The Ultimate Guide to Renting in D.C.

As the seat of political power in the United States, Washington, D.C., has always been a desirable place to live. Boasting politics, culture, the arts, and sports, the city offers plenty to do and see. If you’ve not spent much time in D.C. before, or if you’ve never had the pleasure of renting in D.C., we present our ultimate guide with everything you need to know.

D.C. History and How it Applies to You

Shortly after the Revolutionary War, George Washington led a Congressional commission to choose the site of the U.S. capital. They found their spot on the banks of the Potomac River, and set to work creating a city that could rival Philadelphia and New York.

aerial photo of Washington, D.C. city streets during summer

The important thing for today’s renter to know about the establishment of the city is how it was planned. French designer Pierre L’Enfant had some pretty strong ideas for how to map out a city, and it was his grid of streets with intersecting, diagonal avenues that we know and love today. L’Enfant (he’s honored with a plaza that bears his name; you might think of it as the Metro stop where Orange, Silver, and Blue lines meet the Yellow and Green lines) also wanted to make sure there would be plenty of open spaces and squares that made the city more like a European capital.

More than 200 years later, you can still appreciate many of the city designers’ desires for their nation’s capital. A height restriction means there are no towering highrises, while the well-landscaped parks, open areas, and wide streets increase livability.

Most Popular D.C. Neighborhoods

Whether you’re moving to the city for a job or to enjoy all that renting in D.C. offers, you’ll want to make sure you’re living in the right neighborhood for your needs. While almost every neighborhood in the District has its upsides, a few really stand out for things to do, great eateries, and plenty of culture.

Dupont Circle 

Marked by an actual traffic circle with a fountain in its center, Dupont Circle is where Connecticut Avenue NW, Massachusetts Avenue NW, New Hampshire Avenue NW, P Street NW and 19th Street NW all come together. The surrounding neighborhood that bears the same name is bordered by M Street NW to the south, Florida Avenue NW to the north, 22nd Street NW to the west, and 16th Street NW to the east. The area is served by a stop on the Metro’s Red Line.

Many of the city’s international embassies are located in Dupont Circle, and that influences the eclectic variety of restaurants and cuisines found in the area. Options range from the Michelin-star rated Sushi Taro to the Russia House with dancing and vodka to the small Zorba’s Cafe serving authentic gyros and spanakopita.

Locals and tourists alike enjoy The Phillips Collection, a museum of modern art with a funky gift shop and pleasant cafe complete with specialty coffee drinks. Plus, you’ll find tons of interesting little shops to browse and a Sunday Farmer’s Market that ranks as one of the best in D.C.

Where to live in Dupont Circle? You have plenty of options to choose from, including The Rodney on R Street NW, Sixteen Hundred on 16th Street NW, 1830R Apartments at 1830 R Street NW, and the pet-friendly Rocksboro, also on R Street NW. 

Columbia Heights

The rich history and diversity of the Columbia Heights neighborhood give the area its character, but it’s only been in the last 20 years that addresses in the vicinity have been sought out as a premiere place for renting in D.C. Columbia Heights is marked by Spring Road on the north boundary and Florida Avenue NW to the south, 16th Street NW to the west, and Sherman Ave to the east. It’s served by the Columbia Heights Metro stop on the Yellow and Green lines.

Two areas, along 14th Street NW and on 11th Street NW, are identified as having the most restaurants, nightlife, and shopping. Cuisine reflects the melting pot of people and cultures that mark the area. Try Thip Khao, a neighborhood institution, for its authentic Laotian dishes. El Chucho on 11th Street NW makes some of the best tacos you’ll find north of the border, while Le Caprice is the best place for decadent pastries and delicious gourmet bread. Little Coco’s on 14th is a tropics-themed place to get a yummy drink and enjoy the ambiance of the rooftop bar.

With significant populations of white, black, Hispanic, and Asian residents, Columbia Heights claims a wide range of cultural opportunities. Take in a concert or art exhibit at the Mexican Cultural Institute, people-watch at Meridian Hill Park (don’t miss Sunday’s African drum circle) or buy your produce, get crafts, or listen to live music at the Saturday Farmer’s Market on 14th Street NW, near the Metro station.

For a place to call home, look into renting at the ultra-modern The Vintage on 16th Street NW or the charming studios and 1-bedroom apartments at 1900 Lamont on Lamont Avenue NW. 

Woodley Park

Tucked into a calm, green space beside Rock Creek Park and the National Zoo, Woodley Park is a lovely neighborhood for those renting in D.C. that runs along Connecticut Avenue NW. Woodley and Klingle Roads border it to the north, Calvert Street is the southern border, and Cleveland Avenue and 34th Street form southwest and west boundaries, respectively. The zoo is to the east, and the neighborhood is served by the Woodley Park-Zoo Metro stop on the Red Line.

Historical architecture and row houses from the early 1900s stand out along the tree-lined streets of Woodley Park, where the main attractions are walking trails and other recreation in Rock Creek Park, the shops and restaurants along Connecticut, and of course, the zoo. Because it is a Smithsonian institution, the National Zoo is free to all and makes a great place to watch the animals and learn more about conservation biology.

Other neighborhoods may boast more culinary options, but you won’t fall short of delicious menus in Woodley Park. Sit in any one of several cafes along Connecticut, enjoy the vast menu at District Kitchen or sample seven types of homemade hummus (“hommus,” to be authentic) at the Lebanese Taverna. Finish your day with a special cakepop or other pastry from Baked by Yael.

Situated right along Connecticut Avenue, in the heart of Woodley Park, The Parkwest Apartments with their high ceilings and elegance are an excellent choice for a place to live in this neighborhood.

Georgetown

Before Washington, D.C. ever existed, there was Georgetown. Established in the 1750s, Georgetown was an independent city before being absorbed by the District in the 1850s, and it teems with history and influence. Today, you can walk on its cobblestone streets, tour the campuses of Georgetown University or George Washington University and enjoy walking along the C&O Canal that winds through this part of the city. 

Bounded by the Potomac River on the south, Rock Creek to the east and Burleith, Glover Park, and Observatory Circle to the north, the neighborhood is home to Georgetown University, stunning older homes, and great shopping along M Avenue NW. 

The waterfront area of Georgetown is great for finding a bite to eat, people watching or taking a stroll, while the Dumbarton Oaks museum, research library, and beautifully tended gardens and historic Tudor Place are excellent to tour for a better understanding of the history and culture of the neighborhood.

Seafood restaurant Fiola Mare is one of the top “see and be seen” dining establishments in Georgetown, but there’s plenty of smaller places to eat (though none with such an incomparable shellfish platter or top-notch calamari). Go for brunch or try the homemade pastas at Via Umbria on Wisconsin or get your choice of meats on a ginormous hoagie at Stachowski’s Market.

And when it comes to a place to live, look no further than The Archer on Massachusetts Avenue NW. Just minutes from the heart of Georgetown, this historic building near the National Cathedral offers 1- and 2-bedroom apartments as well as studios.

Cost of Living in Washington, D.C.

Because it is a desirable place to live, with plenty of jobs serving in the federal government and associated organizations, think tanks and nonprofits, the cost of living in the District can be high. The average single-family home (https://smartasset.com/mortgage/the-true-cost-of-living-in-washington-dc) is more expensive in D.C. than in the New York or Philadelphia metro areas, and renting in D.C. follows suit with a cost just slightly less than NYC or Boston.

Fortunately, utilities in the District are somewhat more reasonable. You’ll pay less when renting in D.C. than the national average for most of your utility bills.

Food costs are higher than most of the nation, but not more than in most major cities. Eating out can get expensive, with the average restaurant meal coming in at $16 per person. Many eateries in the District will cost more, and drinks can also get expensive.

While the cost of living is higher overall in other major metropolitan areas, D.C. can be an expensive place to live. That’s offset by the amazing variety of cultural activities — many free — as well as the atmosphere of being in the nation’s capital.

Do You Need a Car When Renting in D.C.?

Transportation is easier in Washington, D.C., than in many cities. With an excellent, far-reaching, and safe Metro system, many people commute by public transit rather than drive. If you do choose to own a vehicle in the District, you’ll have to pay to register it. You may also find that your insurance premiums run a bit higher than in other cities, as D.C. has the seventh-highest rates in the nation.

Don’t overlook parking. Parking rates can be as high as $320 a month in the prestigious Adams Morgan neighborhood, though most people pay between $200 and $250 monthly for in-city parking. 

For many residents, having a car simply isn’t necessary in a city where public transportation, Uber rides, or taxis can get you wherever you need to go. 

A Rundown on Taxes

If you’re renting in D.C., you’ll have to pay both federal income taxes and a progressive District Income Tax that ranges from 4 to 8.95%. 

You’ll also pay sales tax of 6% on most goods and services. Soda is taxed at 8%, restaurant meals carry a 10% tax and the purchase price of alcoholic beverages have an extra 10.25% tacked on.

Finding the Perfect Place to Live in Washington, D.C.

With so many people serving shorter stints in government agencies, there can be a lot of turnover in apartment rentals throughout the District. However, finding the right place can still be tricky. You want to make sure you’re finding housing in the ideal neighborhood for you — one that offers plenty to see and do as well as eat and drink.

DARO Apartments offers the solutions you need for high-end and mid-range apartment renting in D.C. Our properties range from chic and modern to well-maintained vintage buildings, all with the amenities you desire. To learn more about DARO Apartments and find out what’s available for you, contact us today and schedule a visit.

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