72 Best Bars in Washington, D.C., USA

9:30 Club

U Street Fodor's choice

The inimitable 9:30 Club is consistently ranked as one of the best concert venues in the country—as much a place in which bands aspire to play as it is a place that music fans love to patronize. The best indie and up-and-coming performers are the main attractions, though every now and then a bigger act such as Adele, Drake, Ed Sheeran, or Leon Bridges stop by to soak up the vibe of this large but cozy space wrapped by balconies on three sides. Once graced by legends such as Nirvana, Bob Dylan, and Johnny Cash, the venue is now a great spot for big labels looking for an intimate vibe. For its various music genres, from country to pop, this venue has become one of the most attended clubs of its size.

There are no bad views here, and the excellent sound system means you can stand anywhere for a great show experience.

Black Cat

U Street Fodor's choice

Way before its stretch of 14th Street became the trendiest few blocks in town, the Black Cat was a destination for alternative music and quirky nostalgic dance parties. The venue is a host for midsize rock concerts and smaller, local acts focused on indie, alternative, and underground music, with favorites such as the Dandy Warhols, the Ravonettes, and Ex Hex. The Black Cat also regularly hosts artistic events, including comedy, edgy burlesque, and independent film nights. The postpunk crowd whiles away the time in the ground floor's Red Room, a side bar with pool tables, an eclectic jukebox, and no cover charge. The club is also home to Food for Thought, a legendary vegetarian café.

Blues Alley

Georgetown Fodor's choice

Head here for a classy evening in an intimate setting, complete with great blues, jazz, and R&B from well-known performers such as Mose Allison and Wynton Marsalis and outstanding New Orleans cuisine such as jambalaya and fried catfish. Expect to pay a cover charge and a minimum of food or drink. Go to their website for a list of performances and to purchase tickets online. You can come for just the show, but those who enjoy a meal get better seats.

Recommended Fodor's Video

Cork Wine Bar

U Street Fodor's choice

On weekends, the crowds can spill onto 14th Street—but one of the best wine bars in D.C. is worth the wait. An outstanding wine list (mainly French and Italian) is matched with delectable small plates, perfect for sharing.


Fodor's choice
The decline of megaclubs in D.C. has coincided with a rise in more intimate and inviting venues for those serious about dancing. This photography-themed jewel near the Howard Theatre replaced a pawnshop—a telling sign of this changing neighborhood. An operational photo booth is an entry point to the main upstairs dance floor, which envelops you in walls lined with 10,000 LED lights and a best-in-the-business Funktion One sound system. Pioneering underground DJs—Carl Craig, Chus & Ceballos—move their flocks of a couple hundred fans while intermittently flashing them from the rigged 24 parabolic reflectors behind them.

Morris American Bar

Shaw Fodor's choice

Founded by Top Chef alum Spike Mendelsohn and D.C. nightlife entrepreneur Vinoda Basnayake, this Shaw bar serves spectacular cocktails. You'll feel like you're simultaneously at a 1950s-era diner, sitting on a backyard patio, and in a Wes Anderson film. The happy-hour menu features slightly cheaper cocktail options, wine, and beer, while the full menu offers cleverly crafted cocktails. Both menus change monthly, so make sure you return to see what's new, and if you're unsure of what to order, just ask a bartender. The bar menu includes cheese and charcuterie boards, dips, and salads.

Silver Lyan

Penn Quarter Fodor's choice

Take a break from the city and step down to Silver Lyan, the award-winning cocktail bar in the basement of the Riggs Hotel. The former bank vault kept many of the brass fixtures, creating a dark and mysterious setting. If you are a martini lover, order the martini that comes with a beautifully plated flight of olives, oysters, and pickled onions.

All Souls

All Souls feels like the perfect dive, a great place to meet up with friends and chat away in a booth, fresh drink or craft beer in hand. The simple yet refined cocktails are described in loving detail, alongside interesting wines and craft brews, on signs at the bar. You can order snacks, but you can also bring food in or have it delivered, making this feel even more like a friendly, neighborhood hangout.
725 T St. NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20001, USA



Allegory, an acclaimed Washington, D.C. speakeasy, is the first bar that blends art, literature, social justice, craft cocktails, and hospitality. You arrive at the bar through a secret passage of the Eaton DC's bar library. There you will find expertly concocted cocktails with a side of history centered on social justice. Usually, a DJ is spinning lively music.

1201 K St. NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20005, USA
nightlife Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun.

Anxo Cidery

Take a trip to Spain at Anxo (an-cho) Cidery. Here you can sample a multitude of ciders, a drink tied to the culture of the Basque country, and explore the unusual combinations produced from apples: from bright or fruit-forward to structured or rustic. Try one of the many flights, a dessert ice cider, and even some obscure, rare ciders. The bar also serves beer, wine, and cocktails for those who want something more familiar, and there's a menu of pintxos (small bites) as well.
711 Kennedy St., Washington, District of Columbia, 20011, USA


Penn Quarter

Only a small plaque on a bland concrete wall in a nondescript block of Penn Quarter identifies one of Washington’s most sophisticated experiences. Step inside to see José Andrés’s cocktail lab for his acclaimed chain of restaurants that looks the part, with white-on-white furnishings and mixologists in lab attire often seen pouring smoking libations out of beakers. A metal notebook features a menu of more than 100 alcohol-centered liquid experiments grouped by spirit. Make it a show with drinks such as the tequila-based Cedar and Agave, in which a glass and block of ice are infused with the smell of burning wood, table-side, or the Floral Cloud, a fruity gin-based beverage delivered in a hibiscus haze. Soak up the chemical reactions with snacks such as savory mini waffles.

501 9th St. NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20004, USA
nightlife Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun. and Mon., Reservations required

Biergarten Haus

Capitol Hill

Step off H Street and into a boisterous bit of Bavaria. There might be football on TV, but that's not enough to break the spell of a place so genuinely Germanic. With about a dozen German drafts on offer, along with other authentic specialties—Tito's Mule?—and five fully stocked bars (plus a full kitchen), there's something for everyone, including six different spaces. Get cozy inside, or head for the "pavilion," covered with heaters in winter and partially open in good weather; the tree-lined outdoor patio, sprinkled with fire pits and a heater in winter; four-seater cabins; an outdoor roof deck; and more.

Black Jack

Logan Circle

A red-velvet, almost vaudeville-like interior around the bar offers a saucy experience upstairs from the highly rated Pearl Dive Oyster Palace. In the back, you'll find a bocce court surrounded by stadium-style seats so onlookers can recline, imbibe, and cheer simultaneously. Though the most exquisite cocktail confections can be pricey, there's also an impressive beer lineup and a worthwhile menu ranging from mussels to pizza. There's a happy hour every day; it runs all day on Sunday.

1612 14th St. NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20009, USA
nightlife Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun.--Tues.

Board Room

Dupont Circle

"Put down your smart phone and interact!" is the motto at this pub, with 20-plus beers on tap, a full bar, and many board games to rent—from tried-and-true classics to vintage oddities. To enhance the fun, you can bring in your own food or have it delivered. Just don't bring in booze or other beverages; you are expected to buy them on the premises. Check before bringing a party of 10 or more; another thing worth checking is whether you can bring under 21s, who tend to be welcome at weekend lunchtimes. Reservations are accepted.

1737 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20009, USA

Busboys and Poets

U Street

Part eatery, part bookstore, and part event space, this popular local hangout draws a diverse crowd and hosts a wide range of entertainment, from poetry open mics to music to guest authors and activist speakers. The name is an homage to Langston Hughes, who worked as a busboy in D.C. before becoming a famous poet. This original location is open until 1 am on Friday and Saturday—there's another Downtown ( 1025 5th St. NW), as well as outposts in upper D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

Cafe Citron

Dupont Circle

One of the longest-running Latin clubs in D.C., Cafe Citron maintains its relevance with the salsa-dancing set. After 10 pm Wednesday through Saturday, the café becomes a nightclub featuring DJs who play primarily Latin music, spiced with Euro dance and techno. The café also offers daily happy hours from 6 until 8, and dinner is served until 11 pm. Salsa classes run on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 pm. Work up an appetite and indulge in Latin American snacks such as Bolivian salteñas.

1343 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20036, USA
nightlife Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun.–Tues.

Café Saint-Ex

U Street

Named for Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, French pilot and author of The Little Prince, this bi-level bar has two distinct atmospheres. The upstairs brasserie has pressed-tin ceilings and a propeller hanging over the polished wooden bar. Downstairs is the Gate 54 nightclub, designed to resemble an airplane hangar, with dropped corrugated-metal ceilings and backlit aerial photographs. The downstairs DJs draw a fairly young crowd, while the upstairs menu attracts a more subdued clientele for dinner.

1847 14th St. NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20009, USA
nightlife Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon.


Tucked away in Blagden Alley in the heart of Shaw, this hipster’s dream offers kitschy decor made modern and an ethereal garden backyard. Take a boozy adult juice box to the urban backyard, featuring a 3,000-square-foot patio with farmhouse tables, string lights, plants, and a vintage greenhouse. Formerly a boxing gym and art studio, the restaurant offers a menu with elevated takes on cookout classics like crab cakes, short ribs, and hoagies.
50 Blagden Alley NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20001, USA
nightlife Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon.

Cantina Bambina

D.C. Waterfront

Above the Anthem’s box office and Water Taxi's ticket office—and just across from the music venue—this ultracasual bar and snack bar has become a favorite of Wharf area concertgoers as well as those just looking for a drink and some spectacular views. Feast your eyes on the long margarita and cocktail list, and grab some small bites at the bar stand downstairs. It gets busy here, so expect to stand during your visit, but that just makes it easier to take in the waterfront views.

Casta's Rum Bar

West End

Casta's Rum Bar sets the tone for a fun night out with its long, colorful corridors filled with murals depicting scenes of Cuba, the birthplace of co-owner Arian Castañeda. The bar also offers a full menu featuring savory empanadas and Cuban sandwiches. Free salsa dancing classes are offered every Wednesday for those wanting to improve their dancing skills. If you're more of a day drinker, head to their lively Sunday brunch parties.

Chi-Cha Lounge

U Street

Groups of young professionals relax on sofas and armchairs in this hip hangout modeled after an Ecuadorian hacienda, while Latin jazz mingles with pop music in the background and old movies run silently behind the bar. The place gets packed on weekends, so come early to get a coveted sofa along the back wall. Pair your cocktails with a Cocina Nikkei (Japanese Peruvian) menu, including ceviche and gyozas (Japanese dumplings). Or try a hookah filled with a range of flavored tobaccos, from apple to watermelon. A dress-to-impress dress code is strictly enforced.


Logan Circle

There's an astounding selection of beers at ChurchKey—555 varieties from more than 30 countries, including 50 beers on tap and exclusive draft and cask ales. If you have trouble making a choice, bartenders will offer you 4-ounce tasters. The urban-vintage vibe balances unassuming and pretentious in pretty much equal measure, reflected in a menu that ranges from tater tots to Caesar salads to rotating flatbread options.

Dacha Beer Garden


Set off by a three-story mural of Elizabeth Taylor, Dacha has become the go-to outdoor drinking venue in midtown D.C., with lines of people (and their dogs) waiting to get in most evenings any time of year whenever the weather isn’t bitterly cold or inclement. (A windscreen wall and heaters help keep patrons toasty during the winter.) The beer garden serves drafts of craft beers from Germany, Belgium, and the United States as well as Bavarian-inspired nosh, while the adjoining café serves hot coffee and bagels and sandwiches during the day.

DC Improv


The city's main spot for comedy offers a steady menu of well-known and promising stand-up headliners—recent acts have included Judah Friedlander—and a bevy of funny amateurs. Tickets vary depending on the act. Typically, there's a two-item minimum from a full food and drink menu.


U Street

With live music most days of the week, this small two-story rock club with an upper deck hosts fledgling indie bands and the occasional nationally known act. There's a narrow bar on the ground floor, a sizable concert space on the second floor, and an enclosed roof deck on top. DJs take the controls for weekend-night dance parties. Concertgoers can enjoy snacks, sandwiches, and burgers every night and until 1 am on weekends.

1940 9th St. NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20001, USA
nightlife Details
Rate Includes: Closed Mon. and Tues.



Hidden away inside the Ritz-Carlton hotel, in what was once the Georgetown Incinerator, this modern bar is a breath of fresh air in the neighborhood's rather monotone scene. There's an extensive wine and cocktail selection behind the black granite bar and a hip, well-dressed set of patrons in front of it. When the weather's nice, head out to the multilevel brick patio and sit by the fireplace.

3100 South St. NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20007, USA

District Winery


D.C.'s first-ever winery is a unique spot in the heart of The Yards, serving all locally made, small-batch wines that can be paired with dishes in its new full-service restaurant, Ana. Tour the winery to learn how head winemaker Conor McCormack produces his vintages, enjoy a tasting, and then indulge in a meal overlooking the Anacostia River. The menu at Ana consists of tapas-style small bites, with dinner on weekdays and brunch on weekends. The winery also hosts weddings and offers a date-night package for the romantically inclined.

385 Water St. SE, Washington, District of Columbia, 20003, USA
nightlife Details
Rate Includes: No lunch weekdays


Capitol Hill

A short walk from Union Station and Capitol Hill, this Washington institution in the Phoenix Park Hotel offers cozy paneled rooms, rich pints of Guinness, and other authentic fare. It's especially popular with locals and Hill staffers alike. While offering live Irish music seven nights a week, this charming spot never charges a cover, save for St. Patrick's Day.



This sprawling complex of more than 30,000 square feet effectively re-creates the vibe of an otherwise bygone era in D.C.—one of mega-nightclubs in retrofitted warehouses in derelict neighborhoods. With unobstructed sight lines to the stage and a German-imported sound system, it's the place for club kids to dance to the biggest names in E.D.M., from Calvin Harris to David Guetta to Tiesto. Catch your breath at one of the two 60-foot bars lining either side of the dance floor. With no Metro stops nearby, driving or taking a cab/rideshare is required.

El Centro


During the weekends, the long-standing Mexican restaurant El Centro becomes a dance club after service, attracting young professionals and students from the area. Sip on margaritas while dancing to the beat of Latin American tunes.

1218 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, District of Columbia, 20007, USA
nightlife Details
Rate Includes: Dancing is on Fri. and Sat. only