I’ve been living in Washington DC for over ten years. I don’t have the bragging rights to call myself a Washingtonian as my kids do, but I call it my hometown, nonetheless.
Georgetown is a neighborhood in northwest DC that lies along the scenic Potomac River. In the 1600s, Georgetown was the farthest point of the river that oceangoing boats could navigate. By the 1800s, the river was too silted up to accommodate them, so the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal began construction to fill the gap.
Today, Georgetown is a mecca of arts, music, galleries, and boutiques. It has both casual and fine dining, and a robust, lively waterfront. Lovely townhouses abound and many are found on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Georgetown is a neighborhood meant to be strolled leisurely. Each turned corner reveals something new, whether that be a hidden garden, a lively coffee house, or an eclectic boutique. Follow along for 12 must-see spots in Georgetown, told from a local’s point of view.
The best of Georgetown:
Drinking and dining
I’m a foodie first. I often plan holidays around a coveted restaurant reservation. DC has upped its culinary game since I’ve lived here, adding quite a few Michelin stars in the past decade.
And while Georgetown isn’t known as a culinary destination, it has a few notable gems. Arguably, the best is Fiola Mare. Fiola Mare is a waterfront restaurant owned by famed restauranteurs, Fabio and Maria Trabocchi. Their culinary empires include other popular DC restaurants like Fiola and Del Mar.
As one might expect, Fiola Mare’s specialties revolve around the sea. Some menu highlights are their famous lobster ravioli, seafood tower, and Canary Islands Branzino. Vegetarians need not go hungry, as the Colors of the Garden Salad is just one of the many vegetable-inspired dishes on the menu.
The second of my favorite culinary destinations is Cafe Milano. It’s set on a side street just off one of Georgetown’s main arteries, Wisconsin Avenue. It has been a DC fixture for decades, attracting the DC elite and politicians alike. The boy’s club vibe is enhanced by formally dressed Italian waiters and an old-world, amber-lit ambiance. The maître d’ is the puppet master extraordinaire and knows how to manage the dining room and its eclectic clientele to perfection.
Yet, you need not be a politician or lobbyist to love Cafe Milano. The menu is extensive, but any of the hand-made pastas are worth their weight in carbs. Cafe Milano is known about town for its Veal Chop Milanese and slow-cooked wagyu short ribs. Hungry yet?
Rounding out Georgetown’s best foodie haunts, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the bar and restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel. A university town like Georgetown often caters to a college crowd. But you can be sure to chill with a civilized cocktail at the bar of Michael Mina’s restaurant, Bourbon Steak.
College students are weeded out by the craft cocktails’ steep price tags. They are created behind an old-world bar with skilled and inventive barmen at the helm. The setting is at once relaxed and DC-energized, simultaneously.
Sweets and treats
Those with an overactive sweet tooth like mine will have plenty of choices while meandering the streets of Georgetown. While DC is known for the wildly successful bakery Georgetown Cupcakes, of TV fame, it’s not the only sweet spot in town.
I like to smirk as I pass the tourists queuing for an hour or more at Georgetown Cupcakes while I head straight towards oh-so-hip Baked and Wired. Located along the C&O Canal, it’s might be the best-kept secret bakery in town. It draws a local crowd, due to its hidden location, small-batch baked goods, and decadent caffeinated options.
Oh, and the cupcakes. Oversized, hand-made, and purposely imperfect. Some of their most interesting varieties have names like Pretty Bitchin’, Dirty Chai, and Uniporn. Grab a ‘cakecup’, a latte, and stroll along the enchanting flower-lined canal.
Another is Foxtrot which opened in DC in 2021. While not unique to Georgetown (they have over ten stores nationwide) it’s a stop worth making while cruising up Wisconsin Avenue. Imagine your local convenience store. Now imagine it with the coolest, most unique, and well-curated artisanal groceries items you can summon up. Hello, Foxtrot.
BLT dip, Skull and Cross Bones sour candy, Thai curry bowls, and pints of heavenly Jeni’s ice cream. Golden lattes, organic, women-owned wines. An endless list of items you never knew you craved or needed, but now desperately crave and need. All in an uber-fun, convivial setting. Park yourself at a table and take in the buzzy vibe. You’ll feel ten years younger, I promise.
Arts and culture
Spending a day walking Georgetown’s historic cobbled streets and gazing at the federal-style architecture is an activity in itself. A few notable estates are worth visiting follow.
Dumbarton Oaks was once the residence of the US diplomat Robert Woods Bliss. Today, its gardens and estate are open to the public. The Dumbarton Oaks art collection features treasures such as Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art.
The Old Stone House is in the center of Georgetown on M Street and is the oldest unchanged structure in Washington DC. It was built in 1765 and is said to still be standing in its original state purely due to local sentimentality. Thank you, Washingtonians.
The house is open to the public and can be seen in under 30 minutes, as it’s quite small. Those lucky enough to visit DC in the spring may catch its Colonial Revival garden in full bloom, along with the house’s spectacular magnolia tree that cascades over the sidewalk.
Georgetown has shops and boutiques ranging from second-hand thrift shops to high-end designer labels. These days upper Georgetown is known for its plethora of highly-curated home design shops.
Ally Banks Interiors and English-countryside-inspired Pillar and Post are both women-owned. These two tastemakers have brought a level of style and elegance to Georgetown with their hand-picked wares that is well worth seeking out.
Another unmissable boutique on Wisconsin Avenue is The Phoenix. Woman-owned once again, the Phoenix has been in Samantha Gushner’s family since 1955. The Phoenix sources designers and artisans from around the world and her keen eye and airy, accessible store layout illustrate her love of all things beautiful.
The Potomac River is the central lifeline to Georgetown. Its waterfront hosts plenty of adventures for those seeking activities beyond eating, drinking, and shopping.
Head to the Key Bridge Boat House to rent a kayak or stand-up paddle. Then head towards the bridge for a unique view of the gorgeous bridge that connects DC to Virginia.
Hire a boat to see the sunset from the Potomac River with DC local Captain Jerry Lee. Jerry Lee’s charter company, Reflections DC, focuses on the guest experience first and foremost.
Admire the nation’s capital, the monuments, and historic sites from a new vantage point on his rare, classic, Boston Whaler. The Cortina has plenty of space to lounge, sit back and enjoy the Georgetown Waterfront from the water. Tack on dinner at Fiola Mare to complete a truly spectacular evening in Georgetown.
It’s clear Georgetown is a playground for art lovers, food-lovers, and water-lovers alike. Yet, it has much more to offer. Whether you have a day or a week spare, you will find plenty to do in this lovely neighborhood in America’s capital city.
I may not be a native Washingtonian, but I’ve lived here long enough to know where locals go. Now, you know too.