There might be no better warm winter spot in the city than in front of the crackling fireplace in the lobby lounge of the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown (3100 South St., NW; 202-912-4100). Historical note: The hotel’s building was once the neighborhood’s incinerator.
Arranged with overstuffed russet armchairs, coffee-table books, and a Steinway baby grand (a pianist tinkles away until midnight on weekends), the brick-lined space has the feel of a luxe loft. During the day, you can relax over the morning newspaper or an afternoon tea. At night, the mood stays civilized—a wilder party can be found in the adjacent Degrees lounge—as conversation is kept at a low din over flutes of Champagne and bitters and rum-and-grenadine cocktails. Even the small food (free bowls of wasabi peas) packs some heat.
Other cozy corners: One of our favorite parts of Old Town’s Restaurant Eve (110 S. Pitt St., Alexandria; 703-706-0450) is its firelit no-reservations lounge, where you can graze among Cathal Armstrong’s bar snacks and sip such drinks as a black-currant fizz. At Circle Bistro in Foggy Bottom (1 Washington Cir., NW; 202-293-5390), plush couches and a coffee table fanned with magazines are set in front of a modern hearth. The $5 martini happy hour runs longer than most—from 5 to 8 every weeknight.