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The Nine Best Views in Washington D.C.

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All urbanites love rooftops — except for maybe acrophobics. We love rooftops for the fresh air they offer and the pleasing aerial views of the world around us—manmade, natural and otherwise. Rooftops feed that little conqueror hidden in all of us. Looking out across the architecture and down at the little ant-like pedestrians, we can imagine the world as ours alone and admire the strategic advantage granted by our position high above our domain. Plus, in the event of an apocalypse, rooftops are an ideal place from which to snipe zombies.

Thanks to the District's height limits, rooftops in almost every corner of D.C. offer above average panoramic views. Still, not all rooftops are created equal. Below are nine of D.C.'s the most exceptional vantage points.


Brooks Hays

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Wisconsin Apartment Buildings

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Along Wisconsin Avenue, between the Russian Embassy and the National Cathedral, a stretch that breasts the apex of one of the city’s highest hills, are several high-rise apartment buildings. The roofs of buildings like the Wisconsin House, Sherry Hall, Garfield House, and others, offer fantastic views of the entire city, the Potomac, Rock Creek Park, Arlington, and beyond. Grab a cocktail, put your feet up, and watch the planes fly in and out of Reagan. Photo by Lauren Rauk.

Highland Park Apartments

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These new apartments above the Columbia Heights Metro offer four different rooftop terraces. That’s four different places from which to glare down judgingly at the U Street hipsters, the AdMo frat-stars, the Dupont yuppies, and the scandal makers on Capitol Hill. Afterwards, you can look out towards the sunset and contemplate the pitfalls of stereotyping. Photo via Highland Park Apartments.

Rhapsody Condominiums

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A similar vantage point to Highland Park, this high rise with floor to ceiling windows and a rap around roof terrace offers a better glimpse of the city and its landmarks to the East, such as the Basilica.

Residences At Market Square West

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For the political wonks and ladder climbers on the Hill, few buildings offer better aerial glimpses of the city’s political landmarks and monuments. After a long day brown-nosing inside the Rayburn, come back to the perfect view of Washington’s political might. When the weather’s right, condo-owners here can recline with a glass of scotch and reflect on the tenets of game theory while staring out the Washington Monument and all its symbolic glory. If you’re not lucky enough to have an apartment in one of these buildings, or friends living in them, all hope is not lost. There are several bars and restaurants, as well as a park and a church, around the city that offer views on par with the rooftops listed above. Photo via Life At the Top.

Kennedy Center Roof Terrace Restaurant

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The straight-laced ambiance of the restaurant atop the world-famous Kennedy Center has about as much spunk as a Weekly Standard staff meeting. What’s worse, the food is overpriced and boring. But the view is unbeatable. Grab a cocktail, skip the mediocre fare, and gaze back down the Potomac at the picturesque Georgetown waterfront. Photo by Michael Van Vleet.

Washington National Cathedral

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Twice a year, the Washington Ringing Society leads a guided tour to the top of the National Cathedral. A trip to the top costs $20, but in return tour guests enjoy a up-close demonstration of the ringing of the Cathedral’s bells, as well as some of the highest panoramic views in the city, with sight-lines stretching as far west as the Blue Ridge Mountains. Photo by Flickr user Mr. T in DC.

P.O.V. Rooftop Lounge and Terrace

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The bar and accompanying terrace on the top floor of the swanky W hotel in downtown D.C. is welcome to anyone who can afford $15 cocktails. But while the price points are steep, the views of the White House are unbeatable. Kick back with a gin and tonic, look down on the epicenter of American political power, and pretend like you’re more than just a meaningless bystander. Photo by Wally Gobetz.

1905 Restaurant Roof Deck

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This is one of the shortest buildings on our list, but the rooftop bar at 1905 is casual and spacious, and the surrounding views of the charming Shaw neighborhood are pleasing when paired with a nice glass of Pinot or a pint of IPA. Photo by Jim Malone.

Tidal Basin

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For the rooftop averse, the best ground level views in the city might be the parklands surrounding the Tidal Basin. As long as you can ignore the algae and occasional floating piece of trash, the views across the water towards the FDR, the Martin Luther King Jr. or the Jefferson Memorials are inspiring. Plop down with a picnic in spring and the view will colored by the light pink and white blooms of the Cherry Blossom trees. Photo by Ron Cogswell.

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Wisconsin Apartment Buildings

Along Wisconsin Avenue, between the Russian Embassy and the National Cathedral, a stretch that breasts the apex of one of the city’s highest hills, are several high-rise apartment buildings. The roofs of buildings like the Wisconsin House, Sherry Hall, Garfield House, and others, offer fantastic views of the entire city, the Potomac, Rock Creek Park, Arlington, and beyond. Grab a cocktail, put your feet up, and watch the planes fly in and out of Reagan. Photo by Lauren Rauk.

Highland Park Apartments

These new apartments above the Columbia Heights Metro offer four different rooftop terraces. That’s four different places from which to glare down judgingly at the U Street hipsters, the AdMo frat-stars, the Dupont yuppies, and the scandal makers on Capitol Hill. Afterwards, you can look out towards the sunset and contemplate the pitfalls of stereotyping. Photo via Highland Park Apartments.

Rhapsody Condominiums

A similar vantage point to Highland Park, this high rise with floor to ceiling windows and a rap around roof terrace offers a better glimpse of the city and its landmarks to the East, such as the Basilica.

Residences At Market Square West

For the political wonks and ladder climbers on the Hill, few buildings offer better aerial glimpses of the city’s political landmarks and monuments. After a long day brown-nosing inside the Rayburn, come back to the perfect view of Washington’s political might. When the weather’s right, condo-owners here can recline with a glass of scotch and reflect on the tenets of game theory while staring out the Washington Monument and all its symbolic glory. If you’re not lucky enough to have an apartment in one of these buildings, or friends living in them, all hope is not lost. There are several bars and restaurants, as well as a park and a church, around the city that offer views on par with the rooftops listed above. Photo via Life At the Top.

Kennedy Center Roof Terrace Restaurant

The straight-laced ambiance of the restaurant atop the world-famous Kennedy Center has about as much spunk as a Weekly Standard staff meeting. What’s worse, the food is overpriced and boring. But the view is unbeatable. Grab a cocktail, skip the mediocre fare, and gaze back down the Potomac at the picturesque Georgetown waterfront. Photo by Michael Van Vleet.

Washington National Cathedral

Twice a year, the Washington Ringing Society leads a guided tour to the top of the National Cathedral. A trip to the top costs $20, but in return tour guests enjoy a up-close demonstration of the ringing of the Cathedral’s bells, as well as some of the highest panoramic views in the city, with sight-lines stretching as far west as the Blue Ridge Mountains. Photo by Flickr user Mr. T in DC.

P.O.V. Rooftop Lounge and Terrace

The bar and accompanying terrace on the top floor of the swanky W hotel in downtown D.C. is welcome to anyone who can afford $15 cocktails. But while the price points are steep, the views of the White House are unbeatable. Kick back with a gin and tonic, look down on the epicenter of American political power, and pretend like you’re more than just a meaningless bystander. Photo by Wally Gobetz.

1905 Restaurant Roof Deck

This is one of the shortest buildings on our list, but the rooftop bar at 1905 is casual and spacious, and the surrounding views of the charming Shaw neighborhood are pleasing when paired with a nice glass of Pinot or a pint of IPA. Photo by Jim Malone.

Tidal Basin

For the rooftop averse, the best ground level views in the city might be the parklands surrounding the Tidal Basin. As long as you can ignore the algae and occasional floating piece of trash, the views across the water towards the FDR, the Martin Luther King Jr. or the Jefferson Memorials are inspiring. Plop down with a picnic in spring and the view will colored by the light pink and white blooms of the Cherry Blossom trees. Photo by Ron Cogswell.