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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

A Week at the Hotel Monaco Washington, D.C.

Hotel Monaco Washington DC ExteriorI have mixed feelings about my stay at the Hotel Monaco in Washington, D.C. But, regardless of the good and bad, in the end it always comes down to one thing…


The Hotel Monaco Washington is in a prime spot for exploring Washington, D.C. It is located right across the street from the National Portrait Gallery, kitty-corner to the Verizon Center – which is where, among other teams, the Capitals and Wizards play – only two blocks from Ford’s Theatre, and four from the National Mall. It’s also near several Metro stops, so catching the train to go to area Washington, D.C. attractions is easy.

There are few hotels which can boast this type of access. I looked extensively before booking, going back and forth on a few locations, but ultimately settled on the Hotel Monaco because of its access to the hip Penn Quarter restaurant and bar scene, the attractions, and transportation options. When I hopped on the shuttle at the end of my vacation, though, I’m not sure I chose the best option.


Washington, D.C. is deep in history of all kinds. It’s hard to go somewhere and not have it be known as the place where some famous person of some age gave a speech there. Well, the Hotel Monaco is no different. It is a fantastic historic property, and looked the part, too, in addition to the beautifully and tastefully decorated public areas and rooms. The old stone walls just reek of stories waiting to be discovered. Thankfully the hotel lays it out there for its guests in their room guides: “The hotel occupies what was once Washington, D.C.’s General Post Office, built in 1839 by Robert Milles, the same architect to design the Washington Monument. Samuel Morse broadcast his first telegram from here, the ballroom once served as a make-shift hospital during WWI, and Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech from this very building.”

Hotel Monaco Washington DC Room


Knowing a little about the history of the building before my arrival, I was excited to stay there. A coworker warned me, though, that booking at the Hotel Monaco could be a mistake, since the boutique-style rooms are quite small. He was right. They were small. But I didn’t mind, since I was spending the bulk of my time out and exploring all of the sites. Besides, my Frommer’s guide said it “is where [they’d] stay if [they] were a visitor to D.C.” So, with that sort of recommendation, what could possibly be wrong? Well, quite a few things actually.

Hotel Monaco Washington DC Scuff MarksAs I unpacked I noticed the armoire’s door was broken. A piece of wood inside came apart from the door and was dangling loose. There were also scuff marks on a wall that had not Hotel Monaco Washington DC Broken Armoirebeen cleaned up, the desk chair was stained, and an open area between the bathroom and the exterior wall was essentially wasted space, the management placing nothing there but a luggage stand; a complete dresser would have been nice so I could put away my clothes, instead of simply living out of my suitcase for a week in a back corner of the room.

The largest problem, though, the most nagging issue I experienced during my stay is that the windows were incredibly drafty. And I mean that in more than one regard. The primary problem with them – the regular exterior window for the building, an additional one inside of it, the drapes, andHotel Monaco Washington DC Room Wasted Space some room-darkening curtains – was the cold. I could be perfectly comfortable anywhere else in the room, but sitting at the desk right next to the window, gave me the shivers. It also, the secondary problem, didn’t help prevent the noise from the Poste restaurant and bar from finding its way – thump, thump, thump – up into my room until the late hours of the night, making it impossible to concentrate on anything except a television program.

I complained about the noise on my final night, an evening when I was actually trying to get some work done, but the front desk did nothing about it. They instead simply pointed out the obvious – it’s coming from the restaurant. Thanks for that. I also left the door to the wardrobe open on my first day, hoping housekeeping would see and fix the break which was quite obvious, but they did nothing more than close the door and leave it for another day. The same is true with the scuff marks; they were passed over just the same.

Hotel Monaco Washington DC Poste Conserve CouponsFOOD

After housekeeping decided to not actually clean or fix anything in the room – the armoire, the scuff marks, etc. – I decided to place the conservation note on the door and accumulate $5 coupons for use in the restaurant. I was there, I knew I’d write about the dining, so I figured I ought to at least give the food a try. Economical hardly comes to mind, though, when looking at the menu. I k new that going in, too, and was happy to have a little splurge. But instead of living it up on a dinner I could really not afford, I opted to save them for breakfast. The three coupons I’d pick up would just cover the cost of my food, so it would only be a couple of bucks out of my pocket for a tip.


Hotel Monaco Washington DC American BreakfastThe American Breakfast – toast, eggs, hasbrowns, and bacon – was advertised at $14, and that is without juice or coffee. Factor in some extra money for taxes, service charges, delivery fees, and a tip, and you’re looking at a whopping $25 total. I probably would have lost my mind had I not had the coupons to use, especially considering all of the fabulous restaurants and bars I could have frequented in the Penn District for food at any time of the day. There are a lot of good options in the area for food and drinks – a handful of which I tried – something which makes the hotel’s location that much more valuable in my mind.


After checking in I ordered a pizza while I unpacked. The front desk clerk knew I was starving. I told him so. He even asked the concierge to give me some menus so I could phone in an order. But he neglected to tell me about the $1 fee for each local call made. He also never informed me about possible wireless services or offered to give me information on other dining options in the area. If I were staying at a budget motel I would think nothing of it. But seeing as I was paying extra to stay somewhere nice, to have extra services offered to me, I left upset when presented with a bill with some hidden fees, which included, yes, a double charge for my stay.

I booked my air and hotel as a package through Expedia and paid in advance. Everything should have been covered and settled long before my arrival, since the charge was made and paid for on my credit card. I was given a statement upon checkout, though, with a few additional charges – like for the local calls I made. When I returned to Denver, I found a double charge for my stay when I checked in on my account. This was remedied within a few hours, but, for a hotel that should have excellent service, it should not have even happened in the first place. And if it did, like this, it should have at least come with an apology or two – which this did not.

There were several other service issues I experienced, which made the double charge that much more infuriating. For instance, coming back from a night out seeing the monuments shortly after my arrival, I needed a big jug of water. I was beyond thirsty from all of the walking I had done. The woman at the front desk told me the restaurant could easily give me a pitcher of water. They were closed, though. As a second option she instructed me to walk back outside and around the corner to a nearby convenience store. I also found them closed. So instead of doing what she should have done from the start – offered to have the 24 hour room service send up a complimentary pitcher of water – I ended up grabbing a bucket of ice and drinking out of the faucet. In the end it’s not a big thing, the water was fine, but it’s the matter of poor and unhelpful service that compounded throughout my stay. (Remember the thump, thump, thump music?)

There were regular issues with the valet and doormen, too. When I hopped out of the shuttle upon arrival the doorman asked me, in a tone which suggested I was disturbing his day, if I wanted help with my bags. Seeing he was none too eager to simply take the initiative and do his job, I declined and carried them up the stairs on my own, opening the door on my own, too, as he stood by the street watching me try to manage it all. I shrugged it off seeing as I declined his unenthused offer, but began to have a problem with it when it became a regular occurrence. Each evening I’d come back to the hotel and listen to he and his friends chat instead of helping with the door. It particularly bothered me when I witnessed a pair of women trying to carry in some bags without so much as a flinch from the valet to help with the door.

Hotel Monaco Washington DC Lobby FireplaceOn the other hand, despite these issues, I do have to give it up to the Hotel Monaco for hosting a complimentary wine hour each night in the lobby. Personally I don’t care for the taste of wine, so I did not attend. But I do appreciate the thoughtfulness behind the gesture. It is particularly welcoming for the single traveler, such as myself, who is looking for opportunities to connect with other guests. If they offered beer during that time I suppose I would have mingled. In the end, though, the thought did little to make up for the other deficiencies.

Hotel Monaco Washington DC Lobby Couch

As I said, the most important point for any hotel is location. And the Hotel Monaco has it in an amazing historic building. But because of the slew of poor customer service experiences, I can’t say I’d be any too eager to return. It may not be a resort where I’d be spending all my time on property – I was there for sightseeing, others for business – but at a point it becomes unacceptable for any guest. Others may have a different, even a fantastic experience. It just wasn’t there for me right from the off, right when I asked upon check in if an upgrade was possible and received a chuckle from the front desk clerk in response.

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