I’ve lived in Washington, D.C. for more than 3 years! While this is actually a long time for this transient city, of course, there are people who have lived here longer. I’m not claiming to be an expert in all four corners of this beautiful city. D.C. has such a deep, moving history and culture — more so than most of its residents realize. So, if you have a different opinion, that’s fine; but please don’t be rude. (: The following is only an overview of my experiences and the experiences of people I know. Where to live in Washington D.C. is a question constantly flooding my Instagram DMs. So, I’m thrilled to have a long-form answer here for you! Just keep in mind, I’m sharing my knowledge of the last 3+ years of loving life in this city! If you’re reading this and about to move — I’m elated for you!
Let’s keep it real: D.C. is an expensive place to live. However, it’s definitely possible to live in the city even on a budget. My biggest tips are:
Buildings often have move-in offers when the building is newer (0-2 years old) or when the demand is really low (it’s really high in the summer)! Honestly, some buildings will over something year round. However, you really want to get a month off rent at least. If they say they can’t prorate it, ask the agent if they’d allow you to prorate it yourself manually.
I have this beautiful 2-bed/2-bath apartment because I shared it with a roommate and the building was offering one month rent free when we moved in, which I decided to prorate. This took hundreds of dollars off my monthly expenses. There are definitely opportunities to make living in D.C. doable.
Here’s a virtual tour of my apartment in Southwest Waterfront.
My favorite residential neighborhood in D.C. is Southwest Waterfront. It’s in the middle of The Wharf (great food and shopping along the water) and Navy Yard where there are a ton of restaurants and events. The monuments are also so close, just a 10 minute walk away. I walk my dog to the National Mall almost every day. It’s on the green line of the metro, making it extremely easy to get to Chinatown and U St.
I have a lot of friends who live in Navy Yard and love it. There are a lot of restaurants, the National’s Stadium (many people can watch baseball games in the stadiums from their roofs), and a lot of apartment options. It’s a fresh, young area with great energy.
I also have a lot of friends who live in Capitol Hill. You can probably guess from its name that this is a more historic area. There’s a lot of D.C. charm with historical row houses and classic (as well as new) businesses. I know a lot of people who have found a row house or basement to rent out. If the classic D.C. vibe is important to you — you can check out Dupont and Adams Morgan as well.
I will say, Dupont and Adams Morgan are getting a bit more north. I lived in Northwest D.C. before, and while it was so, so beautiful, it was really far removed from downtown near the monuments, White House, Chinatown, the Wharf/Navy Yard, etc. In my opinion, downtown is where everything happens: D.C. views, events, shows, political moments, protests, and the wide array of dining and shopping. If I had a family (and was wealthy), I would love to live in Northwest. However, for young professionals, I think it’s the most fun experience to live in the three other areas mentioned.
Finally, don’t overlook living in Virginia — especially if you’re looking for a price drop! As you can see, Virginia is SO CLOSE. Alexandria (Old Town) and Roslyn are great areas with lower rent, cute historic areas, and great restaurants and businesses. I know a lot of people who live there and work in D.C. proper. It takes me just 15 minutes to get from my home in D.C. to my friends’ place in Alexandria. Being in D.C. proper was important to me (I wanted to be able to walk to everything in town), but if it’s not a deal-breaker for you — definitely check out Alexandria and Roslyn!
If you’re moving, I hope this helped you learn more about where to live in Washington D.C. Let me know if you have any more questions in the comments below or you can DM me on Instagram!