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Around the World in Washington, DC

Imagine your two-and-a-half-hour drive to Washington, DC as a budget-friendly shortcut to a trip around the world. With DC’s focus on international affairs — whether business, political, or cultural — a visit here is not only an all-American trip to our nation’s capital, but also an educational adventure across multiple continents. Pick your country (or a few), pack your bags, and head south, no passport or plane ticket needed.


Here’s a mind twister: In a neighborhood called Brookland, located northeast of the Capitol in Washington, DC, lies a taste of Rome. The area is filled with several Roman Catholic institutions. Visit the Basilica of the National Shrine to the Immaculate Conception on Michigan Avenue. It’s the largest Roman Catholic Church in North America and one of the 10 largest churches in the world. The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, founded in 1899, offers free tours on the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Saint John Paul II National Shrine is dedicated to the life and legacy of the man who served as pope for 27 years.


All of the businesses in DC’s Chinatown have their names spelled in Chinese characters on the front. This neighborhood requirement adds to the authenticity of the area. Pause for a picture by the colorful Friendship Arch at the corner of 7th Street and H Street NW. Then step into Tony Cheng’s, where you can get two steamed pork buns for less than $5.


The Alliance Française de Washington offers all-things French in DC. The nonprofit is committed to connecting people of different backgrounds to increase appreciation and understanding of cultural differences. Take part in French movie screenings, discussions, and wine tastings for a bargain of a price.


The Mexican Cultural Institute of Washington, DC, seeks to strengthen relations between Americans and Mexicans by sharing information about Mexico’s past and present with the local community. For the past 25 years, the center has been developing cultural programs to educate others about Mexico. The center has an ongoing lineup of exhibitions; talks; and musical, culinary, and cinematic events. Many of the events offer free admission.


Visit the Goethe-Institut in the Penn Quarter neighborhood for an overview of German culture. The institute is committed to promoting German culture through organizing cultural events and examining big-picture, worldwide questions, such as the role of arts in urban development. The summer lineup includes a number of film screenings, exhibitions, and discussions. Many of the events are free or cost less than $10.

Click here to start planning your international vacation in Washington, DC. Enjoy the affordability of domestic travel with all the cultural touchstones of a trip around the world.