The Jefferson, Washington DC Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Our pick for the best all-around luxury hotel in D.C. is a bit unusual for us -- the Jefferson doesn't have the awesome range of amenities we usually expect from the top luxury hotels. And some of the rooms are a bit small. But we think the property's extraordinary attention to detail makes up for those issues, from the flat-screen TVs embedded in the bathroom mirrors to the intimate library with vintage hardcovers to the working dumbwaiter (a Thomas Jefferson invention) in the private dining room. But it succeeds at the big things as well: The property was gutted all the way down to the wiring during the recent renovation (the cost of which must have been spectacular) and the management gave great care to ensure that every feature improved the guest experience. The rooms are somehow both sophisticated and homey; the French-American cuisine at Plume restaurant is superb; and the lovely luxury spa, which features vinotherapies (to reflect Thomas Jefferson's love of wine), is a rare feature among D.C. hotels.
The Hay-Adams Rating: 5.0 Pearls
The Hay-Adams' biggest trump card over most of its luxury competitors is its location: The hotel is across the street from the White House, and rooms facing H Street on the 6th, 7th, and 8th floors have superb views (for an extra $100). It's the closest most people can get to actually staying at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, so it's no wonder the hotel (and its famous bar, appropriately named Off the Record) draws political players from around the world (including the Obamas themselves, who stayed here before the inauguration). But this stately, 144-room boutique is impressive regardless of location: Service is warm and attentive, rooms are bright and stylish, and the classy New American restaurant Lafayette Room has nightly performances by a renowned pianist.
Park Hyatt Washington Rating: 5.0 Pearls
This polished, urbane 219-room property excels in every way: the soothing, contemporary public spaces; huge, hushed, and heavenly rooms; impeccable, skillfully discreet service; and the winning Blue Duck Tavern (the Obamas have dined here). The jaw-dropping bathrooms, many covered in limestone and featuring walk-in showers with rainfall showerheads, are among the best we've seen anywhere. The Foggy Bottom location is the property's only drawback; it's convenient for exploring Georgetown on foot, but not for visiting the Mall, the White House, or the monuments.
Four Seasons Washington D.C. Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Located in the ever-rarefied neighborhood of Georgetown, the 211-room Four Seasons hits the high notes with its classically luxurious rooms, Michael Mina restaurant, and massive tri-level spa and fitness center. But as at many Four Seasons, it's the service that really stands out. Every concierge is a member of Les Clefs d'Or, the prestigious concierge organization with just 3,000 members worldwide, and 26 employees have worked at the hotel since it opened in 1979 -- making the staff not just experienced and well trained, but loyal. In short, it's better qualified than just about any staff in the country to handle the many high-profile guests who come to stay. (The driveway is perpetually clogged with black Escalades with tinted windows and Benzes with diplomatic plates, and men with earpieces troll the public spaces with purpose.)
The Ritz-Carlton Washington Rating: 4.5 Pearls
W Washington DC Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Opened in July 2009 in a landmark Beaux Arts building built in 1917, just steps from the White House, this trendy 317-room hotel has emerged as an oasis of hipness in conservative Washington. J&G Steakhouse by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and the POV bar and rooftop terrace quickly became some of the hottest spots in the city. Even if the hype dies down, though, the W is supported by the enduring features that make a luxury hotel great, from the stunning design -- a tasteful marriage of historic architecture and contemporary W style -- to the soothing on-site Bliss Spa to the luxurious (albeit small) rooms.