About Old Town Alexandria, VA

From Our Partners

Alexandria’s History

A

Alexandria’s history reaches back more than 13,000 years. From the first Native Americans to settle here, to the bustling city it is today, the timeline of Alexandria’s history is filled with events that helped shape the United States of America into the country it is today.

Alexandria was founded in 1749 by Scottish merchants and was named after Scotsman John Alexander. Alexandria is known as being the adopted hometown of America’s first president, George Washington. As a teenager, George Washington surveyed the city. Later, he owned a townhouse here in Old Town. You can see a replica of the townhouse today on Cameron Street. He also worshiped at Christ Church (you can tour the site and sit in his pew – number 60), and frequented Gadsby’s Tavern.

The prosperity of Alexandria and the United States was inextricably linked to the work of enslaved and free African Americans. A horrific part of Alexandria’s history is that, prior to America’s Civil War, Alexandria served as one of the largest domestic slave trading ports in America. Most of Alexandria’s leading businesses and properties could not have operated without the unpaid labor of the enslaved men, women, and children who lived and worked here.

Yet to walk through the streets of Alexandria is to walk through America’s timeline of African-American history from colonial times to the Civil War and from Civil Rights to today. You can learn empowering stories of individuals and communities that overcame adversity and even pushed our society forward as you explore the city’s historic sites and take part in walking tours from Manumission Tour Company.

The best way to learn about Alexandria’s history is by purchasing a Key to the City Attractions Pass. Explore 9 historic sites for $20 plus receive 40% off admission to George Washington’s Mount VernonPotomac Riverboat Company by Hornblower and the tall ship Providence.

There are also numerous tour companies that offer in-depth looks at Alexandria’s history. From walking tours to boat tours to bike tours, immerse yourself in Alexandria’s history. Want to choose your own adventure? Follow our self-guided tours of Old Town, Alexandria’s African-American history, Mount Vernon and more.

Take a Tour

Featured
Alexandria’s Original Ghost & Graveyard Tour, Celebrating 50 Years: Follow an 18th-century costumed guide by lantern light through the charming...
221 King Street Alexandria, Virginia
From seaport pubs to international cuisine, Alexandria’s culinary history runs deep. George Washington danced in the ballroom of Gadsby’s Tavern,...
Old Town Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria Ghost Tours are a genuinely spooky adventure. There is no question that there are lost ghosts walking about the...
Old Town Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria History Tours offers private and public tours exploring the Revolutionary War, George Washington, early American commerce, the Civil War,...
Old Town Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria the Great offers Segway, walking and food and drink tours. We offer a 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Alexandria...
Old Town Alexandria, Virginia
African Americans escaping slavery found refuge in Alexandria after Union troops occupied the city in 1861. The Rev. Clement “Clem”...
320 S. Washington Street Alexandria, Virginia
Bike to Mount Vernon. Rent a bike through Bike and Roll, Capital Bikeshare, Pedego Electric Bikes or Wheel and Nuts...
106 N. Lee Street (Unlimited Biking) OR 210 N. Lee Street, Unit 102 (Pedego Electric Bikes) Alexandria, Virginia
At Blue Fern Travel – Fork & Fizz Tours, we believe travel should give back to the local community while...
4220 Nicholson Street Hyattsville, MD 20781
Runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays beginning at 11:30 a.m. and lasting three hours. Meet your guide and the rest of...
Starting location provided at time of ticket purchase
City Cruises provides water taxi service from Old Town Alexandria to Washington, D.C. via water taxis to The Wharf, National...
105 N. Union Street Alexandria, Virginia
Featured
George Washington’s Mount Vernon is the riverside home of our nation’s first president, George Washington. The estate includes a Mansion,...
3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway Mount Vernon, VA 22121
Every April, five of Old Town Alexandria’s private homes and gardens will open to the public, as part of the...
Alexandria Visitor Center 221 King Street Alexandria, Virginia

Visit Historic Attractions

The African American Hall of Fame is a visually-stimulating account of the movers and shakers who made Alexandria the city...
Charles Houston Recreation Center 901 Wythe Street Alexandria, Virginia
“Truths that Rise from the Roots Remembered” is the name of the bronze tree sculpture here that honors the contributions...
Holland Lane between Duke St. & Eisenhower Ave. Alexandria, Virginia
Step right into the museum’s laboratory where archaeologists reconstruct Alexandria’s history, fragment by fragment. The museum’s exhibits highlight the process...
105 N. Union Street, Torpedo Factory Art Center Third Floor, #327 Alexandria, Virginia
Originally the segregated library for Alexandria’s African American residents, the museum documents the local and national history, culture and contributions...
902 Wythe Street Alexandria, Virginia
This City Hall was built in 1871-74, with Market Square and the Colonial-inspired additions that face the plaza built in...
301 King Street Alexandria, Virginia
Featured
Alexandria’s Original Ghost & Graveyard Tour, Celebrating 50 Years: Follow an 18th-century costumed guide by lantern light through the charming...
221 King Street Alexandria, Virginia
The 1839 Greek Revival building serves as the City’s history museum. An ongoing exhibition tells the story of Alexandria, once...
201 S. Washington Street Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria History Tours offers private and public tours exploring the Revolutionary War, George Washington, early American commerce, the Civil War,...
Old Town Alexandria, Virginia
Founded as a subscription library in 1794. Alexandria’s public library since 1937.
717 Queen Street Alexandria, Virginia
One of 12 sites created and dedicated by President Lincoln in 1862 to serve as military burial grounds. The cemetery...
1450 Wilkes Street Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria Seaport Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization located on Old Town’s waterfront which improves the lives of young people...
Alexandria Waterfront 0 Thompsons Alley Alexandria, Virginia
African Americans escaping slavery found refuge in Alexandria after Union troops occupied the city in 1861. The Rev. Clement “Clem”...
320 S. Washington Street Alexandria, Virginia

Explore More

Historic Attractions and Museums

Carlyle House

Black History & Culture

Alexandria Tours

Great Walks in Alexandria

From our partners