10 Ways to Experience French Culture around Washington, DC

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1.       Taste Culinary Delights

From quaint coffee shops to fine dining experiences, Washington, D.C., offers a variety of eateries and cafés with French and Francophone-inspired dishes and beverages. Enjoy a cup of coffee at Bourbon Coffee, a “crop to cup” fair-trade Rwandan coffee shop or sample a delectable salade niçoise for brunch at Le Diplomate. Bon appétit!

Image Source:

Cyclonebill (2012). Pain au chocolat [Online image]. Retrieved January 25, 2016 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pain_au_chocolat_(7907046322).jpg.

2.       Visit Art Exhibits

Expand your connaissance of art by touring galleries and museum displays around the D.C. area. Check out Mon Cheri Gallery, which features Haitian fine art, or take a guided tour in French at the National Museum of African Art! The National Gallery boasts French impressionist and post-impressionist tableaux, the Philips Collection houses works by Degas, Monet, Renoir, and Rodin, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts highlights its French portrait collection.

Image Source:

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste (1880-1881). Luncheon of the Boating Party [Online image]. Retrieved January 25, 2016 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_-_Luncheon_of_the_Boating_Party_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg.

3.       Attend a Lecture

Interested in learning more about Francophone culture in particular? Sit in on a lecture given by the Friends of the Congo, an organization that raises awareness about current events in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Or visit the Alliance Française to attend a reading of a well-known French or Francophone literary work.

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Nightstallion (2005). Flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo [Online image]. Retrieved January 25, 2016 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_the_Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo.svg.

4.       Participate in a Festival

Time-travel back to eighteenth-century France to celebrate Bastille Day at the Hillwood Museum’s annual French festival. Across the estate and in the museum, you can listen to traditional French music, decorate a jewelry box, and take a tour of the fine art collection.

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JIIm06 (2009). Hillwood Museum Exterior Front [Online image]. Retrieved January 25, 2016 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hillwood_Museum_Exterior_Front.jpg.

5.       Attend a Concert

The Opera Lafayette, an instrumental ensemble, performs eighteenth-century French compositions, specifically operatic works. Check out their performances scheduled for the 2018 season!

Image Source:

Moore, Andrew (2015). Stage – Orchestra Warming Up [Online image]. Retrieved January 26, 2015 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stage_-_Orchestra_Warming_Up_(17642059945).jpg.

6.       Watch a Film

Our nation’s capital offers a plethora of film festivals and movie showings throughout the year. For contemporary French cinematic productions, attend a screening at the Avalon Theatre or the French Embassy.


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Honeytrap-STILL-2. [Online image]. Retrieved February 1, 2016 from http://nyadiff.org/honeytrap-best-of-adiff-ny-2015/

7.       Tour the Library of Congress

From rare editions of Jules Verne novels to original maps drawn by Samuel Champlain, the Library of Congress houses an impressive collection of printed French works—over one million volumes. Check out the European Reading Room to discover a mélange of treasures!

Image Source:

Túrelio (2000). LibraryOfCongress [Online image]. Retrieved January 26, 2015 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LibraryOfCongress_07130009.jpg.

8.       Read a Book

Explore Bonjour Mama, a French-language bookstore specializing in children’s literature, to find a classic or contemporary roman or check out Tempo Book Distributors to brush up on your grammar skills!

Image Source:

DeBoeck (2011): Le Bon usage [Online image]. Retrieved January 26, 2016 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Le_Bon_usage.jpg.

9.       Play a Game

Try your hand at a French culture game online, provided by the French Embassy  or strike up a conversation amongst a French-speaking Meetup group. Salut!

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Roanokecollege (2013). Coffee Shop Talk [Online image]. Retrieved January 26, 2015 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coffee_Shop_Talk_(8474392892).jpg.

10.   Take a Walking Tour

Pierre Charles L’Enfant (yes, like the Metro stop), designed certain architectural elements of Washington, D.C., at George Washington’s request. L’Enfant took his inspiration from the sprawling structural marvel of the Chateau of Versailles, palatial residence of numerous French kings. Trace the similarities implemented by L’Enfant while taking a walking tour on the rues of D.C!

Image Source:

Library of Congress. HABS DC, WASH,612- (sheet 22 of 32) - L’Enfant-McMillan Plan of Washington, DC, Washington, District of Columbia, DC [Online image]. Retrieved January 26, 2016 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:L%27Enfant-McMillan_Plan_of_Washington,_DC,_Washington,_District_of_Columbia,_DC_HABS_DC,WASH,612-_(sheet_22_of_32).tif