Washington D.C., at the heart of a political and cultural America

Trip description

The American capital is an essential destination for those interested in art, especially American art. Many high-level museums are gathered on these streets, such as the National Museum of Women in the Arts or the Phillips Collection. It is a very cultural week that awaits you.

Day 1 : Trolley and National Mall

Start by getting to know the city by getting in a trolley. They regularly go next to the South Station (subway of the same name, red line), tickets are purchased at 50 Massachusetts Avenue. On bord this old-fashioned bus, you will discover the different neighborhoods in Washington. In the afternoon, stroll along the National Mall, the place most frequented by all those who come to Washington for the first time. Then, go to the new major information centre at the Capitol, to take brochures, maps, etc. Jazz lovers will surely find the Blues Alley very pleasant to spend the evening. Otherwise, dine at Adams Morgan (at 2 Amys for example) and have a drink at Madam's Organ (this neighborhood is liveliest on weekends)!

Day 2 : Memorials and National Gallery of Art

There are so many museums in Washington (and almost all free) that you need to target those who are interested before you start the visits. To begin with a breath of fresh air, you are advised to spend the morning at the Mall, to discover the many war memorials of the last century and those in homage to the presidents, such as Jefferson and Lincoln (this is the same, there are many, so select a few beforehand). Then, before you attack the National Gallery of Art, have lunch in the cafeteria (there are no good restaurants around the Mall). The West Building is longer than the East, but the two are worth seeing, so it's up to you to judge.

Day 3 : Georgetown

The Europeans who went to Washington often evoke the name of this pleasant neighbourhood. Here are the main places to see during the day: Georgetown University, the Old Stone House (in M Street), the fabulous Dumbarton Oaks gardens (and the small Pre-Columbian art museum), the clothing shops on Wisconsin Avenue and M Street, or the antique shops of Wisconsin Avenue. In the evening, dine at Bistro Français and have a drink at Blue Ridge.

Day 4 : National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian is one of the must-visit museums in the city. It highlights the art and current life of American Indians who live mostly on reserves. It is generally well done and didactic, but politically correct... (there is never any question of their extermination by European settlers). You may think that this is a form of recognition by the US Government of past acts. In the afternoon, we recommend the International Spy Museum or the Museum of Air and Space.

Day 5 : Washington National Cathedral and U Street

Start the day by visiting the cathedral of Washington, the sixth largest in the world. Admission is free. For lunch, the pizzeria 2 Amys is strongly advised. The location is full of premises and the pizzas are delicious. In the afternoon, you are invited to discover U Street, a black American area uergoing rehabilitation (jazz bars, restaurants...). The African American Civil War Museum, located in the True Reformer Building (Duke Ellington and a piano are painted at the top of the building), traces the history of the black community during the American civil war, with photos, archival documents and paintings. Almost in front of this building, Ben's Chili Bowl (one of Bill Cosby's favourite fast foods), whose storefront bore the inscription "Soul Brother" during the segregation, remains an institution of the neighbourhood to be discovered. Next to the Lincoln Theater is the completely restored Lincoln Theater. At the corner of U Street and the 12th Street, the famous Bohemian Caverns, which can be seen on the saxophone at the entrance. Turn right onto 12th Street and U Street, and discover the houses built between 1890 and 1920. Almost at the end of the street, on the right sidewalk, stop for a moment in front of the building on the door of which you can read: "Thursood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage". This building is a former YMCA (Young Mens Christian Association) or a sports centre for the people in the neighbourhood. At the end of the street, turn right onto S Street. On the left sidewalk, Garrison Elementary School bears the name of one of the most important figures in the history of abolitionism in the United States. Before turning right onto 13th Street, admire the French style houses Second Empire located on the left sidewalk after the crossing of S Street and 13th Street. On 13th Street, at number 1805, there is the residence where Duke Ellington (Edward Kennedy Ellington of his real name) lived before leaving for New York. A little further, at number 1829, the Whitelaw building was a hotel, opened in 1919, where many black personalities passing through Washington were located. The hotel has been converted into a building for low-income families. Turn right onto T Street and 13th Street, then turn left onto Vermont street. You will come across the African-American Civil War Memorial with, beside the monument, the names of all soldiers who fought during this war. For dinner, we recommend Ben's Chili Bowl, an institution in Washington since 1958, and a jazz club then, Utopia or Bohemian Caverns. Finally, those who want to listen to a concert can watch the programming of 9:30 Club.

Day 6 : Phillips Collection and Dupont Circle neighbourhood

This very famous museum houses the first private collection of modern art in the United States. Spend the morning strolling through the renovated house of its former owner, the collector Duncan Phillips. Over several floors, you will discover the paintings of the permanent collection (the Degas are superb). Also take a look at the temporary exhibitions, if you feel like it. Then, have lunch at Dupont Circle and go to the Kramerbooks & Afterwords bookstore, open 24 hours a day on certain days of the week. If you want to see some embassies, take Massachusetts Avenue at Scott Circle level and walk north of the city. Or take any bus N (Westound) to Dupont Circle, which will make you discover the "Embassy Row" (where the embassies of Turkey, Brazil, Netherlands, Vatican... are aligned). In the evening, have a drink at the Bravo! Bravo! or at Brickseller.

Day 7 : White House and National Museum of Women in the Arts

Before visiting the White House (from afar, since visits are no longer permitted, unless you are boosted), go to White House Visitor's Center to get brochures describing the various parts of the presidential residence. After getting through security (as at the airport), you can see a permanent exhibition on life in the White House, the American presidents, their wives and their children, with texts and photos in support. Finally, do not leave the city before visiting the National Museum of Women in the Arts, one of the most curious museums in Washington devoted to women painters from the 16th century to the present day. A great tribute!

© Dominique Auzias & Jean-Paul Labourdette

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