Dupont Circle neighborhood guide

Get to know Washington DC area by area—the best local restaurants and bars, arts and entertainment and things to do in Dupont Circle

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Hank’s Oyster Bar, the Dupont Circle seafood and bar chain

Hank’s Oyster Bar, the Dupont Circle seafood and bar chain © Daniel Swartz


Dupont Circle is perhaps one of the most cosmopolitan DC neighborhoods, its bars and restaurants drawing a diverse public. The circle itself is a popular green space, with a collection of chess tables in constant use. A central marble fountain sprays into the air in honor of Civil War admiral Samuel Francis Dupont. In the late 19th century, mansions began sprouting in what had been a backwater to accommodate arriviste millionaires, in time morphing into Embassy Row. The area was a countercultural hotbed in the 1960s, when anti-Vietnam War and Black Power activists claimed the circle for demonstrations.

Today, though, the neighborhood has hit the mainstream. Chain stores have infiltrated Connecticut Avenue, but enough idiosyncratic bookstores and bistros and galleries (sporting open-house receptions every first Friday evening) survive to reward a wander. Large hotels and apartment buildings start to dominate the landscape about four blocks north, heading towards Adams Morgan.

Restaurants and bars in Dupont Circle

Little Serow

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

Johnny Monis was just 24 when he opened Komi, the Greek-inspired restaurant that vaulted him to culinary stardom. For his second place, Little Serow, he took inspiration from northern Thailand. As at Komi, there is no menu; $45 gets you a family-style meal of about seven dishes. Flavors are bright and bold, and the heat can be intense. The menu changes weekly, but dishes might include snakehead fish with bamboo shoots and rice powder or pork ribs with whiskey and dill. The restaurant can only accommodate groups of up to four and doesn’t take reservations, but the staff will text you when a table frees up.

  1. 1511 17th Street, NW, Church Street
  2. Set meal $45
More info

Komi

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 4/4
  • Critics choice

Johnny Monis is gathering quite a following for himself in his tiny Dupont Circle restaurant. Komi’s low-key dining room, a straight shot from front window to kitchen window, is home to some of the most adventurous eating in the city; the youthful chef is essaying New American cuisine with nods to his Mediterranean heritage and whatever else strikes his fancy. But neither he nor his staff of personable, fashionable servers is lacking in discipline; just as his talent is for showcasing unusual ingredients without showboating, theirs is for putting guests at ease with the ever-changing menu. Foodies will be talking about Monis’s suckling pig for years. See also Power Points.

  1. 1509 17th Street, NW, Between P & Q Streets
  2. Set menu $135
More info

Firefly

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

The Madera goes for a "contemporary rustic" aesthetic with its Firefly bar, which features a lot of wood, including a huge tree trunk with minuscule copper lanterns hanging from its branches. Seating is comfy, with intimate nooks and low, expansive tables for cocktails and small plates.

  1. Hotel Madera, between N Street & Sunderland Place, 1310 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
More info
More Dupont Circle restaurants and bars


Cultural highlights in Dupont Circle

Phillips Collection

  • Critics choice

This mansion was opened as a gallery in the 1920s by Marjorie and Duncan Phillips as a memorial to his father. The building was remodeled in the 1960s and underwent further renovation in the ’80s, when an extension increased its space by almost 20,000sq ft. In 2006, the museum unveiled its Sant Building, another expansion project that added airy galleries for modern art, an outdoor sculpture terrace and café, an art and technology laboratory and an auditorium. The museum’s signature painting, Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, enjoys pride of place in the permanent collection galleries. There, significant Van Gogh oils rub shoulders with Steiglitz prints and a solid selection of works by Picasso, Paul Klee, Bacon, Vuillard and Rothko—that is, if a traveling show hasn’t deposed them temporarily. Special exhibitions cover subjects as diverse as Italian contemporary photography and cross-cultural artistic dialogue as revealed in work by Americans Jackson Pollock and Alfonso Ossorio, and French painter Jean Dubuffet.

  1. 1600 21st Street, NW, at Q Street
More info

Hillyer Art Space at International Art & Artists

A handsome gallery space inside the headquarters of a company that organizes travelling art exhibitions. The program juxtaposes Washington-based and international artists.

  1. 2nd floor, 9 Hillyer Court, NW, off 21st Street, between Q & R Streets, Dupont Circle
More info
More museums and galleries in Dupont Circle

Hotels in Dupont Circle

Mansion on O Street

  • Price band: 4/4

Discretion exemplified, the 23-room B&B Mansion is hidden away on a quiet residential side street, with no sign to announce its presence. Each room in the three interconnected townhouses has a different theme: the Log Cabin suite, for example, has huge log beams, cow-hide rugs and three Frederic Remington sculptures; prices vary dramatically. The complex serves mainly as a private club and event space, and much of what you see, from the furniture to the wall hangings, is for sale. Some visitors love staying in a private mansion with 30 secret doors; others miss the better (and more accessible) service offered at conventional hotels. There are no "standard" rooms here; rooms and suites are individually priced.

  1. 2020 O Street, NW, 20th & 21st Streets
More info

Palomar

  • Price band: 3/4

The old Radisson that was on this site bequeathed large-sized rooms, an asset for the sleek, retro-styled Palomar. The spacious guestrooms use a soft palette of taupes, browns and mushroom, with a hint of leopardskin in the taupe jacquard carpet, plus odd flashes of color. Headboards come in beige leather, and rooms are also equipped with capacious armchairs with footstools. Some, "Spa Kings", come with Fuji soaking tubs (in serene bathrooms of white marble and dove gray); all have a yoga mat. Rooms also have DVD/CD players and iPod docks. The lobby has a touch of the exotic, with chocolate browns, dark woods and 1960s-style chandeliers.

  1. 2121 P Street, NW, 21st & 22nd Streets
More info

U Hospitality at 2400 M

Featuring free Wi-Fi, these Washington D.C. self-catering apartments offer a full kitchen and access to an outdoor swimming pool. Dupont Circle is just 10 minutes’ walk away.Each air-conditioned apartment at U Hospitality Residences comes with an en suite bathroom and a dishwasher. A seating area with a sofa and laundry facilities are provided as well.A 24-hour reception welcomes guests to the U Hospitality Residences, which features an on-site fitness centre. Parking is also offered on site, free of charge.George Washington University is just 5 minutes’ walk from the apartments, as is the Foggy Bottom Metro station. The White House and the Lincoln Memorial are both within 2 km of the U Hospitality Residences.

  1. 2400 M Street NW, 37
  2. $219.00 to $219.00 per night
Book online
More hotels in Dupont Circle

Music and nightlife in Dupont Circle

Firefly

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

The Madera goes for a "contemporary rustic" aesthetic with its Firefly bar, which features a lot of wood, including a huge tree trunk with minuscule copper lanterns hanging from its branches. Seating is comfy, with intimate nooks and low, expansive tables for cocktails and small plates.

  1. Hotel Madera, between N Street & Sunderland Place, 1310 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
More info

Tabard Inn bar

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 2/4

The Tabard Inn makes for a most relaxing place to start, end or break a day of sightseeing. The bar is set in a shabby-chic, living-room-like front room, where patrons can relax on Victorian sofas in front of a log fireplace that might have come straight from the pages of Wuthering Heights, while sipping a fortifying glass of wine or brandy.

  1. 1739 N Street, NW, between 17th & 18th Streets
More info

Bar Rouge

  • Rated as: 3/5

A different kind of chic dominates Bar Rouge at the Hotel Rouge. The bar is comfortable, with throne-like armchairs, long couches and white leather seats. Cocktails are pricey ($8-$14) and a little too syrupy, but strangely addictive, especially in combination with the hypnotic acid jazz oozing out of the sound system.

  1. 1315 16th Street, NW, at Scott Circle
More info
More clubs and music venues in Dupont Circle

Shopping in Dupont Circle

Copenhaver

  • Critics choice

The decorous wooden shelves of Copenhaver hold what many would call the city’s finest selection of stationery: there’s Crane paper of all descriptions, Vera Wang and Martha Stewart invitations, and insanely expensive letterpress notecards. If you’re looking for sombre double-folds for condolence letters or suitable cotton paper on which to print your dissertation, this is your place. Come December, there’s a lovely selection of holiday cards, along with proper red-bordered foldovers with lined envelopes for your Christmas letters. Staff will engrave your wedding invitations too. Service is personal and exceptional.

  1. 1301 Connecticut Avenue, NW, between Dupont Circle and N Street, Dupont Circle
More info

Kramerbooks

  • Critics choice

Not just a bookshop, but an episode of Blind Date, Kramerbooks is an oft-used venue for a first assignation. First, meet in the bookshop, then repair to the attached café (Afterwords), which serves meals and snacks throughout the day. Possibilities of romance aside, the book selection is good.

  1. 1517 Connecticut Avenue, NW, at Q Street, Dupont Circle
More info

Alton Lane

Custom suit company Alton Lane dresses you a notch above your pay grade by taking a 3D scan of your body to guarantee that your tailor-made suit will fit perfectly. Make an appointment to visit the showroom and sip a whiskey sour while picking out silk ties to go with your new suit.

  1. 3rd floor, 1506 19th Street, NW, Dupont Circle
More info
More stores in Dupont Circle

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