Designer fashions, bookshops with cult followings, cafes that think they’re fine-dining restaurants … Cathy Adams explores Washington DC’s multi-layered shopping scene
If you’ve ticked off all the Washington DC museums and historical monuments and eaten your way round its storming foodie scene, next up should be shopping in Washington DC.
America’s capital offers a range of shopping experiences – from one-off boutiques selling local merchandise, sprawling indie bookshops and fully fledged designer malls.
Here are the best places to shop in Washington DC.
This historic district’s main strip is studded with premium designer stores and all-American brands such as Banana Republic, Rag & Bone and J. Crew, but off any alleyway you’ll find charming one-off boutiques and trendy coffee shops like Blue Bottle Coffee. If you’re not in Georgetown to shop, the colourful row homes flanked by elm trees make for a pleasant afternoon stroll.
No surprise that the grid of streets just north of the National Mall contains some of the most accessible shopping in Washington DC. There are high-street brands like H&M and Urban Outfitters right next to a glut of restaurants and well-placed cafes.
CityCenterDC is a landmark new development (early next year it will welcome the city’s first Conrad hotel) with outlets of premium brands such as Tumi, Hermès and Gucci alongside restaurants and public event spaces.
If you need a break, not far is newly opened Eaton DC, a hotel that wants to connect local entrepreneurs and activists with the city’s decision-makers via workshops and events.
Just across the Potomac River into Virginia is Tysons Corner, a fast-growing commuter town with a giant shopping mall: the Center. Accessible via metro from central DC, this supermall has more than 300 shops and restaurants, including department stores Macy’s and Nordstrom, designer stores including Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton and Coach as well as speciality shops. There’s also a cinema and various hotels attached if you want to stay the night.
Book shopping in Washington DC is a treat for bibliophiles. A vast bookshop just off Dupont Circle, Kramers has a cult following. There are the usual fiction and non-fiction sections to trawl (and thumbed through – they don’t mind) and you’ll find the latest political thriller or tell-all about life on Capitol Hill. It’s open until 3am at the weekend. The attached Afterwords Café (the first bookshop/café hybrid in DC) is worth so much more than a quick coffee – it’s a fully fledged restaurant open all day for breakfast, lunch, dinner and pavement drinks.
Just washington dc of Dupont Circle is the excellent Shop Made in DC, which sells locally produced trinkets including prints, cute cards and ornaments.
Adams Morgan is DC’s original hip neighbourhood, and today the home of its independent shopping spirit (and trendy coffee joints). A good place to start is 18th Street, a streak of arty townhouses, indie bookshops and the weekend party crowd. Along this colourful street are boutiques such as Meeps Vintage (for cool vintage clothing), Smash Records (known for its indie and punk records) and The Brass Knob Architectural Antiques, which sells antique homewares. If boutique means hotel rather than shop to you, then Adams Morgan’s new(ish) LINE Hotel is one of DC’s best properties, and housed in a 110-year-old converted church.
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