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America’s political capital is no stranger to the high life – heads of state, diplomats, and CEOs come here seeking glamorous digs, so you can piggyback on that VIP treatment at its top hotels. Whether you choose to stay Downtown, close to the city’s proud patriotic landmarks, or near the dining delights of sociable Adams Morgan or Georgetown, you’re in for the finest hospitality in Washington DC.
This Hong-Kong-born brand is renowned for its Asian-style opulence and microscopic attention to detail – just check out the dainty afternoon tea in the Empress Lounge. Cool sheets, plush furniture, and deep marble tubs will all elicit a sigh of contentment. One huge draw is its pin-drop-quiet pool and spa, with huge daybeds – but the Downtown location is superb for sightseers, too.
The full branded name may not imply it, but ‘The Willard’ has the gilded, palatial feel of a Ritz or a Plaza. Glinting chandeliers, fresh flowers, and monogrammed headboards salute all guests as VIPs – while tapestry carpets and heavy oil paintings add grandeur to spun-gold hallways. Within walking distance from the National Mall, it suits holidaymakers, but the service and facilities draw an executive crowd.
Stately luxury is sharpened by edgy interiors at the Fairmont, in historic Georgetown. An enormous, snaking light fixture of jagged metal shapes pulls your eye in the bar-lounge, while a shattered-gold mosaic backs the reception desk. Rooms are pragmatic and calm, made for a high-end business crowd. The fairylit courtyard is a romantic spot for cocktails in warmer months.
While this is the hotel that prompted us to add ‘gate’ to every scandal since 1972, don’t expect faded mid-century looks – its 2017 makeover by Ron Arad Architects was a revelation. The famous donut-shaped exterior hints at the sculptural, swerving details in the lobby and restaurant, with metallic installations spiralling out like soundwaves. Rooms have fluid, polished wooden desks and boxy, concrete-grey bed frames. A river-view rooftop and industrial-feel pool and spa add yet more wow-factor.
A hushed canalside location greets you at this boxy, red-brick townhouse in storybook Georgetown. You’ll find lovingly-designed spaces here, from the low-lit, russet intimacy of CUT restaurant to the waterfront terrace and rooftop pool. Everything feels smart and classic, in gentlemanly textures of leather, metal, and polished wood, though rooms are less striking – think crisp white luxury with gold-and-grey accents.
This Colonial-style B&B, in northern DuPont Circle, is another step back in time for Washington’s history hunters. Carved-wood writing desks, heavy crimson curtains, and ornamental fireplaces induce a frisson of the past, while friendly staff keep the regulars coming back. Breakfast is a timeless checklist of filling faves – pancakes, waffles, omelettes, and Eggs Benedict – tailored to your taste, so you won’t set off hungry.
A business-luxe master with slightly less soul than the Fairmont, MO, or Rosewood, DC’s Ritz-Carlton lacks a little design magic – but wins out on a kindly staff, who leave guests beaming. Art-and-ornament brightened suites are more stylish than basic guest rooms, which come in ice-white and gunmetal grey. You’re close to charming Georgetown and foodie Adams Morgan for an evening out.
Just blocks from the White House and Smithsonian Museum, Riggs has the high ceilings, marble pillars, and wedding-cake cornicing you want from this grand old city. Thoroughly modern rooms come in powder-puff pinks and and silvers, with striking floral-motif headboards – but it’s the communal areas of this former bank which pack the most punch. A bite in Art Deco space Cafe Riggs is a must, but your nightcap should be taken on velvet sofas in low-lit Silver Lyan.