Washington has no shortage of hotel rooms. From pricey suites with stunning views to a budget-friendly double hostel room with shared bath three blocks from the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, the city offers accommodations for nearly every type of traveler: couples seeking a romantic getaway, a family enjoying their spring break, cash-strapped students, and business travelers needing a temporary home near public transportation.
Within the city proper, Washington has 29,000 hotel rooms, with roughly 66,000 more scattered across the region. Some of the city’s finest—and most expensive—hotels naturally are located near the city’s prominent landmarks, either in Foggy Bottom near the White House , on Capitol Hill, or along Georgetown’s historic streets.
Many offer extensive views, upscale amenities, and posh decor within walking distance of the major sightseeing areas and the prime businesses districts, and they cater to those willing to pay a premium for proximity. Still, a few relative bargains can be found in these neighborhoods, including inns with fewer amenities, historic B&Bs, and hostel options.
Farther afield, both in the city and across boundaries in Virginia and Maryland, travelers will find less expensive options, many conveniently located near Metro stops and just a quick trip from the downtown sites.
Families seeking lower-priced accommodations with kid-friendly amenities are often drawn to these close-in suburbs, with their selection of megahotels as well as low-rise motels and affordable inns. But business travelers often choose to stay in these areas as well, mainly because they are close to outlying government offices and businesses as well as area airports.
As a crossroads of the rich and powerful, Washington has its share of luxury hotels: destinations like the Forbes five-star Four Seasons , the Mandarin Oriental , the Ritz-Carlton, and the St. Regis, properties known for pampering guests with opulent settings, extraordinary service, and fine amenities.
The city also has a number of historic hotels, edifices that are not only historic buildings in themselves but where history was made, either in their restaurants or small smoke-filled rooms or within a bed chamber: resorts like the Hay Adams , the lodging choice in the 1920s for pilots Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart and home for the Obamas in the two weeks leading up to the 2009 inauguration.
The historic Mayflower  hosted FBI director J. Edgar Hoover for lunch daily for 20 years, and it was where Franklin Roosevelt dictated his inaugural speech with its famous phrase, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
The Willard  hosted the 1861 Peace Conference, an effort aimed at staving off the Civil War, and hosted Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in one of its guest rooms.
In the past decade, the Kimpton hotel group has scooped up a number of existing small properties in Washington and upgraded them into sleek boutique hotels, quickly becoming a hotel powerhouse in the city for its upscale lodgings and emphasis on service. Kimpton hotels include the well-placed Hotel George  on Capitol Hill and the Hotel Monaco adjacent to the Verizon Center.
Georgetown is home to a number of small homegrown hotels, including the Georgetown Inn and the Georgetown Suites.
Ecoconscious visitors will have to go across the Potomac River to Arlington to find a LEED-certified hotel, but the Carlyle Suites near Dupont Circle does its best to be green in an existing space, investing in energy certificates to ensure that the entire hotel runs on wind power and establishing an extensive hotel recycling program.
For those without any cash to spare, the city also has some lower-cost options, including several youth hostels and a number of clean yet dated family-run hotels. In some neighborhoods covered by this guide, no lodging options may exist, but the neighborhoods are so close together that it is likely you’ll find a hotel within a 10-block radius of where you want to stay.
Location and luxury appointments are the driving factors in hotel rates in Washington, just as in most major cities. Generally, the closer you are to any of the white marble buildings that define the city’s skyline, the more you’ll pay. If this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, consider splurging on a place with the view or the historic hotel with Washington charm. You might regret the lightness of your wallet, but you won’t forget the experience of being a part of this capital city.
If you decide to stay downtown near the U.S. Capitol  or the White House , you will have an array of options, from properties run by the large chain hotel corporations to smaller boutique properties and a handful of small independently owned operations. Regardless, make sure to ask about parking if you plan to arrive by car. Very few hotels in the city offer free parking, and fees can be steep, often tacking $25 or $35 per day onto your bill.
Be sure to understand your hotel’s policies on valet parking, pickup, and payment requirements; parking fees are among the biggest sources of complaints that Washington hoteliers receive from customers.
To experience Washington like a native, consider booking a room in Georgetown or Dupont Circle. Both offer accommodations in restored row houses or historic low-rises, situated among shops, restaurants, and nightspots favored by Washingtonians. Dupont Circle offers wider access to the city by public transportation since it has its own Metro stop. If you are still undecided as to where you want to stay, take a look at what’s on your itinerary and simply choose a place near where you plan to visit or near a Metro stop. What you’re likely to find is that Washington is so small that if you stay downtown on Capitol Hill or in Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, Foggy Bottom, and Arlington, Virginia, you can be at the Smithsonian Metro stop in less than a half an hour.
Be aware that if you elect to stay in the highly touted new development called National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Maryland, just south of DC, or in Alexandria, Virginia , these areas offer upscale lodgings and waterfront views but can be up to 40 minutes away by car.
Finding a hotel deal in Washington can be a challenge. Hotels have no set rates, but generally, rates tend to be lower on weekends and holidays, and they also dip in late July and August and again in January and February. If you want to get a great rate, first check out the usual Internet bargain-hunter sites, including Hotwire.com  and Priceline.com , and glance at the city’s official tourism website, www.washington.org , which often features hotel specials and package deals.
Take note of your own credentials before booking: Are you traveling for business or for the government? Are you in the military, or do you have a military ID card? Do you have membership in an auto club or have benefits through a frequent-flyer or car-rental program? You may be eligible for a discount. Don’t be shy about asking for one even if you don’t think you qualify. It never hurts to ask.
The rates listed here are based on spring-season rates—the highest charged by all DC hotels—but are also for a weekend stay. Rates are usually higher during the week, so if you are traveling to DC for a weekday meeting, you might pay a slightly higher rate.