The most popular streets in Washington DC lead you to some of the most iconic landmarks in the country. The city sprawls from the sides of Chesapeake Bay all the way to the wooded countryside of south-central Maryland. It's a huge metropolis with all sorts of enthralling neighbourhoods and districts.

    This guide will delve deep into Washington DC’s streets and squares. It's gotten everything from monument-riddled Penn Ave to gritty music quarters where you can drink local craft ales with Washington's student crowd. There are even some chilled natural parkways thrown in for when it's time to escape the fray of the Downtown.


    Pennsylvania Avenue

    A sightseer's must-visit in Washington DC

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    Pennsylvania Avenue is a main thoroughfare that runs directly diagonal through the heart of Washington DC. It actually goes all the way southeast to the Maryland state line and north to Rock Creek, but the bit that's of interest to visitors is right in the middle. Namely, the part that has the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building.

    Soaring to 288 ft up, the U.S. Capitol Building is the sitting place of the United States Congress and one of the most important buildings in the country. From there, head northwest up Penn Ave and you'll soon see the White House. That one surely needs no intro. It's the office of POTUS, after all.


    18th Street NW

    Washington DC’s vibrant nightlife and dining hub

    18th Street NW is one of Washington DC's hipster hubs. It's fueled by a resident crowd of young folk, unfolding in a medley of ethnic eateries and boho vintage stores through the center of the Adams Morgan neighbourhood on the north side of town.

    Things get buzzy on 18th Street NW at night. You can munch on Middle Eastern mezze platters and guzzle curious cocktails at venues like The Green Zone. There are ramshackle beatnik bars like Dan's Café, where patrons are invited to pour their own. And there's one of the town's top arrays of LGBTQ+ venues. All that's rammed into a short, 980-ft stretch of 18th NW, just off the intersection with Columbia Road.


    photo by angela n. (CC BY 2.0) modified


    U Street

    Culture and chili dogs

    U Street is always scented with the Tex-Mex spices of Ben's Chili Bowl, one of Washington DC's most iconic hole-in-the-wall eateries. The thoroughfare is on the northeast side of the U.S. capital, running east to west across the area of Cardozo above Logan Circle.

    But U Street has much more than just chili dogs and takeout. It's also the stomping ground of some of the city's most famous African American heritage spots. A must-visit is the Lincoln Theater from 1922, where Duke Ellington took to the stage back in the day. Jazz is still the go-to backing track in many of the hip lounges and rooftop bars, but be sure to drop by the African American Civil War Museum before you crack a beer.

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    photo by Keizers (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    M Street

    The place to fill your shopping bags

    M Street is one of the top shopping streets in Washington DC. It runs in a perfect line across the breadth of the whole city, linking Noma in the east to the banks of the Potomac in the west. But the bit you really want to have on the radar is the stretch that goes through historic Georgetown. That's riddled with shops of all shapes and sizes.

    You can find skate outlets, artisan tattoo parlors, jewelry emporiums, high-street names like H&M and TJ Maxx – the list goes on. Oodles of restaurants wait in the wings for when it's time to refuel. These range from the uber-prestigious Japanese kitchen of Nobu to the cheesesteak and shawarma specialist George's King of Falafel.


    photo by Wknight94 (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Beach Drive

    A great escape from the buzz of Downtown

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    Beach Drive is the street you're after when you crave a breath of fresh air and a taste of nature in Washington DC. It wiggles and weaves its way through the entirety of Rock Creek Park, which spans a whopping 13 miles from top to bottom, starting just past the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Northeast Washington.

    Beach Drive is a beautifully scenic route. Sylvan hills of oak and beech and chestnut trees loom up on both sides, while a babbling river meanders right next to the byway. There are ample opportunities to pull over for a picnic in the woods. Trailheads let you can park up and get a taste of the capital's more untamed quarters by foot.


    photo by Dion Hinchcliffe (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Connecticut Avenue NW

    A pedestrian-friendly boulevard with ample cafes, clubs, and hotels

    Connecticut Avenue NW is a traffic-brimming, pedestrian-rammed boulevard that's always fizzing with life and action. It's one of the original DC roadways, as laid out in the urban plans of Pierre Charles L'Enfant back in 1791. Starting right outside the White House on Lafayette Square, it goes all the way to the Maryland border in the north.

    The most famous part of the street is probably the stretch between Farragut Square and Dupont Circle. Overshadowed by deluxe hotels and bursting with creative eateries and cafes, banks, and comedy clubs, it's a great place to feel the beating pulse of the U.S. capital.


    Swann Street NW

    A handsome street to wander

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    Swann Street NW is a charming length of Washington DC’s original rowhouses dating back to the 1880s. It's hidden deep in the northern suburbs past the Downtown, somewhere between the multicultural dining area of 14th St NW and 18th St NW.

    The main attraction is the old-school architecture. Check out the handsome facades of boldly painted mansions. They have steep-gabled roofs and brick-rimmed windowpanes, looking every inch the proud urban abode. Outside, the homes have manicured gardens that bloom with flowers, and a canopy of twisted stone pines for shade.


    Embassy Row

    A montage of flags of every country in the world

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    Embassy Row is a street and designated neighbourhood that's home to some of the most important international institutions in the U.S.. It forms a sort of dogleg down a part of Massachusetts Avenue, with Dupont Circle to the east.

    As the name implies, it's filled to the brim with embassies and trade missions. As you walk, look up – there's the flapping flag of Kyrgyzstan next to the orange-and-green of India, the Mexico tricolour next to the distinctive red circle of Japan. Embassy Row is where America meets the rest of the world.


    photo by APK (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Massachusetts Avenue

    Crossing DC from side to side

    Massachusetts Avenue is less of a single street, more of a main artery in Washington DC. It slices through the city's northern side, going all the way from the Anacostia River at one end to the Maryland state line at the other. Along the way, it hosts important sub-streets like Embassy Row, but also connects up some of the town's top sights.

    At the intersection of 6th Street, you'll be able to veer off into the spice-scented walks of Chinatown for dim sum or dumplings. At Mount Vernon Square, there's the sprawling Walter E. Washington Convention Center for business travelers on route to a conference. You can find a happening quarter of bars and bistros at a point where Massachusetts Avenue crosses Dupont Circle.


    photo by AgnosticPreachersKid (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway

    Gateway to Washington DC’s urban park and zoo

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    Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway bends down to the Foggy Bottom area of Washington DC with the Potomac River. It's there that you'll be able to see the infamous suites of the Watergate Hotel – the source of Nixon's great scandal in the 1970s. From that, head north and there's lots more on offer.

    The multi-lane parkway snakes up past the DC Community Park and then hugs Rock Creek all the way to the Walter Pierce Park. There's a dedicated cycling path and walking trail along the whole way, so there's no need to drive your automobile for this one. Be sure to delve into the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, where giant pandas, lemurs, and great apes call home.


    photo by Famartin (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    Joseph Francis | Contributing Writer

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