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Penn Quarter, Washington, D.C. Travel Guide

Penn Quarter Summary


  • Dense, urban neighborhood that's easily walkable and full of shops, services, and restaurants
  • Access to all five D.C. Metro lines; plentiful buses and cabs
  • Numerous world-class attractions like the National Archives, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Verizon Center sports arena
  • Short walk to the National Mall and its attractions
  • Plentiful hotel choices, from the Intercontinental Willard to the W Washington D.C. to convention center properties like the Grand Hyatt Washington


  • Hotels are expensive, owing to the prime location near the National Mall and other tourist sites.
  • Expensive cab rides, as in other D.C. neighborhoods
  • Many bland, midrange, or chain restaurants; other neighborhoods have better dining
  • Some panhandling and vagrancy

What It's Like

The compact, urban Penn Quarter stretches north of Pennsylvania Avenue to New York Avenue, and east from 14th Street to 7th Street. (The area is sometimes considered part of downtown, but we are treating it separately.) This once seedy section of town has, in recent decades, been revamped by urban renewal projects, the most recognizable of which is the Verizon Center sports arena. Other landmarks include the International Spy Museum, FBI headquarters at the J. Edgar Hoover Building, Ford's Theatre, the National Archives, the National Portrait Gallery, and the National Theatre. Skirting the neighborhood are Chinatown and the Walter E. Washington Convention Center; just south lies the National Mall and all its attractions.

All five of D.C.'s Metro lines pass through the neighborhood, stopping at the Archives--Navy Memorial--Penn Quarter, Metro Center, and Gallery Place-Chinatown stations; there is also plentiful bus service. Penn Quarter is easily walkable and relatively safe at all hours; a car is unnecessary.

Where To Stay

Hotels in the area tend toward the large, thanks to proximity to the Washington Convention Center. The Renaissance Washington, D.C., has 807 rooms, while the Grand Hyatt Washington has 888. The Hampton Inn Washington, D.C., and the Embassy Suites Hotel Convention Center are smaller, with 228 and 384 rooms respectively; the Marriott Washington Metro Center, with 451 rooms, is on top of one of the neighborhood's subway stations.

The historic grande dame Intercontinental Willard is on the eastern edge of the Penn Quarter, while the Hotel Monaco occupies the landmarked General Post Office, across F Street from the National Portrait Gallery.

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