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D.C.’s Wharf Fish Market

If you go to the nations capitol you may want to see the White House and the Smithsonian but even if you miss those tourist standards don’t miss the coolest attraction in D.C., the Fish Market at the Wharf.

Located on the Southwest Waterfront of Washington, D.C., the Maine Avenue Fish Market stands as a culinary mainstay with locals but is an unknown to many of the tourists that enjoy the our Nations Capitol. Also known as the Wharf Fish Market this classic D.C. historical attraction is open each day of the week 365 days a year. The locals will tell you that the the largest selection of fresh fish is on display Friday evening through Sunday but no matter when you can get to the Fish market you will be surprised by the array of fresh seafood being sold.

At the dozen or so floating barge markets you can buy fresh raw seafood to take home or enjoy prepared sea food to eat at the market’s dining barge which overlooks the Potomac river. The Wharf’s fish market has been in continuous existence since 1805 and is the oldest fish market in America. The Fish Market is located  underneath the I-395 12th Street highway offramp.

In a recent visit Charlene walked the line of vendors till she found the perfect 4 pound rockfish for dinner while I got a dozen raw oysters and a pound of boiled shrimp to munch on for lunch. At the market you will find a variety of loyal locals. Countless D.C., Maryland, and Virginia residents make regular pilgrimages to the Maine Avenue Fish Market.

When you arrive at the Fish Market you will be assailed by a feast for your senses. The light ocean breeze is scented with the aroma of fresh and cooking sea food and the district smell of boiling spices. The sounds of the thriving market surround you as the array of colorful vendors hawk their wares and banter with the throngs of eager customers. Each barge is topped with a brightly colored marquee and lined with glistening displays of fresh caught crabs, lobsters, mussels, squid, oysters, and whole fish. When I’m discussing the senses that will be delighted at the Fish Market I can’t forget the tastes, the sweet taste of the fresh Old Bay Spiced boiled shrimp. The taste of the freshest of raw salty oysters shucked while you wait and crispy succulent fried fish and chips are just a sampling of what the dozen or so vendors have to offer.

Some of the local shoppers are faithful to one barge and come and buy their evenings meal in a matter of minutes. Others linger and browse, sampling the spiced steamed shrimp or a spoonful of chowder, or throwing down some freshly shucked clams and oysters while they visit with the vendors.  Weather you’re in and out or spend an hour grazing thru the myriad of taste treats the D.C. Wharf Fish Market is a must see when you’re exploring the Nations Capitol.

Like all things the Wharf fish market is changing. The fish market is the same since the first time I visited it about 10 years ago, but the area where the market is situated is undergoing a major re-birth.

Only about 100 feet down the river you are transferred from the single story barges housing a timeless fish market into Washington D.C.’s most modern new high rise community. The new area known as the “Wharf” follows the river and offers a wonderful walkway that allows guests to enjoy the views of the river and nearby marinas. As you walk down the walkway leaving the oldest fish market in America behind, you find yourself surrounded by high end restaurants, bars, hotels, high-rise condos and even a theater.

The new renovation is at peace with the 200 year old fish market and locals will tell you that each area is enriched by it’s neighbor. The warehouses that once surrounded the fish market are gone replaced by a modern, progressive and vibrant community. In what seems to this frequent visitor, like the blink of an eye the high-rises  have sprung up along the Potomac. The new “Wharf” is grand and progressive but no one should forget that at the core of that new vibrant growth is the ever present, ever amazing D.C. landmark the Wharf Fish Market and it’s ancient floating barges selling the bounty of the sea 365 days a year for the last 208 years.

Disclosure: The opinions expressed in this article are shared with our readers with the belief of the author that they are accurate but the author is unable to guarantee the offers expressed herein. supports the businesses mentioned above because they are businesses the author has found to be helpful in saving money while traveling. may get a commission for links on the blog. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very grateful when you do. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by our partners


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