Approximately 15 minutes south of downtown Washington, the 18th-century Old Town – the local nickname for the historic center of Alexandria -- hugs the western bank of the Potomac and blends the area’s cultural melting pot with America’s Colonial era. Originally laid out in 1749, this condensed commercial district full of cobbled streets and the well-preserved 18th century buildings features boutique and mall shopping, restaurants, nightlife, and lots of opportunities for sightseeing.
Many of the neighborhood’s most popular dining destinations offer sustainable takes on American cuisine, like Hank’s Oyster Bar and Restaurant Eve, and vintage pubs and taverns harken back to the area’s early days. Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican and Afghan eateries are common sights in Old Town, reflecting a steady influx of immigrants to Alexandria since the late 1980s.
Local attractions include steamboat tours on the Potomac; Colonial homes that offer daily tours, such as the Carlyle House (1753); and the Torpedo Factory Art Center, which used to be a center for munitions manufacturing and now houses a warren of artists’ studios. From 7 a.m. to 12 noon every Saturday, one of the country’s oldest farmers’ markets is held in Old Town’s Market Square.
Free 24-hour parking passes called “proclamations” are available at the Alexandria Visitors Center (221 King Street), provided only to non-Alexandria residents. Proclamations are valid at two-hour metered spaces around Old Town and may be renewed once.
The area’s Metrorail stop is King Street-Old Town, which serves the Yellow Line from downtown Washington, D.C. From the King Street station, visitors can catch the Free King Street Trolley, which is free to ride, runs every 15 minutes, and stops at 20 different points around Old Town.