Most travelers don’t have the pull for an invite to stay at Blair House, the presidential guesthouse, but there are still plenty of swanky digs to choose from. These are some of the most famous hotels in Washington, D.C.
Famous Hotels in Washington, D.C.
From the Watergate to the Willard, these famous hotels in Washington, D.C. have all played a role in the city’s—and the nation’s—history.
Though it’s relatively new by D.C. standards, no hotel has a big a place in the American consciousness as the Watergate, the site where President Richard Nixon’s descent into scandal and humiliation began. The hotel, reopened in 2016 after extensive renovations, is elegant and simple, and includes the Scandal Room, complete with 70s-era period furniture and a reel-to-reel tape recorder. The Watergate, at the edge of the Potomac River, is also next door to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Amenities: Rooftop bar and lounge with a skating rink, whiskey bar with private heated winter igloos, marble bathrooms, fireplaces in some suites, and bicycle rentals.
Trump International Hotel
Newly famous for obvious reasons, the Trump International Hotel is also a historically important property: The Romanesque revival-style building, which formerly housed D.C.’s Old Post Office, was first built in 1892 and is dominated by its distinctive clock tower. The Trump Organization began leasing the building in 2012, and spent $200 million restoring and upgrading the property.
Amenities: 55-inch flat-screen HD TV, fitness center, The Spa by Ivanka Trump, nanny services, and daily shoeshine.
Built in the 1920s, the beaux arts-style Jefferson has a somewhat lowbrow pedigree. Originally an apartment building, the Jefferson housed workers supporting the war effort during World War II. The building passed through a number of hands until a makeover in 1980—together with Reagan administration officials’ fondness for its newly restored charms—finally vaulted the hotel into the highest ranks of famous hotels in Washington, D.C.
Amenities: Marble bathrooms in many rooms, cocktail bar/lounge, complimentary shoe shine, complimentary phone calls worldwide, and maps of local dog-walking routes for guests with pets.
Construction on this Italian Renaissance-style building, originally a residential hotel, was completed in 1928, but it took a while to become a D.C. landmark. The original owner went bankrupt in the Great Depression, after which the building was converted into a transient hotel. After several changes of ownership, the Hay-Adams was ultimately transformed into a luxury hotel. It’s rumored to be haunted by the wife of Henry Adams, whose home originally occupied the hotel’s current site. Barack Obama and his family lived in the Hay-Adams for two weeks prior to the presidential inauguration in 2009.
Amenities: 50- to 55-inch HD flat-screen TVs, custom Italian bed linens and bath towels, and fitness center.
Just a block from the White House, the Willard Intercontinental is another of the long-running famous hotels in Washington, D.C. President Lincoln stayed here before his inauguration in 1861, and it’s said that the Willard’s lobby was the birthplace of the word “lobbyist,” as a peeved Ulysses S. Grant complained about the men who would beseech him for favors while he smoked cigars and drank brandy. For newlyweds, there’s a French garret-style honeymoon suite in the attic, complete with a wrought-iron canopy bed and a sunken Jacuzzi with views of the Washington Monument.
Amenities: 47-inch HDTVs, Illy coffeemaker, and kids’ concierge.
The 11-acre Omni Shoreham has a truly palatial feel by D.C. standards. The hotel, whose grounds feature a heated resort-style pool, has been the venue for every inaugural ball since the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt. A great choice for families with children, the Omni Shoreham is close to Rock Creek Park, the National Zoo, and the Metro. For the more adventurous visitor, the Ghost Suite (reservations by phone only) is reputed to be haunted by not one but two ghosts.
Amenities: Kids’ activities, hammocks and fire pit, spa, and fitness center.
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—Original reporting by Matt Jenkins