Perhaps you’ve been wandering down a street in DC and you see a foreign nation’s flag hanging on a beautiful building and you wondered “what’s that doing there?”. One of my personal favorite things about growing up in the DC area is the diversity of the folks who live here: from the locals with generations of native Washingtonian heritage to the recent immigrants here for work or school, to the small towners who came to the city to work for the government or an NGO. DC draws in people from literally all over the world. One of the places this is so apparent is a stretch of road known as Embassy Row.
Massachusetts Avenue is one of the diagonal roads that cuts across DC, bringing traffic from the more suburban areas into the heart of the city. One section of this road is heavily populated by embassies, the home of foreign nations, big and small, in the U.S. The basic start of Embassy Row is the Naval Observatory, home to the Vice President. As the road continues southeast, it is lined with embassies through Sheridan Circle and Dupont Circle, unofficially ending somewhere before Scott Circle. (The most interesting collection tends to stretch between Dupont Circle and the Naval Observatory.)
You can take tours of the area if you’re interested, but it’s also just a nice place for a wander. I will warn you – not every embassy is located on Embassy Row. For instance, the Swedish and Icelandic Embassies are located in Georgetown in the House of Sweden on the waterfront. Additionally, ambassador’s residences and other diplomatic buildings are spread throughout the city. That being said, a good majority of the 170+ embassies in DC are located on Embassy Row and you can’t walk this stretch of Mass Ave without hearing a different language or two, or seeing diplomatic plates line the streets, or if you’re unlucky, being stuck behind a motorcade.
One of many events that typically happen throughout the year is Passport DC, an opportunity for embassies to open their doors and share their nation’s culture. Many of these events won’t be happening as usual this year, but that just means folks outside of DC can experience them (without the crowds). For instance, most of the European Union nations open their embassy’s doors for visitors during the EU Open House Day in May. Instead, the effort to shine a light on the diplomatic missions has been moved online to HomeWithEU, taking place on Saturday May 9, 2020.
If you’re interested in visiting a particular embassy the next time you’re in DC, check their social media pages for open house dates or for links to join their mailing lists for events.