Washington, D.C./East End

East End is D.C.'s old downtown quarter, east of 15th St, and includes the neighborhoods of Chinatown, Penn Quarter, Judiciary Square, and Mount Vernon Square.


The Friendship Archway was designed by local architect Alfred H. Liu in 1986 and includes 7,000 tiles and 272 painted dragons in the style of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

The East End, just north of the National Mall is home to several museums and event venues, and full of restaurants, bars, and large hotels. Pennsylvania Ave, which runs through the Penn Quarter from the White House to the Capitol Building, serves as a bridge from the city center to the Mall. As you might expect, this road has nice views.


The Kogod Courtyard inside the National Portrait Gallery

Like the nearby neighborhood of Shaw, the East End was decimated during the 1968 riots. Many buildings were destroyed and it became a haven for drug dealers.

In the early 1990s, when Washington Capitals and Wizards owner Abe Pollin arrived for the first time by limousine at the intersection of 7th and F St NW to scout out possible sites for a new arena, he was told not to get out of the vehicle. The site, then a parking lot, had drug dealers doing business, and the neighborhood was crime-ridden and deserted at night. But, he decided that was the place to build his new arena. The Verizon Center (formerly the MCI Center) opened in December 1997, and since then, the neighborhood has experienced a remarkable turnaround with tremendous gentrification.

Penn Quarter is the commercial center of the East End. It includes Gallery Place, the bustling entertainment area between the Verizon Center and the National Portrait Gallery. The Pennsylvania Ave stretch, whose sidewalks and parks comprise a National Park, is the city's number two staging ground for races, large festivals, and parades. Penn Quarter is distinguished from the rest of downtown by its nineteenth century buildings and facades. After the opening of the Verizon Center in 1997, and the resulting development boom, many buildings were redeveloped as the ground-floor facades of private luxury apartments and office buildings, resulting in the creation of an "arts and entertainment" district. The biggest draw for city visitors, however, is Penn Quarter's theater district, and its tremendous quantity of first-rate museums.

Chinatown is to the north of Penn Quarter. While the neighborhood was majority Asian in the early 20th century, most of the Asian population moved out after the 1968 riots. The neighborhood is lively in the evenings and features many restaurants. Chinatown resembles a miniature Times Square with activity day and night into the wee hours. The city government heavily promotes the original ethnic character—businesses in the neighborhood, including Starbucks, Hooters, and local banks are required to post signage in Chinese. But those expecting something like New York's Chinatown will be sorely disappointed—area residents have taken to calling it Chinablock.

Judiciary Square, to the east of Penn Quarter, includes the United States District Court building, along with the D.C. Superior Court building, and various other government buildings. Just north, straddling into the neighborhood of Shaw, is the massive, 2.3 million square foot (210,000 m²) Convention Center, just north of Mt Vernon Square. The Convention Center was completed in 2003, and has since been the favorite site for presidential inaugural balls.

D.C. tourist information

Get in

By metro

Metro is the best way for getting into Penn Quarter and Chinatown, the former serviced by the busy Metro Center (on the Red, Orange, Blue, and Silver lines), as well as Federal Triangle (Blue, Orange, and Silver) and Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter (Green and Yellow). The Gallery Pl-Chinatown will drop you off right in the heart of the neighborhood at the Verizon Center—use the H St exit for Chinatown.

For the Convention Center, get off at Mount Vernon Square on the Green and Yellow lines. For Judiciary Square in the east, take the Red Line to Judiciary Square.

By car

The East End is probably the worst place to drive to in the city. On weekdays and during peak tourist season, street parking is either unavailable, or will take a longer time to find than it would take to ride the Metro here. Most parking garages fill up by 9AM. Downtown traffic jams are frequent and awful. You might find parking on off-hours, or during the winter, but it's almost always easier to take public transport. Take note of garage hours—after they close, you won't be able to get your car.

The main north-south routes are 7th St (which turns into Georgia further north), as well as I-395 from Virginia, which terminates east of the Convention Center. Major east-west routes include H St, which runs through Chinatown, and of course Pennsylvania Ave. Crisscrossing the area on diagonals through Mt Vernon Square are New York Ave and Massachusetts Ave. The latter, as well as H St, offer a fun game—trying to stay on either is something like riding a bucking bronco.

By taxi

It is possible to hail taxis from the street at almost any hour of the day or night, and they are a convenient way to travel relatively short distances. They are also your only alternative to the bus if you are heading west to Georgetown.

By bus

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

By foot

The Penn Quarter area is easily walkable from the National Mall and the museums by walking north through the courtyards of Federal Triangle, past the National Archives. It's an easy walk after sightseeing to get to the shops and restaurants. From the White House, walk east on Pennsylvania Avenue to G, F, or E St. From the National Mall, just aim north.


The Verizon Center


Landmarks and memorials

The imposing Canadian Embassy
The Old Post Office Building

Public squares

D.C.'s downtown is notable for its grand squares, though they may get more use from homeless people and pigeons than visitors (there are no downtown homeless shelters).


Verizon Center

The Verizon Center, 601 F St NW, ☎ +1 202 661-5000, is home to both the Washington Wizards of the NBA and the National Hockey League's Washington Capitals. The Georgetown Hoyas college basketball team also plays games here, as do the WNBA's Washington Mystics. It also hosts major concerts, WWE wrestling, and various other events throughout the year. Tickets are sold through Ticketmaster or at the box office.

Convention Center

The Reagan Building's main entrance

The Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Pl NW, ☎ +1 202 249-3000, hosts events throughout the year, including shows geared towards the public, as well as trade shows and conferences. The popular Washington Auto Show takes place annually in late January or early February, the Washington Home and Garden Show is in March, and the Washington Craft Show in November.

Theater and live music

There are various theatres around the city, but the Theater District is in Penn Quarter. The most popular theater company in the area, and likely the whole D.C. area, is the Shakespeare Theatre Company, whose performances of Shakespeare and other classical plays rank among the nation's most renowned. Another very popular show is the long-running Capitol Steps show of political satire, where everyone in the political spectrum gets roasted every F-Sa in the Reagan Building.


The balcony where President Lincoln was assassinated - Ford's Theatre



Macy's, 1201 G St NW, +1 202 628-6661 (on top of Metro Center), is the most-centrally located department store in D.C. There are several shops nearby on 13th St and several shops both on F St between 14th and 9th, and on 7th St between G and H and near D St. Ground zero for souvenir shops is the 500 block of 10th St NW, surrounding Ford's Theatre. Gallery Place is a collection of shops at the intersection of 7th & H St including Ann Taylor and Urban Outfitters. The museums here have great gift shops—the National Building Museum's is especially worth searching out.

The Penn Quarter Fresh Farm Market, spring–fall, is a Thursday farmers market is on 8th St between D and E, 3-7PM. In December, the Downtown Holiday Market is set up on F St between 7th and 9th, with an array of handcrafted items, jewelry, pottery, and food.


All hail José Andrés!

D.C.'s Spanish transplant, now one of America's most famous celebrity chefs, originally moved here as the head chef of Jaleo, a great tapas restaurant that has grown into a small local chain. He has since come to dominate the area's most trendy restaurants, opening up a host of them in the East End from Greek through Aztec, and is often credited with popularizing the art of the small dish in the U.S.

The East End has everything from chain restaurants to high-end dining to overpriced tourist traps. If you dine a la Andrés, you'll see D.C. cooking at its best. Nearly all the really nice restaurants here are relatively big, loud, cramped, and impersonal—but they'll serve great food. Chinatown, while small, supplies several budget options, as long as you can appreciate the "special charms" of Chinatown service.





There are a handful of good places, depending on what you are looking for, so you don't necessarily need to flee north to Shaw or Dupont Circle.

Several of the restaurants listed above have excellent bars, particularly if you like high-end cocktails surrounded by fashionable clientéle. Try Proof (make reservations), Graffiato, Poste, or any of the José Andrés restaurants' bars. Clyde's, District Chophouse, and District of Pi, double as solid places for beer lovers. If you are looking for a really unpretentious spot, try one of the Chinese places on H St, which stay open late, and serve "low-end" stiff tiki drinks, Chinese beers, and plentiful cheap sake late into the night.


If you are staying in the East End, you have a good location as you are close to both the National Mall and the nightlife-centered districts of Shaw and Dupont Circle. Private accommodation rentals are also very popular.







There are many cafes and restaurants in the East End that offer free WiFi. If you need to use a computer terminal, head to the library.

Go next

Routes through East End

Springfield West End  W  E  National Mall Largo
Greenbelt Shaw  N  S  Waterfront Suitland
Vienna West End  W  E  National Mall New Carrollton
Gaithersburg West End  W  E  Capitol Hill Wheaton
Petworth Shaw  N  S  Waterfront Huntington
Reston West End  W  E  National Mall Largo

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