Modern fitness center with an array of cardio- and weight-training equipment
Business center with computer stations and printers, gift shop, and jewelry store
Pet-friendly (for a hefty fee)
Neighborhood is dead
Daily fee for Internet access
Valet-only parking, which is expensive
No swimming pool
With a history dating back to 1816, the 335-room Willard Intercontinental is among the most iconic luxury hotels in D.C. -- and indeed, the United States. Everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr. to Michelle Obama’s relatives have stayed at this palatial property, located within a five-minute walk of the White House. Highlights include a French restaurant, classic bar, fitness center, and spa. While not cheap, the Willard’s prices tend to be lower than nearby luxury properties like the Hay-Adams and St. Regis.
The Willard stands
out for its extravagant lobby and storied history.
Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the Willard was originally constructed in 1816 as a series of six row houses. In 1901, the building was fully remodeled into its current form: a 12-story Beaux-Arts style structure -- then considered one of Washington’s first skyscrapers.
Nearly every U.S. president has stayed at the Willard, including Abraham Lincoln, whose hand-written receipt from 1861 is displayed in a small history gallery on the first floor. After the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant met with political operatives in the hotel's lobby, doing deals with men who came to be known as "lobbyists." Martin Luther King Jr. also reportedly finished his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Willard. The Willard Intercontinental continues to host presidents, diplomats, and D.C. power players thanks to its location just two blocks from the White House and the National Mall.
Today the hotel’s main attraction is its grand lobby, which is filled with marble pillars, beautifully restored coffered ceilings, and terrazzo floors. It is still a place to spot the kinds of influencers that pass for celebrities in D.C. -- we saw New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman during our first visit to the hotel. Branching off the lobby is a red-carpeted hallway known as Peacock Alley. The elegant passageway is filled with sitting areas and flanked by meeting rooms and ballrooms. A pricey afternoon tea service is hosted here on weekends (November through April); people come wearing their best dresses and hats, and a harpist or pianist provides the music. During the holidays the hotel goes all out with a Christmas tree, tinsel, lights, and nightly choral performances.
In downtown D.C., within a five- to six-minute walk to the White House and National Mall
The Willard is in the heart of "old downtown," a five- to six-minute walk to the White House and National Mall. It's a good location for visiting the capital's sights, but the immediate neighborhood -- bustling with nine-to-fivers during the day -- can border on desolate at night.
Five-minute walk to Metro Center station (Red, Blue, Silver, and Orange lines)
20-minute walk to popular memorials on the western end of the mall
20-minute walk to the National Gallery of Art and National Air and Space Museum
Starting at 375 square feet, Standard Rooms are spacious and classically decorated.
The Willard Intercontinental's 335 rooms feature classic wooden furnishings, light marble bathrooms, and a red-cream-and-green color scheme. They don’t exactly dazzle (unless upgrading to one of the opulent suites), but they’re attractive. They range in size from 375 square feet (the Premier Rooms) to 2,300 square feet (the Thomas Jefferson Suite). Most rooms have king-size beds, but rooms with two queen-size beds are also available. All units include well-stocked minibars, bathrobes, Keurig coffeemakers, flat-screen TVs, and iPod stereos. Bathrooms come well-equipped with magnifying mirrors, nail files, cotton swabs, scales, and shower/tub combos. The gold-framed artwork on the walls is a bit generic -- a painting of the White House, and a black-and-white photo of a statue -- but is in keeping with the traditional ambience.
Rollaway beds are available for a fee, and cribs are free.
Beautiful event space,
a large fitness center, and spa
On the second floor, the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa offers a variety of facials, body treatments, massages, and salon services; it's part of the Red Door Spa chain. The spa also contains a sauna, steam room, and modern fitness center, with an array of cardio- and weight-training machines. With nearly 20,000 square feet of beautiful ballrooms and meeting space, the hotel is a popular destination for events and hosts about 100 weddings a year. Other highlights include a business center with computer stations and printers, gift shop, jewelry store, and a tiny gallery about the history of the Willard.
Food isn't the highlight of the Willard, but the Round Robin Bar is popular and distinctive.
The main dining venue at the hotel is a French bistro, Cafe du Parc, which has a casual coffee bar, upstairs dining room, and seasonal outdoor seating. The cafe is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Adjacent to the hotel (and also built by the founding Willard brothers) is the Occidental Grill & Seafood, which serves steaks and fresh seafood daily for lunch and dinner. Occidental Grill isn’t technically part of the hotel, but guests can charge meals to their rooms.
Small plates are also available at the Willard’s popular bar, Round Robin. This stately venue has long been known for its cocktails -- it was the first bar in D.C. to serve mint juleps (a recipe that Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky passed on to one of the bartenders more than 150 years ago) -- and it also has more than 100 labels of Scotch, one of the largest selections in the capital. The suit-heavy crowd matches perfectly with the setting -- all green felt and dark-wood trim.
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