Editor’s note: This article has been updated with new information.
Dupont Circle has a special place in my heart. I lived and worked in the restaurant- and shop-filled neighborhood when I was a resident of Washington, D.C., back in my post-college days. I didn’t usually land here, though, when I returned to visit the city after moving away since I was usually sightseeing with family closer to the Capitol or visiting friends in the surrounding Beltway of the DMV (District, Maryland, Virginia).
However, on a sunny (and tearful) weekend after dropping my freshman son off at college last year, that all changed. I decided to revisit my erstwhile D.C. stomping grounds and check out a property that had been popping up on my radar repeatedly, The Dupont Circle Hotel, located right in the middle of my old ‘hood.
The hotel emerged from the pandemic with a scene-stealing bar, a hip overhaul of its restaurants and lounge areas and design-savvy rooms that were all part of a multimillion-dollar renovation, and I wanted to see what all the buzz was about.
Since my first visit last fall, I’ve returned multiple times, equally drawn by the attentive service, cool “Mad Men” vibes and excellent location. It’s become my home away from home (back in my old home base). Here’s an update of my initial review of the hotel as well as additional information based on subsequent stays, and why I keep returning to The Dupont Circle Hotel.
There are two things I noticed as soon as I arrived at The Dupont Circle Hotel for the first time: the warm welcome and the steady stream of locals heading to the restaurant and bar.
Both point to the hotel’s ownership, the Ireland-based Doyle Group, which has infused what feels like true Irish hospitality into the property.
There’s actually been a hotel in this location for more than five decades, but when I had seen it prior to my first visit, it felt more like a stalwart of the neighborhood lurking in the background, but not a place you’d choose to hang out.
That all changed in the fall of 2020 when the hotel emerged from a top-to-bottom, $50 million renovation with spiffed-up public spaces, including a lobby that embraces the hotel’s midcentury modern history with polished brass light fixtures and bright pops of tangerine contrasted with light and dark wood shelving.
There are multiple spots to sit and relax: in leather chairs near a fireplace, on velvet couches behind tall plants or by the tall windows for prime people-watching. Redone rooms are large, comfortable and have a contemporary flair with leather headboards and marble bathrooms.
As the pandemic has retreated, the redesigned bar and restaurant have become stylish neighborhood staples and are spots where hotel guests tend to linger rather than venture out.
As the name suggests, the hotel is located directly on Dupont Circle, a prime dining and shopping location in the heart of Washington, D.C. The hotel is about a three-minute walk from the Dupont Circle Metro line, which can bring you to most attractions in D.C. Union Station, where Amtrak trains arrive in the city, is roughly three miles from the hotel, a 15-minute car ride or a 12-minute, $2 Metro ride.
The hotel is five miles from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), which can take about 15 minutes by car or roughly 30 minutes (and a $2.50 ticket) by Metro. Dulles International Airport (IAD) in Virginia is approximately 28 miles west, about a 35-minute drive or about one hour on the bus ($10). And the Metro’s new Silver Line can get you there in about 50 minutes, too ($2-$6 depending on what day and time you’re traveling).
D.C. is a great walking city, and from here, you can also wander to multiple attractions. The Metro makes it easy to get to the Smithsonian museums and monuments on the Mall or the city’s other attractions.
Visitors can book the 327 rooms and suites at The Dupont Circle Hotel in a few different ways.
The hotel is part of Preferred Hotels’ I Prefer loyalty program. Signing up for a free I Prefer membership provides several cost-saving benefits. For example, with my free membership, I could have received 15% off the best available rate and a $20 food and beverage credit to use during my stay. The I Prefer rate was $251 a night before taxes for a king room; the city’s 14.95% hotel tax would have added $37.50 a night, for a total of $288.50 a night, or $577 for two nights, plus the $20 credit.
For my visit, the LHRC rate was $335 a night, including taxes, so it was higher than through I Prefer, but it offered several cardmember benefits that tilted my booking toward this option.
- Breakfast for two daily in The Pembroke restaurant or via room service, with a $30 maximum per person (I would have preferred not to have a dollar cap on my meal, but this did cover a large portion of my bill)
- A $100 food and beverage credit to use at the Pembroke, Doyle Bar or for room service during my stay
- An availability-based upgrade
- Early check-in and late checkout, if available
In total, this came to $220 worth of benefits on a $670 bill, so nearly a third of my room total was returned to me in the form of food and beverage credits, which I deemed a better value than the I Prefer direct price.
When I inquired about an upgrade at check-in as part of my LHRC booking, the front desk attendant said I had already been assigned a “very good” room, and there was nothing better to move me to. Based on my positive interactions with the staff during my stay and the size and layout of my corner room, I believe this was true.
Another advertised cardmember benefit is a “welcome amenity.” This turned out to be a personalized note along with an individual bottle of Pellegrino and a small assortment of tasty macarons in the room; overall a nice presentation to find waiting for me.
One additional cost to note: Valet parking is $55 a night plus tax.
- The alert and helpful staff; everyone from the doorman who remembered my name to the front desk agent who offered to mail a letter I was carrying, was on point.
- Excellent breakfast and brunch at The Pembroke; if I lived closer, the towering French toast and the cheese-crowned frittata would be my weekend go-to’s.
- Dinner at the Pembroke is a reason to stay in, too. The lobster bucatini alone is worth a special visit.
- Its prime location is near public transportation, shopping and dining. It’s just a three-minute walk to the Metro to get downtown, and the bookstore/cafe/bar Kramer Books is just out the back door.
- It’s easy to miss the driveway to this property, and if you pass it, you have to loop around the neighborhood’s one-way streets. Better signage would help.
- Dinner at Doyle’s feels a bit like a room service menu and doesn’t live up to the high standards set by The Pembroke’s breakfast.
- In my regular room, the bathroom sink area didn’t have a door to separate it from the sleeping area, which would have made it more private and provided a darker sleeping experience.
Having been to many hotels during the post-pandemic years that seemed perpetually understaffed and overwhelmed, the numerous and friendly staff at The Dupont Circle stood out even more.
It was hard to walk more than a few steps into the lobby of the hotel without someone greeting you. John, the amicable doorman/bellman/evening sentry and all-around brand ambassador, provided a jovial first impression of this surprisingly luxurious (especially for the price) property, greeting returning guests by name, helping to get luggage to your room almost as soon as you’ve opened the door and diving behind his desk to offer a bottle of water before you head out the door.
The friendly service may be due to the historic hotel’s owners, the Doyle Group, an Irish-based hospitality company. There’s definitely some of the Irish attention to service here that I enjoy when I visit the Emerald Isle. Folks staffing the front desk said hello every time I walked by, asking if I needed anything and offering small services like mailing a letter. Daily housekeeping included free bottled water and evening turndown left small chocolates. Every service person in the hallway stopped to ask about my stay and if they could bring anything to my room.
It even rubbed off on the guests. A man who spotted my local college-emblazoned shirt in the elevator immediately started to chat about the hotel, remarking on how he would stay here from now on when he visited his child at the same school. “This hotel is a trip!” said the gentleman, who identified himself as from Texas, “I mean, it’s really awesome; what a great place!”
I can honestly say in my many years of hotel stays, I’ve never heard that level of surprise and enthusiasm from a stranger about a property in an elevator before.
It’s partly from the homey vibe the hotel has created in the public spaces that make this seem, well, like home. The arrangement of small paintings and fresh plants in the common hallways felt like my house, but (I’ll admit) better designed.
The lobby has been divided into smaller, cozy lounging spaces thanks to dividers and interior walls. Even in summer, you could see how the fireplaces in the lobby and adjoining bar would cast an even warmer glow around the spaces.
Speaking of the bar, the food and beverage options here draw a coterie of local professionals coming for after-work drinks at the Doyle and its lovely tree-lined and vine-draped outdoor terrace, and everyone from groups of friends to dress-up dates arrives for brunch at The Pembroke. It makes guests feel like part of the neighborhood, and part of D.C., too, to have people come to where you’re staying instead of having to go in search of the scene somewhere else.
As part of LHRC, the hotel seemed to draw a crowd looking for the high-end extras that come from booking a stay through the service, but also those who know the area. There was a mix of families dropping teens off at college, fashion-conscious couples and business people dressed for meetings, perhaps at the Embassy Row offices that start at the Circle and extend northwest along Massachusetts Avenue.
My first impression of my “very good” room (again, according to the check-in agent) was that it was sleek, modern and bright.
My room’s corner location allowed copious amounts of sunlight to stream through the slatted window shutters. A king-size bed had a thick duvet and silky, high thread-count sheets that felt luxurious.
A contemporary buttercream leather couch was a nice spot to lounge and look out at the treetops of Dupont Circle. And the extra long desk would have been a solid space to work with a view if I were staying for business.
The modernized room had a few tricks up its sleeve, too; the blinds had a blackout shade behind them that a bedside switch could activate. A Nespresso machine was tucked into a shelf.
And a heated marble floor in the bathroom controlled by an easy-to-find knob kept things comfortable on chilly mornings.
The one thing I couldn’t control was the bathroom’s brightness. While attractively designed with marble and glass, there was no door to the sink area, which was located directly across from the king bed.
A tinted glass door led to the toilet and shower area, which had a window with frosted glass, but no blackout shade. It was exposed to full sunlight in the morning and made the whole room glow.
Note to hotel: Add a door to the bathroom, please.
On the positive side, the bathroom had a full array of small-size Malin + Goetz toiletries that felt upscale in a world of giant multi-use bottles shackled to shower walls.
And housekeeping replaced both those toiletries and items such as cotton swabs every time they visited.
There were also two thick, super-soft bathrobes in the bathroom.
Although the room felt very plush, there were some DIY amenities you’d expect to find at a mid-range hotel here, too, like an iron and ironing board in the closet, which I appreciated.
I’ve been returning to The Dupont Circle on a regular basis for the last year and a half since my son started college, and I’m now a Doyle Discovery Gold level member. This is a free Doyle Hotels points program, and honestly, I don’t usually think very much about it. But for a late August stay, when sultry D.C. was empty except for parents bringing their kids to college, I suddenly reaped huge benefits when my frequent visitor status got me an upgrade to the “penthouse level.”
To be clear, I wasn’t staying in the penthouse but on the top floor, where the hotel’s dozen suites are all located. While I was super excited about the upgrade, I wasn’t expecting much from the penthouse level views since the hotel tops out at the 8th floor.
Entering my suite, though, I was immediately enthralled by the space, design and light. Doyle made the 8th floor feel like it was in the clouds with floor-to-ceiling windows, floating shelves, light-colored wood and a fabulous extra bonus: a terrace with comfy chairs and great street views of the bustling street below.
There isn’t a separate bedroom, but the smart layout felt like a loft apartment, with a living area, squared off with couches and chairs centered around a large coffee table and the king-size bed at the far end of the space.
Another clever design element I enjoyed was the copiously stocked wet bar located in the entryway.
The suite life came with many extra perks, too, like a minifridge stocked with gratis soft drinks and water, complimentary fruit basket and a snack basket filled with locally crafted snacks.
Extra bonus: The large, double-sink bathroom with its large walk-in shower had a door that closed, so there was no light seeping in toward the bedroom. And, like the regular rooms, there were switches to open and close the blinds, so the sunlight didn’t filter in before I was awake.
Having the all-glass walls here offered one more highlight: a full rainbow view over the neighborhood after a rainstorm.
The nighttime view from my terrace was pretty great, too,
Food and drink
I started my first weekend stay with cocktails on the outdoor terrace of the Doyle, one of two dining spaces at the hotel.
The leafy patio is the place to be when the weather cooperates. Because D.C. can get muggy, that can also translate to buggy, and the host offered us bug spray when we sat down. My guests and I slathered it on and felt fine. Other people nearby didn’t partake and quickly left, but I wasn’t giving up our seats that easily. This is prime real estate, with lush swatches of plants and ivy surrounding velvet couches and bistro tables and chairs.
Cocktail hour was prime time here, with canoodling couples and business-suited groups. My table of four ordered a French rosé from Aix ($13 by the glass), a Stella Artois ($9) and an expertly mixed martini ($16) and enjoyed the space and location.
Inside, a dark, wood-paneled bar with lots of chrome accents and fluted wood detailing, including some of the original midcentury 1950s architectural elements, hosted a smattering of patrons. The mahogany leather chairs and low tables were filled with happy-looking happy-hour drinkers as well.
Patrons started to clear out around 8 p.m., most likely off to eat at one of the many restaurants in the neighborhood. But we decided to keep our table and ordered dinner.
There was a concise menu of tasty-sounding bar food that did not quite match the elevated setting. I had an unmemorable “prime-aged” burger ($22) that I only ate half of because it was overwhelmed by a dense layer of sauteed onions and cheese.
Someone at the table ordered an avocado BLT ($18), and then my husband pushed his luck with steak frites ($32). The meat was tough and flavorless. The fries, on the other hand, were crispy and copious, so we made do with those.
One surprise delight, though: A special of watermelon gazpacho ($16) poured tableside was tangy and refreshing.
The next morning, however, the Doyle was redeemed by its sister restaurant, The Pembroke.
The welcoming space has glistening brass light fixtures, apricot-hued leather banquettes, giant ficus plants, a wall of windows letting in the morning light and a marble bar where early risers were sipping coffee and mimosas.
This is a dress-up brunch scene on the weekends; on weekdays, it’s a popular meeting spot for coffee, too. The food and the staff were exceptional. My breakfast highlight was an egg-white frittata with spinach and tomatoes topped with mozzarella and presented in an individual cast iron skillet ($18). I also enjoyed an expertly made cappuccino ($6).
Several tables nearby had Stonehenge-like slabs of French toast, described on the menu as Grand Marnier-soaked brioche ($18) that I’ll have to try next time I visit.
On a subsequent visit on the recommendation of a foodie friend, I made a reservation for dinner at The Pembroke and was wowed anew by the kitchen. This is a meal worth staying in for, with French-nuanced dishes made with locally sourced ingredients.
My carnivore husband had the perfectly seared filet mignon served with a tangy peppercorn sauce ($48) that erased all memories of his past steak frites fiasco. I had a tasty, crispy-skinned salmon with bamboo rice for my main course ($36), and we shared a Peruvian tuna tiradito appetizer with a perky leche de tigre marinade ($24) that transported me to Lima. Our friend’s lobster bucatini in a rich cream sauce was so delectable and memorable that he left me both a voicemail and a text the next day to say it was the best thing he’s eaten in recent memory.
For quick grab-and-go pastries and coffee, there’s Doyle & Co. in the marble vestibule next to the entrance to the Pembroke.
Amenities and service
The service at The Dupont Circle truly sets the bar high for other area properties. I expect an attentive doorman and a front desk that remembers my name at $800-a-night properties, but my stays here cost much less, and the service is just as excellent as you’d find at a top-tier luxury hotel, time after time.
The nightly turn-down service with chilled bottles of water and chocolate and daily housekeeping that kept the bathroom vanity stocked with toiletries and provided plenty of Nespresso pods all played into the elevated experience.
A small fitness center is open 24 hours and is located in the basement level. Full disclosure: I don’t even think of visiting the gym after walking nearly five miles each day of my Washington stays. However, it’s well-outfitted with several stationary bikes and treadmills, plus a stair climber, universal weight machines and free weights.
There’s valet car service ($55), but no self-parking facilities.
Out and about
One of the highlights of staying at The Dupont Circle is being in the heart of what I think is one of the most interesting neighborhoods in the nation’s capital.
Close to the large traffic circle that lends the neighborhood its name, you’ll find shops, bars, restaurants and bookstores, or even a combination of the last three at Kramer Books, a bookstore with a restaurant and a solid cocktail list. Kramer’s has an outdoor dining setup across from the Doyle and The Pembroke, so you can literally step outside the hotel and be there within seconds.
Head a few blocks from the hotel in either direction, and you’ll find tree-lined streets bordered by brownstones. Follow 21st Street to R Street for one of my favorite off-the-beaten-path museums in the city, The Phillips Collection. The oldest modern art museum in the country occupies a historic home and an adjoining building that perfectly fits into the neighborhood.
Two highlights from the permanent collection are Renoir’s The Boating Party and Jacob Lawrence’s Migration series. You can see these masterpieces with very few other visitors, unlike at better-known downtown museums.
The Dupont neighborhood is also the start of the long stretch of foreign diplomatic residences and offices that comprise Massachusetts Avenue’s grand Embassy Row. Although you can’t usually enter without an appointment or invitation, there are a few that are easy to see in the immediate area, including India’s, which has a monument to Gandhi in a pocket park just in front.
If you’re here on a Sunday, Dupont Circle’s year-round farmer’s market is a great spot to pick up not only fruits and produce but also snacks ranging from macarons to tacos.
The Dupont Circle Hotel offers a number of ADA-compliant rooms and public spaces. There are 15 rooms — two rooms on each of the seven floors and one suite on the penthouse level — that are specially designed and designated as accessible.
The hotel’s entrances are at street level with no steps or access ramps required, and the lobby, bar and restaurant are all on the ground floor and can be entered at street level without stairs or ramps.
I am continuously impressed by the attentive service at The Dupont Circle Hotel, which makes the hotel feel like a luxury property for the cost of a moderate hotel. My regular room was comfortable (if a little bright, but that’s easily fixable), and the bar at the Doyle and breakfast at The Pembroke made it seem like the hip D.C. had come to us, instead of having to go out on the town and look for where the scene is. My upgrade to a suite was a great loyalty perk and one that will ensure I keep coming back. What’s more, dinner at The Pembroke is now on my list of “must-dos” in D.C., too.
All in all, it’s nicer to stay here than in my old apartment … by a long shot. It’s the kind of hotel any visitor would want to call home, and I’ll definitely be returning here again.