Passport DC is one of the most highly anticipated spring events in Washington, D.C., right after cherry blossom season. Each May, 70 embassies of the world fling open their doors for a month-long celebration of international cultures. Come for the food and country hopping, and stay for the entertainment and some of the best hospitality in the city.
What is Passport DC?
Passport DC is a spring festival unique to Washington, D.C. that takes place each May to celebrate the city’s vibrant international cultures and community. It’s the best way to tour many of the embassies in the district as well as get a taste for different food and customs.
The first two weekends in May host the biggest Passport DC events: the Around the World Embassy Tour and the EU Open House. Plan your trip to Washington, D.C. around these two dates to make the most out of the festival. These Passport DC tours are FREE and open to the public—no reservations required.
Around the World Embassy Tour
More than 50 embassies open their doors the first Saturday in May each year for the Around the World Embassy Tour. Cultural Tourism DC releases a list of embassies and events happening so you can plan your time.
You will not make it to all of the embassies in one day, so pick your top 4-6 to visit and create your route map. Keep in mind that the bigger, more popular events (Ireland, UK, Japan, etc.) will be crowded, so hit those as soon as the doors open.
Past embassy participants include:
Trinidad & Tobago
EU Open House
The EU Open House allows you to walk through the doors of all participating European Union embassies on the second Saturday in May. Keep in mind that this event is no secret: people travel from all over to take advantage of this prime opportunity.
Download the EUintheUS events app to get the latest updates on events, opening hours and information. You can also print out a tour map via the website at home.
Participating Embassies include:
Embassy Chef Challenge
Food, drink, culture and music are just four of the things to expect at the Embassy Chef Challenge. Chefs from across the globe battle it out for People’s Choice and Judge’s Choice awards, and you get to reap the benefits of their labor.
This is one of the only events you have to buy tickets for to attend. Buy tickets online to see this awesome food event at the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center.
What can you expect at Passport DC?
Many of the embassies pull out all the stops as this is the only event in the nation where you can go to an embassy open house. There are food carts galore so you can get a taste of each land (can you say mini-food tour?!). Drinks like coffee, beer and the local wines are often available.
Karate demonstrations, drummers, tango and alpacas are just a few of the things you might see when you pop into this festival.
Planning your Passport DC Trip
Embassy Day is a fascinating way to get a glimpse of different cultures without packing a bag and jet setting across the world. As you would with a cross-continental trip, definitely do some research before arriving. The EU Headquarters website features plenty of information to help plan your trip.
Make a decision on your top locations to visit and formulate a logical route. Take advantage of the free or low-fare transportation options including the prearranged tours, buses, metros and bicycles. Hit the ground running and enjoy a fun, unique opportunity.
Passport DC Tips
- All embassies are open from 10am to 4pm unless otherwise noted on the day of the event.
- Admission is free
- Embassies on International Drive are larger and often have shorter lines than those on Embassy Row.
Where is Embassy Row?
Embassy Row is the unofficial but commonly used name for the area where you’ll find a large number of embassies and diplomatic missions. It runs from Massachusetts Avenue NW between Scott Circle and the North side of the United States Naval Observatory. You can find more embassies along 16th Street NW as well.
Getting Around During Passport DC
If you are not Fitbit-obsessed and want to give your feet a break, grab a bike share and cycle over to your next location. It’s an affordable and time-saving option, and there are locations on most major intersections allowing users to easily return the bikes.
You can also pick up an electric scooter on almost any corner in Washington, D.C. Like many other large cities, they are pests littered everywhere, but they can come in handy when trying to cover a lot of ground.
Parking Near Embassy Row
Street parking is available but difficult at many embassy locations. Opt to take the D.C. Metro, or leave your car at your hotel and walk or bike to the embassies. When all else fails and you really need to park, check the ParkingPanda and SpotHero apps for open spots at local garages.
Closest Metro Stations to Embassy Row
There are two D.C. Metro stations that get you close to Embassy Row during Passport DC. Both involve a little walking, but are worth it so you don’t have to deal with the headache that comes from parking at this big event.
- Dupont Circle
- Van Ness/UDC Metrorail stations
Sample EU Open House Tour (Self-Guided)
Despite living in the D.C. area for some time I always seemed to miss out on Passport DC. It wasn’t until after I moved to Philadelphia that I decided to take the three-hour drive down to Washington, D.C. for the European Union Open House. My husband and I planned to take the train into D.C. and rely on public transit to get us around. However, our feet and the local Capital Bikeshare program became our go-to to traverse this very popular D.C. event.
Stop at the EU Headquarters First
We first stopped at the EU headquarters building to get a map of the route and general information, which had great presentations and interactive activities.
If you are not planning on taking a bus tour, you can probably cross this stop off of your list. Print a map from their website and consider a game plan prior to arrival. You won’t be able to hit all of the embassies in one day so prioritize your top must-see locations.
Most of the embassies are located on Embassy row, which is very walkable. The trick is to get there early. Lines form quickly and the freebies are limited.
Embassy of Sweden
Our first stop was the Embassy of Sweden. This was roughly a 10-minute walk from the EU headquarters towards Georgetown. The Ambassador of Sweden was available to answer questions and talk with visitors.
The building itself was architecturally stunning and very interactive with art displays you can help create and a children’s room with a variety of craft materials to spark their artistic side. Every year the children’s room has a new theme to get kids inspired, including 2019’s ‘Funky Town installation’ that allowed children to reimagine an urban city. The Embassy of course included furnishing from Ikea, offered delectable Swedish cuisine and a fun photo booth.
A must see at the Swedish Embassy is their rooftop deck. Their building sits beautifully on the Potomac River with 360-degree views of the city.
Embassy of Denmark
After deciding to ditch the one hour wait to get into Ireland, we made our way up to the Embassy of Denmark. The Danish embassy is tucked away atop a large hill past the massive Embassy of Italy.
Denmark was fascinating. They offered a private tour of the Ambassador’s entertaining quarters guided by a Danish employee. The Ambassador came out to answer questions at the conclusion of the tour.
You can enjoy Danish cookies and cheese here as you relax on the patio and pool deck (sorry, no swimming!). Interactive exhibits offer insight on Danish society and living.
The building itself is a stunning example of “green” architecture, true to Denmark culture. It is modern, open and simple as the Danish embassy encourages transparency in all they do. If you are looking for something off the beaten path, Denmark is worth the stop.
Embassy of Italy
By the time we left Denmark, the line for the Italian Embassy had diminished and we were able to walk right in. The Embassy of Italy had authentic pizza and libations for purchase. If you’ve already had lunch, simply sit back and enjoy the aroma.
The building itself was very modern but included unique Italian flair. The embassy offers a lot for children including an interactive make-your-own-pasta station, a martial arts tutorial, and soccer on the green out front.
The Italian Embassy is a great stop if you are traveling with children. If you have a sweet tooth, hop in line to try authentic Italian gelato. Be mindful, Italy is very popular all day long. We stopped in around 3:00 PM with no line but a lot of the free giveaways were gone.
Embassy of the United Kingdom
Our final stop was the Embassy of the United Kingdom. The UK grounds are absolutely stunning. This was one of the larger Embassies that we saw all day. We toured the gardens and the entertaining quarters, which included a formal dining room set for at least 20 guests. The British Embassy also had several interactive stations for both children and adults.
This is probably one of the more highly visited embassies so plan to get in line early or make it your last stop, as we did. You’ll have to scrape the bottom of the barrel for the freebies, but viewing the grounds made it worth the trip.
Need an Embassy Row Hotel? Here are a few of our favorites.
- The Fairfax at Embassy Row, 2100 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC 20008:
- The Embassy Row Hotel, 2015 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC 20036:
- Kimpton Hotel Palomar Washington DC, 2121 P Street NW, Washington DC 20037.
- Hotel Madera, 1310 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington DC 20036-15021 : Boutique hotel close to everything
- Residence Inn Washington DC/DuPont Circle, 2120 P St NW, Washington DC 20037: Family-friendly hotel with suites
Bringing the pup? Check out our favorite Pet-Friendly Hotels in Washington, DC.
Additional tips and reporting by Laura McKeever
PIN IT FOR LATER!
Washington, D.C. Travel Resources
Your Washington, D.C. vacation doesn’t have to be stressful. We’ve got the resources you need to plan your trip and make the most out of your time in the city and surrounding area. If this is your first time to the capital region, check out our Washington, D.C. trip planner and itineraries.
For transportation, check out our D.C. driving guide and our guide on how to ride the metro. For those flying in, you’ll want to read our guides to BWI, DCA and IAD airports.
Dive into our things to do in D.C., which is always being updated and evolving to make sure you have the latest and greatest activities to fill your checklist of things to do. Don’t forget about food, the real reason we all travel, right? Our Washington, D.C. restaurant guide will get you started and lead you into neighborhoods full of delicious treats.
For more resources, check out our pages on Baltimore, Richmond and beyond.
Where to Stay in Washington, D.C.
Budget: When it comes to Washington, D.C. budget hotels, prices vary depending on the season. In the middle of October, a four-star hotel could be under $150, while in December it may be over $400. At any given time of year, though, Hotel Hive is a safe bet for value when it comes to resting your head. If you are looking for a hostel, Hi Washington D.C. Downtown is well located for exploring all of the D.C. museums, restaurants and bars at the fraction of the price of a hotel. Check rates and availability here.
Mid-range: Every USA hotel chain can be found in Washington, D.C., but stay at the St. Gregory Hotel when you want a local touch. The modern, light-filled rooms will welcome you to the city, whether you are in a studio or suite with wraparound terrace. The hotel is walking distance to Georgetown, the National Mall and Embassy Row, making it easy to explore without a rental car. Check rates and availability here.
Luxury: You are spoiled for choice when it comes to luxury hotels in Washington, D.C. We love cozying up at the Graham Georgetown, a sweet little boutique hotel in one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city. Check rates and availability here. Major hotel brands like The Fairmont, Mandarin Oriental, Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons Hotel Washington D.C. and St. Regis Washington D.C. all have outposts here as well. If you want something a bit more historic, we recommend The Jefferson, Washington D.C. Ninety-nine rooms in this luxury boutique hotel bring together an attentive staff, petite spa, and the Michelin-starred Plume restaurant with all of the history you could hope for when you are in the nation’s capital. Check rates and availability here.
Family-friendly: We always gravitate towards the Kimpton hotels whenever we are traveling with kids. Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington D.C., once the General Post Office building, is located in the Penn Quarter neighborhood just four blocks off the National Mall near the National Gallery of Art. Price point is mid-range, depending on the time of year you visit. Parents will love the nightly wine events and evening nightcap perks as well as complimentary coffee and a tea bar each morning. Kids will love that they can borrow a fish friend for their stay, and that there is always a treat on hand that they can enjoy, and the robes are just their size. Kimpton also has adult and child-size bikes to borrow so you can cruise around town during your stay. Check rates and availability here.
Planning a Trip to Washington, D.C.? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Whether you are traveling domestically or coming from an international destination, travel insurance is a must for anyone coming to Washington, D.C. You will be exploring both inside and outdoors; hiking may even happen if you get adventurous. You could find yourself on a Segway or bike tour. The city is highly populated and accidents and crime do happen. This is not to scare you, but to prepare you for what could occur when you are checking out the free museums, exploring neighborhoods, finding the best food and learning about the local street art. Should something happen, travel insurance has you covered. Check rates and availability here.
We recommend and use Allianz Travel insurance. Our family is covered under a household plan, but their individual plans are just as robust if you are a solo traveler or a couple looking to get away. I’ve been a customer for more than five years and have always been in good hands with the Allianz team.
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