The compact US capital is not always thought of as hip or cool, but in more recent years the now shaken off its slightly stuffy image and now has a surprisingly youthful buzz.
Sitting amongst its fine neoclassical monuments and imposing government buildings is an increasing collection of trendy bistros, hip bars, funky shops and coffee shops, and up-and-coming neighborhoods. There is also an increasing amount of creative places to stay.
From hip boutiques to grand, large and modern, here are my favorite cool and unusual hotels in Washington DC (in no particular order)…
1. Hotel Zena, Downtown – a unique, contemporary and very Instagrammable boutique with original artwork
This is a new kind of destination where female empowerment and inclusivity are celebrated Hotel Zena, Downtown is part gallery, part hotel, and all about women.
With a vibrant mindset and sense of community to inspire everyone, from the rooftop lounge to the art-adorned lobby to the guest rooms. Featuring original artwork and exterior murals, this contemporary hotel is set opposite Thomas Circle Park in Downtown. It’s 8 minute’s walk from McPherson Square metro station.
Modern, tasteful rooms and suites have all the features you’d expect in comfortable surroundings with a hint of pink. There’s a vibrant lobby area with a curated bar serving craft cocktails and small bites, with a modern alternative twist, and a playful lounge space designed for work and play, offering occasional experiential events.
A seasonal rooftop pool with sundeck, fire pit, and bar, offers unparalleled views of the DC skyline and there’s a fully-equipped fitness center with cardio and weight training equipment.
- To book, check prices or dates for Hotel Zena, Downtown
2. The Mansion on O Street, Dupont Circle – a quirky-cool abode with upscale and eccentric decor offering a very unique stay
Meticulously refurbished with style and vivid imagination, the Mansion on O Street and O Museum reside on a historic, tree-lined street in the fashionable Dupont Circle neighborhood, near Embassy Row, the White House, and Georgetown.
Built in the 19th and 21st centuries, The Mansion on O Street, Dupont Circle retains many period details, including original Tiffany stained-glass windows, and seamlessly incorporates into the architectural features all the modern conveniences you need.
With décor ranging from opulent to wildly eccentric, this quirky (that’s an understatement) Victorian mansion hotel is just a 3-minute walk from the Dupont Circle Metro station.
The 100 uniquely decorated rooms and suites are filled with bric-a-brac and antiques reached via covert hallways and 72 hidden doors.
Most have themes ranging from a log cabin room to an Elvis-inspired Graceland suite. There are entire residences available, sleeping from 2 to 28 people.
The property is also the eclectic O Street Museum – a giant display of American ephemera laid out as if a flea market. When it comes to food and catering there are endless delicious choices available but, if there is a menu or restaurant no one has ever found it.
- To book, check prices or dates for The Mansion on O Street, Dupont Circle
3. Viceroy – a stylish, trendy urban retreat located in the Logan Circle
Set on a tree-lined avenue in this trendy neighborhood with fashionable restaurants and bars, chic home décor shops, and the Studio Theatre nearby. The Viceroy Washington DC, Logan Circle is a high-end arty hotel, 15-minutes’ walk from the metro station, 17-minutes from The White House, and just 2 miles from the National Gallery of Art.
The originally mundane building has been dressed and decorated, outside and in, with tasteful look-at-me styling; using vibrant shapes, colors and clever objets d’art to make you smile.
The polished rooms are neatly designed with focus pieces in a contemporary modern-Milanese fashion. There’s the usual choice of room size from standard through to suites; some with astonishing views across Washington.
Amenities include a 24-hour gym, a coffee shop, and a stunning rooftop terrace with a pool, a cocktail bar, and even more fabulous broad views across the city.
- To book, check prices or dates for Viceroy Washington DC, Logan Circle
4. YOTEL East End – a funky, modern and futuristic gem located on Capitol Hill
The stylish, contemporary, purple-themed rooms offer corporate, clean, functional styling, with everything you’d expect plus optional in-room spa treatments for when you’ve had a hard day.
The real wow for this hotel is the seasonal rooftop pool with its little cabanas and a great cocktail bar, morning yoga, and a restaurant serving Southern-style dishes.
Amenities also include a fitness center, a meeting and event space, and free loan bicycles – which is an excellent way to see the sights in this great city.
- To book, check prices or dates for Yotel Washington DC
5. Yours Truly Downtown – a chic upscale boutique with an Art Deco-themed design
The Downtown neighborhood is the perfect place to be for access to everything in Washington DC. The area is surrounded by the very best shops and eateries.
Yours Truly DC Hotel, Downtown is an upscale hotel just a 12-minute walk from Farragut West metro station, and 1 mile from both the landmark Lincoln Memorial and The White House.
The simple post-modernist exterior hides an interior of relaxing warmth with a vaguely retro-vintage styling.
The ambiance works incredibly well with the exposed concrete floors enhanced by diffused soft lighting and dressed with strongly colored traditional rugs, curved wood, comfortable seating, and the occasional vinyl record player.
The refined rooms and suites continue the vintage-chic accents building an intuitive, restful continuity for a very pleasant stay.
A trendy, industrial-chic restaurant/bar serves South American-inspired cuisine and cocktails. There’s also a fitness center, event spaces, barbershop, conference room, ping-pong room, and small business center.
- To book, check prices or dates for Yours Truly DC Hotel, Downtown
6. Eaton DC, Downtown – a hip, progressive and creative downtown gem with mindful amenities and hi-tech essentials
Part of the Eaton Workshop arts venue in Downtown DC, this progressive hotel is a 9-minute walk from the metro station and a mile from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Eaton DC, Downtown is inspired by the historic political movements that struggled for equity and progress.
Check in for a radio station, cinema, holistic wellness center, art exhibits, artist residencies, talks, concerts, chef-led restaurants, bars, coffee shop, and more.
The rooms are casual, bright, comfortable, and natural-chic with a little retro thrown in; you’ll find colored throws, rare books, original artworks and record players with vinyl collections, plus sitting areas and minibars.
Complimentary coffee and fresh pastries are served in the casual café. There’s also an Asian-American restaurant, a cocktail bar, and a great, vibrant rooftop bar/eatery with live music.
Other amenities include a wellness area with a gym, alternative therapies, and yoga and meditation classes, as well as co-working space.
- To book, check prices or dates for Eaton DC, Downtown
7. Thompson – a sleek, chic and sexy gem that offers stunning Insta-worthy views of the Anacostia River
Nautical themes predominate at the Thompson Washington DC and its located right at the historic Navy Yard. Nearby, you’ll find major Washington institutions like the Smithsonian Museums and the National Mall.
The weathered navy and grey exterior exudes industrial sophistication, against the backdrop of the Anacostia River, which has trails for hikers and bikers. Within, furniture and decor recall the stately flow of shipboard life and navy standards of comfort, which are very high. Some rooms come with balconies and stunning river views.
The Surveyor restaurant offers comfort food in the form of traditional American dishes and classic cocktails. The Rooftop bar serves as an informal social hub for the Navy Yard and offers snacks, cocktails and wines.
- To book, check prices or dates for Thompson Washington DC
8. Kimpton Banneker Hotel – a new and beautiful quirky-chic boutique that offers a distinctive and unforgettable experience
When you need to be in center of it all but don’t want to stay at a large, impersonal hotel, the Kimpton Banneker Hotel is your best bet.
Located near DuPont Circle and the White House, it’s right where it’s all happening, but the spacious guest rooms and level of comfort will make you feel special.
A clever mix of minimalist design and warm colors, with occasional leather chairs and indoor plants, gives the interiors a welcoming feel.
Rooms come with amenities like coffee and tea in the mornings and a wine hour in the evening, plus carefully curated abstract artwork on the walls.
Dining options include the popular rooftop bar Lady Bird with indoor and outdoor seating and an unrivaled view of the monuments, a French bistro on the first floor and in-room dining with favorite comfort foods.
- To book, check prices or dates for Kimpton Banneker Hotel
9. citizenM Southwest – hip, colorful and very Instagrammable accommodation perfect for partying Millennials and Gen Zs
citizenM Washington DC, Southwest specializes in funky, trendy European-style accommodation. All rooms are the same size; streamlined, aka small but clever, with colorful design accents featuring Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs, dollops of art, as well as soundproof windows so you can get a good night’s sleep. The smart room functionality is very cool and fun to play around with.
The focus at citizenM is on communal spaces which are very well designed with a hip lobby lounge, 24-hour bar, and restaurant, plus a delightful terrace bar with city views.
There’s an ironing room, working spaces, and a good breakfast. If you are young, cool, and want to experience the entertainment and sights of Washington DC this is the perfect space to sleep, refresh and start again the next day.
- To book, check prices or dates for citizenM Washington DC, Southwest
10. Selina – a cool and ultra-creative reteat that features funky designer interiors in the Union Market area
Chic and well-kept, the Selina Washington DC in the trendy Union Market area is also close to major monuments of American history. It’s walking distance to the Capitol, White House, Smithsonian, National Portrait Gallery, Ford’s Theater and more, and surrounded by lively markets, cafes, and boutique stores.
The graceful interiors are full of natural light and green plants, as well as colorful artworks. Selina offers a range of accommodation options, with private and shared dormitory-style rooms, plus cowork spaces, a wellness area, artist studios, meeting rooms and an exhibition space that attracts local artists. The guest rooms are well designed and have a pleasant decor in a mix of styles.
When you want some noise and company, head for the rooftop bar for craft cocktails and an unparalleled view of the skyline.
- To book, check prices or dates for Selina Washington DC
11. The LINE – a trendy, modern and sophisticated boutique housed in a converted early 1900s church
In a beautiful converted early 1900s church, this sophisticated hotel in the cosmopolitan Adams Morgan neighborhood is a minute’s walk from the energetic nightlife on 18th Street Northwest, with its live music, diverse global restaurants and independent shops, and just a stroll from some cool attractions.
There’s a choice of vintage-chic, art-filled rooms and suites all with sitting areas; some offering magnificent views and a few with balconies.
Each room at The LINE Hotel DC has been designed individually to complement the architectural church history by adding subtle flavors of warmth and color.
There are three lovely modern restaurants and three vibrant bars, as well as a café. Other amenities include a gym with fitness classes and rooftop yoga, along with a local community center producing a diverse variety of local events.
- To book, check prices or dates for The LINE Hotel DC
12. Conrad Penn Quarter – gorgeous ultra-modern upscale accommodation located in the heart of the District
This grand, sophisticated hotel, near the cafés and eateries of the Penn Quarter, is 13 minutes away by foot from the White House and 2 miles from the Lincoln Memorial.
It is awe-inspiring from the outside with great cliffs of glass reflecting the streetscape. Inside, the rooms and suites feature floor-to-ceiling windows, designer toiletries and high-thread-count sheets.
The polished rooms at the Conrad Washington DC, Penn Quarter are styled in functional, precise, corporate multi-shades of beige with a smattering of pastel accents in Hilton blue, producing a simple but quality ambiance throughout.
There’s an excellent, slightly chic seafood restaurant, a hip cocktail bar, and a romantic rooftop bar, plus a gym and acres of meeting space. The views from the rooftop are genuinely amazing. The food is from some of the best chefs in DC and the service everywhere is exquisite.
- To book, check prices or dates for Conrad Washington DC, Penn Quarter
13. WhyHotel – easily one of the coolest aparthotels to stay in Washington DC perfect for longer stays or families
If you’re one of those travelers who likes to feel at home everywhere you go, the WhyHotel by Placemakr in the NoMa (North of Massachusetts Avenue) neighborhood is right for you.
The suites and apartments come with kitchens, separate living and dining spaces and laundry machines. Some also have balconies, and wifi and Apple TV will help you settle right in.
What enlivens these sleek apartments is the industrial chic design, and the custom art installations that make you feel like part of the trendy neighborhood. Just out the door is the Union Market with its art galleries, hip restaurants, breweries and distilleries, and the Metro station.
There are amenities aplenty, like workspace, an outdoor courtyard, electric vehicle charging stations, car share service, and a fitness center. Naturally, WhyHotel is pet-friendly, so neither you nor your let will get lonely whether you stay for a few days or weeks.
- To book, check prices or dates for WhyHotel Washington DC
14. The Ven at Embassy Row – a trendy and upscale stay surrounded by historic embassies and charming row homes
If Embassy Row sounds posh, that’s because it is. But among the stately mansions in the capital’s diplomatic corridor, The Ven at Embassy Row quietly holds its own with style and comfort, and has a few surprises of its own.
The location in DuPont Circle, close to the White House, National Mall and the Metro can’t be beat.
The Scandinavian-inspired room decor mixes diplomatic greys and blues with touches of powerful yellow. Comfy beds, coffee and tea makers and luxury toiletries make sure you’re feeling your best every day. There’s a gym to help you stay fit, and breakfast is served every morning in the lobby or weather permitting on the terrace.
The rooftop pool and bar is a great place to relax and plot future power moves while you sample their wine selection. The Fred and Stilla restaurant has a global menu and a buzzy presence in Washington DC circles, along with the newly-opened art gallery.
- To book, check prices or dates for The Ven at Embassy Row
15. Royal Sonesta Washington DC, Dupont Circle – an upscale gem with contemporary decor and retro details
Adjacent to the trendy Dupont Circle, famed historic and cultural landmarks, local farmers’ markets and enticing shops and bars, and a 6-minute walk from the Dupont Circle metro station, this sleek hotel is also 2.4 miles from the National Mall.
Chic rooms and suites at Royal Sonesta Washington DC, Dupont Circle feature contemporary décor with colorful accents in a sort of Scandi meets up-market gallery-style. All rooms include 55-inch flat-screen TVs and yoga mats – which covers most eventualities – some provide exercise machines or floor-to-ceiling windows. In-room spa treatments and 24-hour room service are offered but, oddly, there’s a surcharge to use the Wi-Fi.
The public areas are more daring with choice pieces of beautiful art and wood sculptures offset by rich, dramatic décor and lighting.
Freebies include evening wine receptions, morning coffee, and loan bicycles. There’s a good, modern Italian restaurant, a 24-hour fitness center, and a seasonal, luscious heated outdoor pool with a poolside bar.
- To book, check prices or dates for Royal Sonesta Washington DC, Dupont Circle
16. Riggs Penn Quarter – an art-inspired boutique set within a former bank building dating from 1891
If you like a bit of olde world culture, Riggs Washington DC, Penn Quarter set within a former bank building dating from 1891, is a high-end hotel across the street from the National Portrait Gallery, a 4-minute walk from a metro station, and 2 miles from the Lincoln Memorial.
Bold, sophisticated rooms and communal areas are designed in a sort of American Empire meets funky style. Posh suites provide living rooms, kitchenettes, and dining areas; one even features a baby grand piano.
This building holds 181 rooms and suites. Gathering spaces abound, from a globally influenced cocktail bar in the old vaults, to the grand Café Riggs with its unique garden terrace. Riggs Washington DC respects the building’s storied history in both a quirky and elegant way.
If all this dining and sophistication gets too much, there are complimentary loan bicycles plus a gym to bring you back to reality.
- To book, check prices or dates for Riggs Washington DC, Penn Quarter
17. Kimpton Monaco, Penn Quarter – a wow-inducing popular high-end boutique located in the Penn Quarter neighborhood
Housed in a former post office dating from 1839, and directly opposite the National Portrait Gallery, is this chic, upscale hotel just a 2-minute walk from the Capital One Arena and less than a half-mile from the National Mall.
The 184 stylish rooms and suites at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco, Penn Quarter feature colorful décor and modern furnishings in a classical Roman Empire-meets-American Empire theme; with acanthus and meandros liberally applied to create a dramatic and bold effect on every surface.
A free wine reception is held each evening. There’s a vibrant French-American brasserie on-site, oddly out of keeping with the Romanesque feel of the rest of the building, serving good plates and cocktails in a sort of nightclub ambiance. The fitness center is open 24 hours, and bicycle rentals are complimentary.
- To book, check prices or dates for Kimpton Hotel Monaco, Penn Quarter
18. The Watergate, Georgetown – a chic and vibrant landmark abode that overlooks the Potomac River
One of the best-known hotels in the world, for all the wrong reasons. Overlooking the Potomac River on one side and the John F Kennedy Center on the other, this huge, landmark hotel is a mile from the Lincoln Memorial, in the neighborhood known as Foggy Bottom – yes, really.
Serene, stylish rooms, and suites at The Watergate Hotel, Georgetown have river or city views, and many have private balconies. They are all furnished in a natty late 20th century, vaguely Italian style of mostly grey with the odd colorful chair or sofa to liven it up.
There is little acknowledgment of the infamous episode in this hotel’s history except for one guest room with memorabilia on the walls and a tape recorder in the corner.
In the lobby, you’ll find the soft amber glow of The Next Whisky Bar. Outside in the garden, you can experience a private igloo, designed for small groups to enjoy drinks, tapas or afternoon tea.
Top of the Gate rooftop bar and lounge offers very comfortable panoramic views of the river and city throughout the year. Other amenities include an excellent indoor pool, fitness center, and spa.
- To book, check prices or dates for The Watergate Hotel, Georgetown
19. The Darcy, Dupont Circle – a polished contemporary boutique located in the heart of downtown
From the tree-lined street, The Darcy, Dupont Circle is an imposing white slab of a building sitting comfortably in its surroundings. Close to Dupont Circle metro station, 15 minutes walk from the White House and a mile from the Smithsonian American Art Museum it’s well-positioned to enjoy much of what Washington DC has to offer.
Inside, the public spaces and guest rooms have a distinctly art-deco feel created by clever décor and well-chosen furnishings.
The cohesive, confident styling runs throughout the hotel with chic rooms featuring original artwork, and tasteful designs using color and shape to continue the theme and produce a relaxed, holistic experience.
There is a very good restaurant featuring global cuisine, signature cocktails, and occasional live music, plus a café and fitness center. Loan bicycles are provided free, to help your exploration of the city.
- To book, check prices or dates for The Darcy, Dupont Circle
20. Cambria Hotel – a cool and unique stay with funky retro-inspired decor and amazing river views
Located on a spit of land at the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, the Southwest neighborhood of Washington DC is currently undergoing major reconstruction which will revitalize this somewhat dilapidated area.
The Cambria Hotel Capitol Riverfront, Southwest in the soon-to-be renamed Capitol Riverfront neighborhood, is an early phase of the development which means you get better value for money than more central hotels.
The guest rooms are spacious with wide views – albeit mostly of construction work – and are simply designed with fresh, bold furnishings.
You can enjoy a menu featuring freshly prepared food, local craft beer on tap, wine, and specialty cocktails at the ground-floor restaurant. Burn some calories in the fitness center or simply lounge about on the terrace of the rooftop bar.
Located perfectly between the Nationals Park baseball stadium and Audi soccer stadium it’s a great location for sports fans and, one day soon, will become a very smart district by the rivers.
- To book, check prices or dates for Cambria Hotel Capitol Riverfront, Southwest
Beth Pinches – writer and photographer
Beth was born under a wandering star, with drama in her veins and ink in her pen. After stints studying theatre in Dublin and Utrecht she used her creative streak to see as much of the world as she could on as little money. She toured Italian Schools with a children’s theatre troop, lived as an au-pair in both Rome and Washington DC, explored the British countryside, worked her way through much of Europe, Salsa danced in Cuba and road tripped down America’s west coast where she discovered her spiritual home; Portland, Oregon. Other places she loves include Croatia, Finland, Japan and India. In between adventures, travel writing and performing she resides peacefully with her family, cats and ukulele. Find Beth on Linkedin or Facebook.