News & Politics

Cobblestone Charm: Old Town

Today, Old Town is a prime contender for Washington's grande dame thanks to its historic homes, fine antique stores, and pedestrian-friendly shopping and night life.

Who lives here: There aren’t as many VIPs as in Georgetown; Mark Warner, James Carville, and Mary Matalin are among them. Old Town attracts an older demographic—far fewer college kids but many dual-income childless couples.

Homefront: Most of the Federal, Victorian, and Colonial townhouses that dominate Old Town are from the 18th and 19th centuries. Says architect Charlie Moore, “Every house is a little bit different, which gives the neighborhood a texture and character that people love.” Touches like beautiful woodwork and masonry, he says, render Old Town “impossible to replicate.”

On the market: Though prices range from about $450,000 to more than $4 million, Coldwell Banker agent Charles York says most fall between $700,000 and $1.2 million.

Local favorites: Misha’s for house-roasted coffee, Landini Brothers for cozy Italian fare, and Irish pub O’Connell’s for an after-work beer.

Welcome change: The city recently dropped its ban on outdoor dining at restaurants. Sidewalks along King Street and near the waterfront come to life in warm weather.

Come together: The Campagna Center’s Junior and Supporting Friends groups are Old Town’s version of the Junior League. Equal parts community service and social networking, the two organize the Scottish Christmas Walk as well as informal get-togethers.

The year-round farmers market at Market Square—one of the longest-running in the country—bustles on Saturday mornings. Old Towners come for the fresh produce and baked goods and the chance to chat.

Only in Old Town: Sandy Mejias—whose Old Town School for Dogs has trained, groomed, and cared for thousands of canines—says Old Town is a trendsetter when it comes to dogs: “Puggles were popular here before the rest of the area.”

Drawback: Two-hour parking limits are strictly enforced. For many who work here, tickets are a way of life.

How it beats Georgetown: Old Towners say it’s more intimate. “I see people I know almost everywhere I go,” says Elizabeth Todd, who owns the hip boutique the Shoe Hive.

On the Web: Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association (; City of Alexandria (; Alexandria Times (; Alexandria Gazette Packet (