London calling?

George Washington's step-granddaughter, Martha Parke Custis Peter, was raised in the grand mansion, where in 1814, she and a friend watched from a bedroom window as the British burned the Capitol.
George Washington's step-granddaughter, Martha Parke Custis Peter, was raised in the grand mansion, where in 1814, she and a friend watched from a bedroom window as the British burned the Capitol. (Photo courtesy of Tudor Place, Baltimore Sun)

As excitement builds for this week's opening of the Summer Olympics, many an armchair athlete may yearn to hop a transcontinental flight to London.

But if a trip overseas isn't in the cards right now, why not discover a taste of jolly olde England closer to home?

The nation's capital offers its own brand of proper British attractions, dining and lodging, say experts, suitable for even the most discerning Anglophile.

"There are actually quite a few similarities between Europe and Washington, D.C., and one can certainly discover elements of British culture close to home," says Georgia Johnson Kicklighter of American Express Travel.

"People often reference Europe as the epicenter of history, but we have our own history too."

To wit, for travelers seeking an alternative to Windsor Castle — where such famous Tudors as King Henry VIII lived and, ahem, loved — history awaits at Tudor Place, a National Historic Landmark on the fringes of Georgetown.

George Washington's step-granddaughter, Martha Parke Custis Peter, was raised in the grand mansion, where in 1814, she and a friend watched from a bedroom window as the British burned the Capitol.

Then there's the Old Stone House, also in Georgetown, built in 1765 and D.C.'s oldest building. In addition to a beautiful English garden, its stones came from local quarries and the ballast of British sailing vessels.

While Britain is renowned for massive castles where the queen and other royalty reside in style, Washington also boasts its own architectural gems. Among them is the Smithsonian Institution Building, which dates to the mid-1800s and now houses the Smithsonian visitors center and administrative offices.

Nicknamed — what else? — "The Castle," the structure was erected in Gothic Revival style, designed to evoke the Collegiate Gothic in England and the concept of wisdom and knowledge. And like every castle should, it boasts towers, including one that rises 91 feet.

England is famed for its wealth of museums, including the British Museum. Yet Washington's highly regarded museums draw millions of visitors annually.

The National Portrait Gallery in Washington is reminiscent of Britain's own National Portrait Gallery, says Johnson Kicklighter. Its sprawling Kogod Courtyard, complete with a wavy roof of glass and steel, was designed by London-based architect Norman Foster.

She also lauds the Smithsonian museums. The American Art Museum houses "Snails Space," a 3-D painted sculpture by Britain's David Hockney. The painting, housed in a pitch-black space, comes alive and resembles a landscape when a light is cast over its surface.

And the National Museum of American History has a collection of model ships, including the Chaleur, one of six vessels produced in the 1760s by the British Royal Navy.

Not to be overlooked is the Phillips Collection, which has 3,000 works by artists including Picasso and van Gogh. It's currently exhibiting a major show of drawings by British artist Antony Gormley that will run through early September.

Meanwhile, fans of the Bard will want to visit the Folger Shakespeare Library, home of one of the largest collections of Shakespeare works in the world, a Globe-style theater and an Elizabethan garden.

"This summer, they have a special exhibition about London titled 'Open City 1500-1700,' " says Kate Gibbs, a spokeswoman for Destination D.C., the district's official tourism arm. "It's no doubt inspired by the Olympics," she says of the exhibit that explores the transformation of the city.

Just around the corner from the Folger is the Shakespeare Theater, which stages the annual Shakespeare Free-for-All (the production will run concurrently with the Olympics). "The company has two state-of-the-art theaters and won the 2012 Tony for best regional theater in America," she says.

After a day of sight-seeing, Londoners typically head to their famed pubs for a pint.

Washington offers its version of the authentic pub experience in such restaurants as The Queen Vic, which serves a traditional British Sunday lunch. And there's Againn (the double N in the name is intentional), a contemporary gastropub with gourmet fish and chips and sticky-toffee pudding.

Birch & Barley's popular upstairs bar, Churchkey, is the spot for ales and lagers: They have nearly 600 on tap.

The newest nod to London in D.C. is Mayfair & Pine, a family-friendly gastropub scheduled to open this month in the bustling Glover Park neighborhood.

The restaurant's name pays homage to the neighborhood where executive chef/owner Emily Sprissler — a former "Top Chef" contestant — and husband Jason Cote, a fellow chef, honeymooned together while in London.

Inside, the two-story building has dark wood and exposed brick; the decor includes paintings by Bernard Evans of Cornwall, England.

The gastropub will emphasize American-sourced menu items, including an assortment of savory pies — shepherd's pie, chicken pot pie and fish/lobster pie — as well as original dishes like candied apple salad.

Brits are also known, of course, for their dedication to tea.

The district offers its own tearooms for an authentic British experience as well as tea services with an American twist.

For high tea, the Willard InterContinental hotel — a historic luxury property about a block from the White House — even has its own blend. The Mandarin Oriental hotel in D.C. offers cakes, tarts, scones and international teas and coffees.

For a traditional afternoon tea, there's the Tea Cellar inside the Park Hyatt, which offers rare and limited-edition teas.

Finally, head to Embassy Row in Dupont Circle, where a bronze statue of Britain's most famous statesmen, Sir Winston Churchill, was erected in the 1960s.

Churchill, whose mother was American and who was granted honorary U.S. citizenship, has one foot on American soil and the other on British Embassy grounds — a fitting spot to wrap up your Anglo-centered tour in D.C.

If you go

If you're looking to experience Europe's charms in the nation's capitol, there are myriad options to eat, drink and slumber.

•At Brasserie Beck, chef Robert Wiedmaier has made Belgium the theme of this laid-back, cavernous restaurant modeled on a vintage Brussels train station. Sample a tempting array of mussel preparations, plus dishes like beef carbonade (beef stew braised with Kasteel Bruin beer), along with a comprehensive selection of Belgian beer. (1101 K St. NW. 202-408-1717, beckdc.com)

•Seeking a notable restaurant with French flair? Cafe Dupont, a modern French brasserie, is the place to find a croque madame for breakfast; a salade Nicoise for weekend brunch; and coq au vin for dinner, along with fine wines, bubbly, and hand-crafted aperitifs. (1500 New Hampshire Ave. N.W., 202-797-0169)

•The Normandy Hotel is a chic boutique hotel with a retro vibe. Claim one of its 75 handsome guest rooms as your downtown pied-a-terre and enjoy an evening wine-and-cheese hour and salon discussions worthy of Sartre. (2118 Wyoming Ave. N.W., 202-483-1350)

•At the quintessentially German Biergarten Haus, the fare ranges from bratwurst to Bavarian pretzel rolls. And as the name suggests, there's a wide selection of beers, from pilseners to lagers and more. (1355 H St. N.E., 202-388-4085)

•At Fado Irish Pub (fado is an Irish term that means "long ago"), the lively vibe and music don't overshadow the food: corned beef rolls, bangers and mash, plus fish and chips. (808 7th St. N.W,. 202-789-0066)

For more information on attractions in D.C., go to washington.org.