A 48-Hour Guide to Washington, D.C.

Whether you’re arriving via plane, train or automobile, one thing is for certain: all roads lead to the heart of Washington, D.C. Home to our nation’s government and a ton of historical monuments, restaurants and watering holes, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, even when visiting for a quick trip. Here’s how to make the most out of your 48-hour stay.

Friday nights are for cocktails, and D.C. proper has no shortage of good bars. Get your cocktail and bivalve fix by heading to Rappahannock Oyster Bar located within the bustling Union Market in the NoMa district. The Topping, Virginia-based company made a name for themselves after helping revive the dwindling Chesapeake Bay oyster population; Virginia is currently the leading oyster producer of the East Coast and there are now six restaurants under the Rappahannock umbrella. At the bar, order an oyster shooter—Rappahannocks are served with Vodka and Gordy’s Fine Brine pickle juice, while the Olde Saltes are served with tequila, grapefruit, orange, grenadine and chile. 

Photo by Ally Mumm.

After a full belly and a good night’s sleep, start your Saturday morning off with a cuppa Joe. Downtown is studded with fine coffee houses ranging from independently-owned to national brands like La Colombe and Blue Bottle. Chinatown Coffee Company on H Street offers recognizable names like Counter Culture and Intelligentsia; coffee can be poured via Chemex, siphon, French press or pour over. 

Once you’ve had your caffeine fix, hit the ground running. “I love D.C. for a number of reasons,” says Jeremiah Langhorne, chef/owner of Michelin-starred The Dabney. “The design and layout makes for such a beautiful walking city.” Design your own walking tour by starting out at the Lincoln Memorial and ending at the United States Capitol Building. The two-mile walk along the National Mall is home to various memorials, monuments and museums. “They’re all free and they’re all incredible,” adds Langhorne. 

All that walking can create an insatiable thirst (and perhaps a voracious appetite). Beyond the Capital Building lies a stretch of notable restaurants and bars in and around Lincoln Park, like Eatbar on 8th Street SE. “This casual spot is like your living room, only with better food—and a way-cool jukebox,” state Michelin inspectors. The extensive beer list features local brews from Bluejacket and DC Brau, while the wine list offers varietals from Italy’s Veneto region, Lebanon and Spain. 

For dinner, treat yourself to a tasting menu. Métier offers seven courses complete with pre-dinner hors d’oeuvres. The regularly-changing menu includes personal stories from chef and co-owner Eric Ziebold, as well as pastry chef Anne Specker. “As we move into fall, I wanted to make a fish course that, as the second course would be an early transition, much like summer to fall and lighter into richer,” Ziebold states of his sautéed Boston mackerel with orange-glazed carrots, Niçoise olive crumbs and socca, currently on the menu. “The richness and bigger flavor profile of mackerel is something I think of more in the fall and winter.” 

Grilled King trumpet mushrooms with spring onions, pickled pearl onions and anise/hyssop-infused pearl tapioca at Métier. Photo by Greg Powers.

Heading to The Kennedy Center? Fabio Trabocchi’s nearby Fiola Mare offers Potomac River views and a taste of the Mediterranean through executive chef Brinn Sinnott’s dishes like live sea scallops and uni with mushroom gel, celery, truffle vinaigrette and fresh porcini mushrooms, and Adriatic seafood brodetto

Wrap up the weekend with a decadent brunch. Del Campo, chef Victor Albisu’s Latin American restaurant in Chinatown, offers Washingtonians a weekend bottomless brunch for $45 per person. The seasonally-rotating menu that showcases Albisu’s Peruvian heritage consists of meats like pollo frito and pernil (roast pork shoulder), and arroz con habichuela, platanos Madura and ensalada de papas as sides. All this can be washed down with unlimited mimosas and brunch punch. 

Roasted dry-aged beef ribs with aji amarillo spiced, grilled eggs and chimichurri. Photo by Greg Powers.

Departing out of Union Station? Hit up The Dubliner—a pub offering up traditional Hibernian fare like housemade corned beef and cabbage and Irish beef stew—conveniently located across the street. 

Want to learn more about wine? Follow Robert Parker Wine Advocate on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

More articles from this author