With finals fast approaching, it can be all too easy to feel trapped in Foggy Bottom amid the pressure of studying, but take the time to traverse the blocks of the D.C. metro area lined with fresh spots to hit the books.
The city surrounding campus offers numerous quiet, concealed locations that make the perfect fit for peak productivity and stunning landmark views. Instead of stowing yourself away in your dorm for the next month, try one of these five secluded study spots spread out across the District and its suburbs.
Library of Congress
For your first excursion, saunter to the heart of the District and study at the Library of Congress. Simply register for a Reader Identification Card at the Reader Registration Center in the Madison Building with a government-issued identification card and you’ll be set to hit the books.
The Library of Congress’s grand main reading room sits under a mammoth dome lined with marble columns reaching down to the base of the floor, containing 226 connected semicircular wooden research desks rounding the entire space. From Egypt to Rome, a mural of 12 empires thought to contribute the most to human civilization stand in a circle around the dome, which overlooks the reading room far below. Sixteen larger-than-life bronze statues of figures including Plato and Michelangelo representing thought and activity circle the room on an upper level.
The library features a number of reading rooms spread through its various buildings themed around genres with books tailored to each topic, including a prints and photography room and a law library. If you have an ambitious research project due at the end of the semester, you can book a three-to-four-hour research appointment for one of the library’s numerous collection-specific reading rooms. For the international affairs major concentrating in Asia, check out the Asian reading room, and for those studying theater and dance, peruse the Performing Arts room.
101 Independence Ave. SE. Reading rooms are generally open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, though specific hours vary.
Cafe du Parc
Instead of letting final exams disrupt your ventures around D.C., slip away in the early morning to this Federal Triangle-based French restaurant and enjoy refreshing drinks, including any formulation of coffee. Enjoy an extensive brunch menu and sights of some of the District’s most iconic locations like the Washington Monument and Pershing Park. The brasserie offers an extensive menu for any meal – including a wide variety of coffees like the Italian-inspired iced espresso crema shakerato, espresso shots mixed with sugar and syrup to fuel your studying.
Cafe du Parc boasts an idyllic location where you can stay visually stimulated as you study and take in the sights of D.C. while avoiding the middle of the bustling tourist scene. As you sit at one of the restaurant’s many outdoor tables or within its upscale interior, check out the fountains and statues of Pershing Park and the World War I Memorial right across the street. When you start dozing off reviewing your notes, refocus your attention to catch some glimpses of the White House, Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol in the distance before returning to your zone of focus.
1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in the Willard InterContinental Hotel. Open from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday and Monday and 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
La Coop Coffee
Discover a homely and secluded cafe near the outer edges of the District in Manor Park. La Coop Coffee offers sweet, caffeinated brews imported straight from the owner’s hometown of Union Cantnil, Guatemala. But be careful not to stumble across its unassuming residential-looking building – its signature cafe offers the the ideal environment for you to conquer your papers inside.
The exterior of the shop looks like a suburban house complete with a white picket fence, but inside the living room-sized space sit plenty of tables, couches and counters. Students can study in a peaceful space while surrounded by white walls covered in shelf-seated plants and pictures of the Guatemalan farmers who provide the shop’s coffee.
If the inside of the store, which can only hold about 10 people at a time, feels too loud or cramped for you, the grassy backyard filled with picnic tables and a wooden porch features plenty of seating in a quieter environment, where students can escape campus and find a snug, homey setting.
5505 1st St. NW. Open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends.
Instead of situating yourself within Gelman Library’s stacks of books and dull fluorescent lights for days on end, meander over to this historic bookstore and bistro in Adams Morgan. Between its rustic wooden tables and bookshelves, floor to ceiling windows and a mural of a candle exuding streams of rainbow light above the entrance, this cafe gives you the chance to seclude yourself within rows upon rows of bookshelves free from the fluorescent lights of Gelman Library.
Potter’s House offers indoor seating at tables spread throughout the store in addition to limited patio seating. Take a peek at the menu, full of warm, caffeinated drinks under $5, packing flavors like caramel, nut and chocolate. Read about Native American culture or the feminist movement to immerse yourself in the store’s books that specialize in topics like equity and justice – even if you finish your studies early you’ll have no shortage of stories in these shelves.
1658 Columbia Road NW. Open from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekdays and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.
Take a day just outside of the District to visit this southern-inspired cozy cafe in Arlington for a taste of New Orleans. Though far-reaching in size, this cafe offers a quiet environment with its specialty New Orleans cuisine that takes heavy influence from Cajun, Creole and soul food. With a roughly 15-minute Metro ride from campus to Court House station, walk two minutes to the hidden away spot at the bottom of Arlington’s high-rise buildings. The bakery hosts patio seating and symmetrical square tables and chairs – certain to suit your study set-up preferences.
Bayou Bakery presents an extensive menu of baked goods, most notably their beignets ($3.75) – New Orleans-style donuts which are essentially fried cubes of dough covered in powdered sugar. The pastries are the perfect treat if you’re in need of a sugar boost when studying wears you down.
1515 N Courthouse Road, Arlington, Virginia. Open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.
This article appeared in the November 21, 2022 issue of the Hatchet.