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Walking Tour of Old Town Alexandria

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Old Town Alexandria

Photo © Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association

Old Town Alexandria is a quaint historic town just on the other side of the Potomac River from Washington, DC. Dating back to 1749, Alexandria’s riverfront was an important colonial port during the colonial, revolutionary and Civil War periods. Today Old Town Alexandria is a revitalized waterfront with cobblestone streets, colonial houses and churches, museums, shops and restaurants.

How to get to Old Town Alexandria

You can take the metro and get off at the King Street stop and walk about 10 blocks to the east. If you’d rather save your feet for your sightseeing tour, take a DASH bus for a dollar. To drive to Old Town, take the George Washington Memorial Parkway to East King Street. See an interactive map and directions from around the region. There are parking meters on the street and plenty of parking garages in the area. This is a busy tourist area, so start out early and plan to spend several hours exploring, shopping and enjoying a meal.

See a Photo Gallery of Old Town Alexandria

Begin your walk at the Ramsay House Visitor Center at the corner of King and Fairfax Streets, in the heart of the Old Town Alexandria Historic District. Pick up a map and some brochures of the many museums and businesses in the area.

Head north on Fairfax Street and turn left on Cameron until you come to the redbrick buildings across Royal Street, known as Gadsby's Tavern Museum. Gadsby’s is an Early American-style restaurant and a museum of 18th-century antiques. George and Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had temporary quarters here. The buildings are noted for exquisite Georgian architecture, preserved and restored to a late eighteenth century appearance. You can take a 30-minute guided tour of Gadsby’s or come back here later for lunch or a snack.

From Gadsby's, continue west on Cameron Street and turn right on St. Asaph Street. You will cross Princess Street. The cobble paving stones are original and traffic is banned here. Go one block farther on St. Asaph, and turn left at Oronoco Street. The house on your right at number 607 was The Boyhood Home of Robert E. Lee . It is now a private residence.

Across Oronoco Street, at the corner of Washington, is the Lee-Fendall House , the home of several generations of Lees. The tour here is brief and interesting, including a display of Lee family documents, among which is the original copy of Harry Lee’s eulogy of George Washington.

Continue on Washington Street and you will come to the Lyceum , a city historical museum. This free museum is worth a short visit browsing the two galleries, historical exhibits of Alexandria and a gift shop.

Next, head to the intersection of Washington and Prince Streets to view the bronze sculpture of The Confederate Soldier. In 1861, when Alexandria was occupied by Union forces, 800 soldiers marched out to join the confederate army. This statue marks the point at which they gathered. This is a memorial to the fallen soldiers. One hundred names are carved onto the base.

Continue walking east on Prince Street and turn left on Fairfax Street to the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop which displays a collection of early medical supplies and hand-blown glass containers.

Head south on Fairfax Street to Duke Street to the Old Presbyterian Meeting House. The graveyard here has a marker commemorating the Unknown Soldier of the Revolutionary War.

Retrace your steps back to Prince Street and turn right. Cross Lee Street to Captain's Row. This is a cobblestone section of Prince Street that runs along the Potomac riverfront. Stroll down to the waterfront park to see the scenic view of the river.

Continue north on Union Street. You will come to the Torpedo Factory. Torpedoes were manufactured here during World War I and II. Today, the building houses the studios of about 160 artists. You can watch printmakers, jewelry makers, sculptors, photographers, painters and potters at work. This popular attraction is a great place to find unique gifts and decorative items for your home.

Guided Tours: There are a variety of fun guided tours of Old Town Alexandria available including cruises on the Potomac River, horse drawn carriage rides, ghost tours, and historic walking tours. See Alexandria, Virginia Sightseeing Tours

See also, Top 10 Things to Do in Alexandria, VA

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