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9 Best Neighborhoods for Washington, DC College Students

By: Justin Chaplin
November 28, 2018

If you are a student living in Washington, DC and on the hunt for an apartment near campus, you’re in luck, as there are lots of options. The DC real estate market is one of the hottest in the US, meaning rental prices can be quite high. If you’re going to be spending top dollar on an apartment, you’ll want to make sure you love your neighborhood and can get to campus easily. To get a better feel for the best neighborhoods, check out this guide for best neighborhoods in DC for college students.

The largest universities in DC:

Georgetown

If you are looking for a neighborhood in a central location that has just about everything you can ask for, Georgetown is your spot. Boasting a plethora of upscale dining and shopping options, it’s easy to see why this neighborhood is so popular.  If you want a home that's close to nightlife, you won't be disappointed living here. Places like Gypsy Sally’s and Church Hall are often buzzing on weekends. If outdoor activities are more your thing, go for a run or bike ride along the river at Georgetown Waterfront Park. When the sun is shining and you want to get in that Potomac River water, head over to Key Bridge Boathouse for all of your kayaking and paddleboarding needs.

So, in a place that has it all, what's the catch? Well, Georgetown is going to cost you a pretty penny to live here. Given all its perks, Georgetown is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in DC.

Distance to college campuses:

  • George Washington University - 1.1 miles
  • Georgetown University - 0.7 miles
  • American University - 2.6 miles
  • Howard University - 3 miles

Georgetown Report Card:

  • Walk score: 83, Very walkable
  • Transit score: 60, Good transit
  • Bike Score: 73, Very bikeable
  • Places to check out: Key Bridge Boathouse, Gypsy Sally’s, Church Hall, Georgetown Waterfront Park

Foggy Bottom

Foggy Bottom is directly below the Georgetown neighborhood, making it a convenient place to live for students. If you’re an outdoorsy person or love to get in the water, you’re in luck since this neighborhood also borders the Potomac River. Looking for a great show or musical performance? You can find the popular John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in this neighborhood. Head to Founding Farmers for a Sunday brunch or swing by Baked and Wired if you’re in the mood for coffee with a side of fresh-baked cupcakes.

Oh, and probably the biggest selling point for Foggy Bottom—it's the home of some pretty popular attractions. The White House, the National Mall, the World Bank... this neighborhood is iconic, making it one of the most sought-after DC neighborhoods. This is a place that really has it all, which inevitably makes it an expensive place to live. But if you're studying at George Washington University’s Foggy Bottom campus, or just want a no-compromise neighborhood, you won't find a better location.

Distance to college campuses:

  • George Washington University - 0.4 miles
  • Georgetown University - 1.5 miles
  • American University - 3 miles
  • Howard University - 3 miles

Foggy Bottom Report Card:

  • Walk score: 95, Walker’s paradise
  • Transit score: 86, Excellent transit
  • Bike Score: 80, Very bikeable
  • Places to check out: John F. Kennedy Center, Founding Farmers - DC, Baked and Wired, Watergate Hotel

Adams Morgan (AdMo)

If you have a craving for international cuisine and want to live in a center for diversity, Adams Morgan is the spot for you. Feel like eating Middle Eastern? African? French? AdMo has got you covered with pretty much every food option imaginable. This neighborhood has a great nightlife scene, and plenty of these delicious food options stay open into the early hours for Saturday late night cravings. Stop by Tryst coffee shop for specialty coffee beverages for your morning pick-me-up and for craft cocktails at nights. If you’re looking for something to do on the weekends, spend a day at the world famous Smithsonian National Zoological Park, which is a less than a mile away and is completely free.

Adams Morgan is also relatively cheap, so it shouldn't be too difficult to find a comfortable home. It’s close to the bigger DC college campuses, and there is tons to do, making it a popular choice among students.

Distance to college campuses:

  • George Washington University - 1.6 miles
  • Georgetown University - 2.2 miles
  • American University - 2.9 miles
  • Howard University - 1.5 miles

Adams Morgan Report Card:

  • Walk score: 83, Very walkable
  • Transit score: 60, Good transit
  • Bike Score: 73, Very bikeable
  • Places to check out: Tryst, National Zoo, Zenebech Restaurant

Logan Circle

Logan Circle is a popular choice among the student crowd. Fourteenth Street is the local hot spot in DC, as it features an incredible selection of new and diverse restaurants like Birch and Barley, which offers a great beer selection. With a vast selection of bars, lounges, music venues and other entertainment options, nightlife thrives on 14th Street. It’s easy to see why young people are drawn to this trendy neighborhood.

Logan Circle is about a mile and a half way from George Washington University, and two and a half miles from Georgetown. You might not be super close, but it's close enough to make it work. If you are looking for a neighborhood that caters to a younger crowd, but also has that classic DC historic feel, Logan Circle could be the spot for you.

Distance to college campuses:

  • George Washington University - 1.5 miles
  • Georgetown University - 2.4 miles
  • American University - 4 miles
  • Howard University - 1.1 miles

Logan Circle Report Card:

  • Walk score: 96, Walker’s paradise
  • Transit score: 88, Excellent transit
  • Bike Score: 95, Biker’s paradise
  • Places to check out: 14th Street, Birch and Barley, Le Diplomate

Capitol Hill

Want to be at the center of what makes DC, DC? Capitol Hill may be the place for you. If the name didn't give it away, this neighborhood is the home to the United States Capitol.  If you're an ambitious student looking to break into the world of politics, a home in Capitol Hill will keep you close to the action due to proximity to the U.S. Capitol and Supreme Court. If you need a break from all of your sightseeing, swing by the popular Eastern Market—an indoor market featuring tons of different food vendors to cater to anyone’s tastes. On the weekend, they have an outdoor market that is super popular with Capitol Hill residents.

This high energy, American-pride filled neighborhood is a huge tourist destination, and also densely populated. Unsurprisingly, this is another extremely pricey DC neighborhood and isn't very close to main campuses, making it not very popular with DC students.

Distance to college campuses:

  • George Washington University - 3.1 miles
  • Georgetown University - 4.7 miles
  • American University - 6.5 miles
  • Howard University - 3.1 miles

Capitol Hill Report Card:

  • Walk score: 86, Very walkable
  • Transit score: 76, Excellent transit
  • Bike Score: 92, Biker’s paradise
  • Places to check out: Eastern Market, U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court

Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle is the perfect mix of historical, modern, and diverse. On one street you will find a great strip of newer restaurants and chic stores, and on the next street, you will see Victorian architecture alongside quaint fountains and statues. If you have a craving for some fresh produce and local flavor, swing by the Fresh Farm farmers market, which takes place every Sunday. Have a sweet tooth or craving some fresh baked goods? Visit the French bakery Un Je Ne Sais Quoi to indulge in divine desserts and pastries. And don’t forget to grab a coffee to go. It’s a taste of Paris right in the middle of DC.

You'll find tons of other educated, young professionals living in this vibrant neighborhood. But if you have a car and plan on using it, you might not be a huge fan of Dupont. Parking spots are hard to come by and the streets are narrow. Plenty of streets in this neighborhood border retail stores and restaurants, so you’ll often see pedestrians roaming around and many parking spots taken. On the plus side, public transportation is great with bus routes and metro stops. With all of the pros this neighborhood has going for it, Dupont is one of the most expensive options.

Distance to college campuses:

  • George Washington University - 0.8 miles
  • Georgetown University - 1.7 miles
  • American University - 3.2 miles
  • Howard University - 1.8 miles

Dupont Circle Report Card:

  • Walk score: 98, Walker’s paradise
  • Transit score: 87, Excellent transit
  • Bike Score: 95, Biker’s paradise
  • Places to check out: Fresh Farm Market, Un Je Ne Sais Quoi, Hank’s Oyster Bar

West End

Location, location, location. Nestled between Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom, the West End neighborhood has a long list of desirable qualities. The restaurant scene and nightlife aren’t as lively as those in a Foggy Bottom or Dupont, but who cares? You're only a short 10-15 minute walk away from those neighborhoods, putting you close enough to the action that it will hardly matter. You have access to some great local dining options like Blue Duck Tavern for classic American fare or Rasika for a taste of India.

This is a safer area that also tends to be a bit quieter. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but still want to be close enough to enjoy all of those city amenities, West End might be ideal for you.

Distance to college campuses:

  • George Washington University - 0.8 miles
  • Georgetown University - 1.3 miles
  • American University - 3.3 miles
  • Howard University - 2.3 miles

West End Report Card:

  • Walk score: 91, Walker’s paradise
  • Transit score: 91, Rider’s paradise
  • Bike Score: 90, Biker’s paradise
  • Places to check out: Blue Duck Tavern. Rasika, all of the nearby neighborhoods.

Columbia Heights

Although rent prices have been rising over the years, Columbia Heights remains one of the more affordable options for DC residents. Columbia Heights is just east of Adams Morgan. With a rich Hispanic culture, you can find plenty of great restaurants that showcase authentic Latin American food like Mi Cuba Cafe and Los Hermanos. If the weather is right and you want to get some fresh air, swing by the unique and ever-popular Meridian Hill Park for a picnic.

Distance to college campuses:

  • George Washington University - 2.5 miles
  • Georgetown University - 3.2 miles
  • American University - 3.5 miles
  • Howard University - 1 mile

Columbia Heights Report Card:

  • Walk score: 94, Walker’s paradise
  • Transit score: 79, Excellent transit
  • Bike Score: 90, Biker’s paradise
  • Places to check out: Mi Cuba Cafe, Los Hermanos, Meridian Hill Park, NuVegan Cafe

Clarendon

If you want to get away from DC to a cheaper, safer neck of the woods, check out this Arlington neighborhood. Clarendon has a similar feel to some of the chic DC neighborhoods with an illustrious upscale dining and shopping scene. Don’t worry about your commute, the Clarendon metro will get you to Georgetown in about 12 minutes. This neighborhood is a smaller one, which has its pros and cons. One of the major benefits is the walkability. In fact, Clarendon is rated the most walkable neighborhood in Arlington. On the other hand, plenty of folks prefer a higher density area. Fortunately, you’re close to everything. You’ll find young professionals commuting into the city, 30-somethings settling down, and older folks enjoying their retirement. Swing by Don Tito for all of your Taco Tuesday needs, or Whitlow’s on Wilson for both the food and the nightlife.

Distance to college campuses:

  • George Washington University - 3 miles
  • Georgetown University - 2 miles
  • American University - 4.1 miles
  • Howard University - 5 miles

Clarendon Report Card

  • Walk score: 93, Walker’s paradise
  • Transit score: 70, Excellent transit
  • Bike Score: 73, Very bikeable
  • Places to check out: Don Tito, Whitlow’s on Wilson, Bakeshop, Lyon Hall

The truth is, the US Capitol has tons to offer and caters to just about any personality and lifestyle. You can’t go wrong with any of these neighborhoods, and the best part is you will always be close to the action given Washington DC’s size. What neighborhood are you going with? Let us know by tweeting us at @ApartmentList.

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AUTHOR
Justin is a Content Manager and contributing author at Apartment List, helping people navigate the world of renting. Justin previously spent his time earning his BBA in Marketing from Boise State University. Read More

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