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. Mirror Mirror on the Waterfront
To launch your Instagram expedition in style, head to Old Town’s Waterfront Park at 1 King Street and step inside Mirror Mirror, an immersive public art installation on site from March to November 2019. Be bathed in rainbow tones as you explore the 25-foot diameter, eight-foot tall art installation. This temporary site-specific work, by New York’s SOFTlab design studio helmed by artist and architect Michael Szivos, blends history and technology to inaugurate Alexandria’s annual public art series. Wear bright colors to pop in front of the vibrant walls and post your pics using #mirrormirrorALX.
2. Beaded Curtain Mural at the Torpedo Factory Art Center
Steps from the waterfront, it’s raining beads outside the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Colorful dots cascade over on the loading dock’s ombre-orange, corrugated garage door in artist Erin Elizabeth Curtis’s whimsical mural, titled Beaded Curtain. Stay there long enough and you may see a professional photo shoot or a resident artist raise the door to move work into their studio. For more murals, head to the Del Ray neighborhood and snap your way through our self-guided walking tour.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Alexandria’s Painted Ladies
South Old Town boasts Alexandria’s rendition of San Francisco’s famed “painted ladies.” Tucked into the 500 block of S. Fairfax Street, these long-and-lean beauties rub elbows for a picturesque effect. With pastel and tangerine hues, steep gables and quirky window accents, you’ll want to feature the full panorama.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. Lower King Street with the Trolley
Directly off the waterfront, lower King Street is Alexandria’s prime people-watching corridor. From old-fashioned ice cream shops to boutique-browsing to sidewalk dining, the brick, historic streetscape buzzes with activity. The free King Street Trolley picks up passengers at the base of King Street, flaunting a retro red aesthetic perfect for a Boomerang. Then, step inside for a ride up the bustling thoroughfare, ready to hop off along the way if anything catches your eye.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. Neon at Night
Finally, satisfy your eyes, appetite and Instagram followers at once with a nighttime sojourn to some of Old Town Alexandria’s neon-lit hotspots. The Majestic lures in passersby with its luminous signs, then wows them with a galleried interior and inventive, daily-rotating menu. Later, grab a creative cocktail at The People’s Drug, with edgy signage hanging over the lively bar, and cap the night off on a sweet note beneath the buzzing “churros” fixture at Urbano 116.