Around the world tour of sorts: Embassy tours in DC this month

May 7, 2022

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There’s plenty to be said for booking an epic around-the-world trip, but if that’s not in the cards for this year, there’s a nice consolation closer to home this spring in our nation’s capital. Free tours are returning at dozens of embassies in Washington, D.C., on two Saturdays in May.

Aerial photo of the Washington Monument with the Capitol in the background. (Photo by Andy Dunaway/USAF via Getty Images)

After a two-year hiatus, the embassy tours begin this Saturday, May 7, as part of “Passport D.C.,” a monthlong celebration of the rich culture the city enjoys thanks to its vast diplomatic community. The event actually includes 31 days of programming but is largely highlighted by a long list of international embassies offering everything from tours to dancing, shopping and food, beer and wine tastings.

Even better: It’s all free.

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The embassy open houses begin May 7 with the “Around the World Embassy Tours,” which feature open houses at embassies for countries from Eastern Europe, Central America, South Asia and the Middle East, among other places.

Then, on Saturday, May 14, a long list of European Union countries will open the doors of their embassies as part of the “EU Open House.”

denmark embassy in washington dc
Embassy of Denmark. (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark)

All of the events do not require tickets and, again, won’t cost you a dime. However, organizers suggest you bring a government-issued ID in case it’s needed to get into a particular embassy or, perhaps more likely, to sample certain beverages. Organizers also recommend bringing a mask.

Italy Embassy Washington DC
Italy’s embassy in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of the Italian Government)

Related: Hotel review: The Ven at Embassy Row

Having attended college at American University in northwest Washington, D.C. — close to Embassy Row, where many of the embassies are located — I often marveled at how you could be driving so close to home but see buildings with architecture and decor so unique to the home countries they represent.

Finland's embassy in Washington, D.C.
Embassy of Finland in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland)

I never did get the chance to visit any of these embassies, though, so I see this as a great opportunity to experience a taste of the culture of many countries without actually booking and paying for an international trip.

This could be a good weekend activity, whether you live in the D.C. area or on the East Coast and want to drive or take the train to the city for a weekend getaway.

While many of the embassies are within walking distance of one another, know that others are a bit more spread out in the city, so your best bet may be to take an Uber or Lyft or ride the Metro. Or, you can hop on a Lyft Scooter; rides to and from the embassies are $2 off on May 14, when the EU open houses are taking place.

cameroon embassy in Washington, DC
Cameroon’s embassy in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of the Embassy of Cameroon)

The list of embassies participating in the “Around the World Embassy Tour” festivities on Saturday, May 7, is long, but here’s just a small taste of what you could experience:

  • Barbados is showing art, and doing food and drink tastings with a chef and mixologist, to go along with genealogy tracing.
  • Cameroon’s embassy will feature traditional music, drumming and dances. It’s also hosting tastings of food from Cameroon and showing a traditional dress display.
  • Thailand’s embassy has classical dancing and Thai boxing scheduled, along with a cooking demonstration and products for sale.
  • Peru will feature dancing from the Andean and Amazonian regions and have jewels and alpaca and cotton garments for sale from vendors.
  • Iraq is showing paintings and photographs, hosting Dabke dance performances and offering food samples.
Iraq embassy Washington DC
Iraq’s embassy in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq)

And here’s some of what caught my eye from the European Union embassy open houses taking place on May 14:

  • Belgium will have a “comic book tour” of the country and offer freshly baked waffles.
  • Croatia will serve wine from the Dalmatian Coast’s slopes. It will also take visitors on a tour of sorts of “Game of Thrones” filming locations.
  • Czechia will feature live music from a 1930s-style jazz band to complement the Czech beer on hand … and a dog show.
  • Portugal’s embassy will offer samples of the country’s famous custard tarts.

Related: White House tours are back

There are many more countries participating in both events, so check out the full lists of embassy options on the official event websites to pick out which venues you’d most like to visit.

Featured photo courtesy of Sweden Abroad.

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