Washington, D.C./Georgetown

Healy Hall, of Georgetown University, rising above the Car Barn, a former trolley car depot, across the Key Bridge

Georgetown is a neighborhood in Washington, D.C., south of Upper Northwest and west of Dupont Circle. It is the oldest part of the city, with buildings dating back to 1751. The neighborhood is known for high-end shopping and dining, French-style cafes and cupcakeries, quaint 18th and 19th century rowhouses lining cobblestone streets reminiscent of Old Europe, sprawling estates, exclusive cocktail parties for the social and political elite, a glistening waterfront harbor, as well as Georgetown University and the associated rowdy collegiate nightlife. Several countries have embassies in Georgetown. Georgetown is physically separated by from the west of Washington by a ravine and the lack of a Metrorail station, and the feeling of separation persists in many ways to this day.


Georgetown is situated on bluffs overlooking the Potomac River. As a result, there are some rather steep grades on streets running north-south, as well as some great views over the Potomac. The famous "Exorcist Steps", which connect M St to Prospect St, were necessitated by the hilly topography. Several of these sloping streets remain unpaved and cobblestoned. Most of Georgetown's streets are lined with tall, old trees and quaint 18th-19th century architecture. Georgetown was formerly an industrial area and many of the former warehouses and factories were beautifully repurposed into apartments, hotels, and office buildings. In 2003, the former refuse incinerator was re-developed into the luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel. Georgetown is best explored by foot.


Georgetown was previously settled by the Nacotchanke Indians, who called it Tahoga. The first written European record of its existence was by English fur trader Henry Fleet, who wrote about the settlement in 1632. It was settled by the British in 1696, who quickly expunged the local population. Incorporated in 1751, Georgetown predates Washington and it remained a separate city from Washington until 1871. The name was either a tribute to King George II of Britain, or to George Gordon and George Beall, who owned most of the land at the time the city was founded.

In colonial times, Georgetown was at the northernmost navigable point on the Potomac River. As a port city it was an important center of Mid-Atlantic trade, particularly for locally-grown tobacco and slaves. In 1789 Georgetown University was founded as the first Jesuit university in the nation. Thomas Jefferson and Francis Scott Key both lived in Georgetown, and George Washington came over often to visit the popular taverns.

The $77 million Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was constructed in the 1820s along the west bank of the Potomac River, linking Georgetown to Ohio via Western Maryland. Due to the construction of the more efficient B&O Railroad and problems with flooding and silting, the project was a dramatic commercial failure, and operated at a loss, but its legacy exists in Georgetown today as a beautiful place to take a walk or bike ride. In the late 19th century, Georgetown's fortunes declined precipitously as both the Potomac and the canal became unnavigable due to increased sedimentation. The factories around the canal shut down, and Georgetown became a slum. As the city of Washington grew, the Anglo-elite moved to newer homes in the burgeoning city, while newly freed slaves fled the south and came to Georgetown. The black population of Georgetown almost doubled and it became a majority African-American neighborhood.

In the mid-20th century Georgetown's fortunes saw a rapid change, as well-educated residents moved here, drawn by its proximity to the city center and especially by its beautiful architecture. In the 1950s, then-senator John F. Kennedy moved to 33rd and N St, and since everyone wanted to be at Jackie O's parties, the city's social and political elite returned to Georgetown. Many houses were renovated and Georgetown became the most expensive part of D.C.

Today, Georgetown caters to a privileged, wealthy, international, powerful, and even somewhat aristocratic crowd, although the university presence preserves a unique mixture of beer-soaked college town and prosperous enclave.

Get in

By Metrorail

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

There is no Metrorail station in Georgetown. Georgetown is an easy one-mile walk from either the Rosslyn Metrorail Station in Arlington or the Foggy Bottom Metrorail Station in the West End and is 1.5 miles from the Dupont Circle Metrorail Station. Walking across the Key Bridge to/from the Rosslyn Metrorail Station also offers some really nice views.

By bus

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

By car

Driving in Georgetown is not a pleasant experience. Streets are clogged, pedestrians are aggressive (that's right, the pedestrians), major arteries reverse flow and become one-way during rush hour.

Wisconsin Ave and M St are the major arteries. The Whitehurst Fwy from K St is a quick way to get between Georgetown and the West End or the National Mall. The Key Bridge at the west end of M St connects Georgetown with Arlington, Virginia, Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA), and Alexandria. The Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway provides quick access between Georgetown and the neighborhoods along Rock Creek Park in Upper Northwest.


Street parking is close to impossible to find. Parking is available at the The Shops at Georgetown Park Parking Garage for $10/hour or $20/day or the less-convenient Georgetown University Southwest Garage for $3/hour or $20/day.

By taxi

It is easy to find a taxi on M St or Wisconsin Ave any time of the day.

By boat

Potomac Riverboat Company operates water taxis from Alexandria to Georgetown ($15 one-way) with narrated tours of the monuments.

By bicycle

The Capital Crescent Trail runs from Georgetown to Silver Spring.

For information on bike-sharing programs in the Washington DC area, see Washington DC#Get around.


Although Georgetown is known principally for its pretty residential streets, shopping, and dining, it has some of the most historical attractions in D.C. Dumbarton Oaks is a highlight of any visit to the city. A visit to D.C. would also be remiss without a stop at Georgetown University's beautiful Main and Dalghren Chapel quads, the notorious Exorcist Steps, and the C&O Canal.


The canal south of M St

D.C. has a lot of outdoor opportunities for such an urban area, and Georgetown is one of the best places to enjoy them. Theodore Roosevelt Island and its hiking trails are just across the Key Bridge (free ranger-led tours on weekends at 10AM), the C&O Canal is a great place for a walk or bike ride, and Georgetown is also becoming a major jumping off point for boats, from water taxis to kayaks. The Washington Harbor development at the south end of 31st St, is the center of maritime activity, as well as a favorite (if touristy) place for a stroll to take in the views of the city across the Potomac.



Festivals and events


The distinctive PNC Bank building on Wisconsin St & M St

Georgetown is upscale shopping central, although you won't find many discount or touristy stores here. You'll find many upscale local shops and boutiques as well many national and international chains. Along with Friendship Heights in Upper Northwest, Georgetown is one of two highly upscale shopping areas in the District.

Georgetown has many modern interior design stores and showrooms concentrated between 34th and 33rd along M south to the canal. Even if you are not interested in design, some of those air conditioned stores have some very comfortable couches that you might stop in to "try out" on a hot day.

The Shops at Georgetown Park

, 3222 M St NW,  +1 202 342-8190. M-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su noon-6PM. An enclosed upscale shopping mall. It's an oddly quiet place to walk through, having been outshined by the street-fronting competitors. Stores include upscale shops such as Express, H&M, J Crew, Ann Taylor, Sisley, Itermix, White House/Black Market, etc., but also a host of small boutiques and unique import/export stores. Garage parking is available ($20 daily).


If you like fashion, you will love shopping in Georgetown. You may also wind up in financial ruin due to the high prices, albeit with great closet riches.

National upscale clothing retailers including Abercrombie & Fitch (1208 Wisconsin Ave), Anthropologie (3222 M St), Banana Republic (3200 M St), BCBG (3210 M St), Brooks Brothers (3077 M St), Club Monaco Ralph Lauren (3295 M St), Coach (3259 M St), Co-Op by Barney's New York (3040 M St), Diesel (3033 Wisconsin Ave), The Gap (1258 Wisconsin Ave), Gap Athleta (3229 M St), Hugo Boss (1517 Wisconsin Ave), J Crew (3222 M St), Limited (3276 M St), Lucky Brand Jeans (3273 M St), Lululemon (3265 M St), Nike (3040 M St), Ralph Lauren (1245 Wisconsin Ave), UGG Australia (1249 Wisconsin Ave), Urban Outfitters (3111 M St), Zara (1238 Wisconsin Ave), and many more are all located close to each other, especially on M St east (and two blocks west) of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Ave north of M. You can walk past them all in an easy fifteen minutes.


For an upscale college town, Georgetown has an underwhelming selection of bookstores, but there are still a couple of good, small, independent stores.


Shops along M St


Don't descend the Exorcist steps when icy

Georgetown has one of D.C.'s best dining scenes, with loads of options on M St. The university presence ensures that there are a lot of good budget options, but it is the high end where Georgetown excels—from stuffy and traditional to modern and chic. For more affordable options, check the bars as well, where there are some excellent eats to be had (e.g., Martin's Tavern).


Cupcakes and pies are serious business here and it is common for people to wait in line for a long time to buy them.


National fast food chain restaurants are rare in Georgetown. For those looking for cheap fast food, in addition to the restaurants below, try Five Guys Burgers & Fries or Chipotle's Mexican Grill. A Cosi's is available in the Leavey Center on the campus of Georgetown University.



Georgetown is the place to go for high-end dining in D.C. The food and wines are world-class.


The Who?

Two steps into a bar in Georgetown and you'll have encountered The Hoyas. "The Hoyas" are any and all of the Georgetown University sports teams, but the name can apply more broadly to anyone affiliated with Georgetown, or really anyone who decides to root for the home team. Their blue and gray colors are all over the place, and so is their merchandise. While the term can be applied to anyone and anything Georgetown, it's most commonly understood to refer to the university's famous basketball program, which has produced a long line of NBA stars in recent years, such as Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, and Dikembe Mutombo, and which continues to be one of the NCAA's most competitive teams.

Now what is a Hoya? It's not, as commonly believed, the bulldog mascot—that's Jack, and he belongs to one of the school's Jesuit professors. In decades past, when Georgetown students all studied Latin, the audience at one game descended into a bout of extreme Catholic nerdiness, chanting "Hoya saxa? Georgetown saxa!"—meaning, "Who rocks? Georgetown rocks."

The basketball games are a lot of fun, and a big event in town, but they are too big for the university facilities to handle—they play at the Verizon Center in the East End.

There are many, many places to drink in Georgetown, from upscale, exclusive bars to college joints. In addition, many places are restaurants-by-day, bars-by-night. M St is the main drag for drinking, and you won't have to walk far to stumble in and grab a beer. The nightlife in Georgetown is crowded and plentiful, but a good deal less fashionable than in less-touristy hotspots such as Shaw and Adams Morgan. The booze may be overpriced, but it is nice to have some drinks in a neighborhood where you can walk the side streets intoxicated at night without any fear of getting mugged.

For dancing, El Centro DF, listed above, is a very popular option.

Music venues

Jazz at Blues Alley



Georgetown University's Healy Hall

Georgetown is generally expensive. If you want to stay near Georgetown on a budget, either look for deals, or head over the Key Bridge to Arlington, where you'll find better options and save a couple percent on hotel taxes.




Internet access

Most, but not all of the cafes in Georgetown offer free WiFi.

If you don't have a computer or smartphone, the following libraries offer free access to computer terminals:

Go next

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