Picturesque Old Town Alexandria, just minutes from Washington, D.C. in Virginia, boasts camera-friendly gems that could keep an Instagrammer active for days, from waterfront art to hidden alleys to one-of-a-kind rowhouses. Featuring charming details and epic views, our Instagram guide to Old Town Alexandria includes top spots to stage the perfect shot, with inspiration from local Instagrammers. When you visit these standout sites and discover your own, remember to tag #VisitALX for the chance to see your captures credited on Visit Alexandria’s Instagram feed, @VisitAlexVA.
1. Waterfront Public Art: Groundswell
Visit Groundswell, the 2021 temporary public art installation from Brooklyn-based artist Mark Reigelman, on display at Waterfront Park from late March to November 2021. Groundswell brings an element of play to Alexandria’s changing shoreline with a ground mural depicting the floor of the Potomac River and more than 100 wood pilings topped with etched blue mirrors that shimmer like water. The installation was inspired by Alexandria’s history going back to the 18th century when drastic measures began to manipulate the city’s shoreline, when thousands of wood pilings were driven further into the Potomac River over time, thereby shifting the city’s waterfront over decades.
2. Spite House, the Skinniest Historic Home in America
Spy a petite, cobalt-blue home on Queen Street? You’ve found Spite House, America’s skinniest historic home, clocking in at a diminutive 7 feet wide. According to The New York Times, Spite House earned its name in 1830, when John Hollensbury built it to keep horse-drawn wagons and loiterers out of his alley. Pose with arms wide in front of the doorway or capture Spite House squeezed between its white and red neighbors from across the street. Then, search out more of Alexandria’s hidden spite houses.
3. Cobblestoned Captain’s Row
Stand on Captain’s Row, with smoothed-down cobblestones beneath your feet and light dappling through the arched tree canopy, and you’ll want to capture every angle of this Prince Street haven. The colonial streetscape in the 100 block of Prince Street will transport you to the late 1700s, when the block’s namesake, Captain John Harper, built many of the surrounding homes. If these stones could talk, they’d recount the many engaged couples, families, bridal parties and chance passersby who have stopped for a stunning photo shoot.
4. Queen Street Rowhouses
For another charming Old Town block, head to the vibrant strip of rowhouses on Queen Street’s 400 block. Count the colors you see while walking down the sidewalk, from Kelly green to sunny yellow to periwinkle blue. Don’t miss the array of American flags, gas-lit lanterns and tastefully-trimmed shrubbery. We recommend visiting during springtime to enjoy the surrounding pink-and-white blossoms.
5. Wales Alley on Lee Street
For an off-the-beaten-path Insta-spot, seek out the hidden alley in the 100 block of South Lee Street in Old Town. Brick walls, cobblestones and overhanging hedges edge in this cozy spot, the perfect locale for a perspective shot.
6. Charming Doors
Old Town’s striking doorways will catch your attention, and your camera’s viewfinder, when you least expect it. Featuring elaborate knockers and flickering lanterns, complementary colors and eccentric statues, these thresholds are like Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the city (sometimes literally, when springtime wreaths crop up). Try the 200 block of N. St Asaph Street, the 500 block of S. Lee Street and the 600 block of Princess Street. Keep your eyes peeled, and you’ll never experience Old Town the same way twice.
7. Cherry Blossom Paddlewheel Boat at the Marina
Stroll down to Old Town’s lively waterfront, and you’ll be tempted to post a picture of everything in sight. But first, wander over to the Cherry Blossom paddlewheel boat, a photogenic fixture of the Alexandria City Marina, located at 0 Cameron Street. A recreation of the 19th-century Victorian riverboat, the Cherry Blossom has hosted weddings, proms and even diplomatic dinners within its ornate façade. Zoom in on the filigree details, include the bustling waterfront or pull wide to include the serene river backdrop, ice cream cone optional.
8. Wilkes Street Tunnel
Here’s where you’ll want to switch on Portrait mode: Overgrown ivy sprawls over this former railroad tunnel, hauntingly evocative of its mid-19th-century origins. Wilkes Street Tunnel was first utilized by the Orange & Alexandria Railroad in 1851. Now, it’s an alluring underpass adjacent to Windmill Hill Park, located at 398 Wilkes Street in South Old Town. Scout both entry points, about two blocks apart, to find your favorite view. We’ve seen light-twirlers and lantern-wielders stage epic shots in the tunnel, so the avant-garde is encouraged.
9. Woodrow Wilson Bridge
Woodrow Wilson Bridge certainly cuts a sleek figure from afar, spanning the Potomac River and neighboring National Harbor’s glowing Capital Wheel. However, we think the unexpected perspective is the best way to portray this engineering feat. Photograph the bridge from below to capture its architectural intricacies. To access this secret spot, park in the Jones Point Park lot in Southeast Old Town or hop off the Mount Vernon Trail. As traffic zooms overhead, you can take your time testing every last angle.
10. Jones Point Lighthouse at Sunrise
Less than a mile south of buzzing Old Town, you’ll feel worlds—and centuries—away while snapping Jones Point Lighthouse. Walk from the lot at Jones Point Park and down the Mount Vernon Trail to find the last remaining riverside lighthouse in the Chesapeake Bay area, which operated from 1855 to 1926. Visit in the cool tranquility of sunrise and, as light creeps over the eastern shore, imagine waking up at daybreak as the lighthouse’s beacon beckoned ships into safe harbor. Film the fleeting clouds blowing over the bay, then explore the seawall, which holds the original 1791 southern cornerstone of Washington, D.C.
11. Old Town Theater Marquee
Take a photo with the iconic Old Town Theater marquee outside Patagonia at 815-1/2 King Street. The site opened as the Richmond Theater in 1914 as Alexandria’s first permanent theater. Over 100 years, the theater closed and reopened in various forms, including as the Old Town Theater, until the final theater operation closed in 2014. Eco-friendly national outdoor gear outlet Patagonia debuted in the space in fall 2020, maintaining the signature theater signage for passersby to enjoy.
12. George Washington Masonic National Memorial at Sunset
As your Insta-pilgrimage draws to an end, chase the setting sun westward to the George Washington National Masonic Memorial. This Egyptian-inspired tower shines from all sides, cutting an impressive silhouette against the twilight sky and offering a sweeping vista eastward of Carlyle, Old Town and the Potomac. Wind up to 101 Callahan Drive to experience the unique edifice up close.