Five ways to travel the world in Washington, D.C.

From Japanese cherry blossom to Italian grandeur, here’s how to travel without leaving the US capital


BY NICOLA TRUP
Nicola Trup is deputy editor of National Geographic Food and a travel writer for newspapers including The Independent.

 

 

As the capital of the USA, it’s no surprise that Washington, D.C. is home to a huge number of international communities. There are more than 170 embassies in the city, but the global influence extends far beyond diplomatic relations. Once you’ve had the chance to get to grips with US history via the many museums and landmarks, you can travel the world without leaving the city limits – whether it’s by dining out on world-class international cuisine or getting into the party spirit at one of the many festivals. Here are five ways to enjoy D.C.’s international side – all of them within easy reach of Mandarin Oriental, Washington DC.

See Japanese cherry blossom

For more than a century, Washington, D.C. has been home to beautifully blossoming sakura – Japanese cherry trees. The first trees were given as a gift by Tokyo mayor Yukio Ozaki in 1912, with thousands more planted since – and in spring, when they're in full bloom, the city can feel like Kyoto. Locations including the National Mall and West Potomac Park become pretty in pink, and every March the National Cherry Blossom Festival sees parades, performances and parties.

Visit Little Rome

Who needs the real Italian capital when you've got D.C.'s Little Rome? Located in the Brookland neighbourhood, the area is packed with Roman Catholic landmarks, including the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – the largest Catholic church in the USA. You'll also find the Catholic University and a shrine to Pope John Paul II, plus a Franciscan monastery whose gardens alone are worth the visit. And when you're done sightseeing, you can get a taste of a whole different side of Italy – with traditional Neapolitan pizza at Menomale.

Take a trip to Chinatown

Small but perfectly formed, D.C.’s Chinatown is home to a clutch of Chinese shops and restaurants dishing up top-notch dim sum and duck (crispy, naturally). The colourful Friendship Archway, decorated with more than 270 dragons, marks the entrance to this neighbourhood, which, while best to visit in February during Chinese New Year, is also worth your time year-round, particularly if you’re a fan of authentic Chinese food or enjoy a cup of bubble tea. 

Update your passport

Tick off dozens of countries in one go during Passport DC, a month-long event that takes place each May, with more than 40 embassies, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, opening their doors to visitors. Meet alpacas, play with robots, and simply soak up the atmosphere at this showcase of international art, food, music and more. Passport DC’s celebrations also extend to live performances, exhibitions and workshops, as well as a cook-off between embassy chefs.

Dine around the world

Whether or not you’re here in May for Passport DC (see above), you can eat your way around the world in Washington, D.C. After a fix of east African cuisine? Order an Ethiopian sampler of stews at Ethiopic. Want to try momo dumplings without having to head for the hills of Nepal? Pay a visit to Himalayan Heritage. The global dining scene even extends to Laos and Serbia. Or, for American cooking with a Southeast Asian twist, take your place at one of the city’s most coveted tables at Muze at Mandarin Oriental, Washington DC.

Immerse yourself in Washington, D.C.

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