Sign Up
Newsletter Signup
Free Fodor's Newsletter

Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.

Passport: Your weekly travel wrap-up
Today's Departure: Your daily dose of travel inspiration

Northern Virginia Travel Guide


A lively mix of historic homes, taverns, restaurants, and shops, Alexandria seems to exist in two or three centuries at once. Founded in 1749 by Scottish merchants eager to capitalize on the booming tobacco trade, Alexandria first emerged as one of the most important ports in Colonial America. The city dwarfed Georgetown—Washington's oldest neighborhood—in the days before the Revolution, and through the Civil War had

one of the country's largest slave markets. Alexandria is linked to many significant events and personages of the Colonial, Revolutionary, and Civil War periods. Members of the Lee family of Revolutionary and Civil War fame lived here, and George Washington had a town house and attended church here, though he lived a few miles south in Mount Vernon.

For many African-Americans fleeing slavery, part of their journey on the Underground Railroad included a stop in Alexandria. This was true of one of the largest and most celebrated slave escapes, in which 77 individuals, many of whom labored in homes in Alexandria, took refuge on the Pearl, a ship bound for New Jersey, which left from Washington's 7th Street Wharf in April 1848. Unfortunately the ship was captured in Maryland and most of its passengers were returned to Bruin's Slave Jail. Harriett Beecher Stowe modeled her account of the slave trade in Uncle Tom's Cabin on this establishment.

This vibrant past remains alive in the historic district of Old Town Alexandria —an area of cobbled streets, restored 18th- and 19th-century homes, churches, and taverns close to the water. The main arteries of this district are Washington Street (the G.W. Parkway as it passes through town) and King Street. Most points of interest are on the east (Potomac) side of Washington Street.

Read More



Trending Stories
Trip Finder

Fodor's Washington, D.C. 2015

View Details

No Thanks

Love To Travel?

Get FREE e-mail communications from Fodor's Travel, covering must-see travel destinations, expert trip planning advice, and travel inspiration to fuel your passion.

How we use your email

Thank You

Now sit back, relax, and check your inbox to start planning your next travel adventure.

Please tell us more about the type of travel you're interested in. Check all that apply.