighteenth Street Lounge.



The Brewmaster's Castle

Dupont Circle is a great place to stay when in D.C., and should be even more popular than it is. Rates are more affordable than at the big chain hotels in the touristy East End, there are lots of charming independent options, it's a great area to come back to in the evening, has convenient metro service, and is just a few blocks north of the main business district. If staying towards the southwest end, you'll be right by the business district of the West End, and a short walk from Georgetown, while the northeast side puts you closer to main dining and nightlife strips.






To get free WiFi in Dupont Circle, you basically just have to open your computer—everyone has it, and not everyone has password protection. Furthermore, many neighborhood shops, cafes, and restaurants offer wireless—the coffee shops and frozen yogurt listed above will give it to you for free, as will all the Starbucks.

If you don't have a computer and need to access the internet, Kramerbooks and Afterwords Cafe (see listing above) has a single computer at the bar. Eport World is another option:

Go next

Routes through Dupont Circle

Gaithersburg Upper Northwest  N  S  West End East End

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, January 29, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.