10 Bars You Must Visit In D.C., 2023 Edition

Whether it's a fun way to unwind after work or an occasion to get together with friends, bars, and clubs are an important part of any major city. Patrons can drop in to enjoy their favorite drinks, mingle with others, grab food, and just be out and about. Every state has awesome bars that are must-visits. The same is true for Washington D.C., as the nation's capital boasts a slew of options for those looking to take part in the local nightlife.

Want to dance the night away? There's a place for that. Looking to sit down and sip a drink while taking in the crowd? There are spots for that too. Or do you want to buy a section and party hard for a birthday or special occasion? Yes, there are places to do that as well. This list features the bars that you must visit when living in or visiting Washington D.C. as its nightlife scene continues to flourish.

1. District Alley

District Alley is one of the newest spots on this list. Located on the U Street corridor, this bar and lounge is a throwback to the types of places that used to populate this area of the capital. While it does not feature the flare of some of the bigger locations on this list, the vibe here can get the job done. Sports fans can also pop their heads in to catch major sporting events like baseball, basketball, and football games.

The spot is an intimate setting, in a very small but beautiful setup. The official capacity says 59 people, but on popular nights like Thursday through Sunday, more people tend to find their way in. You can stop by for anything like grabbing a drink or taking in some of the American cuisine featured on the menu. In later hours, District Alley is more lounge-like, as customers can reserve sections to buy bottles.

2. Sudhouse

Sudhouse is one of three locations on this list that should be considered "old reliable." This location doesn't feature outlandish themes, setups, or a "high life" party atmosphere. Instead, Sudhouse is a no-frills bar that promises a good time without pressure or a pretentious vibe.

The spot kicks the evening off with an excellent happy hour that features the staples of bar food such as burgers, chicken wings, french fries, and more. The drink specials are low cost, but that doesn't mean the alcohol is low quality, as the friendly bartenders can make a wide range of options. Unlike other bartenders who may not pay their patrons much mind, those at Sudhouse quickly welcome your visit like an episode of "Cheers."

But don't just come for happy hour, stick around for the late-night fun. Sudhouse quickly fills up with people from all age ranges as the DJ plays a mix of music from the 90s all the way up to current hits. Even better, they also play the music videos for those songs, often bringing back moments of nostalgia as the crowd sings along. Sudhouse is a great option for people looking for a lowkey drinking spot that can quickly become an enjoyable party.

3. Soussi

Soussi is another one of the longstanding staples that D.C. natives will recognize. It's an important addition to this list because not only is it a bar, but it is a well-known spot to try a hookah pipe and enjoy great food. Hookah is a trend that is continuing to grow at major bars and clubs throughout the country, but Soussi is one of the bars in D.C. that has offered it for years.

Soussi offers great low-key vibes for someone just looking to get out of the house, grab a drink, and perhaps smoke a bit of tobacco either alone or with a group. Soussi has a downstairs bar area with a covered patio for nice spring and summer nights. The upstairs section is more intimate, where people can sit together on tightly packed couches around the hookah.

This spot is in Adam's Morgan, which is a central party spot in the city. Its low-key vibe is perfect for beginning a night that can get wild or winding down before going home. It's a must-see spot for both people visiting the city and locals well aware of its nightlife scene.

4. Café Saint-EX

If Soussi is a location known for its low-key vibe, Café Saint-EX is a 180-degree swing in the opposite direction. If you're looking for a quiet evening, where you can enjoy an intimate conversation with friends, this isn't your place. Instead, if you want to break a sweat dancing in tight circles while music thumps in your ears, check this spot out.

Located on the always busy 14th street, Café Saint-EX looks very quaint at first glance. The upper level boasts a bar and a few seating options for those who want to enjoy a drink. The abbreviated menu also has some great eats including its jerk chicken. But if you're here to dance the night away, go downstairs for all the fun.

The basement is the perfect dance hall. When packed, it feels like a basement party from high school where people would face off to see who was the best at the latest moves. Café Saint-EX brings in several great DJs, with most focusing on hip-hop to keep the upbeat vibe and party going.

5. Alias

Many of the places on this list either lean toward a more upbeat evening or one that is more low-key.  Alias is the perfect middle between those two outcomes. This spot is located on 14th Street, close to other popular nightlife establishments. It is an underground bar with a light menu for quick bites. The drink menu is very popular, with a list of specialty drinks unique to that venue. Patrons can also reserve VIP table sections in the mood calls for popping bottles.

Alias features many local DJs and sometimes brings in guests from other parts of the country. Most of the music is hip hop and R&B, with a mix of top 40. There is a small dance floor that doesn't get too packed and has plenty of space to dance with friends. This is one of those places that can either become a wild night of partying, or a low-key spot to grab a drink or two. Regardless of your motives for going out, Alias is a can't-miss bar in D.C.

6. Capo Italian Deli

Part of the allure of the nightlife is feeling important when you know people who can get you in without standing in line or getting discounted drinks. That is elevated when you know about secret bars throughout the city. Capo Italian Deli is such a location and a popular speakeasy in D.C.

Capo Italian Deli is a local deli on U Street. The storefront is just that, customers can come in and get a variety of sandwiches to appease their appetite. But some may wonder why there's a massive bouncer standing in front of the freezer door. The unassuming door is the gateway to what's one of the more popular bars in the city.

The space has two large bar areas and a big dance floor with tables and chairs lining the perimeter. It's a good setup because Capo is frequently packed, especially on Thursday nights when a hip-hop DJ spins both classics and current hits. Other nights may not be as crowded, but that allows this to be a great location to bring a date, impress them because you're in on the secret, and have a good conversation. 

7. Alice

Alice is another location in the Washington D.C. U Street Corridor. It's across the street from Sudhouse, which makes these two spots a perfect one-two punch for enjoying a night out. Of course, Alice has all the makings of a high-end nightlife attraction. The location has a huge bar on the second floor that's easy to access, even if the dance floor is packed. Toward the back of the second floor are multiple seating areas for those that may want to sit down and partake in a hookah. This accompanies a VIP section for those looking to celebrate with a bottle package.

But what makes Alice so intriguing is what is on the first floor. That portion of the bar is a restaurant offering pho to hungry patrons. You can eat the food there or take it with you after an intense night of dancing. Many bars offer food to go along with drinks, but providing pho at a bar is a nice switch that has made this place a popular attraction.

8. Wild Days

Washington D.C. has several rooftop bars that are popular attractions during the spring and summer months. Wild Days is one of these locations and is a mix of laidback with high energy. Located on the roof of the Eaton Hotel, Wild Days is one of two popular bars within the building. The space is large, and the DJ sits on an elevated platform in the middle of the dance floor with tables surrounding the perimeter. With its stunning views, Wild Days can quickly fill up during some of its popular events and nights.

Outside there is a patio for those who want to drink and eat outside to enjoy the weather. There is also a retractable roof to offer shade or cover from the rain. Wild Days also keeps the patio open during the fall and winter, offering heated spaces for those that want to grab an outdoor drink.

9. Allegory

If Wild Days is the well-known bar in the Eaton Hotel, Allegory is the hidden secret. It's located on the first floor of the building and is hidden away behind a secret bookcase. The area outside the speakeasy looks like a quiet area to listen to music and read books within the hotel lobby, but once in the bar, you'll love the atmosphere. This vibe makes it one of the premier locations in Washington D.C.

Allegory is so special thanks to the unique cocktails crafted in the location. The creative drink menu is a take on the famous book "Through The Looking Glass" with many of the names referencing characters like Alice, The Cheshire Cat, and The Mad Hatter. To go along with the unique flavors, the drinks are usually made in dramatic ways such as lighting the glass on fire. Allegory is certainly one of the top spots in the city to bring a date for a memorable night out.

10. Service Bar

While all the places on this list are popular for their own reasons, Service Bar holds a special place in the hearts of many. Its name is derived from its original use, as a place where people in the service and hospitality industry could congregate after long shifts. Since then, it has evolved into a great location to hang with friends while enjoying some of the best drinks in the city.

Service Bar is also on U Street, but a bit further away from the action of other spots on this list. Service Bar has a menu that features the classic hits of bar food, but what the location is known for are its exceptional drinks. The spot has its own spins on all the classic staples such as mojitos and old-fashioned cocktails but with enough unique flare to kick things up a notch. The menu also boasts illustrations of each drink so you can see exactly what you'll get before it comes out. Unlike some of the others, Service Bar doesn't have a dance floor or a DJ. But that doesn't stop it from being the perfect "watering hole" type location in Washington D.C. where everyone loves to meet up over drinks.