Mission Impossible. The Bourne Identity. The Americans. Homeland. There are so many movies and TV shows about spies, that it would be quite an undertaking to list them all, but one thing they have in common is the fact that viewers (and Hollywood heavyweights) are obsessed with this subject matter. And why wouldn’t we be? Spy stories offer intrigue and drama, thrills, and chills, and often leave us wondering about allegiances and outcomes until the finale reveals what was under our noses the whole time. Of course, spy tales from the real world are just as alluring—and the movies have retold plenty of those tales too (hello, Bridge of Spies). The fascinating figures who dared to play cloak and dagger in their daily lives are true-life cautionary tales many of which have left a footprint in one location specifically. That’s right, we’re talking about Washington DC.

Home to many government organizations, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigations, spy sites are all around our nation’s capital, where some of the most notorious espionage cases have occurred. But don’t just take our word for it. Instead, turn your attention to former CIA official Robert Wallace (who served 40 years in the organization) and check out his book Spy Sites of Washington, D.C., A Guide to the Region’s Secret History, which provides enlightening insights all about the numerous locations in the city connected to espionage. He’s quoted as saying that for residents who live in the area, there’s a 100% chance one of those sites is in their neighborhood, which has a feeling a bit uneasy. However, your mission — should you choose to accept it — is to join the hunt in some of the most infamous secret locations (that are not so secret anymore…) and gather as much intel as you can from the experience. Ready, set, let’s get spying…

monuments à dc

Eye Spy Clandestine Destinations in Washington DC

Washington DC is the U.S. seat of power where the nation’s most classified documents are stored — in locations like the Department of Defense — and where secret alliances and coverups are forged on Capitol Hill and beyond. So, it is no surprise that history is rife with characters looking to capitalize on any confidential info they are privy to. Because as they say…everyone has their price. An educational history, which includes an arsenal of artifacts related to some of the most scandalous stories of turncoats and traitors, can be seen at the International Spy Museum. It houses the largest collection of espionage items on view for public consumption. It also provides interactive experiences for visitors to test their spy skills and find out if a career in keeping secrets could be their calling.

à l'intérieur du monument de dcPour découvrir de plus près la communauté des espions, participez aux visites et aux événements organisés par les organismes suivants Guide de l'espion, which was designed by former intelligence officers and founded by a CIA veteran. Created for educational purposes and to foster engagement, excursions are offered in different locales across the DC area including Georgetown, Embassy Row, and Capitol Hill (among others) where secrets were shared during World War II, the Soviet Era, and more.

A former café where a Soviet spy fled from his CIA handlers. Drop points for both former CIA officer turned KGB double agent Aldrich Ames and FBI spy Robert Hanssen. Lafayette Park (also known as “Tragedy Square”) with its roots firmly planted in Civil War espionage. These sites, in addition to others, are all part of the Gary Powers tour. The four-hour experience designed by the author, historian, and speaker hits plenty of spy stops and tells the tales of some of the most infamous spies and their impact on U.S. history.

la maison blanche

Who Needs a Spy Car?

Every spy has a fancy way of getting around, and when making your way through Washington DC on your spy hunt, there’s no better way to get around the city than by the Potomac Water Taxi. Now, don’t be expecting James Bond’s Aston Martin, but traveling by water is always an exciting way to get around and see places from a whole new perspective. The taxi service offers routes connecting The Wharf to Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria, and National Harbor. You can view the schedule to see departure times to plan your itinerary around the District.

Water taxi and Odyssey DC passing each other.

Operation Food and Fun

After a long day of spy hunting, your appetite for danger may be satisfied—but now it is time to refuel your body for whatever other adventures lie ahead. Of course, kicking back on a cruise is one of the best ways to savor exceptional cuisine along with some of the more traditional sights you may have missed seeing while hitting the top surveillance targets. A Washington DC Premier Dinner Cruise captures spectacular views of iconic landmarks along the Potomac including the Georgetown waterfront, and the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, all while offering enticing food, tantalizing beverages, and awesome onboard entertainment.

Whether you are thinking of becoming a spy (don’t worry we won’t tell…) or are just captivated by the intrigue that the world offers, Washington DC is the ideal place to experience what espionage is all about.


Original publish date: February 23, 2023