Next date: May 11, 2024 10:00 am
On the Saturday after the May 9 anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, European embassies open their doors and offer music, performances, free screenings of foreign films, and food food food. For the EU Open House, performances, European food and revelry fill the air in and around Washington’s Embassy Row.
You’ll have plenty of opportunities to shmooze with EU leaders. I’m not one for photo ops, but that montage above shows James and me on a park bench at the German Embassy (left) moments before French ambassador Philippe Étienne and German ambassador Emily Haber shooed us off for a photo shoot (right). Only in the DMV are you going to get that kind of international access.
How do I get to the European Embassies?
The United States colocates diplomats in the heart of our government town. Washington, DC’s diplomatic core extends from DuPont Circle to National Cathedral, with some embassies sprawling deep into Tenleytown. The spread out nature of the party — along with the massive crowds — can make it difficult to attend without advanced planning. Pro Tip: If you want to skip the crowds, “czech out” some of the embassies near the Van Ness Metro stop.
What’s the best EU Open House?
It kind of depends on what you’re after. In general, the Western European embassies throw down more money, so expect lots of swag and free drinks (but also lines). Many Eastern countries are still recovering from Soviet-era poverty, so you’ll probably have to pay for your beer. On the other hand, there are no lines, and they really know how to party.
Czech Embassy: You’ve probably seen this one next to Pierce Mill: it’s the embassy with all the shortwave antennas in the back. The nice thing about this embassy is its size. Behind the embassy are acres of parkland that backs to Rock Creek Park. There’s even a trail that meanders up a hill and back down to the Czech Ambassador’s residence (above).
Hungarian Embassy: In 2023, we visited Hungary. The entrance was near the exit from the Czech Embassy and there was no line to get in. Inside, we found plenty of traditional food (including gulyás) and Hungarian beer and wine for sale. The wine was pricy, but the food was inexpensive. The best part was the dancing.
If you’re going to a Western European, I recommend starting early. In 2023, we started out at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. We arrived at 9:45 for a 10:30 opening time and the line was already pretty long. We got in by 10:45, though, so the line moved pretty fast. When we left around noon, the line was half a mile long.
The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands featured ship models and military displays inside and free food and beverages out in the Garden. The ambassador gave a speech while I sipped beer and James drank European kool-aid. I was most impressed with their generosity.
What about the non-European Embassies?
Exceptions to the EU Open House:
Not every embassy will be open. Some Embassies colocate, while others will throw a party at the Ambassador’s residence. Here are some notable exceptions:
& the Netherlands
|Embassy of the Netherlands
4200 Linnean Ave NW
|Estonia & Ukraine||Ukraine House
2134 Kalorama Road NW
|Ireland||Irish Ambassador’s Residence
2221 30th Street NW
|Spain||Former Ambassador’s Residence
2801 16th Street, NW
The funny thing about France and Germany: On even years (2024, 2026, 2028 … ), France and Germany come together at the extensive grounds of the house of the German Ambassador to co-host a huge outdoor party, complete with music, wine and a biergarten. There is ample street parking around the residence. On odd years (2023, 2025, 2027), find them both at the French Embassy.
Where is the EU Embassy parking lot?
Ha! Unless your name is Emily Haber, you’ll be parking with the rest of us: on the street. And those streets fill by 9am, so arrive early and check out the map below to find a cluster outside Embassy Row.
If you arrive early, you can park close to the embassies. In 2023, we arrived at 9:45am (45 minutes before they opened the doors at the Netherlands) and parked out front. We packed our bikes and used the Netherlands as a base for other embassies, which allowed us to hit 5 countries that year.
If you arrive later, there’s usually plenty of parking on International Court on the Egyptian Embassy side just after you turn off Van Ness. Even though the Egyptian Embassy doesn’t participate in the EU Open House, you’ll be right next to Austria and Slovakia, which do.
German Ambassador’s Residence: In 2022, we parked on the corner of Charleston Terrace and Kenmore, just off Reservoir road and beat the crowds (though Philippe Étienne and Emily Haber did shoo us off a park bench for a photo op). Avoid this spot on odd years, though, as France will host Germany on those years and there are no other options within walking distance.
Map of EU Open House Embassies:
As with the World Embassies, the EU Open House is spread out over a large area, with two major clusters: Embassy Row (Mass Ave between DuPont Circle and Rock Creek Park) and Connecticut Avenue around Cleveland Park and Van Ness. Click on the map below to see EU Open House event locations:
EU Open House Swag
If your kids like free things, take them to one of the bigger embassies (Netherlands, France or Germany). We had a fairly sizable haul in 2023.
More Parties Ahead!
On the Saturday immediately following the EU Open House, you’ll find the Asian Street Fair along Pennsylvania Avenue NW between Third & Sixth Streets, starting at 11am. Performances and a shopping bazaar will keep you entertained, and in this far more concentrated and easy to navigate venue.