Old Town has hundreds of boutiques, antiques stores, art galleries, and gift shops selling everything from souvenir T-shirts to 18th-century reproductions. Most of the best stores are interspersed among the multitude of restaurants and offices on King Street from the waterfront to the Metrorail station. Plan to spend a fair amount of time browsing between visits to historic sites. A guide to the city's 50-plus antiques and collectibles stores is available at the visitor center (you'll pay a premium for antiques here, so you may want to wait to buy if you're going to Fredericksburg).
Notable local favorite shops include Bellacara, 1000 King St. (www.bellacara.com; tel. 703/299-9652), for fragrant soaps and more than 50 brands of luxe skin- and haircare products; Society Fair, 277 S. Washington St. (www.societyfair.net; tel. 703/683-3247), Cathal Armstrong’s (of Restaurant Eve) venture, part bakery/market/butchery/wine bar/demo kitchen; An American in Paris, 1225 King St., Ste. 1 (www.anamericaninparisoldtown.com; tel. 703/519-8234), where one must knock on the door to enter and sort through the beautiful, one-of-a-kind cocktail dresses and evening gowns; and Red Barn Mercantile, 1117 King St. (www.redbarnmercantile.com; tel. 703/838-0355), a great place to buy gifts, no matter the occasion or person, college graduate to toddler’s birthday.
One essential stop is the Torpedo Factory Art Center, 105 N. Union St., between King and Cameron streets on the Potomac River (tel. 703/838-4565; www.torpedofactory.org). This block-long, three-story waterfront structure was built by the U.S. Navy in 1918 and operated as a torpedo shell-case factory until the early 1950s, then used as storage for artifacts from the Smithsonian Institution. Today, it houses 84 working studios where artists and craftspeople create and sell their works. The shops and galleries are open daily 10am to 5pm, to 9pm on Thursday. It's closed New Year's Day, Easter, July 4th, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.