Dupont Circle is a trendy historic neighborhood in Washington, D.C., popular for its nightlife, art galleries and shops.
By Tatyana Hopkins
Washington, D.C., owes much of its design to Pierre Charles L'Enfant, who envisioned grand buildings and wide avenues that intersected to create public squares and parks for the capital, which then was mostly hills, forest, marshes and plantations.
One such green space is Dupont Circle.
The vibrant neighborhood with park benches and a fountain at the center sits at the intersection of Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire avenues, and P and 19th streets in Northwest D.C.
Eateries, coffee shops, bookstores and dance clubs cluster on Connecticut Avenue, NW, while stately buildings line Massachusetts Avenue, NW.
What to Do:
This cosmopolitan neighborhood is home to museums, historic homes and foreign embassies, as well as a variety of restaurants, nightlife and shops.
Sit by Dupont Circle Fountain
Dupont Circle, the neighborhood’s traffic circle with a grassy park and fountain in its center, is named after Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont, a member of the prominent chemical and industrial Du Pont family who became a hero after his capture of Port Royal, South Carolina during the Civil War.
The Dupont Circle fountain, which was built in 1871 by sculptor Daniel Chester French and architect Henry Bacon, co-designers of the Lincoln Memorial, now serves as a gathering place for artists, musicians and travelers.
The circle is a great spot for picnics or playing a game of chess at the park’s permanently installed chess tables.
Walk along Embassy Row
Take a self-guided walking tour of the near two-mile stretch from Dupont Circle to the United States Naval Observatory along Massachusetts Avenue, NW, also known as Embassy Row.
Heading northwest from the circle, you will pass by statues of Mahatma Gandhi outside the Embassy of India and Nelson Mandela outside the Embassy of South Africa, as well as dozens of diplomatic missions including the embassies of Madagascar, Japan, Brazil and the United Kingdom.
Embassy row is also home to several museums and centers including the Korean Cultural Center.
The embassies of Paraguay (l) and Turkmenistan can be found along Embassy Row on Massachusetts Ave, NW.
Explore Art, Culture and History
Head to the Phillips Collection, America’s first museum of modern art, which boasts about 3,000 works from artists such as Renoir, Monet and Rothko as well as special exhibits that have ranged from Georgia O’Keeffe to local collector Anita Reiner. For emerging artists, walk a few steps to the Hillyer Art Space, a contemporary gallery featuring international artists.
Check out the neighborhood’s Anderson House, Woodrow Wilson House, National Museum of American Jewish Military History or the Woman’s National Democratic Club to explore an array of historic and cultural memorabilia. Or get hands-on with antique art and music memorabilia at the Mansion on O & O Street Museum.
Get out for First Friday, when Dupont’s galleries stay open late.
Shop on Connecticut Avenue
Walk down Connecticut Avenue to add some style to your Dupont visit.
Shop at chain retailers such as H&M, Gap and Brooks Brothers. Or discover local shops such as the retail-café hybrid Shop Made in DC for products made by D.C. businesses.
Peak in Secondi, a second-hand consignment shop above a Starbucks, to find designer clothes for less than retail.
Find Fun for All
In addition to the area’s museums and art galleries, Dupont is also popular for its nightlife. But the neighborhood has something to do for everyone.
Get a laugh at one of the city’s most popular comedy clubs, DC Improv, which attracts national and local acts on any given day of the week. Choose from more than 50 board games to play for a flat fee of $2 and battle at the Board Room (where the age policy is generally 21 but may vary during off-peak hours). Visit Dupont Underground, a former underground trolley station that has been transformed, with the help of a GW student, into a creative space for art, comedy and other activities.
Also, shop used books for as low as $2 at Second Story Book, where trained employees perform book appraisals and help customers navigate an inventory that ranges from mainstream favorites to out-of-print vintage books.
Kramerbooks and Afterwords (1517 Connecticut Ave., NW), a bookstore and café, is a neighborhood staple.
Where to Eat:
Dupont’s restaurants and bars radiate outward from the central circle and include a mix of restaurants, casual bistros, brunch hotspots and late-night dining options.
- Kramerbooks and Afterwords, 1517 Connecticut Ave., NW
Open late, this dual bookstore and café is a Dupont staple where guests can shop the bookstore, hear from a steady lineup of readings from local and national authors and then dine in at the café.
- Hank’s Oyster Bar, 1624 Q St., NW
This neighborhood favorite serves seafood at a reasonable price.
- Julia’s Empanadas, 1221 Connecticut Ave., NW
Better for a snack than a full meal, this late-night spot offers authentic Chilean empanadas for under $5 each.
Dupont Circle Station has the sixth and seventh longest escalators in the D.C.-area metro system. Its north entrance escalators are 188 feet long, while its south entrance escalators are 170 feet long.
How to Get There:
From Foggy Bottom
- Walk: GW’s Foggy Bottom campus is a 20-minute walk from Dupont Circle.
- Metrobus: The #D1 and #D6 toward Sibley Hospital and the #H1 and #L1 toward Chevy Chase Circle will get you within walking distance of Dupont Circle.
- Metro: From the Foggy Bottom Metro Station, take the Orange Line toward New Carrollton or Blue and Silver Lines toward Largo Town Center to Metro Center Station. Then transfer to the Red Line toward Shady Grove to get to the Dupont Circle Station.
From Mount Vernon
- Metrobus: Take the #D6 toward Stadium-Armory to get within walking distance of Dupont Circle.