This Embassy Row hotel is about as historic as they come. Built as a residential hotel in 1927, it retains a vintage feel with gold-edged paintings of iconic DC sites, ornate sconces and chandeliers, oriental area rugs, and dark wood paneling. And yet, the amenities are completely modern. The neighborhood is quiet, though good restaurants and Dupont Circle’s buzz await nearby. Don’t be surprised if you bump into an ambassador or diplomat in the clubby restaurant.
Be sure to check out the old photos in the breezeway connecting the two buildings that comprise the hotel; they depict DC embassies both past and present.
A neutral palette with period wallpaper, heavy wood furniture, and floral curtains make you feel as if you’re a 1920s guest. But all the mod-cons are here, including flat-screen TV, iPhone docking, and a single-serve coffee machine. The rooms are surprisingly light, thanks to the high ceilings and large windows.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Since this was a residential hotel and guest rooms have been reconfigured to fit the space, some rooms are oddly shaped. The room designation is by view.
The bathrooms are on the smaller side, but they contain everything you need, including a scale, a makeup mirror, a combo bath-and-shower, and Gilcrest & Soames toiletries.
You know this is a former residential hotel by the lobby. While the gilded sconces, dark wood trim, and vintage illustration of DC over the reception desk are mood setting, it’s more of a boxy, walk-through space than a place you’d linger. A few comfortable chairs are fine for waiting for friends.
There's no pool.
There's no spa.
The fitness center is spacious and light, with a good selection of LifeFitness machines and free weights.
Breakfast is served in the former Jockey Club, the center of DC society in the fifties and sixties (Nancy Reagan and Jackie O knew it well). The Fairfax Grille and Lounge is "Mad Men" masculine with its plaid walls, red leather chairs, fireplace, and lots of wood trim. The nautical theme weaves throughout, including model boats displayed on the walls. The gastropub menu features burgers, panini, salads, and some of the best crab cakes around; the bar always has at least two local beers on tap.
You can enjoy local beers and signature cocktails at the Fairfax Grille and Lounge's ornate wooden bar.
The Fairfax is conveniently located near many of DC's embassies and NGOs, while Dupont Circle's restaurants, bars, and shops are nearby. The Dupont Metro stop is an easy 5-minute walk away.
Obelisk (2-minute walk) is a three-star Italian culinary institution lauded for its simple cooking and intimate setting. Blue Duck Tavern (11-minute walk) is a Michelin starred restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton showcasing one-of-a-kind combos of traditional and state-of-the-art dishes.
Dirty Martini (9-minute walk) is swank and low-key with signature cocktails—and, of course, martinis, prepared in eight different styles. Bar Dupont, in the Dupont Circle Hotel (a 5-minute walk), is chic and swanky, with a creative cocktail menu and plenty of people-watching.
WHY WE LIKE IT
The citizen historian side of us swoons over the history that emanates throughout the Fairfax—the vintage rent check table on the second floor is the perfect example (it’s round with alphabetically labeled drawers indicating where to place your monthly check according to your last name). This stately hotel has been designated a Historic Hotels of America, after all, where politicians, lobbyists, ambassadors, and other political bigwigs have gathered since the 1920s. Al Gore and George H. Bush lived here as kids. Insider parties were held here, and President Eisenhower hosted his inaugural breakfast here. All that said, it feels fresh, not stodgy.