Take the Blue or Yellow line to King Street and hop on the free Old Town trolley for a ride down historic King Street. Colonial homes, mom & pop shops, delicious restaurants and a dazzling waterfront and can be discovered here. This town is historic, dating back from the 1700s, so there is tons of history around every corner.


Visit the historic Carlisle House and Park

Find some treasures at the Old Town Boutique District Shops

The family-owned shops and fashion boutiques are a real treat in Old Town Alexandria. While there are a few chain retail stores that have popped up over the years (H & M, Forever 21, Anthropology, Paper Source, Papyrus…), Old Town prides itself on not becoming the next Georgetown with its abundance of fast fashion stores.

Favorite Shops

Red Barn Mercantile (unique quality home furnishings and gifts), Penny Post (paper goods, cards, pens and notebooks), 529 Kids Consign (upscale high-end children’s consignment), Thread Leaf (women’s lifestyle boutique focused on clean and responsibly made clothing), Forge Industrial Works (antiques, reclaimed industrial and hand-painted furniture) and Bishop Boutique and The Hive for cute shoes.

Take the Free Trolley Along King Street

The best way to experience Old Town is on foot. Upon stepping off the free trolley, meander the quiet cobble-stoned streets, past the historical colonial home and discover the unique shops hidden on the side streets and artsy alleyways. There is so much history to be discovered here, and you’ll find stone plaques on the homes dating back to the early 1700s. The trolley starts at the King Street Metro station and ventures all the way down King Street to the historic waterfront.

Wander around the Waterfront and Torpedo Art Factory

After wandering down bustling King Street with it’s unique boutiques and small shops, be sure to check out the old Torpedo Art Factory along the water where you’ll find tons of local D.C. artists painting, creating and displaying their beautiful shops. I take weekly photography and watercolor classes here, and the prices are so affordable compared to elsewhere! On summer nights, I enjoy strolling along the dock and attending the free “Late-Night” events at the factory.

Explore the Lighthouse and Trails at Jones Point Park

A quiet little haven, this is my daily bike path to town. Wide grassy fields filled with dogs chasing after frisbees, dirt paths leading through the leafy woods and a quaint light house with views overlooking the National Harbor and Dyke Marsh in the distance makes it my favorite spot in Old Town. History buffs will love this trail, as there are signs and markers detailing the history of our port town.

Stroll along the Cobblestoned Streets

There is a photo opportunity along every corner in the The Historic District of Old Town Alexandria. 19th century gas lamps light the brick sidewalks and cobblestoned streets and waving American flags outside of old ornate wooden doors with giant knockers. You’ll notice old wooden shutters and interesting doorways leading to hidden alleyways and perfectly manicured gardens.

I particularly love Captain’s Row (the 100 block of Prince Street) with the cobblestone street leading right down to the waterfront, the boutiques along the side streets of King St and the colonial houses alongside WindMill Hill Park on Lee Street. Be sure to wander around at “magic hour” (an hour before sunset) for the golden rays of the sun to make these brick sidewalks glow.

Visit the Spite House

Spite House is a 7 foot wide, about 25 feet deep and 325 square feet in two stories home and landmark located on Queen Street. Just a few blocks past Carlisle House, you can must walk on over and visit this piece of history! Story has it that in 1830 John Hollensbury, the owner of one of the adjacent houses, built built this house to keep horse-drawn wagons and loiterers out of his tiny alley. He did it in spite an you can even see gouges from wagon-wheel hubs along the brick walls! It’s definitely the tiniest house I’ve ever seen, and it makes for a great stroll!

For Foodies

If you’re in the mood for healthy snacks or an Acai Bowl…

South Block

Head on over to the new South Block Juice in the heart of Old Town for healthy snacks (avocado toast anyone?), salads, light sandwiches, healthy smoothies and my favorite – their fruity Acai bowls! I feel like I’m in Australia or Bali when I eat one of these. The fruit is fresh, the smoothies are delicious and I love the L.A. health-obsessed vibe going on in this cafe.

If you’re in the mood for Italian….

Trattoria Da Franco

Home of traditional Roman cuisine for over 25 years, this tucked away local spot is famous (with plenty of Capitol Hill politicians, celebrities and the locals!) for it’s authentic Italian pasta dishes, wine selections, and decor. The Trattoria is also the home of a monthly Opera Night, where the world’s best music is presented by Kennedy Center performers and Italian language classes are offered every Monday evening!

If you’re in the mood for French….

Fontaine Cafe and Creperie

This locally owned casual and quiet European cafe is located on a quiet side street in Old Town. A personal favorite of mine, the small cafe feels like you’re stepping into a small village in France, with it’s authentic European vibe, savory and sweet crepes, and French fare. Make sure to try the Mussels, baguettes and Grand Chocolate crepe (it’s filled with chocolate mousse!). If you’re looking for delicious cheese boards, head to La Fromagerie for their artisan cheese and meat boards and wines.

If you’re in the mood for true Vietnamese….

Caphe Banh

You can not get more authentic than this! A small hole-in-the-wall local Vietnamese spot, you will immediately feel like you’re visiting a cafe in Vietnam. The ramen is to die for! Make sure to bring cash as it is cash-only…but let’s be real, all the best family-owned restaurants are cash-only.

If you’re in the mood for Brunch…

Majestic Cafe

If you’re in the mood for a historical dining experience…

Gadsby’s Tavern

Take a moment to journey back to the 18th-century tavern where famous historical figures (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and everyday people dined and celebrated since 1770! I spent my 23rd birthday here, and it was truly an unforgettable and magical experience, with the traditional 18th century, elegant colonial dining rooms, actors, and amazing selection of food! My favorites were the baked brie en croute (puff pastry with spiced apples and raspberry coulis) and the crispy fried oysters!

If you’re in the mood for coffee…

Misha’s Coffeehouse and Coffee Roaster

For the best neighborhood atmosphere and the sound of coffee roasting, this brightly lit coffee house is my personal favorite in Old Town. These beans are hand-picked and hand-roasted daily, guys! I love to sit at the communal table in the back and nibble on their chewy vegan chocolate chip cookies.

Killer E.S.P.

….stands for Espresso, Sorbet, and Pie…. is a close second with their excellent gelato, deli sandwiches, and dog-friendly vibes.


Morrison House

A charming and historic inn, this luxurious “house” haa the most beautiful library lobby restaurant and bar (the chef’s cooking is some of the best in Old Town!) and the location is perfect – tucked right into Old Town’s historic neighborhoods and a block away from the busyness of King Street! Be sure to not miss out on sleeping in and taking a view form the patio…although let’s be real, the bed is a slice of heaven in itself, you won’t want to get out and explore.

Check out more of my favorite spots in my vlog around Old Town Alexandria!


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The Ultimate Guide to Old Town Alexandria

June 25, 2018


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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical moments through my lens and my pen. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I'm inspired to share the light around me. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.

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Helena Woods is a destination newborn and family photographer based in France and New England and travels worldwide. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.