Alexandria, Virginia lies only 8 miles south of Washington DC. Although many people are drawn to the area because of the capital, Alexandria is worthy of a visit in its own right. It’s a city packed with history, but it also has plenty of modern bars, restaurants, and shopping to enjoy. Find out how to plan a trip to Alexandria, which top sites you can’t miss, where you should stay, and which airports are best for flying in and out.

The George Washington Masonic National Memorial.

Early Morning: Breakfast Time

A day of touring Alexandria is going to be packed with activities, so be sure to start the day with plenty of food and caffeine. Coffee lovers need to head to Swing’s Coffee Roasters. This roastery has been serving coffee in the region for over 100 years. Have an espresso, a cold brew, or a pour-over coffee and grab a bag of their freshly roasted beans to take home with you.

If you like a pastry with your coffee, head to Misha’s Coffee House, just off King Street. You’ll look like a local, walking around town with one of their famous orange cups. You can’t go wrong with any of their pastries or muffins. Those looking to start the day with a big breakfast need to go to Stomping Ground. They serve Swing’s coffee alongside their artisanal breakfast options, which are filling and delicious. Their buttermilk biscuits shouldn’t be missed.

For a healthy start to the day, head to Bon Vivant Cafe where they source everything locally and truly believe in farm-to-table cooking. Their breakfast options, which are served all day, are filling while still being light and healthy. Try one of their mini quiches.

Whether you’re simply grabbing a coffee or you’re sitting down to a big breakfast, use this time to plan out the rest of your day. Restaurants can fill up quickly, so make dinner reservations early with the OpenTable App.

The Carlyle House in Alexandria.

Mid-Morning: Get Your Key to the City

If you want to explore some of the historic sites around Alexandria, you’ll get great value for money by purchasing the Key to the City museum pass. After breakfast, head straight to the Alexandria Visitor’s Center at 221 King Street to purchase one. The cost is $15 and allows you access to eight different museums.

After you leave the visitor’s center, you are only one block away from Carlyle House, a beautiful stone mansion built in 1753. There are tours on the hour and every half-hour. Also close by, and part of the Key to the City pass, is Gadsby’s Tavern Museum. Gadsby’s Tavern was a popular place for politicians and other famous historical figures to dine and drink in the 1800s. The museum is a fun and interactive way to learn more about Alexandria’s history.

Other museums included on the Key to the City pass are George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate where he lived with his wife Martha, the Lee-Fendall House Museum, the Alexandria Black-History Museum, the Friendship Firehouse Museum, Freedom House, and the Alexandria Archeological Museum.

If history isn’t really your thing, try the Torpedo Factory Art Center. This gallery along the Potomac River has three floors of art to explore. The artists themselves are often present, and you can watch them at work in different areas of the gallery, and even buy some of their pieces.

Noon: Time for Lunch

After exploring some of Old Town, you’ll be ready to stop for lunch. Hen Quarter is a favorite among locals and visitors. As the name might suggest, it’s all about the chicken here. Try their delectable fried chicken and waffles, the smoky barbecue pulled-chicken, or for something lighter, their grilled chicken HQBLT sandwich.

If you want somewhere that has a few more options, head to the always-popular Southside 815. Their southern classics are the main event, especially the chicken fried steak and the blackened catfish. They also do sandwiches, soups, seafood, and have a huge selection of locally brewed craft beers.

Afternoon: Go Shopping

Shopaholics will fall in love with the boutiques along King Street in the Old Town. This street alone has 160 independent shops, which has prompted Alexandria to be named the Shop Small headquarters of the D.C. region.

For shoes that you won’t find anywhere else, head to Bishop Boutique. The Shoe hive is where you’ll want to go if you’re looking for the latest in designer shoes. Sister-owned The Lucky Knot is the best boutique for preppy-style women’s clothing. 116 King is a beautiful women’s boutique that focuses on bringing new and emerging designers from around the country to the women of Alexandria.

For an eclectic collection of funky homewares, head to The Hour or Red Barn Mercantile. Both pride themselves on offering unique glassware, home goods, gifts, and accessories.

If your shopping doesn’t take long, use your Key to the City pass to explore the Lyceum History Museum. The theater was built in 1839 as a place for lectures to be held, science experiments to take place, and simply as a place where people could come and read quietly. You can still do all of those things, as well as see live theater most nights of the week.

Late Afternoon: Catch the Sunset

Use your Key to the City pass one last time and head to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Besides being a stunning memorial to the country’s first president, your pass gives you access to the observatory. It’s one of the most incredible places in the city to watch the sunset. If you arrive a little too early to catch the sunset, you’ll get excellent views of Washington D.C. and the Potomac River.

Dinnertime: Feast on Local Seafood

This region of the country is famous for its local seafood, especially the crab. If you want to enjoy a nice selection of regional seafood, make sure to book a table at The Warehouse. The She Crab soup is the house specialty and a must-try. For your main dish, enjoy the all-lump crabcakes or the crawfish-crab imperial. There are plenty of other menu options if someone in the group doesn’t want seafood.

Another great spot for seafood in Alexandria is Hank’s Oyster Bar. It’s a casual place with some seriously fresh shellfish on offer. Enjoy a few of their oysters and grab some of their small plates to share with the table. The crab cakes and fried clams are crowd favorites.

If seafood isn’t your thing, Joe Theismann’s Restaurant is a great alternative. The burgers are a popular option. Try a regular beef burger, a grass-fed burger, a turkey burger, or even a bison burger. They have several vegetarian and vegan options and can make most dishes gluten-free.

Old Town Alexandria.

Late Night: Catch a Show

The Little Theatre of Alexandria is a wonderful place to enjoy a play or musical by local thespians. They have shows every night at 8 p.m. from Wednesday to Sunday. A different play is performed each month and supporting this small, local theater is a great way to keep the spirit of theater alive in Alexandria.

Airport Guide

There are three major airports near Alexandria where you can easily fly into and out of the region. No matter where in the country you’re coming from, you’re bound to find a cheap flight to Alexandria.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

The Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is the closest airport to Alexandria. It’s only 3 miles north of Alexandria and is located in Arlington, Virginia. The airport is a hub for American Airlines, which offers almost hourly flights to New York and Boston.

The airport also has daily non-stop flights to and from every major airport in the United States, as well as in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.

The Ronald Reagan Washington Airport is very easy to get into and out of. The Washington metro has a stop here for both the yellow and blue line. The yellow line will take you straight to King Street in Alexandria Old Town. If you arrive too early or too late to take the metro, buses run in place of the metro. There are also taxis available outside the terminal exit.

Washington Dulles International Airport

Washington Dulles is the closest international airport to Alexandria. It is just over 20 miles from downtown Alexandria and is the largest airport in the mid-Atlantic region. The airport has more than 60,000 passengers through its doors every day. Chances are, if you are looking for a cheap flight to the D.C. area, it will be to Washington Dulles International Airport.

In addition to having direct flights to every major airport in the United States, you can also fly between Washington Dulles International Airport and the rest of North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Washington Dulles Airport is a major hub for United Airlines, who offers tons of flights around the country every day of the year.

There are a few public transportation options at Washington Dulles International Airport that help you get to either downtown D.C. or Old Town in Alexandria. There is a bus called the 5A Express Metrobus which stops at L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Southwest DC. From here, you can hop onto the yellow line to King Street Station in Alexandria. There are plans to connect the airport directly to the metro that are due to be completed in 2020.

There are also shared taxis that you can take into Alexandria to save money on a private taxi. The main service at Washington Dulles is offered by SuperShuttle. You’ll see their vans outside the terminal. You can also use Lyft or Uber to call a taxi. The airport charges these drivers an additional $4 fee which gets added onto your fare.

Baltimore Washington International Airport

The Baltimore Washington International Airport is the furthest of the three from Alexandria. Baltimore Washington International Airport is about 40 miles northeast of Alexandria but is still a very popular option when flying into the D.C. region.

The Baltimore Washington Airport is a hub for Southwest Airlines, with several flights daily across the country. There are daily flights to major cities around the country including Atlanta, New York, Boston, Chicago, L.A., and Denver. You can also fly internationally with airlines such as Air Canada and Wow Air.

Getting into and out of the Baltimore Washington Airport is slightly more difficult than the other two airports near Alexandria. You can take a bus to Greenbelt metro station and navigate your way to King Street Station in Alexandria. These buses run from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on weekends and cost $7.

The best option for getting from Baltimore Washington International Airport to downtown Alexandria is to rent a car. It’s just over an hour to Alexandria, and with a car, you’ll have much more freedom to explore the entire D.C. region.

Mount Vernon, Alexandria.

Where to Stay in Alexandria

Alexandria has everything from large chain hotels to small independently owned bed and breakfasts. Most hotels are located in the Old Town area or along Richmond Highway, just south of Old Town. No matter what you’re looking for, you’re bound to find a hotel in Alexandria that is in your price range.

Luxury Boutique Hotels

If you’re looking for something that’s a cut above the rest, Alexandria has a plethora of boutique hotels that will make you feel like you are truly on a luxury vacation. Hotel Monaco is a modern hotel in Alexandria Old Town. It has an on-site bar and restaurant and a free wine hour every evening.

Book into the Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa to enjoy huge rooms, plush beds, and morning spa sessions. They also have free bicycles that you can use to explore the Old Town and head along the Potomac River. Kimpton hotels are also pet-friendly, so you don’t have to leave your pup at home for this trip.

If you want to enjoy a quiet B&B, check out Gatsby’s House or Alexandria’s Treasure House. Both are located in the Old Town of Alexandria and aim to make you feel like you’re in your own home. Wake up to a freshly cooked breakfast and a big pot of coffee and be sure to stop back in the afternoon for complimentary tea and cake.

Budget Hotel Options

If you prefer to spend your vacation money on restaurants and shopping, you’ll want to save on your accommodation. Alexandria has several options that allow you to do just that.

The Courtyard by Marriott is great value for the money. If you book at the right time, you can get a double room for less than $100 a night, including breakfast and parking. It’s centrally located in Old Town, has a restaurant and bar on-site, and even has a fitness center to keep up your workouts while you’re away. Other Marriott options in Alexandria include Residence Inn by Marriott in the Old Town South and SpringHill Suites by Marriott, which are located in the Southwest section of the Old Town.

The Holiday Inn Express is a great budget option. For about $100 a night, you can have a full buffet breakfast each morning, a comfortable bed, free Wi-Fi in your room, and ample parking if you’ve come by car. The Holiday Inn Express is a great option if you are planning to split your time between Alexandria and Washington D.C. because it’s located along Richmond Highway, which gives you direct access to downtown D.C.

The Torpedo Factory Art Center.

Hotels Near the Airport

If you’re looking for a hotel that allows you to easily access the airport, there are a few options for both the Ronald Reagan Airport and the Washington Dulles Airport that make getting up for those early flights a whole lot easier.

The Washington Dulles Airport Marriott is a great option for those early morning flights or for when you arrive too late to head into Alexandria. They have free shuttles to and from the airport and incredibly comfortable beds. The Westin Washington Dulles Airport is also a great option. The rooms are quiet, and the complimentary breakfast will fill you up before a long-haul flight across the country.

If you’re flying into or out of the Ronald Reagan Airport, the Hyatt Regency Crystal City at Ronald Reagan Airport is a splurge, but a great option. You’ll get a big comfortable room and a view of the Washington Monument. Your stay includes a buffet breakfast and wi-fi in your room.

Apartment Rentals

If you prefer to feel more like a local, there are plenty of private rentals that allow you to stay in a furnished apartment or even an entire house. This means you can cook your own meals, shop at the local grocery store, and perhaps feel more relaxed than you would in a hotel.

Private rentals are ideal if you are traveling with a large group and want everyone to stay in the same place. You can easily split the price of the rental between everyone and end up spending less than you would on a hotel room.

Popular places to stay are in Old Town, Old Town North, Northeast Alexandria, and Del Ray. All of these neighborhoods are centrally located and easy to get to from the highway or airport.

Ready to plan your trip to Alexandria? You can book everything from accommodation to transportation and tours right here on GoDoTrip.