- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Washington DC Guide (PDF)
The best places to live in Washington DC
The capital offers a range of accommodation options. There are areas and suburbs in Washington DC to suit every lifestyle, from those wanting to experience the buzz of city living to those preferring a quiet life in the leafy suburbs. Where a new arrival chooses to live in DC will ultimately depend on their lifestyle preferences and their budget.
Areas close to the city centre such as Adams Morgan and Georgetown are perfect for young professionals and students, while Dupont Circle and Anacostia are ideal for those moving to Washington DC with a family.
As a result of the city's unique location and proximity to the neighbouring states of Virginia and Maryland, newcomers will find that it's even possible to live outside of DC and commute to work in the city on a daily basis.
Young and trendy areas of Washington DC
Washington DC has a fairly large student population and plenty of young graduates flock to the capital to start their careers. There are lots of areas close to the city centre that cater well for this demographic.
There are always new bars, eateries and trendy fashion boutiques springing up to serve the younger market. Rent tends to be higher close to the city centre and these areas are most suitable for those with a higher disposable income.
Close to Washington DC city centre, Adams Morgan is a cosmopolitan part of Washington which has traditionally been popular with expat communities hailing from Central America, North Africa and the Caribbean.
Although much gentrification has taken place and high-cost housing complexes built, a strong multicultural atmosphere remains in Adams Morgan. This is evident in the diverse range of international shops and eateries that can be found in the area.
There are lots of rental options in this neighbourhood. This is a popular area for young professionals as it's close to most workplaces in the city centre. It's also a popular nightlife spot and home to some of Washington DC’s top nightclubs and bars. The area is served well by public transport as it has a number of subway stations in close proximity.
Georgetown is a historic area in northwest Washington DC which is known for great shopping, nightlife and dining options. This neighbourhood is characterised by old houses, cobbled streets and trolley tracks, which are all part of Georgetown’s historic charm.
Georgetown is located close to the Potomac River. It's common to see residents walking, jogging and cycling along the canal path. The fact that this area is also home to Georgetown University means that there is a large student population, and always plenty going on in terms of entertainment, sporting events and lectures. The area is also home to many foreign embassies, making it a popular neighbourhood for newcomers working in the diplomatic sector.
Family-friendly neighbourhoods of Washington DC
Each year, large numbers of people are transferred to Washington DC through companies that allow them to bring their families along. The city is a great place to set up a family home.
Washington DC has some of the USA’s top schools and universities. For those moving there with children, being close to good schools will certainly be a priority.
This is a great neighbourhood in which to set up home as a new family in Washington DC. Dupont Circle has many different accommodation options on offer, from large apartment communities to spacious family homes and condos. Dupont Circle is therefore an area suitable for a variety of people, from professionals to those with young children.
This neighbourhood has a vibrant entertainment scene and people come to Dupont Circle from all over Washington DC to eat at some of the city’s top restaurants. There are also lots of coffee shops, bookstores and art galleries in the neighbourhood.
There is a strong community spirit in this area and residents are often seen relaxing, playing chess or walking their dogs at the grassy circle. Good public transport links make travelling anywhere in Washington DC from Dupont Circle easy.
Due to the popularity of this area, however, rent is high.
Anacostia is a previously neglected residential neighbourhood that lies alongside the Anacostia River in southeast Washington DC.
Anacostia is popular with families because of its proximity to some of DC’s best schools and the availability of spacious housing. It is also a good option for those who prefer to be further away from the hustle and bustle of the city, or those on a tight budget. Getting around Washington DC from Anacostia is easy as there are regular Metrorail services to the city centre.
Outside Washington DC
For those who work in Washington DC but prefer a quieter suburban life, there is also the option of living in parts of Virginia or Maryland.
New arrivals will find that certain parts of these neighbouring states are well connected to Washington DC by both road networks and public transport.
Rockville and Bethesda
Owing to their proximity to the capital, the suburbs of Rockville and Bethesda, which are located in Montgomery County in the state of Maryland, have become popular spots for those working in DC. Rockville and Bethesda have diverse populations and offer a variety of housing options from high-rise condos to modern family homes.
Rockville is only 25 minutes' drive from Washington DC’s city centre and is well placed on the I-270. Bethesda is located 20 minutes' drive from DC and is connected to the capital by the I-495. Both areas are also well served by public transport. While rental costs are not cheap in Rockville or Bethesda, many newcomers choose to live in these areas because the properties tend to be more spacious. In addition, these areas are located close to several good schools.
Alexandria in Virginia is an independent city located just seven miles (11km) south of Washington DC. It's a charming area steeped in history and there are lots of old buildings, churches and museums here. While the area doesn’t have the buzz of Georgetown or Adams Morgan, Alexandria does have a fair number of good restaurants and entertainment facilities.
This city is well located on major roads such as the I-95, I-395 and Route 1. When it comes to public transport, bus services link the city to Washington DC.
►For an overview of the capital's property market see Accommodation in Washington DC
►Getting Around in Washington DC provides a guide on transport in the city
Photo credits: Washington by Andra C Taylor; Washington by Alexey Topolyanskiy; Alexandria, Virginia by Jack Prommel. All sourced from Unsplash.
Are you an expat living in Washington DC?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Washington DC. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
Cigna Global can tailor an international health insurance plan to perfectly fit the needs of you and your family. With 86 million customers in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.
Free Moving Quotes
ReloAdvisor is an independent online quote service for international moves. They work with hundreds of qualified international moving and relocation companies to match your individual requirements. Get up to 5 free quotes from moving companies that match your needs.