From luxuriously historic lodgings (The Jefferson) to crisply contemporary boutique hotels (Donovan House), there are a variety of stylish accomodations to choose from. And many Washington, DC hotels offer more than a place to crash, including some of the city’s best bars and lounges.
Best hotels in Washington, DC
The venerable old Hotel Washington has had the W treatment, and it’s every bit as fabulous as you might imagine. Key historical fittings remain in the lobby, like the old check-in/cash desk, original stucco and chandeliers, incorporated into a reborn and slightly fantastical "living room". There’s a touch of Alice in Wonderland in the check-in desks that are upside-down tables and the big chairs on small rugs. There’s a riff on buttoned-down DC masculine power going on, too, with clubby pinstriped chairs meeting their match in hot-red vinyl couches, while big black lamps drip with crystal drops. Upstairs, rooms and suites have all the style and comfort you would expect. For something truly spectacular, the Extreme Wow Suite channels the Oval Office with curved walls and strong, masculine colors, while the Marvelous Suite has an ethereal palette of pales. All rooms have waterfall showers, and iPod docks are among the amenities. The Bliss spa is, well, blissful, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s J&G Steakhouse, with chef Philippe Reininger at the helm, delivers a melding of classic steak and fish and clean, modish flavors in surroundings of simple elegance. (Michelle Obama has eaten here with friends.)
From the outside, the Sofitel looks like a typical big-city American hotel, but there’s a clue to some subtle differences: a French flag flying alongside the Stars and Stripes. Inside, contemporary artworks lift the traditional look of the wood-paneled lobby. Rooms also have good, vibrant pictures livening up neutral, comfortable, upscale decor and furnishings. European-style duvets are a welcome continental touch. TVs are high-definition, and marble bathrooms have separate bathtubs and glass-enclosed showers. There’s more French influence in the ICI Urban Bistro, where morning coffee comes in a French press (cafetière), and breakfast orders come with a croissant and a pain au chocolat as well as bread. Both the sophisticated Le Bar and the bistro have outside space, which is at a premium in this area. Many of the staff are French too. Vive la différence!
The Monaco makes the most of its grand setting—an imposing neo-classical building that was once the main Post Office sorting office. The unusual premises mean irregular shapes, high ceilings and features such as cornicing add an extra touch of originality to the guestrooms, where dramatic furnishings such as black and white print headboards and curtains, with circles and stripes, add further individuality. It’s not at the expense of comfort, however: furnishings are top of the range, bathrooms well appointed and rooms come with CD players and HD TVs. The large lobby/lounge is a stunner: painted a vivid kelly green and furnished with statement pieces, some modern classics, others one-off whimsical designs, that come together to create a gracious whole. There’s a complimentary wine hour in the evening. The Monaco is the flagship property of the Kimpton group, which has several hotels in DC and Northern Virginia. Its conversion into a hotel was one step in the process of the regeneration of Downtown.
This contemporary hotel features guestrooms in purples and browns with hanging egg chairs, cylindrical-shaped showers and iPod docking stations. Floor- to-ceiling windows overlook Thomas Circle. The best views, however, are found people-watching on the ground-floor Asian fusion restaurant, Zentan, or at the rooftop bar, with outdoor fireplace and pool.
Each of the Tabard’s 40 rooms is decorated in brilliant colors with a hotchpotch of slightly chipped antiques. Unique and classy, the hotel draws locals, who come to enjoy its excellent restaurant, the garden courtyard in summer and a roaring fire in winter. It’s made up of three 19th-century townhouses and is the oldest continuously operated hotel in DC—the floors and doors squeak and there’s no elevator. Guests can use the nearby YMCA
The Monaco Alexandria makes a bold design statement with its lobby/lounge. Walls and pillars are a glowing, striking blue, and there’s just a touch of Old Shanghai in the gold on black patterned walls behind the red padded-leather reception desk. Furnishings here are a happy mixture: lots of shades and patterns are thrown together to great effect, with hints of whimsy in a leopardskin-painted fire surround. Bedrooms continue the bold theme. They’re luxurious, many with brown-khaki walls, and lots of black and white in comfortable armchairs and chaises longues. Some feature bathrooms with two-person soaking baths. There’s an indoor swimming pool in the third-floor fitness cente
Just blocks from the White House, this Beaux Arts building reopened a couple of years ago after a two-year renovation that blends the modern—complimentary Wi-Fi—and the historic, with elegant nods to Thomas Jefferson. Four-poster beds have linens that feature the third president’s Monticello home and grounds. Downstairs is a clubby bar, snug library and Plume, an upscale French restaurant nestled under the lobby’s barrel-vaulted skylight.
A top-notch, dirt-cheap hostel close to the Metro and Downtown Washington, Hostelling International offers 250 beds divided between singles and doubles and larger dorm-style single-sex rooms or "family" rooms of four-, six-, eight- and ten-bed configurations. Private rooms sleep two hostellers in twin beds. Most have shared bathrooms, but there are a limited number with en suite bathrooms. You can reserve online for a $5 discount—you’ll have to forgo the breakfast, but you won’t miss it. Kitchens, lockers, a new games room and a laundry (self-service) are all at your disposal during your stay, and the staff arrange group walking tours and theater outings. Most importantly, there is no lock-out time. We recommend booking well in advance, because large groups often take up most of the beds. Non-members of Hostelling International are subject to a temporary membership fee of $3 per person.
The Hotel Harrington is a family-owned budget hotel, plain and simple. The lobby and rooms are clean but outdated, the staff welcoming and helpful. People choose to stay here for two reasons: price and location. The hotel is surrounded by a neighborhood where you’ll never get bored, and the Smithsonian museums and the Mall are also within easy reach. Family rooms sleep up to six people, and the hotel has a self-service laundry.
One of DC’s most comfortable hotels, the Four Seasons has long attracted VIP guests. The health spa is both serious and sybaritic, and good art is displayed throughout. Even if you’re not lucky enough to be staying here, you can at least treat yourself to afternoon tea on the Garden Terrace. If you can stump up the money for a reservation, ask to stay in the east wing, where a $40-million renovation a few years ago enlarged the rooms and updated the decor.
Near the Washington Convention Center and Verizon Center, this large hotel features 64,000sq ft of flexible function space, a 6,000sq ft fitness center and a 4,000sq ft spa that offers a variety of therapeutic treatments. For a more intimate vibe, the lobby has several cozy spots where guests can hold small meetings or meet friends. Each of the unique seating areas offers free Wi-Fi and food and beverages.