Arrive at the Palomar in the early evening and you might feel as though you've gate-crashed a private party: hotel guests mingle in the double-height lobby as complimentary drinks and canapés are dispensed at the daily "wine hour". This is an indication of the reception you will receive at this lively boutique hotel, which is located in one of the most accessible districts in the US capital.
Even when no refreshments are being proffered, the area is pleasant and welcoming. Comfortable chairs and sofas in creams and browns are clustered in small groups, and a long fireplace offers a cosy welcome on cooler days.
Most of the second floor is devoted to conference rooms; the majority of the guests here during the week are likely to be visiting Washington on business. But, intriguingly, one door leads to the Sculpting Room. This is not somewhere to take up a creative hobby, but a well-equipped fitness centre with an outdoor swimming pool next door.
You may well spot some real sculptures too – the hotel's focus is the visual arts, with original artworks adorning its walls. Having partnered with local institutions the Smithsonian and Phillips Collection, the Palomar also regularly hosts artists and speakers.
Hotel Palomar, 2121 P Street NW, Washington DC, US (001 202 448 1800; hotelpalomar-dc.com ). It's two blocks from Dupont Circle Metro station and handy for restaurants around the circle.
Time from international airport: around 35 minutes' drive from Dulles for a fare of about $50 (£36) in a taxi, and 45 minutes and $60 (£43) from Baltimore-Washington. Union Station is 15 minutes by taxi or five stops on the Metro.
The rooms are all attractively furnished, and thought has been given to comfort – so expect to find an armchair or chaise longue in each.
The standard rooms are small; upgrade to executive accommodation and the experience immediately seems more luxurious. But all the rooms have the same features, which include plush furnishings – faux fur throws, brightly coloured silk cushions, padded headboards, Frette linen – and a bedside iPod dock. Spa rooms also have a Jacuzzi bath.
The attention to detail is thoughtful: fill in the card on the desk and someone will check you in online for your flight, and print out a boarding pass.
Freebies: L'Occitane products in every room; items such as toothbrushes and sewing kits are available on request. Other necessities like deodorant can be purchased, as can the leopard-print robes, camisole and boxer shorts that hang enticingly in the wardrobe.
Keeping in touch: the rooms have flat-screen TVs, DVD and CD players and cordless phones, and there is free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel.
The bottom line
Double rooms are available from $159 (£114). Breakfast isn't included, but if you reserve a room in advance and pay an extra dollar, you get a continental breakfast thrown in.
I'm not paying that: DC Lofty Convention Center at 1333 11th Street NW (001 202 506 7106; dclofty.com ) is near Logan Cicle Park. It is aimed primarily at long-stayers, but also offers stylish dorm rooms for shorter visits, which start at $43 (£31) including free Wi-Fi.