Capitol Hill is a venerable neighborhood just east of the Capitol building, best known as the main residence in the city for the legislative and judicial branches of the U.S. government, and for the staffers who run the place. Rare is the visitor who skips a visit to the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court steps, or the Library of Congress, but time permitting you should make an effort to head further east to see this beautiful neighborhood, and to have a nice meal on Barracks Row while listening to the politicos chatter away. The Hill extends several miles east of the Capitol to RFK Stadium and the Anacostia river.
Capitol Hill, just east of the Mall, plays a central role in the country's political life, as two of the three branches of the federal government—the legislative and the judicial—are located here. The government spills far over into the neighborhood itself, as this is the favorite residential section of town for congressional staffers, as well as any other type of politico you can imagine. Streets are abuzz with intense political debate, and you'll encounter this head on when visiting a neighborhood bar or restaurant.
Capitol Hill is worth exploring regardless of your interest in politics, though. It is a beautiful historic neighborhood of eighteenth and nineteenth century rowhouses in a wide range of architectural styles, and a wandering stroll from the Capitol to Barracks Row along residential side streets is a nice way to take in this quintessentially Washingtonian neighborhood. The upscale dining scene here has exploded in recent years, particularly along Barracks Row (centered on actual seventeenth century U.S. Marines barracks at 8th and I St) and along Pennsylvania Ave. North of the Capitol Grounds is grandiose Union Station, which is both a major point of entry into the city, and also a historical landmark in its own right, with a beautiful, gilt main hall. The other big historical attraction is the huge Eastern Market, which is a fine place to browse, admire, or grab something good to eat.
For more information on riding the Metrorail in Washington DC, see Washington DC#Get_around.
The Blue, Orange, and Silver lines have stations just south of the Capitol Grounds at Federal Center and Capitol South. Further from the city center Eastern Market and then Stadium-Armory can be reached on the same line. Eastern Market is the most convenient stop for exploring the Capitol Hill neighborhood, as well as the eponymous market and Barracks Row. Stadium-Armory is closest to both RFK Stadium and the Congressional Cemetery.
The most prominent stop is certainly at Union Station, 40 Massachusetts Ave, ☎ +1 202 289-1908 on the Red Line, which is an easy walk from the Capitol, and is right by the Amtrak/Marc train station.
Union Station is the central train station for the city, and trains come and go primarily along the Northeast Corridor, although you can likely find a train heading in any direction, the majority of which are operated by Amtrak.
Union Station is also the end point for the MARC Trains heading north through the Capital Region of Maryland to Baltimore. As the MARC serves primarily commuters, train departures and arrivals are concentrated at the beginning and end of the work day.
The following are the main bus routes operating in these neighborhoods, along with links to timetables and route maps. For more information on riding buses in Washington DC, see Washington DC#Get_around.
- #90, #92, and #93 are the most useful routes here—they run along 8th St from Barracks Row, past Eastern Market, and then north along Florida Ave to U St.
- #96 and #97 [dead link] run south from Union Station, right past the Capitol Building, then head east along E Capitol St. The former then heads south to the Congressional Cemetery, while the latter goes to RFK Stadium.
- #90, #92, #94, #95, and #96 head east from the National Mall,along Independence Ave, and then down Pennsylvania Ave.
- D.C. Circulator Union Station–Navy Yard Blue Line runs M-F 6AM-6PM (extended and weekend service on Nationals game days) from Union Station, past the Capitol Building, Eastern Market, and Barracks Row, before heading south to Waterfront.
Street parking is not too hard to find on side streets once you get far enough east of the Capitol Building, and away from Eastern Market and Barracks Row. The traffic patterns are disastrously convoluted, though—even by D.C. standards. Main east-west routes run along Constitution and Independence, as well as Pennsylvania and Maryland Ave. Coming from Anacostia, the main bridges are at Pennsylvania Ave and E Capitol St. There are no main roads heading north-south throughout the area, only the complex diagonals.
RFK Stadium has large public parking lots where event parking costs $15, and it's a relatively easy drive from outside the city, as it's just off I-295/DC-295. The traffic, on the other hand, is properly a nightmare in about a square mile radius around the stadium during events.
Taxis are easy to catch around the clock in the western portion of this area, particularly around monuments and main dining strips, but you will not find them in the residential areas.
The main attractions on Capitol Hill are all concentrated in the U.S. Capitol Complex, grounds managed by the Architect of the Capitol, covering roughly the three blocks east of the Mall. These include the Capitol Building and its grounds, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, Library of Congress, and congressional office buildings.
- 1 Capitol Building, ☎ . M-Sa 8:30AM-4:30PM. The center of the legislative branch of America is home to the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as numerous impressive paintings, statues, historical exhibits, and one magnificent dome. A new Visitor Center recently opened, which features an exhibition of the history of the Capitol and of Congress. Tours of the Capitol building can be arranged through the Visitor Center website (or by calling or emailing your Representative's or Senator's office a few weeks in advance). Tours start from within the Visitor Center. You may not bring food/drinks inside. Only the smallest and thinnest bags will be allowed. If lines for security are long, an alternative is to use the tunnel from the Library of Congress. Free.
- 2 Library of Congress, 10 1st St SE, ☎ . M-Sa 8:30AM-4:30PM. Originally founded by the third U.S. president, Thomas Jefferson, this grand building, also called the Jefferson Library, has the largest collection of books in the world. The most popular points of interest are the massive main reading room and Great Hall. On the Winter and Summer solstices the Great Hall is filled with an odd silver glow that gives the impression you are surrounded by floating clouds, and this makes those days the most crowded. The main reading room is known as the Sacred Room, and is absolutely stunning. You must be 18 or older to use the reading rooms and have a user card, which can be obtained by presenting a driver's license or completing a self registration form. Guided tours will not bring you into the reading room, but will take you up in the dome, where you can see the room in its full glory. There are also a number of rotating exhibitions from the Library's vast collection on display at any one time, as is a Gutenberg Bible. Free.
- 3 Supreme Court, First St & Maryland Ave NE, ☎ . M-F 9AM-4:30PM. This is the center of the U.S. Judicial Branch and of the three branches is the one that commands the greatest respect in American political life. Visitors can watch the court in session M-W, from October-April, with admission on a first-come, first-served basis. The rest of the year, public lectures are held every hour in the courtroom. The spiral staircases on the sides of the court room are beautiful and impressive parts of the building not to be missed. Here's a bit of trivia: the court didn't even have its own building until 1935, until then it was held in the Capitol building. Free.
- 4 United States Botanic Garden (U.S. Botanic Garden), 100 Maryland Ave SW, ☎ . 10AM-5PM daily. The national conservatory is one of the least visited attractions around the Mall, and that is one of the best reasons to visit. The botanical collection is extensive, the climate is often a welcome respite, and the catwalk through the leaf canopy in the jungle room is a favorite. Bartholdi Park, south of the conservatory, is small but majestic, centered around the Bartholdi Fountain. Free.
Capitol Grounds Monuments
The presidential monument choices on the Capitol Grounds are odd. Each of the presidents honored here are better known for presidential trivia and undistinguished presidencies. President Garfield is best known for holding the nation's second shortest presidency of little more than six months, ended by his assassination in 1881. His near predecessor Ulysses S Grant is considered one of the country's worst presidents, whose tenure was marked by corruption and alcoholism. He is better remembered as the Union General-in-Chief during the Civil War, and indeed the monument is solely dedicated to that image.
- 5 Statue of Freedom. A classical female figure stands prominently atop the Capitol Building's dome. Her right hand rests upon the hilt of a sheathed sword; her left holds a laurel wreath of victory and the shield of the United States with thirteen stripes. Her helmet is encircled by stars and features a crest composed of an eagle's head, feathers, and talons, a reference to the costume of Native Americans. She would, no doubt, be an iconic emblem of America, were it not so hard to make her out without binoculars.
- 6 Peace Monument. A monument in memorial of U.S. naval deaths at sea during the Civil War stands at the northeastern end of the Capitol Reflecting Pool, bearing an assembly of four statues. Grief weeps over History at the top. Facing outwards is Victory, holding a laurel of victory, and flanked by young Mars and Neptune. Facing the Capitol is the statue of Peace, holding an olive branch, and surrounded by symbols of prosperity.
- 7 James Garfield Monument. In tribute to the tragically slain president, the statue's base is surrounded by three statues of a student, a warrior, and a statesman, representing his distinguished academic, military, and political careers, which preceded his short tenure as the nation's leader.
- 8 Robert Taft Memorial. Grandson of the 27th president William Howard Taft, Senator Robert Taft's had a distinguished career of his own in the United States Senate. At the memorial his figure stands in front of an enormous carillon tower with 27 bells. The bells ring every quarter-hour, although the best time to visit is undoubtedly the Fourth of July, when the bells ring to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner at 2PM.
- 9 Ulysses S Grant Memorial. Grant's monument occupies the single most prominent location on the Capitol Grounds, directly over the reflecting pool. His statue emphasizes his cool, calm demeanor in the midst of battle—he is flanked on both sides by artillery and cavalry units clearly in the heat of battle.
- 10 Congressional Cemetery, 1801 E St SE. All sorts of notables from American history found their final resting place here, from composer John Sousa to FBI founder J. Edgar Hoover.
- 11 National Postal Museum, 2 Massachusetts Ave NE (Next to Union Station), ☎ . 10AM-5:30PM daily. The Smithsonian's own philatelist Shangri-La has one of the world's largest collections of rare stamps, as well as exhibitions of how mail has been delivered throughout history, and other ways that the mail shapes culture. Free.
- 12 Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Ave NE, ☎ . Not just a train station or metro stop, the grandiose 1908 Beaux Arts building by legendary American architect Daniel Burnham makes it worth a look—the ceremonial entrance is stunning. Open long after the museums close, it contains shops, restaurants and a cinema. A large monument to Christopher Columbus stands outside the building.
- 1 Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 E Capitol St SE, ☎ , fax: . M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. A library, performance venue, and a museum all rolled into one. The library is the single most impressive feature—it houses the largest collection of the Bard's works in the world—although the library itself is geared towards researchers, not travelers. The Shakespearean performances here are top-notch, and occasionally outshine the bigger Shakespeare Theatre Company in the East End (although the performances here can be more uneven). There are also frequent lectures, musical performances, etc., which can be a good excuse to visit. The small museum has a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and an Elizabethan garden in the back, and is nice to visit combined with a performance. Plays: $20-50 (occasional student discounts).
- 2 RFK Stadium, 2400 E Capitol St SE, ☎ . RFK is D.C.'s long-time stadium, with a location seemingly planned by L'Enfant, and once one of football's greatest venues, but its age is starting to really show. And that's not just the building—the tenants are all jumping ship. First the Redskins moved to Maryland, then the new Washington Nationals headed for the Waterfront. D.C. United (see below) is still here, and their games are about the most fun you'll ever have at a soccer game in the U.S., kept raucous by both the area's enormous Latino population and the enduring success of the club. But they too are planning an exit strategy—possibly to Poplar Point in Anacostia. If you come here, for soccer, a concert, or another big event, remember that while it may not look so pretty, in its heyday it was one of the greats.
- DC United, 2400 E Capitol St SE (RFK Stadium - Stadium Armory Metro), ☎ . Directly related to the RFK Stadium entry, the DC United are the last sports team remaining at the stadium. A founding member of the MLS, and with four MLS cup titles under their belts since 1996, United matches are always exciting. With a rabid and diverse fanbase, relatively inexpensive tickets, and an excellent tailgate atmosphere in lot 8 before the matches, these are not to be missed. Tickets run $23-52, and for most matches only the lower bowl is on sale, so all seats are good. Premium matches (such as friendlies against European clubs) can run slightly more, and the upper bowl opens for these. For the full experience, hook up with some members of the Barra Brava supporters club before the match in lot 8; as long as you're friendly, sporting black (do NOT wear the colors of the opposing team), and willing to stay on your feet, jumping up and down and learning their chants, they'll gladly hook you up with a $32 ticket that gets you into their designated sections, 135-138. These special tickets are cash only, and become available 15 minutes prior to kickoff; you must be accompanied by a member to purchase. $23-52.
Union Station and Eastern Market are big shopping destinations in the city. Union Station houses a big shopping mall inside with plenty of high end and mid-range stores, while Eastern Market is much more offbeat, and geared to a lazy day of browsing. Outside these two heavyweights, Capitol Hill is an unorthodox shopping destination, but it does have a relatively small collection of unique and offbeat shops dispersed throughout the neighborhood, especially on Pennsylvania Ave near the Library of Congress and by Barracks Row.
- 1 Eastern Market, 306 7th St SE, ☎ . Tu-F 7AM-7PM, Sa 7AM-6PM, Su 9AM-5PM. D.C.'s biggest public market has been housed since 1873 in a nineteenth century brick building, just a few blocks from the Capitol. The market itself is open every day, but weekends bring an additional influx of vendors ranging from local farmers to antique furniture. The market burned down in 2007 and was for a while housed in a temporary structure, but it reopened in June 2009.
- 2 Capitol Hill Books, 657 C St SE, ☎ . M-F 11:30AM-6PM, Sa-Su 9AM-6PM. Housed in a small, old rowhouse next to Eastern Market, this bookstore is a local favorite, jam-packed with used books on every imaginable subject. For a delightful surprise, be sure to open the cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms.
- 3 Groovy D.C., 323 7th St SE, ☎ . M-F 11AM-7PM, Sa 10AM-6PM Su 11AM-5PM. This is a very eclectic gift shop with unique gift cards, gags, and other arts & crafts. It's a little on the expensive side.
- 4 Hill's Kitchen, 713 D St SE, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. T-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 10AM-5PM. A collection of high-end kitchen gadgets, cookware, and appliances, with also some gift and seasonal items. The upstairs hosts classes in cooking skills.
- 5 Homebody, 715 8th St SE, ☎ . M-Sa 11AM-7PM, Su noon-6PM. Selling mostly home furnishings, this store is better suited to locals than travelers, but its selection is unique and stylish enough to merit a visit if only to browse. And there are original works of art and accessories, which are easier to take home.
Barracks Row, on 8th St SE, has classy restaurants that cater to repeat diners and to a sophisticated crowd.
Union Station has much cheaper options. The cafeteria food on the bottom level is best for the cheapest and quickest meals. The main level includes many popular national chains such as Chipotle, McDonald's, Chop't, Potbelly Sandwich Works, Pizzeria Uno, Pret A Manger, Roti Mediterranean Grill, Shake Shack, and Subway.
- Bistro Italiano, 320 D St NE, ☎ . M-F 11AM-2PM,5PM-10PM Sa 5PM-10PM. If you come to this neighborhood restaurant, everyone will necessarily assume that you are a local. It's your traditional Italian-American checkerboard tablecloth restaurant, and only a little larger than a hole-in-the-wall. The food for the price in this neighborhood is exceptional. $8-15.
- Good Stuff Eatery, 303 Pennsylvania Ave SE, ☎ . M-Sa 11:30AM-11PM. Flagship location of the soon to be franchised burger joint. Renowned locally for its handmade burgers, handcut fries, handspun ice cream. $8-15.
- Mangialardo's, 1317 Pennsylvania Ave SE, ☎ . M-F 7:30AM-3PM. It's far from the action and has limited hours, but this deli has served classic Italian subs to locals for about 55 years, who will universally tell you these are the best sandwiches in the city. Order the "G-man" if you want a local favorite. $4-6.50.
- Pete's Diner, 212 2nd St SE, ☎ . 5AM-3AM daily. Somehow there's a little greasy spoon next to the Library of Congress. The prices are extremely low in these parts, the waitresses are friendly, and the diner food is certainly adequate. $3-6.50.
- Cafe 8, 424 8th St SE, ☎ . Su-Th 11AM-10:30PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM. Some argue that Cafe 8 is being outshined by newer flashy Mediterranean cooking on the Hill (like Cava Mezze), but this remains a reliable, established place for a good dinner on Barracks Row. The head chef hails from Cafe Divan in the Northwest, and the best items on the menu are accordingly skewed towards Turkish cuisine. As with Divan, the mezzes oddly enough are overshadowed by the great kabobs (especially the Iskender, and good Iskender is hard to find outside of Turkey). The Turkish very thin take on pizza—pides, are also a hit, and a cheaper option. $9-20.
- Cafe Berlin, 322 Massachusetts Ave NE, ☎ . M-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11PM, Su 10AM-10PM. Dinner is overpriced and not in the same league as other options on the Hill. Lunch (before 4PM), on the other hand, is a steal. And the back patio is a wonderful place to drink a few draught German beers on a warm day. $8-30.
- Las Placitas, 517 8th St SE, ☎ . M-Th 11:30AM-10:30PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11PM, Su 11:30AM-10PM. Well above par Salvadoran and Mexican cooking, with very fresh ingredients, in the heart of Barracks Row. On weekends, it gets very crowded, but if you can get a table, it remains a fun spot for a meal. $10-20.
The high-end restaurant scene in Capitol Hill is one of the city's best. Reservations are a must at most high-end restaurants.
- Belga Cafe, 514 8th St SE, ☎ . M-Th 11AM-10PM, F 11AM-11PM, Sa 9AM-11PM, Su 9AM-9:30PM. One of the neighborhood's longest running favorites on Barracks Row serves perfectly fine Belgian cuisine, and has at all times at least five fine Belgian beers on tap (and a host more besides). Reliable food, best for dinner, and pricey. $20-50.
- Charlie Palmer's Steakhouse, 101 Constitution Ave NW, ☎ . Lunch: M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM; dinner: M-F 5:30PM-10PM, Sa 5PM-10:30PM. Charlie Palmer is a national celebrity chef, and his steakhouse vies with two others for the title of the city's favorite steak (and those Republicans like their steak). On the scale of the three, it sits comfortably between trendy and traditional. And of course, it sits somewhere the other steakhouses do not—literally right across the street from the Capitol Building. The views are fantastic. Don't worry if you don't like steak, as this is an all-around outstanding restaurant, with a variety of excellent American dishes. $35-85.
- Montmarte, 327 7th St SE, ☎ . Lunch: Tu-F 11:30AM-2:30PM; brunch: Sa-Su 10:30AM-3PM; dinner Tu-Th 5:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-10:30PM, Su 5:30PM-9PM. D.C. has only a few standout, dedicated French restaurants, and this is one of them. It's considered one of the best restaurants throughout all of Capitol Hill, and one of the better French restaurants in the city. The atmosphere, unlike the cuisine, is casual. $25-40.
- Sonoma, 223 Pennsylvania Ave SE, ☎ . Lunch: M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM; dinner: M-Th 5PM-10PM, F-Sa 5PM-11PM, Su 5PM-9PM. The current dining rage in the country is Italian-inspired cooking with the California philosophy of simplicity, fine (Californian) wines, and local ingredients. This restaurant has excelled in this category, and packs in serious foodies into a crowded, but very trendy space—reservations are a must every day of the week. The lounge upstairs is similarly beautiful and fashionable (and crowded), with a fireplace and big windows. $20-45.
There are plenty of bars in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, most of which are concentrated around the West side of the Capitol, and on the Eastern Market/Barracks Row strips. Catering to a diverse crowd of overworked hill staffers, lobbyists, lawyers, lawmakers, Marines from the nearby Barracks and neighborhood locals, there's something for everyone.
- Banana Cafe & Piano Bar, 500 8th St SE, ☎ . M-Th 11AM-10:30PM, F-Sa 11AM-11:30PM, Su 10AM-10PM. This Barracks Row Cuban/Tex Mex/Puerto Rican bar and restaurant has a piano bar on the second floor with a piano man well and above the average. The food here is fine; the Cuban food is better. The upstairs bar has an excellent happy hour special upstairs featuring $3 margaritas, and there is patio seating in good weather.
- Hawk 'n' Dove, 329 Pennsylvania Ave SE, ☎ . M-Sa 11AM-1AM, Su 10AM-1AM. The name Hawk 'n' Dove refers to general positions on U.S. national security policy. TVs are tuned to CNN. This is a good bar, with cheaper drinks than you'll get elsewhere in the neighborhood, and it approximates the look well enough!
- Mr Henry's, 601 Pennsylvania Ave SE, ☎ . M-Sa 11:15AM-midnight, Su 10AM-midnight. Once the regular home to Roberta Flack, this place has seen some ridiculously famous clientele—Burt Bacharach, Carmen McRae, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Ramsey Lewis, and Johnny Mathis were all fans. The live music continues upstairs, but for the most part this is just a nice neighborhood style and mildly divey pub, particularly gay/lesbian-friendly, and a block off Eastern Market.
- Trusty's, 1420 Pennsylvania Ave SE, ☎ . M-Th 4PM-2AM, F 4PM-3AM, Sa 10AM-3AM, Su 10AM-2AM. Trusty's is as about as local as you can get on the eastern side of Capitol Hill. A true neighborhood dive bar, and removed from the rowdy Eastern Market/Barracks Row scene, Trusty's is generally populated with long-time and new neighborhood residents alike, most of whom know each other and the bartenders. It's a good place to get a feel for people who actually live in the area, and the burgers, cheesesteaks, and chili are amongst the best in the city. Drafts and cocktails are served in mason jars, and cans of Tecate and PBR are always on special. Most importantly, it's one of the last places in the city purporting to be a dive bar that actually still has dive bar prices. An excellent place to get loaded before heading to a D.C. United match at RFK Stadium!
- Tunnicliff's Tavern, 222 7th St SE, ☎ . M-Th 11AM-2AM, F 11AM-3AM, Sa 9AM-3AM, Su 9AM-2AM. Nothing terribly out of the ordinary, this is just a good bar. Prices are cheap, it's right by Eastern Market, wooden interior, and there's patio seating. The menu offers decent Cajun cuisine. As a plus, dogs are allowed on the patio, and rest assured, they come in droves.
- Wisdom, 1432 Pennsylvania Ave SE, ☎ . Tu-Th 6PM-12:30AM, F-Sa 6PM-3AM, Su 5PM-11PM. Quiet, off the beaten track lounge located in East Capitol Hill, specializing in delicious cocktails made with fresh fruit and the largest Absinthe selection in the city. For a romantic night, grab one of the private tables for two behind curtains and discreet servers who won't bother you unless called.
- William Penn House: Quaker Lodging, 515 East Capitol St SE, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A Quaker house that offers dormitory beds. $30-50.
- Capitol Hill Hotel, 200 C St SE, ☎ . This is a fine, undistinguished (but for the location) option for extended stay on Capitol Hill. If you just want to get out of the sun for a second and rest your bones, the lobby is quite comfy. $170-370.
- Kimpton Hotel George, 15 E St NW, ☎ . A trendy boutique with airy rooms and a French restaurant next to Union Station. $140-300.
- Liaison Hotel, 415 New Jersey Ave NW, ☎ . A boutique hotel between Union Station and the Capitol, whose rooftop pool (only open during warm months) has a fantastic view. $140-250.
- Washington Court Hotel, 525 New Jersey Ave NW, ☎ . $150.
- Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, 400 New Jersey Ave NW, ☎ . The hotel occupies a full city block in the heart of Capitol Hill, between the Capitol and Union Station, and has a lovely, large, plant-filled atrium. Avoid the absurdly overpriced hotel restaurant, unless you're in the mood for a $10 bowl cornflakes. $250-450.
- Phoenix Park Hotel, 520 N Capitol St NW, ☎ . Hotel of the Irish! Rooms are furnished in an 18th century Irish Manor style, Irish entertainers are at the Dubliner bar, and it's also right next to Union Station. $220-500.
Most cafes and restaurants offer free WiFi. Otherwise, the two public libraries in the neighborhood offer both public terminals and free WiFi, or you could just enjoy the public WiFi on the steps of the Capitol Building!
- The obvious destination is just west of the Hill, the National Mall, and the proximity is one of the main reasons to stay on Capitol Hill in the first place.
- For a radical change of pace from Capitol Hill nightlife, consider heading just north to Near Northeast to have a beer at one of its very offbeat bars and clubs.
|Routes through Capitol Hill|
|East End ← Waterfront ←||W E||→ Anacostia → Largo|
|East End ← Waterfront ←||W E||→ Anacostia → New Carrollton|
|Gaithersburg ← East End ←||W N||→ Near Northeast → Wheaton|