A beautiful spring Saturday morning in Washington DC, and the whole city seemed to have converged on Eastern Market in the Capitol Hill District. After several days of doing the serious stuff; the museums, galleries and Library of Congress, Eastern Market was both a surprise and a pleasure.
When you leave the metro station at Eastern Market, and stroll about 20 meters north to “The Market”, as the locals call it, you sort of feel like you are in another city altogether.
The area has a bohemian, quirky, edgy feel to it. It feels like a neighborhood, where people actually might know one another, and every ethnicity on earth can be found here. No where to be seen are the suit and briefcase brigade of the rest of the city. It’s all about local characters and local flavor here. Everyone seemed to be just hanging out, soaking up the atmosphere, eating, catching up and enjoying the beautiful spring day.
There has been a market continually in operation here since 1873, and even after a fire gutted the 19th century brick building that houses part of the market, traders still worked just across the street until it was reopened in 2009.
Saturday is the busiest market day, when you also find traders lining the pavement outside the Market Hall selling their wares, from pottery to art, clothing, jewelry, hand made soaps, candles, painted ceramics, and many other good quality products. Also at weekends just across the street, there is a Flee Market, where vendors line each side of a parking lot, again selling any number of things including quality furniture and antiques, and a favorite of mine, old postcards and old books.
In the North Hall of the Market building, prints, jewelry, pottery, silk scarves, watercolors all vie for your attention. Things in here are a little more expensive, but of excellent quality.
The beautiful historic market buildings South Hall is a foodie’s paradise, and the place in DC to indulge your palate. It literally is food heaven, whether you buy delicious fresh produce to take home with you, or you sit down and enjoy a meal in the friendly, busy, colorful atmosphere of the place. If you do visit, be sure to try the renowned Blueberry Pancakes at the Market Lunch counter, you wont be disappointed. There’s a great array of fish on display at The Southern Maryland Seafood Company and the bakery counter just calls to you!
Eastern Market is not just about the market, it’s about the neighborhood. A walk around the area revealed beautiful old houses along tree-lined streets, with immaculately tended gardens. Interesting shops, such as Capitol Hill Books (my favorite), a book lovers paradise filled from floor to ceiling with second-hand books, books about everything imaginable. This place is a true gem, and I believe a much-loved treasure among Washingtonians. If you’re a cook, then be sure to head to Hill’s Kitchen on D Street. It’s an independent gourmet kitchenware store, and everything you could possibly want for is here.
If you haven’t already eaten in the market, then you might want to have lunch or dinner in one of the numerous lovely restaurants on Pennsylvania Avenue or 8th Street (Barracks Row). Or if you just need a quick break, there are plenty of cafes around here where you can sit for a while on the terrace or pavement and watch the comings and goings of the locals and tourists in this interesting and vibrant neighborhood.