Explore a contemporary cultural hub dedicated to preserving our nation’s rich history.
By Grace Haynes
On the banks of the Potomac River, historic Georgetown withstands the test of time, preserving its distinguished past while evolving into a bustling commercial district. Less than 10 miles from our country’s political epicenter, this signature American city invites travelers to venture away from the frenzy of Capitol Hill, and stroll along its tree-lined avenues and cobblestone streets. While rooted in a historic background, Georgetown has transformed into a thriving focal point of contemporary culture.
In 1751, The Maryland Assembly established this port city as the namesake of King George II, and it served as an essential shipping hub during the American Revolution. The newly formed United States of America incorporated Georgetown in 1789, and the metropolis flourished as a center of commerce with the construction of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in 1825, which created a vital trade route to the Ohio River in Pennsylvania.
Today, Georgetown infuses its polished style with a modern edge that appeals to locals and visitors alike. Contemporary art galleries display eye-catching pieces, and antiques shops offer a plethora of vintage décor. The city’s infectious energy hums on M Street, the main avenue running through the heart of town, where row houses-turned-retail boutiques and trendy restaurants buzz with innovation and activity. Lines at hip bakeries snake around street corners, and shop windows showcase the season’s du jour fashions.
Favorite neighborhood eateries, like 1789 Restaurant, serve up innovative dishes from some of the city’s most celebrated chefs.
Beyond M Street lie charming residential areas that illustrate the town’s old soul with architecture styles ranging from Georgian to Classical Revival. Walk along the C&O Canal, admiring the antiquated waterway’s original 19th-century architecture and passing under its magnificently crafted stone aqueducts. In the distance, the prominent visage of Georgetown University’s neo-medieval-style Healy Hall towers on the horizon.
For an afternoon of intellectual study, visit Dumbarton Oaks, the creation of philanthropists Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss; its museum and archive collection represent a haven for the humanities. Situated on 53 acres at Georgetown’s highest point of elevation, the grounds’ Federal-style house and gardens maintain their original design.
At Georgetown Waterfront Park, which stretches 10 miles along the Potomac River, observe some of D.C.’s storied sites: Watergate, the Key Bridge, the Kennedy Center, and the Washington Monument soaring in the distance. The Washington Harbour offers an abundance of restaurants, where patrons who choose to dine alfresco may catch a blazing sunset over the Potomac, as vibrant as the city’s buoyant spirit.
From foodies to historians to art enthusiasts, Georgetown beckons visitors with its pride in America’s past and fervor for its revolutionary future.
Running parallel to the Potomac, the C&O Canal stretches about 185 miles in total from its starting point in the city to northwestern Maryland. The canal, virtually untouched since its construction, pays tribute to Georgetown’s Colonial history. Runners, bikers, and walkers take to the towpaths, studying the preserved 19th-century aqueducts and lift locks. Find a shady spot along the banks to spend an afternoon with a book, or enjoy an alfresco meal at one of the many restaurants overlooking the canal. More outdoor dining and entertainment options with a view of the Potomac are only a short stroll away at Washington Harbour.
Savor delectable Parisian flavors in the heart of Georgetown at Cafe Bonaparte. A Mano offers handpicked entertaining touches from around the globe. Discover 18th- and 19th-century heirlooms at Comer & Co. Antiques and interiors. At Chez Billy Sud, executive chef Brendan L’Etoile dishes out the flavors of southern France with his gourmet fare and wine pairings. Farmers Fishers Bakers is dedicated to sustainable practices, serving seasonal dishes made with ingredients from local farmers and growers. The Phillips Collection of modern and contemporary art in Dupont Circle, just outside Georgetown proper, is a must-visit.
Book your stay at the luxe Rosewood, Washington, D.C., a boutique hotel overlooking the C&O Canal. It’s redbrick, industrial exterior holds 49 rooms and 12 suites outfitted in sophisticated decor and modern furnishings. Inside the hotel, The Grill Room exudes an ambience of comfortable elegance, with French doors opening to the canal and buzzing neighborhood. Dine on inspired cuisine by executive chef Frank Ruta, whose resume includes such gigs as executive sous chef at the White House. Patisserie Poupon offers some of Georgetown’s tastiest pastries and baked goods.
Celebrating its 75th anniversary, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection encourages academic exploration. The Federal-style house holds galleries with pieces from the Byzantine and pre-Columbian eras, along with the museum’s House Collection and rotating special exhibitions. Esteemed landscape gardener Beatrix Farrand designed Dumbarton’s lush grounds. In 1940, the original owners transferred most of the property to Harvard University while granting the remaining portion of the gardens to the government for public use.