This post is a long, long, long time coming—like over a year! My bad, y’all! Whenever I travel, I am so good about snapping pictures and sharing a guide about what I ate, saw, and did. But when I am here in DC living my day-to-day life, I often don’t think about bringing my DSLR camera with me places or snapping “blog worthy” photos. I really love having great photos to accompany my posts, so I dragged my feet on writing this post until I had the perfect photos—but then the other week, I went through my Dropbox and found photos I’ve snapped of Dupont over the last year. While I might not have as many photos or as much diversity in the photos as I would like (I’d love to include more food photos like I do on travel posts!), I had enough to paint a picture of Dupont so decided to go ahead and press publish on this post. Maybe when it’s warmer out, I’ll take my DSLR camera out in Dupont and do a little photoshoot!
Dupont has always been my favorite neighborhood in DC—and I am so glad I was lucky enough to move here. What I love about this neighborhood is that it really feels like a neighborhood—it’s pretty residential, but then also has a great mix of shops, restaurants, and bars, meaning everything I could want is in walking distance. There are streets and streets of beautiful row homes and embassies, and with mature trees, it is such a dream to walk around and take in the beauty.
For those of you less familiar, Dupont Circle is in the area of DC planned by the city’s original architect, L’Enfant, but didn’t become a fashionable residential neighborhood until after the Civil War when the US Army Corps of Engineers began construction on the traffic circle. In L’Enfant’s plan, the circle was named Pacific Circle, but Congress renamed it to Dupont Circle after Samuel Francis Du Pont, in recognition of his service in the Civil War. In the middle of the circle today, fountain constructed in the 1920s stands in his honor. The neighborhood had a decline after World War II, but then in the 1970s, experienced new life as the heart of the gay and lesbian movement in DC. In the following decades, gentrification really excelled, and now it’s one of DC’s most desirable neighborhoods.
Just a housekeeping note before we dive in—for the sake of this guide, I defined Dupont Circle by this map and only included recommendations that fall within this radius. Let’s explore Dupont, shall we?!
HOW TO GET THERE /
One of the things I love most about Dupont Circle is it is so easy to get to and easy to get to other neighborhoods in DC—it feels really central to me, at least for the things and people I want to see in DC! There’s a metro located right in the heart of Dupont Circle, with an entrance that puts you out north of the traffic circle and an entrance that puts you out south of the traffic circle. The Dupont Circle Metro is on the Red Line, and is just a few stops from Metro Center, where you can also connect with the Blue, Silver, and Orange lines.
My day job is in Tysons Corner, so instead of taking the Red line from the Dupont Circle station and transferring, I just walk down 17th Street to the Farragut West Station on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines, where I pick up the latter out to my office. It’s really easy to walk to Dupont Circle from Farragut West and other neighborhoods that surround it, like Foggy Bottom, Adams Morgan, 14th Street/Logan Circle—so definitely worth looking on a map to figure out the best plan of attack!
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK /
I am lucky that there is no shortage of restaurants and bars in Dupont Circle—and while several long-term establishments closed over the last year (RIP Buffalo Billiards!), there are always new spots opening in the neighborhood to try! Here are my favorite places to eat and drink:
- Iron Gate—one of my favorite restaurants in DC, Iron Gate is known for their amazing Mediterranean tapas. The atmosphere is unbeatable, it’s a smaller space so it feels really cozy, especially in the winter when they have the fire going. You can read my full Iron Gate review here, where I also share my favorite dishes.
- Tabbard Inn—right across the street from Iron Gate, Tabbard Inn is a working hotel that has an amazing lobby lounge and restaurant. It’s extremely popular and on the smaller side, so I’d recommend a reservation. Brunch is the best meal they have here, but I also love stopping in for a glass of wine in their cozy lobby lounge after work with friends.
- Lauriol Plaza—of the three Mexican restaurants on this Dupont Circle guide, I think Lauriol Plaza is my favorite! They don’t have a large bar area, so this is definitely more of a sit-down spot. In the summer, their front patio is a favorite spot of mine. Their chips are amazing, the margs are strong, and I always order the fajitas!
- Bar Charley—a popular spot located just below street level, Bar Charley is known for their steaks and burgers. Their bar is always packed during happy hour and they’re known for bottomless brunch. I would definitely recommend a reservation—this spot would be perfect for date night!
- Dupont Market—this is a bodega that sells wines, cheeses, and homemade dips, including my all-time favorite one: jalapeño feta! They also have a deli in the back where you can either DIY your own sandwich or order one of the many off their menu.
- Rebellion—a really fun bar where I watched the Caps take home the Stanley Cup! Known for their beer, whiskey, and bar food, their rooftop is really popular in the summer months.
- Floriana—a great Italian restaurant where I actually celebrated my 28th birthday with my family! In their basement, they have a cozy bar, and then upstairs, you really feel like you’re eating in someone’s old row home. They always have the best displays outside the restaurant throughout the year—everything from a huge rainbow for Pride in June to a vibrant Christmas tree in December.
- Duke’s Grocery—Duke’s is an East-London inspired restaurant. They don’t take reservations, but on warm days, you can bet their patio is going to be packed to the brim! They are known for their burger, but I also love their BLT and mac and cheese.
- Hank’s Oyster Bar—if you love seafood, don’t skip out on Hanks. They do everything well here, from clam chowder to Old Bay seasoned fries to lobster rolls. They have several bars here, which are great for a pre- or post-dinner drink, and they also have matchbooks!
- Sushi Taro—every weekday before 5pm, there’s always a line at the back of my CVS to get into Sushi Taro since they do half-off sushi and drinks at the bar until 7pm. There are only 7 seats at the bar, so it’s worth lining up for. Even if you can’t make happy hour, I’d still recommend this place for your sushi fix.
- Komi—this is definitely a splurge spot for a special occasion! Komi serves up dinner Tuesday through Saturday. They do a Mediterranean tasting menu for $165, with a wine pairing option for $85. A longstanding DC favorite, it’s earned a Michelin Star and is consistently praised by food critics.
- Astoria—relatively new to the neighborhood, Astoria opened last spring. They serve up Sichuan food and craft cocktails, and every table gets a bowl of goldfish crackers while you wait. I think the space is really, really cute—the bar area especially! We loved their fried rice and chili wonton. They don’t take walk-ins, but if they’re busy when you arrive, they’ll text you when a table is ready.
- Agora—back when I was on the bottomless brunch scene in my early Washington, DC days, we loved Agora. A Greek Tapas restaurant, they have a large patio and all the tables are lit by candle light. This would be the perfect spot for just about anything—date night, girls’ night, family night.
- Mission—a super popular Mexican spot with a great bar, dining area, and private event space. I’ve been here so many times and it’s always a good time. Their happy hour is extremely popular, so just know the bar might be crowded if you go after work. Whenever it’s too crowded on a weeknight, my friends and I always walk up the street to…
- Alero—this spot! A Mexican place right on Connecticut, Alero is a true Mexican spot, with the colorful table cloths, simple decor, and classic Mexican fare. You can’t go wrong with the margs and queso here!
- Decade’s—I rarely go “out out” anymore, but if you’re looking for a fun going out spot in Dupont, I love Decades! It’s a three-floor bar, and each floor is a different decade—the 80s, 90s, and 00s. Such a fun spot for dancing with your friends!
- Resident’s Bar & Cafe—a newish place, this is a coffee shop by day, and a bar at night. It’s a cozy space that has a really European vibe. A great spot to grab a drink after work with a friend, they also have really delicious food.
- The Pembroke—this restaurant has my *dream* decor! All sorts of pinks, palms, whites, and a mid-century modern vibe. The food and service are also great—I am dying to get back for brunch. You can read my full review of The Pembroke here.
- Doyle—located in the same hotel as The Pembroke, Doyle Bar is the hotel’s lobby bar and you literally feel like you’ve walked into the set of Mad Men. The prices are on the higher side, but if you’re looking for a fancier pre- or post-dinner drink, this is a good spot.
- McClellan’s Retreat—a Civil War themed bar, this space is really cozy and almost has a divey vibe about it. They’ve got a lot of beers on tap and most of their cocktails are named after historical figures. And get the popcorn, it’s amazing!
- Board Room—I don’t play board games enough anymore, but I love coming into Board Room to have a drink (they’re known for their beer, but they also have wine and mixed drinks) and playing Battleship. Games are $2 to rent, so super cheap!
- Kramer Books & Afterwords Cafe—an institution in DC, Kramer’s is an independent bookstore with a cafe in the back. They serve delicious American food and would be the perfect spot for any book lover for brunch, lunch, or dinner.
- Fruitive—a great place to grab a smoothie or an açaí bowl after a workout class, I am obsessed with their peaches and greens smoothie.
- Glen’s Garden Market—seriously the best food market with all sorts of artisanal and grab-and-go foods, and you can grab a six-pack and enjoy a sandwich from the deli.
And, some of my favorite fast casual places have outposts in Dupont Circle, including Chop’t, Shake Shack, Sweetgreen, and Cava!
WHERE TO SHOP /
Dupont Circle has a ton of chain stores, and while living here, I love having access to all of those—I’m not going to spend time highlighting those in this guide. You don’t need me to tell you about Ann Taylor or Brooks Brothers! Instead, I wanted to highlight a few of the smaller places I love in the neighborhood. (Though truthfully, the bulk of the shopping in Dupont is the chain stores—so I wish I had more to highlight here!)
I would be remiss if I didn’t start with my favorite shop in the neighborhood—Jenni Bick! They are known for their custom journals, many of which they can do right in the store. They also have a wide selection of the most beautiful cards for any occasion, stationery, and calendars. If I need a gift, Jenni Bick is often my first stop and I often pop in just to window shop.
I also mentioned it above for the cafe, but Kramer Books & Afterwords Cafe is an amazing independent bookstore that’s been in the neighborhood since the 1970s. Their staff is so knowledgeable and can hook you up with a great book no matter your favorite genre. Another bookstore in the neighborhood I love is Second Story Books. It’s one of the best second-hand bookstores I’ve ever been into, and they have everything from out-of-print books to well-loved paperbacks. On their sidewalk, they often have a sidewalk sale going on where you can grab several books for a dollar or two.
Shop Made in DC is another great store that supports local DC makers—they source over 5,000 products made from local artisans and sell everything from apparel, art, furniture, jewelry, home decor and stationery. There’s also a cafe that sells DC-made food products. Shop Made in DC also has retail locations in Georgetown and at The Wharf, or you can shop some of their products online.
Their bread and butter is hats, but Proper Topper has all sorts of accessories, jewelry, coffee table and gifts—they also offer gifts for babies and kids, making it a great spot to pop into if you need a shower gift. It definitely leans on the more eccentric, whimsical side, but even though that’s not always my taste, I can always find something in here I like!
If you love home goods, hide your wallet when you walk into Tabletop! I love this store so much—everything is curated so well and they have a wide variety of offerings—everything from barware to wall art. If I am looking for a gift, this is often the first place I go!
WHAT TO DO /
In addition to the actual Dupont Circle and fountain in the middle, one of my favorite (free!) sights to see in the neighborhood is Embassy Row. The Embassy of Australia at Scott Circle kicks off the 2 miles known as Embassy Row. Walk north along Massachusetts Avenue (towards Dupont Circle from Scott Circle) and you’ll pass so many beautiful embassies. I take these for granted since I walk by them so often, but I love how each embassy brings a little bit of their own flair to the facade and grounds of their property.
When I am up early enough on the weekends, one of my favorite things to do is to go to the Dupont Circle’s Farmers Market. Open on Sundays (year round!) from 8:30am to 1:30pm, it’s located on 20th Street NW between Massachusetts Avenue and Hillyer Place. They have everything from fresh produce and poultry and eggs to tacos to homemade soaps. Even if you aren’t in the market for anything, it’s a really fun atmosphere to walk around in—especially when it’s warm out.
In 2019, I saw my favorite comedian, Jared Freid, live at the DC Improv and was kicking myself for not checking out this neighborhood joint sooner! They’ve got a full calendar of comedians on the docket, and it is a well oiled machine. They have great bar food and the service during the show was great. If you’re looking for something to do with friends that’s a little bit different than the normal happy hour, definitely check out their schedule!
The Phillips Collection is a true gem of Dupont Circle and is dedicated to showing the work of modern artists—I love all the Rothkos they have! A really fun way to see the museum is to go to Phillips After 5, where on the first Thursday of every month, in addition to be able to view the exhibits at the museum, they usually bring in some sort of live artist or entertainment and a cash bar. I’d definitely recommend buying tickets in advance if you’re going to go since they often sell out, but I used to go a lot with my old coworkers, and we never regretted it.
I am lucky enough to be a parishioner of The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, but even if you aren’t Catholic, it’s a beautiful Cathedral with stunning art and architecture. It began serving parishioners in the 1890s, and is where the Funeral Mass of President John F. Kennedy was held. When the church is open, you’re free to walk in and enjoy a quiet moment with God.
The other thing I’d recommend is just walking around and enjoying the beautiful row homes. Some of my favorite residential streets to walk are P, Q, and R Streets between 17th and 18th and Swann Street between 18th and New Hampshire. Anything in that part of the neighborhood is beautiful, though, so you really can’t go wrong!
As I mentioned above, without a doubt, Dupont Circle is my favorite neighborhood in DC—and is one I am so, so glad I get to call home. I’m glad I got to show you my favorite spots in the neighborhood today—please don’t hesitate to drop me a comment below or email me at email@example.com if you have any questions or need any specific recs! x
This sounds like such an awesome area! You are luck to live in such an amazing place and glad it’s such a great fit for you!
Thanks, friend! Glad that you seem to be planting roots in an area that is so meaningful and perfect for you! x