48 Hours in Washington, D.C. | Travel and Food Guide

48 Hours in Washington D.C. | Travel and Food Guide
48 Hours in Washington D.C. | Travel and Food Guide

Washington, DC’s, best sights and local secrets from travel experts you can trust.

Embarking on a whirlwind adventure through the nation’s capital, Washington D.C., offers a captivating journey filled with history, culture, and vibrant energy. In just 48 hours, visitors can immerse themselves in the iconic landmarks, diverse neighborhoods, and culinary delights that define this dynamic city. From exploring the storied halls of world-renowned museums to savoring delectable cuisine in trendy eateries, every moment in D.C. promises a new discovery. Here is the ultimate itinerary for an unforgettable 48 hours in Washington D.C., where each experience unveils a piece of the city’s enduring charm and allure.

Day One

Morning:  White House and U.S. Capitol

The White House
The White House.

Tatte Bakery & Cafe has become a beloved breakfast destination in Dupont Circle, attracting locals and visitors alike. Originating from Boston, this Mediterranean bakery/cafe chain has made its mark in DC, evident from the long lines. Indulge in their selection of croissants, the flavorful smoked salmon and avocado tartine, feta-stuffed bourekas (a savory pastry), and much more.

While securing tickets to the White House may prove challenging, free tours of the U.S. Capitol (www.visitthecapitol.gov) offer an accessible alternative. Conducted daily, except on Sundays and holidays, these tours are led by cheerful guides clad in red jackets. Visitors are guided through the “crypt” level, revealing the dimly lit Old Senate Chamber, where Supreme Court justices once deliberated from 1810 to 1860. However, the true spectacle awaits upstairs in the Rotunda, where statues of presidents and oil paintings of early explorers compete for attention beneath the grand iron dome’s fresco.

Afternoon: Museum-Hopping

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Hop on D.C.’s convenient Metro system and travel just one stop from the Capitol to reach Eastern Market, housed within a bustling 19th-century building. Here, you’ll find a vibrant array of vendors, including bakers and fishmongers. Don’t miss the Market Lunch, a popular counter-service café renowned for its delectable crispy crab cakes, seasoned with the iconic Old Bay spice blend. If you want a more sit-down meal, the nearby Le Diplomate embodies the essence of a Parisian bistro right in the heart of Washington D.C.’s vibrant 14th Street. With its gleaming red booths, classic green subway tiles, and a striking zinc bar, it transports diners to the streets of Paris. Standout dishes include the indulgent seafood plateau, the signature house cheeseburger, flavorful steak frites, and the decadent dover sole meunière (served exclusively on Thursdays). Another highlight is the trout amandine.

Washington D.C. boasts a plethora of museums covering a diverse array of subjects, from Asian art showcased at the Freer and Sackler galleries to the intriguing world of global espionage at the International Spy Museum. Notable museums include the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, devoted to the continuous preservation of Holocaust history. You may also consider visiting the Capital Jewish Museum, which features the city’s oldest synagogue building.

Evening: Monuments by Night

Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial

Washington D.C.’s memorials pay homage to soldiers, presidents, and also, civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. By day, they provide enlightening experiences, but at night, they become truly captivating, with the contrast of dark skies highlighting the mostly white marble monuments. Washington Walks offers guided walking tours of Washington, D.C. neighborhoods and historic sites. Book their walking tours of notable sites such as the domed Jefferson Memorial, the often-overlooked George Mason Memorial, and the Reflecting Pool, which links the Lincoln Memorial to the National World War II Memorial.

In Washington D.C., both diners and Michelin guide inspectors rave about the Mediterranean-inspired cuisine offered at the laid-back yet refined dining destination, Tail Up Goat. While the menu evolves daily, indulging in a serving of toast is consistently a wise choice. Expect dishes to vary, from a slice of seaweed sourdough topped with foie gras-roasted foraged mushrooms to a delightful Carolina gold rice pudding for dessert. The team responsible for Tail Up Goat also operates Reveler’s Hour in the same neighborhood, which boasts equally exceptional offerings.

If you’re craving Indian food, look no further than Pappe in Logan Circle. This vibrant establishment, adorned with silk fabrics imported from New Delhi, specializes in Northern Indian dishes. Chef Sanjay Mandhaiya, who honed his skills at India’s renowned Moti Mahel, known as the birthplace of butter chicken, curates an enticing menu featuring lamb biryani, tandoori grilled meats, palak paneer, samosas, and more. Additionally, one can indulge in a daily happy hour from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., featuring roti tacos for $7, $10 cocktails such as the cardamom gin-infused Tiger’s Tail, and a $10 discount on bottles of wine.

Day Two

Morning: Neighborhood Discovery


Stroll through the tranquil corridors of the Four Seasons in Georgetown until you reach Bourbon Steak, a serene dining sanctuary adorned with rich, dark wood accents. Grab brunch here, as Michael Mina showcases his expertise in crafting exquisite steak and potatoes dishes, featuring prime cuts bathed in butter and expertly finished on the wood-burning grill. While prices may lean towards the higher end, those seeking the Bourbon Steak experience without breaking the bank can opt for the lounge, renowned for its indulgent burgers.

Georgetown’s scenic location along the Potomac River renders it one of the most picturesque dining destinations in all of DC. Diners are treated to breathtaking views of the Kennedy Center nestled along the riverbanks, enhancing the dining experience at establishments such as Sequoia, Tony & Joe’s Seafood Place, and Nick’s Riverside Grill. These venues are celebrated for their tantalizing seafood offerings and are particularly beloved for their outdoor happy hours during the summer months.

After brunch, take a leisurely walk to Tudor Place Historic House and Garden. This elegant residence, constructed in 1816 by Martha Washington’s granddaughter and her husband, showcases over 100 artifacts once owned by George Washington, ranging from dinnerware to furnishings.

Afternoon: Local Shopping

Although much of Georgetown has succumbed to the presence of chain stores like J. Crew, Gap, and Anthropologie, M Street is renowned as one of the premier shopping destinations in the nation, often marking the beginning of exploration for many visitors. It connects the neighborhood to Foggy Bottom and Downtown DC to the east, while the Key Bridge to the west links it to Virginia. At the bustling intersection of M and Wisconsin Avenue lies the vibrant heart of Georgetown, where boutique-lined streets branch out in all directions.

Shop Made In DC is a perfect place to shop for souvenirs. True to its name, the store exclusively features products crafted in DC, thereby supporting local artists and creators. From luxurious apothecary products for a relaxing bath experience to chocolate-filled gift boxes and one-of-a-kind handcrafted gifts, Shop Made In DC offers a diverse array of locally made treasures.

United States Botanic Garden
United States Botanic Garden

Alternatively, make your way to the United States Botanic Garden to experience a meticulously curated nature exhibition nestled in the heart of downtown D.C. Established in 1820, this garden holds the distinction of being the oldest continuously operated public garden in the U.S. It serves as an ideal retreat from the city bustle, offering visitors an opportunity to explore and discover a diverse array of plants and flowers.

Evening: Wine and Dine

In the vibrant neighborhoods of Logan Circle and U Street, the District’s culinary scene is thriving with a focus on craft beer, artisanal cocktails, and innovative mid-Atlantic cuisine. ChurchKey is a haven for beer enthusiasts, boasting an extensive selection of 555 beers from around the globe, with a particular emphasis on hop-forward brews.

Perry’s, a long-standing hidden gem for sushi, has gained newfound attention with Eater’s 2023 Chef of the Year, Masako Morishita, at the helm. Located in Adams Morgan, the revitalized restaurant is earning accolades for flavorful Japanese creations. Notable starters include grilled broccoli rabe with miso-garlic butter, a fiery Fuji apple salad featuring Korean gochujang, and garlic edamame dumplings topped with a snowy blanket of Parmesan. Don’t miss out on the deep-fried shrimp katsu burger with togarashi tartar.

For aficionados of Indian cuisine, Rania in the Penn Quarter neighborhood is a must-visit destination, named after the Hindi and Sanskrit word for “Queen.” Delight in a multi-course dinner showcasing inventive Indian dishes that surpass expectations, such as fiery pork loin with spring onion or lamb shank enhanced by poppyseed curry. Choose from prix-fixe menus offering three courses for $75 or four courses for $90, alongside an enticing à la carte selection. During the happy hour window (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.), indulge in theatrical cocktails and delectable bites at the Sundowner Bar for a reduced price. For an indulgent experience, opt for the ‘Sheesh Mahal,’ a hidden palace-of-mirrors private dining room, perfect for a lavish splurge.

Best Times to Visit

The best time to go to Washington, D.C. is between April and June, when temperatures are pleasantly warm, and the city is brimming with events and activities.

Springtime heralds the arrival of D.C.’s renowned cherry blossom season, widely regarded as the most stunning time of the year in the nation’s capital.

July and August mark Washington, D.C.’s peak tourist season, coinciding with the hottest months of the year in the region. The Fourth of July celebrations serve as a major attraction, drawing crowds to the nation’s capital.

Washington Monument
Washington Monument

How To Get There

Washington Dulles International Airport stands as the largest airport in the region, accommodating all major U.S. airlines. Nevertheless, it is situated approximately 26 miles outside of D.C. in Chantilly, Virginia. Meanwhile, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, located merely five miles from D.C., offers fewer flight options, as it is served by only eight airlines.

For those traveling by train from within the United States, Amtrak provides daily routes from major cities such as New York, Boston, and Chicago directly to Union Station. Conveniently, Union Station is within walking distance of some of D.C.’s most prominent landmarks.

Getting Around

For transportation options in the greater Washington, D.C. area, both Uber and Lyft services are readily accessible. Additionally, taxi stands are conveniently located throughout the city. For pre-arranged cab services, consider booking through a local company such as D.C. Yellow Cab.

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