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Downtown is a neighborhood of Washington, D.C., and a colloquial name for the central business district in the northwest quadrant of the city. It is the fourth largest central business district in the United States. Historically, the Downtown has been defined as an area east of 16th Street NW, north of the National Mall and US Capitol complex, and south of Massachusetts Avenue, including the Penn Quarter. However, the city says that most residents, workers, and visitors think of Downtown in a broader sense—including areas as far north as Dupont Circle, the Golden Triangle, as far west as Foggy Bottom, and as far east as Capitol Hill. A small portion of this area is known as the Downtown Historic District and was listed on the NRHP in 2001.

Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle is an area defined by the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (BID). It is part of a larger Downtown area, according to The Washington Post and the DC Department of Planning. The Golden Triangle boundaries are, very roughly:

  • Northwest: New Hampshire Ave., N.W., and the DuPont Circle neighborhood,
  • Northeast: Massachusetts Ave., N.W., and the DuPont Circle neighborhood,
  • East: 16th Street, N.W. and the DowntownDC BID, EZ DC Junk Removal
  • Southwest: Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. and the Foggy Bottom neighborhood,
  • West: 21st Street, N.W., and the Foggy Bottom and the West End neighborhoods.

The Golden Triangle BID thus overlaps a southern portion of the DuPont Circle neighborhood.  The Washington, D.C. tourist office, exceptionally and in contrast to other sources, promotes the Golden Triangle area as “Downtown” and Traditional Downtown as “Penn Quarter & Chinatown.”


By the 1990s and continuing into the 2010s, the core of the downtown district was almost exclusively commercial, and its primary commercial use was as office buildings. The area also featured several attractions, including museums (such as the International Spy Museum, National Aquarium, National Archives, National Building Museum, National Museum of Women in the Arts, National Portrait Gallery, Newseum, and Smithsonian American Art Museum) and theaters (such as Ford’s Theatre, National Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre, Warner Theatre, and Woolly Mammoth Theatre). The Penn Quarter and Chinatown areas are home to many bars and restaurants, and the observation deck in the tower of the Old Post Office Pavilion is known for its views of the city. 7th Street NW between H and F Streets NW—a short commercial strip known as “Gallery Place”—has become a major hub of bars, restaurants, theaters, and upscale retail shops.


Most of downtown Washington is composed of office buildings of varying architectural styles. The oldest tend to be of the Federal school, as are the White House, the Treasury Building, Blair House, and the rowhouses that line Lafayette Square. Others run the gamut from Neoclassical (such as the buildings at Federal Triangle) to Second Empire-style (the Eisenhower Executive Office Building) to postmodern (One Farragut Square South and Franklin Tower at 1401 I Street NW).

Check out different neighborhoods like Georgetown