Getting to Know the DMV: Capitol Hill

This historic D.C. neighborhood brings together Eastern Market, a beautiful landscape and a wealth of cultural opportunities.

Capitol Hill
The Library of Congress' Thomas Jefferson Building features a reading room with marble columns and statues honoring thought-leaders throughout history. (Harrison Jones/GW Today)
February 27, 2020

By Briahnna Brown

When the U.S. Capitol was built on top of what was known as Jenkins’ Hill in 1793, the name “Capitol Hill” took over. This historic district in Southeast Washington, D.C., was the site that Pierre L’Enfant chose for the “Congress House” and also became home to other iconic federal structures such as the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court.

Construction projects in the 1930s brought the U.S. Botanic Garden and expanded office buildings for the House and the Senate’s congressional representatives. The neighborhood features blocks of rowhouses in various styles along the diagonal avenues, which were also part of Mr. L’Enfant’s plan for the nation’s capital.

The Capitol Hill neighborhood is more than just national landmarks and historic architecture, and today visitors will find a place to explore, learn and relax.

Eastern Market

Vendors in Eastern Market sell everything from groceries to art and decor. (William Atkins/GW Today)

What to do:

Visit Eastern Market:

Eastern Market has something for everyone, from merchants selling unique foods to pottery classes. As one of the few public market buildings in Washington, D.C., Eastern Market is bustling with visitors on the weekends. Grab some produce from local farmers or find a one-of-a-kind art piece for your room from a local artist. Then, stop by Market Lunch for weekend brunch featuring its renowned blueberry buckwheat pancakes. Be sure to bring cash!

Capitol Hill Books

Capitol Hill Books is a haven for bibliophiles seeking a rare find. (William Atkins/GW Today)

Embrace learning:

Housed across three buildings named for founding fathers—Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John Adams—the Library of Congress is home to more than 164 million items. The Thomas Jefferson Building houses exhibits and galleries, as well as the former president’s personal library.

Book lovers can also visit Capitol Hill Books while they’re in the neighborhood, a used bookstore with first-editions and other rare finds. Fans of William Shakespeare can go see a play at the Folger Shakespeare Library’s theater while the library holding the world’s largest collection of his works is under construction.

Botanic Garden

The U.S. Botanic Garden boasts plants from all over the world. (Zach Marin/GW Today).

Enjoy nature:

For those looking for a green escape from the busy city, the U.S. Botanic Garden (which is free to enter) is the perfect plant paradise. The U.S. Congress established the botanic garden in 1820, and it was part of George Washington’s vision for the nation’s capital. This living plant museum boasts plants from around the world. From desert plants to the orchid room, find something in bloom any time of the year in the Conservatory or the National Garden.

Just across Independence Avenue is Bartholdi Park, which features secluded benches with shade in the summer and sunshine in the winter and is home to the cast-iron Bartholdi Fountain that stands 30 feet tall and weighs more than 15 tons. On the west front lawn of the U.S. Capitol, the Summerhouse is another secluded rest-spot for visitors and has a garden of its own.

District Doughnut

The treats at District Doughnut's first store in Barracks Row are seasonal, so there is something new to try year-round. (William Atkins/GW Today)

What to eat:

  • Good Stuff Eatery, 303 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
    For burger lovers, Good Stuff Eatery features several types of burgers at around $8 each. Try the Spike’s Sunnyside burger (a beef patty with a fried egg), the Michelle Melt (a turkey burger with herb mayo) or the ‘Shroom Burger (cheese-stuffed and fried portobello tops).
  • Chiko, 423 8th St. SE
    With modern Chinese and Korean fare averaging around $13 per meal, Chiko is a casual eatery with inventive dishes. From the pork and kimchi potstickers or the veggie rice bowls, Chiko offers something for every diet.
  • Mangialardo’s, 1317 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
    This old-school Italian restaurant has been open since 1953 and continues to be the go-to place for a hearty sandwich, hot or cold, for about $10 (cash only). Stop in for a weekday lunch and try the “G-Man,” which has ham, salami, mortadella and pepperoni.
  • District Doughnut, 749 8th St. SE
    In the mood for something sweet? District Doughnut is the perfect stop during a Capitol Hill trip. The chain’s first store in Barracks Row features a rotating seasonal menu with something for every sweet tooth. The spring menu has doughnuts such as lemon bar or cherry blossom. They cost about $3 each.
  • We, The Pizza, 305 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
    From traditional white pizza pies to the adventurous honey ham and ginger-infused pineapple pizza, this D.C. pizzeria sells their specialties by the slice. We, The Pizza also sells homemade sodas with flavors including Blood Orange Creamsicle Sky and Spicy Ginger Mango Sling. Slices typically go for about $5 each, and there is a $12 lunch special for two slices and a homemade soda.

Eastern Market

How to get there:

From Foggy Bottom:

  • Metrorail: Take the Blue, Orange or Silver Line train from the Foggy Bottom metro station toward Largo Town Center or New Carrollton to the Eastern Market or Capitol South stop.
  • Metrobus: From Pennsylvania Avenue and 21st Street NW, take the 30N, 30S, 32 or 36 bus. Hop off at the Pennsylvania Ave SE and North Carolina Ave SE stop.

From Mount Vernon

  • Campus Shuttles- Take the Vern Express from the Mount Vernon campus to the Foggy Bottom campus. Then, use the Metrorail or Metrobus methods mentioned above.