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April 17, 2024

A guide to D.C.'s Foggy Bottom neighborhood

By ROWAN LIU | March 14, 2023

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COURTESY OF ROWAN LIU

The entrance to the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro station is located near the George Washington University Hospital.

Mist rolled over the marshy east bank of the Potomac River into the low-lying swampland that would become the neighborhood of Foggy Bottom. As an intern in Foggy Bottom this spring, I have the privilege of exploring one of the oldest neighborhoods in Washington D.C.

In the 19th century, Foggy Bottom was an industrial area with a large immigrant demographic. The natural fog from the marshes combined with the smog from gas works, glass factories, lime kilns and breweries, giving rise to the neighborhood’s nickname. These industries are now a thing of the past, but you can still drink local draft beer at the Froggy Bottom Pub. And if you want a real taste of history, order a pint of Senate Beer in locations around D.C.

Foggy Bottom underwent major changes in the 20th century. In 1912, George Washington University moved its main campus into the neighborhood. In 1949, the U.S. Department of State also moved its headquarters in, and soon after, the last Washington Gas and Light factory closed down in 1954. Today, the neighborhood is an international hub of students and professionals. 

If you know your American history, then Watergate might be a familiar term. Hopefully, you won’t find any wiretapped phones or get involved in political scandals when you visit the Watergate complexes today. 

If you’re feeling fancy and have the means, The Watergate Hotel houses the luxurious The Next Whisky Bar and hosts afternoon tea on the weekends. Their rooftop bar, Top of the Gate, is also open during the warmer months.

Unfortunately, I am working on minimum wage. I can, however, afford to visit the nearby John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, also known as the Kennedy Center, for various shows and cultural performances. The Kennedy Center is currently performing Into the Woods and has discounted same-day tickets — a guilty splurge for a theater fan. You can enjoy free concerts from groups like The Naghash Ensemble, an Armenian folk band, and watch film screenings like The Woman King at the Kennedy Center later this month. Remember to reserve tickets to these free events in advance!

In between visiting fun attractions, I’m often getting food with friends. Founding Farmers has traditional American fare with ingredients sourced from family farms. It’s a bit on the high side when it comes to prices, but I found it to be worth the atmosphere and comforting food there. For a more casual place, I recommend Tonic at Quigley’s Pharmacy. Don’t let the name fool you, as the old drugstore is now a restaurant serving burgers and really good tater tots.

Getting coffee is also a great way to meet up with people — not to mention that waking up at seven a.m. every morning for work takes a lot of energy. It’s a good thing that there are many cafes around! I enjoy spending time typing away in PAUL bakery, a French-style cafe that is part of Foggy Bottom’s Western Market. With the Cherry Blossom Festival around the corner, Casey's Coffee is serving a special Cherry Blossom Latte too. It is bright pink and has a faint floral taste.

While the northern part of the neighborhood has food and activities, the southern part is where you can find museums and memorials. It’s worthwhile to see the Department of State’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms once they open for tours again (they’ve been closed since the start of the pandemic). In the meantime, you can visit the National Museum of American Diplomacy and the neighboring Interior Museum

The Art Museum of the Americas, the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum are also places of interest, although I have not gotten around to visiting them just yet.

It’s a short walk south from the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro station to the Lincoln Memorial, where you can also see the nearby Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the striking figure of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Walk east and you’ll reach the White House just outside the neighborhood border. The Octagon is a good stopping point along the way for anybody interested in early 19th-century architecture and history. Visiting landmarks has been a healthy way for me to get some steps in after sitting at a desk all day. 

I’m still waiting for warmer days so I can get out more. In the coming weeks, the cherry blossom flowers will be in peak bloom, and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool will be filled with water again next month after the National Park Service finishes the annual drain and cleanup. If you’re free this spring break, join me in exploring more of D.C.!


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