Just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., Alexandria has long been a popular destination for those visiting the nation’s capital. However, the city has a strong reputation among travelers seeking an old-world feel with modern sensibilities.
And with an Amtrak station located right on the edge of the Old Town Alexandria district, guests can easily visit the city without the hassle of renting a car, instead taking in the city by foot and discovering the best food, lodging, and history during a walking tour of this Northern Virginia destination.
Where to Stay in Alexandria
Photo Credit: Aniesia Williams, @iamaniesia
Book a room or suite at the Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa for award-winning hospitality and pampering. The hotel is just a few minutes from the Amtrak station (roughly .3 miles), so if you’ve packed light you can make the walk, or grab a taxi or Uber from the train station to the hotel. The Kimpton Lorien’s on-site restaurant, Brabo, offers an elegant dining setting with expertly prepared dishes featuring seasonal and local ingredients. Spa services include massages, wraps, and facials with exclusive treatments in soothing private rooms. The convenient location ensures you’re close to all the city has to offer visitors.
What to Do in Alexandria
Just outside your King Street hotel, the nearby Alexandria Visitors Center is an excellent resource for directions, deals, and information about special events you won’t want to miss during your stay.
Photo Credit: Cameron Davidson
Tour local museums with strong ties to the 18th and 19th century, including Gadsby’s Tavern Museum where our country’s early presidents dined, and the Lyceum, Alexandria’s History Museum. The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum and the Friendship Firehouse Museum provide great insight into what life was like for the earliest residents of Alexandria through a wide range of exhibits that include artifacts and photos.
Photo Credit: Misha Enriquez
The Carlyle House Historic Park and Lee-Fendall House Museum and Garden are opulent homes surrounded by picturesque landscaping and reflect bygone eras in authentic detail. And don’t miss the famous Spite House on Queen Street, merely seven feet wide and constructed by John Hollensbury in 1830 as a way to keep people out of the alley next to his house. Although it’s under private ownership, it’s still worth a stop to see when you’re in the neighborhood.
Photo Credit: Aniesia Williams, @iamaniesia
Just outside Alexandria is George Washington’s Mount Vernon, a vibrant estate with multiple gardens and Potomac views that offers tours. Tours of the historic home showcase how the Washington family lived and some of the realities of slavery in colonial times. Find peace in the gardens and Potomac views while contemplating the history that happened here.
On Saturday mornings, you can also check out the Old Town Farmers Market for another unique way to feel connected to the earliest days of Alexandria; this farmers market is one of the oldest and longest-running of its kind in the country.
Learn about Black history and culture through tours that center African Americans’ significant contributions to early local and national history offered by Manumission Tour Company. When shopping in Alexandria, check out Alexandria’s thriving Black-owned businesses, from fashionable boutiques to cafes and restaurants serving delicious meals that feel familiar yet exciting. Don’t miss Nicole McGrew’s Threadleaf and the luxury shop Donna Lewis.
No trip to Alexandria would be complete without exploring the waterfront where the past and present coexist in truly unique ways, from the public art at Groundswell to the artists’ studios at Torpedo Factory Art Center. Nearby is also the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, where handcrafts of yesterday still impress visitors, and Providence, a docked reproduction of one of our fledgling country’s first naval ships, pre-Revolution.
Where to Eat in Alexandria
Cafe 44, Photo Credit: Aniesia Williams, @iamaniesia
At Cafe 44, the expansive river views are the perfect backdrop for a fun and casual breakfast spot. The distinctively Southern flair of Hen Quarter makes it a great lunch spot where you can dine on authentic fried chicken, chicken and waffles, hush puppies, crab cakes, and other well-loved dishes complemented by handcrafted cocktails and an extensive wine list. Brabo, in the Kimpton Lorien Hotel, is the best spot to have dinner at the end of an exciting day. Whether you’re in the mood for bistro-style dining or a full-course dinner, you’ll enjoy the French influences and carefully selected ingredients that make each dish sing. Don’t miss the smoked salmon rillettes, grilled Berkshire pork chops, and duck leg confit.
Virtue Feed & Grain
Among the most popular destinations for lunch in Alexandria are Toastique and Wooboi Hot Chicken. Pop into Ada’s on the River, BARCA Pier and Wine Bar, Virtue Feed & Grain, or Blackwall Hitch when strolling the waterfront. In Old Town Alexandria, dine at Sisters Thai and Magnolia Dessert Bar, Magnolia’s on King, The Majestic, or King & Rye. In Del Ray, Cheesetique, Junction Bakery & Bistro, Del Ray Café, and Evening Star Café are not to be missed.
Discover the charming juxtaposition of historic and modern influence throughout Alexandria. From boutiques and restaurants to museums, cultural landmarks, and the fine arts, visitors will find plenty of fun and exciting ways to spend a few days marveling at our country’s earliest days while engaging with what’s new and exciting on the horizon for this forward-looking city.