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Washington, D.C. Basics

There’s a bit of logic in how the streets of Washington, D.C., were named and numbered. Once visitors understand the logic, getting around town becomes so much easier.

  • The District of Columbia, where Washington is located, is divided into four quadrants: northwest, southwest, northeast and southeast. The U.S Capitol building marks the very center where the quadrants meet. Always check the quadrant (NW, NE, SW, SE) of a local address before setting out, as it will improve your chances of being in the right section of the city.
  • Numbered streets run north to south.
  • Lettered streets run east to west (there are no J, X, Y, or Z streets), alphabetically becoming two-syllable names (Adams, Belmont), then three-syllable names (Allison, Buchanan) as you travel out farther from the center.
  • Avenues, named for U.S. States, run diagonally, often meeting at traffic circles and squares.

The area’s subway system, the Metro, is an efficient, affordable way to get around in and outside the beltway. Many attractions include the closest Metro station in their directions. As parking is in very limited supply in Washington, visitors are encouraged to park their car at their hotel and take the Metro.

With more than 106 miles of track and 86 stations on five color-coded rail lines, think of the Metro as just another attraction.

Washington, D.C. Convention
and Tourism Corporation

901 Seventh Street NW 4th Floor
Washington, DC 20001-3719
(202) 789-7000