Washington, DC Nightlife

Unusually for a big city, the streets of central Washington are relatively quiet at night – mainly because most people live in the suburbs. As a result, bars tend to be the busiest in the early evening.

Most entertainment is to be found in the surrounding neighbourhoods, such as Capitol Hill, Georgetown and Adams Morgan. Details of what's on when and where in Washington, DC can be found in the Washington City Paper (www.washingtoncitypaper.com) or the Washington Post entertainment guide (www.washingtonpost.com/gog/dc-visitors-guide.html).

The main outlet for discounted, day-of-show tickets is Ticketplace, 407 Seventh Street, NW, which is open Wednesday to Sunday. Tickets for individual performances can also be purchased from Ticketmaster (tel: (202) 397 7328; www.ticketmaster.com).

Bars in Washington, DC

Biergarten Haus

A new addition to Washington’s array of bars, Biergarten Haus is, as the name suggests, a German-inspired beer bar. It comes complete with a large, sunny garden. Although beer is the tipple of choice for the majority of punters, the bar also stocks an impressive array of different types of alcohol, while the food menu includes German classics such as spätzle (thin dumplings with cheese), schnitzel and a mind-boggling number of different wurst (sausages).

Telephone: (202) 388 4053.
Busboys and Poets

With its art-covered walls, book-filled shelves and cosy bar area, Busboys and Poets is where Washington’s cerebral set come to hear poetry and discuss politics over a glass of wine or a cocktail. Hugely popular with the locals, it also doubles as an art gallery with a revolving roster of exhibitions and the occasional theatrical or dance performance. If you get hungry, there’s a menu crammed with home-cooked comfort food as well.

Telephone: (202) 387 7638.
Eighteenth Street Lounge

Darkly decadent and totally unique, Eighteenth Street Lounge is a bar-cum-club based in a restored 19th century mansion. With its crystal chandeliers, dark wood furniture, vintage ornaments and embroidered antimacassars, it looks a little like a gentleman’s club but hosts a roster of DJs playing everything from bossa and acid jazz to hip hop and dance. There’s an impressive selection of liquors behind the bar too and the cocktails are worth a trip by themselves. Don’t forget to dress up.

Telephone: (202) 466 3922.

Clubs in Washington, DC

Heaven and Hell

As the name suggests, Heaven and Hell boasts two floors, the lower being the inferno while the upper has a celestial theme. Either way, there’s no shortage of tunes to enjoy with everything from grunge to techno, indie, retro and dance music on the menu. For those who are watching the pennies, the club has a daily happy hour and regularly serves up live bands as well as a 1980s night each Thursday.

Telephone: (202) 667 4355.
Ink Lounge

For those with a penchant for mega-clubs, Washington institution, Fur, awaits. For everyone else, the decadently decorated Ink Lounge is the night spot of choice. Complete with the sort of ridiculously cool décor that wouldn’t look out of place in Copenhagen or Helsinki, the Ink Lounge is a modern speakeasy with a menu of incredible cocktails and piped electro beats. One word of warning: It is fairly hard to find and is tucked away beneath the much less glamorous Tattoo Bar.

Telephone: (202) 445 4926.

Washington’s biggest and busiest night spot, LOVE, is spread across four floors and each has a different theme and a correspondingly different crowd. The first floor is where clubbers go to start the night, thanks to its ambient vibe and huge island bar. Hip hop fans head to the second floor, while on the third, tropical décor and cheesy pop hits reign supreme. Coolest (and hardest to get into) is the top floor deck which is a private party spot for high rollers and celebrities.

Telephone: (202) 746 1736.

Live Music in Washington, DC

Madam’s Organ

Serving up soul and blues with a hefty dose of southern comfort food, Madam’s Organ is a Washington institution as popular with budding politicos as it is with the city’s hipster population. With live music on offer seven nights a week and an entertaining line in ‘drunkaoke’ (work it out), it’s brilliant fun whether you nip in for a cosy dinner or stay on to party the night away to the sounds of the South.

Telephone: (202) 667 5370.
The Black Cat D.C

One of the oldest live music venues in DC, The Black Cat has been entertaining locals and tourists alike since 1993. Slightly cramped and a touch worn, its eclectic line-up takes in everything from jazz to indie and there’s even the odd burlesque night. It has also developed a reputation for launching the US careers of some of the hottest bands around, with Arcade Fire, Bright Eyes and The Flaming Lips all on the list of past performers.

Telephone: (202) 667 4490.
U Street Music Hall

Tucked away in a Washington DC cellar, the intimate U Street Music Hall is a relatively new addition to the city’s live music scene, having only opened in 2010. The 500-capacity venue is entirely DJ-owned and as a result, is famous for championing up-and-coming talent, playing everything from house to dubstep. The club also boasts a not-for-profit foundation which aims to help underprivileged children unearth their musical talent.

Telephone: (202) 588 1889.

Classical Music in Washington, DC

Folger Shakespeare Library

Despite the name, the Folger Shakespeare Library isn’t just a haven for fans of the Bard. Equally popular are the baroque, Renaissance and mediaeval tunes played by the library’s in-house chamber orchestra. The group has been named the Best Classical Chamber Ensemble a whopping five times by DC’s music aficionados. Unsurprisingly, Tudor classics such as ‘Greensleeves’ are favourites, although with the library’s huge collection of antique manuscripts, you’re unlikely to hear the same thing twice.

Telephone: (202) 544 4600.
National Cathedral

Despite its English Gothic looks, Washington’s imposing National Cathedral only began life in 1907. It didn’t open its doors to worshippers until 1912 and wasn’t fully finished until 1990. Along with religious instruction and classes, the cathedral also boasts a long and distinguished tradition of hosting classical music concerts, in particular organ recitals courtesy of its own vast instrument – the largest in the city. Expect Mozart, Handel and Rachmaninoff, as well as devotional works.

Telephone: (202) 537 6200.

Dance in Washington, DC

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Perched on the banks of the Potomac River, this surprisingly intimate venue, adjacent to the Watergate Complex, plays host to a huge range of performers and has everything from jazz to classical ballet on its repertoire. Opened in 1971, the John F. Kennedy Center now hosts more than 2,000 performances a year, many of which include young talent as well as established stars. Whatever your personal tastes, there’s likely to be something to suit you here.

Telephone: (202) 416 8000.

Theatre in Washington, DC

Arena Stage

Famous for being the home of up-and-coming productions, the small Arena Stage is where scores of Broadway hits began their lives. Recently reopened after extensive renovations, the small complex now boasts two theatre spaces, including one in the round. While other Washington DC theatres welcome international talent, the Arena Stage is devoted to hotly-tipped young American playwrights, actors and directors. Come here to see the next Ridley Scott in action.

Telephone: (202) 488 3300.
Ford's Theatre

Perhaps the most famous theatre in Washington, although not necessarily for its performances, is Ford's Theatre. It is the theatre where John Wilkes Booth fatally shot Abraham Lincoln in 1865. It is now a venue for musicals, multicultural and family plays and is also open from 0900-1700 for guided tours and historic talks. As a tribute to Abraham Lincoln, the plays and musicals at Ford's Theatre highlight the diversity of American life.

Telephone: (202) 347 4833.
The National Theatre

One of America's oldest continuously operating theatres, Washington DC’s National Theatre opened in 1885 and has been staging shows ever since. Classic Broadway (or pre-Broadway) shows are a key part of its repertoire, with everything from West Side Story to Dirty Dancing among the treats on offer. For a more eccentric evening, book in for one of the theatre’s regular Vaudeville nights – they’re well worth the ticket price.

Telephone: (202) 628 6161.
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