After a two-year pandemic hiatus, Passport DC returns this month, along with its beloved Around the World Embassy Tour. On May 7 and 14, you can get a microdose of travel as D.C. embassies and cultural centers from three continents open their doors for history lessons, food and entertainment.
There will be pisco sours at the embassy of Peru, and bachata and merengue dance classes at the Dominican Republic’s, among other programming from the more than 30 countries participating in the first weekend alone.
Steven Shulman, executive director of Cultural Tourism DC, recommends making the most out of the weekends by visiting embassies that are near one another.
Jade Womack, who runs events site Clockout DC, created helpful maps with itineraries to visit embassies near each other. The EU Open House also made a Google Map for visitors. Womack warns that countries popular with American travelers, such as Costa Rica or Greece, draw crowds and smaller embassies may have longer lines because they can accommodate fewer guests at a time.
Womack suggests exploring less familiar embassies that should have shorter lines, plus more access to food and freebies.
Austin Graff, By The Way’s local D.C. guide writer, suggests either going as early as possible or waiting until later in the afternoon after many families have finished tours. He also recommends starting with embassies that are farther from Metro stops. Embassies close to the Dupont Circle Metro may be swamped, while those by Observatory Circle and Van Ness Street should be less so.
Here are seven embassies to visit and tips to keep in mind as you tour “the world” this month.
Before you go
Tickets or reservations are not required for tours, but you should expect to wait in line. In the past, waits have hovered around 20 to 30 minutes, but they can be double that at popular embassies, Womack said.
Bring a government-issued ID, as well as a mask since each embassy sets its own mask requirements. It’s a good idea to bring your vaccination card, too, since embassies might have mandates. Embassies are generally open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with some exceptions, so check ahead as you plan your visits.
For those with accessibility concerns, Shulman says the embassies along International Court have more contemporary buildings with ramps for wheelchairs and strollers.
Womack likes touring embassies that don’t often host public events, like the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq. Visitors can expect to see photography exhibits, sample Iraqi cuisine and watch musical performances with Dabka dancing.
1801 P Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20036
One of Graff’s favorite visits in past years was to Eritrea, which he called a hidden gem. Womack has a one-mile itinerary that starts with a visit to the Eritrean Embassy — where you’ll see cultural displays and learn about the history of the African country — followed by a walk south to stop by Iraq, Trinidad and Tobago, and Tunisia, ending at the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center to learn about Oman.
1708 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20009
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 7, the Royal Thai Embassy’s open house is covering all the cultural bases, from showcasing Muay Thai (Thai boxing), traditional music, Thai dancing and cooking demonstrations with samples promised afterward. For more information on the Royal Thai Embassy’s open house, visit its website.
1024 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20007
Graff recommends stopping by the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan, located near embassies of Nepal, Iraq, South Africa and Bolivia. Visitors can expect cultural activities, live music and dancing, a photo booth, activities for kids and tastes of Azerbaijani cuisine.
2741 34th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20008
Graff suggests putting the Embassy of Latvia on your list for May 14. Guests have the chance to tour the Alice Pike Barney Studio House, a historic building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Fitting as the building was often used for musical performances in the early 20th century, the embassy will have Latvian folk dancers perform for the occasion.
2306 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20008
This year, the open house at the Mexican Cultural Institute will highlight the state of Puebla in honor of Cinco de Mayo, which celebrates Mexico’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Ix-Nic Iruegas, the center’s executive director, says visitors can expect a “full day of Mexican joy” with music, mezcal, storytellers, traditional food, lotería (a traditional Mexican card game) and a pop-up shop selling goods from Puebla including textiles, honey and Talavera pottery. Mexico’s open house runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 7, and 12 to 4 p.m. on May 14.
2829 16th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20009
On May 14, the Embassy of the Czech Republic (one of Womack’s recs) will be hosting a dog show among other activities. The theme of the weekend is the 1930s, with entertainment from a jazz band and Lindy Hop dancers. If that’s not enough, there will also be a bounce house and folk fashion show.
3900 Spring of Freedom St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20008