Best Hotels in Washington, D.C.
No. 1 The Jefferson, Washington, D.C.
This 99-room Beaux-Arts landmark reopened in 2009 after a two-year, floor-to-ceiling overhaul. Thomas Jefferson-inspired design details abound, ranging from toile drapes to three-inch-thick doorframes in guest rooms, just like those at Monticello. In the hotel’s clubby bar, Quill, a series of 18th-century maps trace the former president’s wine tours through France, Germany, and Italy. The finest display, however, might be the hand-painted silk mural in the hotel restaurant, Plume, depicting the south vineyard at Monticello. Plume has quickly become a D.C. favorite for its inventive European fare. (A glass barrel-vaulted ceiling also makes it one of the city’s most stunning restaurants.)
No. 2 St. Regis, Washington, D.C.
This 1926 landmark hotel strikes the balance between historic elegance and high-tech swagger. Original details such as gilded Louis XVI chandeliers and Palladian windows remain, but rooms now have iPod docking stations, silk wall coverings, and glass mosaic–tiled bathrooms. Luxurious details (Waterford crystal chandeliers) combined with attentive service (a 24-hour butler assigned to each floor) make for a glamorous stay.
No. 3 Four Seasons Hotel, Washington, D.C.
Spacious and rambling, this Four Seasons sits on an unassuming patch of Georgetown real estate. Guest quarters are split into two wings; currently the east wing's 151 newly renovated rooms are the best bet. All have stylish contemporary furniture, a muted palette of mauve and sage, chic lithographs in gilt-edged frames, and brand-new bathrooms with soaking tubs and separate glass-and-stone showers. (The 60 west-wing rooms, furnished more traditionally with antiques but with so-so bathrooms, are up for a matching redo by summer 2008). The fitness center here is grand, comfortable, and flooded with light from floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the C&O Canal.
No. 4 The Hay-Adams
One of the city's finest hotels, this rebuilt 19th-century residence also boasts what is arguably the city's best location: directly across Lafayette Park from the White House, with knockout views of the famous mansion from the sixth, seventh, and eighth floors. The 145 impeccable guest rooms glow with sunlight from oversize windows; understated soft-beige furniture and beds swathed in Frette linens and pale Asian-inspired toile get a graceful lift from original and unique 1920's plasterwork on the ceilings. Downstairs, the elegant Lafayette Room restaurant overlooks the park—although watching power lunchers inside may be even more interesting.
No. 5 Sofitel Lafayette Square
In some way, every Sofitel is a Parisian hotel, and despite the inescapable fact of its location in downtown Washington, the Lafayette is no exception. Francophone staff click-clack over shiny black marble floors as jazz floats overhead; chic young things lounge artfully in the dramatic wine-and-gray halls of Le Bar, sipping champagne. The 237 Art Deco-inspired rooms, buff and brown with red-velvet accents, are creatively lit, and hung with original paintings, black-and-white architectural photos of Washington, and—la surprise—Paris. Corner rooms 14 and 26 have windows on two sides flooding the space with light.
No. 6 Ritz-Carlton Georgetown
As unlike its regal sister hotel downtown as it's possible to be, this converted 19th-century incinerator in the heart of Georgetown is low-key, modern, and above all, private; there's even a hidden VIP exit for visiting celebs and politicos. The 86 minimalist rooms and suites fall somewhere on the scale between Zen and yawn, with clean lines and lots of beige (although suites have more personality and better views of the Potomac River two blocks away). The soaring post-industrial lobby, all exposed brick and steel beams, is presided over by a wide black granite fireplace—a great place to warm up on chilly winter nights.
No. 7 Willard InterContinental
This opened-in-1816 hotel remains steeped in Washington history, even though the rooms where Lincoln lived, Coolidge governed, and Martin Luther King Jr. wrote have long since been renovated away. Today's Willard, a bit like the political world it esteems, is grand in public, bland in private: its majestic lobby dazzles with soaring Corinthian columns and a marble mosaic floor, while the 332 guest rooms, while spacious and comfortable, are comparatively spare. Café du Parc sells enticing French pastries to go—a great breakfast and a surprisingly great deal.
No. 8 Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C.
Only seven years young, the downtown Ritz-Carlton feels like an old-fashioned grand hotel, where bellmen wear white gloves and the clubby old-boy bar fairly rings with the sound of shoulders being clapped. An ongoing renovation is restyling all 300 guest rooms (retro bentwood armchairs in zippy velour are in, cherry credenzas with fussy brass drawer-pulls are out), but the sumptuous marble bathrooms with big gilt mirrors will remain. The biggest nod to modernity, though, comes with the second- and third-floor Sports Club/LA fitness center; its 100,000 square feet of fat-burning splendor and huge spa are open to guests for a fee.
No. 9 W Hotel Washington
The W Washington, D.C. Hotel is the place to see the nation's capital: The Point of View Terrace provides notable views of the Washington Monument, White House, Pentagon, and Potomac River. Originally the Hotel Washington, this Beaux-Arts building hosted the likes of John Wayne, Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin during its 90 years. Celebrities continue to stay in the Dianna Wong-designed accommodations and enjoy Jean-Georges Vongerichten's steakhouse fare, as well the restaurant's 24-foot vaulted ceilings with views of the White House Gardens. Although the 317 rooms are smaller than the average hotel rooms in D.C., each includes the W-bed, accentuated by a backlit headboard, a white chaise lounge, and the latest tech (free Wi-Fi is only available in the Living Room lounge, though). The hotel is also home to Bliss Spa, and feature W's Whatever/Whenever Service: "Whatever you want. Whenever you want it. (as long as it's legal)."
No. 10 Hotel Monaco, DC
Construction on this property was completed in 1866 by Robert Mills, architect of the Washington Monument; before it was a hotel, it originally opened as the city’s first General Post Office. Since then, it has been deemed a National Historic Landmark, and was renovated by the Kimpton group in 2002. The marble four-story structure, located in Penn Square, contains 183 guestrooms, of which 14 are suites. This boutique property is pet-friendly, with complimentary Evian for dogs, water bowls, and maps of optimal local dog walks; or for those who left their pet at home, “guppy service” is offered, a goldfish brought to the room upon request.