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Tour the World Without Leaving DC: Visiting Embassies

Travel can be expensive — but in Washington, DC, you can visit dozens of countries without ever leaving the city. The District is home to more than 160 embassies and consulates, and visitors have a chance to experience the food, cultural, and customs of the countries represented by these diplomatic missions through tours and special events. The following are some ways that you can visit embassies throughout the area:

Passport DC (Annual Event): May 2, 2015

Passport DC is a month-long event put on by Cultural Tourism DC in May, where more than 50 of DC’s embassies host various activities. This year’s event will take place May 2, 2015.

In the World Embassy Tour, which typically takes place from 10 am to 4 pm, forty embassies will open their doors and provide different elements of the host country’s culture such as food, art, dance, and fashion. In the past, visitors have been treated to karate demonstrations, dance performances, sari wrapping lessons, and henna demonstrations. The event is open to the public and no reservations are required. For the full list of participating embassies and more information, visit here.

Related: Plan Ahead for These Washington, DC Landmarks & Tours

More specialized events include the European Union Embassies’ Open House and the National Asian Heritage Festival. Also taking place throughout the month are various international programming activities at centers and landmarks throughout the region. Such activities have included photography exhibits at the National Museum of African Art and dance demonstrations at the Korean Cultural Center.

Rounding out the month’s festivities is the Embassy Chef Challenge where more than a dozen embassy chefs will present signature culinary delights and compete for the Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice Awards. Tickets need to be purchased for this event — which usually run $250 per person — and include admission into the Embassy Chef Challenge Gala, international tastings, silent auction, and awards ceremony.

European Union Embassies’ Open House (Annual Event): May 9, 2015

In May, close to 30 embassies of 28 EU Member States to the United States host different activities during Europe Week. This year’s event will take place May 9, 2015.

Related: White House Garden Tours

A particularly exciting part of the Open House is the scavenger hunt. Download the Open House app (via iTunes or Google Play) and complete tasks at each of the 28 locations. At each embassy you will have three opportunities to complete tasks to earn points. The highest point winner will receive the ultimate EU gift and giveaway. You can plan your trip and find specific events for each participating embassy here.

Visit a Specific Embassy (Year-Round)

If there is a certain embassy you want to visit, you can locate necessary contact information from the full list of embassies online. Check the embassy website to learn the building’s hours, rules for admittance, and to find out whether you need to schedule an appointment. Check also for organized tours led by embassy staff. If no tour information is listed, reach out and request a tour — most embassies will allow for these visits. Be aware that you will likely need to present a passport or other form of ID to enter the premises.

While the ranking of the most popular embassies is a topic of much debate, visit as many as you can and decide a favorite for yourself!

Tour Embassy Row (Year-Round)

Embassy Row, the 2.5 mile stretch of Massachusetts Avenue going from 18th Street to 35th Street, encompasses a large swath of the city’s embassies and consulates. Plan your own informal walking tour and schedule visits with some of the embassies along the way. Or, reserve a free, guided tour with DC by Foot and learn about the history of sites like the Spanish Steps, Dupont Circle, and numerous embassies including India, Croatia, Greece, Luxembourg, Turkey, Romania, Korea, Netherlands, Ireland, and many more.

Embassy Events (Year-Round)

Many embassies in DC periodically open their doors for public events such as concerts, exhibitions, and lectures. To see upcoming embassy events, check out the International Club of DC calendar or the thingstodo website. Past events have included a Great Gatsby Ball at Embassy France and a Cinco De Mayo celebration at Embassy Mexico.

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