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World Travel Guide > Guides > North America > United States of America > Washington, DC

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Shopping in Washington, DC

From malls to markets, there's no shortage of places to indulge in a spot of retail therapy in Washington. Along with all the big style houses, the city's boutiques also offer a mix of quirky local names and souvenirs that range from kitsch to totally cool.

Key areas

The quaint streets of Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria are perfect for browsing and combine upmarket fashion and lifestyle boutiques with big name chains. The Adams Morgan neighbourhood offers an interesting international mix of clothing, jewellery, CDs and books. In particular, the shops along 18th Street, NW, between Florida Avenue and Columbia Road, are good for perusing. The shops in the various Smithsonian Institution Museums stock a fascinating collection of gifts, crafts, books, jewellery and toys. Stores linked to the museums are open daily 1000-1700. The waterfront complex, National Harbor, just minutes from DC on the Potomac, is a day out in itself with its shops and restaurants.

Markets

There are several farmers markets in the DC area. Some are year-round like the DC Farmers Market near Capitol Hill, 1309 Fifth Street (Tuesday and Saturday 0700-1730, Sunday 0700-1400), and others are seasonal, such as the Fresh Farm Market at Foggy Bottom (April to November every Wednesday 1430-1900) and on Vermont Avenue, near the White House (mid-September to end October every Thursday 1500-1900).

Shopping centres

The Shops at Georgetown Park is a 19th-century styled mall situated at M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, NW. Under a huge skylight and surrounded by an elegant Victorian interior of chandeliers and wrought iron, there are about 100 shops and cafés with prices definitely not aimed at the bargain hunter. Union Station, found downtown on Massachusetts Avenue, has shopping on two levels with over 100 outlets. You can find more upmarket shopping at the Mazza Gallerie on Wisconsin Avenue, along the border with Maryland, which is a multi-level shopping centre, housing trendy Neiman Marcus.

Opening hours

Many shops are open Monday to Saturday 0900/1000-1700/1800 (with some malls open later into the evening) and Sunday 1200-1800.

Souvenirs

Along with Barack Obama mugs and ruby slipper Christmas decorations, Washington's souvenirs are mostly themed along political, historical or botanical lines. Cherry blossom soap and sweets are well worth picking up as are amusing First Lady wine glasses. For the more cerebral, the city's bookstores are crammed with political biographies and historical tomes.

Tax information

Washington DC has a sales tax of 5.75%, which is added to the purchase price at the point of sale. There is no system for visitors to claim the tax back.

Featured Hotels

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Hotel Tabard Inn

Located on a tree-lined side street in the Dupont Circle neighbourhood, this is the small hotel that residents recommend to their friends. As it was constructed from three Federal-style row houses, no two rooms are exactly the same, but each is filled with unique antiques and has Wi-Fi access throughout. Some rooms have a shared bathroom. Victorian sitting areas in the lounge are quite cosy and feature live jazz on Sunday night. The hotel's downstairs dining room, a popular lunch spot for both guests and non-guests, features American cuisine. The restaurant's brick-walled garden is one of the most pleasant places to pass an afternoon in Washington, DC. Price includes continental breakfast.

Hotel Helix

If funk is your thing, you'll love this Kimpton boutique hotel where pop art meets Hollywood. The guestrooms are decorated in eye-popping patterns, bright red, green and blue colours, and underscored with rounded mirrors and large pillows. Twelve of the rooms are themed including the cool Zone rooms, fun family Bunk rooms and Italian-inspired Eats rooms. The lighting system changes from blue to gold in the hotel's bar/café, Helix Lounge, and the outdoor patio is popular with locals. Located in the Logan Circle neighbourhood, Hotel Helix is more appealing to young hipsters rather than sedate business people.

The William Lewis House

A home from home, this welcoming bed and breakfast has all the trinkets and touches of grandma's place with patterned rugs, plump sofas and candles and doilies above the fireplace. Actually taking up two Edwardian townhouses, The William Lewis House has 10 individually decorated rooms, scattered with antiques and family heirlooms, plus free Wi-Fi. What's more, the owners host happy hours with wine and hot chocolate. Gay friendly.

Washington Plaza Hotel

Under the watchful eye of architect Morris Lapidus, the Washington Plaza sprung up in 1962, placing a resort-like hotel in the middle of a city. Right next to the Smithsonian museums, the location is superb, while its glorious swimming pool, 340 well turned out rooms and recently renovated fitness suite are all as good as any modern contemporaries.

Normandy Hotel

Located on an elegant street with embassies as neighbours, and within walking distance of bars, restaurants, shops and the Dupont Circle Metro, this small hotel is a real find. Extensively renovated in 2009, the 75 rooms are decorated in black and white highlighted with fabrics in warm colours. The lobby and rooms have complimentary Wi-Fi internet access and although there is no restaurant, afternoon tea and coffee is served to guests and there is a free wine and cheese reception some evenings.

Mandarin Oriental Washington, DC

The award-winning Oriental is one of the most popular hotels in Washington, DC. Touches of Feng Shui have made its huge guest rooms calming - in fact, you may not want to leave them. All have Chinese marble bathrooms, silk bed tapestries, flatscreen TVs, high-speed internet access and smashing views of city monuments or the Potomac Tidal Basin. The hotel also has a state-of-the-art spa plus two restaurants - the Asian-inspired, award-winning Cafe MoZU and the Sou'Wester, serving regional American cuisine. For lighter fare or cocktails try the Empress Lounge.