Alexandria is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 2012, the city had a total population of 147,391. Located along the Western bank of the Potomac River, Alexandria is approximately six miles (9.6 kilometers) south of downtown Washington, D.C.
Like the rest of Northern Virginia, as well as central Maryland, modern Alexandria has been shaped by its proximity to the nation’s capital. It is largely populated by professionals working in the federal civil service, in the U.S. military, or for one of the many private companies which contract to provide services to the federal government. One of Alexandria’s largest employers is the U.S. Department of Defense. Others include the Institute for Defense Analyses and the Center for Naval Analyses. In 2005, the United States Patent and Trademark Office moved to Alexandria.
The historic center of Alexandria is known as Old Town. With its concentration of boutiques, restaurants, antique shops and theaters, it is a major draw for tourists. Like Old Town, many Alexandria neighborhoods are compact, walkable, high-income suburbs of Washington, D.C. It is the seventh largest and highest income independent city in Virginia.
A portion of adjacent Fairfax County, Virginia is named Alexandria, but is under the jurisdiction of Fairfax County and separate from the city; the city is sometimes referred to as the City of Alexandria or Alexandria City to avoid confusion.