This article describes the most popular buildings, monuments & memorials to visit in Washington D.C. and where they are located.
The U.S. Capitol (Map It) sits at the eastern end of the Mall facing the Washington Memorial, but is as impressive from the back as it is from the front. You can visit the U.S. Capitol’s Exhibition Hall without a reservation, but will need to contact your congressional representative, provide the appropriate information and schedule a specific date and time if you want to take a tour inside. If you are not a U.S. citizen you can contact your embassy to arrange for a tour.
The Supreme Court of the United States (Map It) and The Library of Congress (Map It) are both located directly behind the Capitol as is the public entrance to the U.S. Capitol Exhibition Hall. The Supreme Court building is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 3:00pm and closed on weekends and federal holidays. The Library of Congress requires a free timed entry pass, which you can obtain on their website.
The Whitehouse (Map It) is directly north of the Washington Monument with Pennsylvania Ave. connecting it to the U.S. Capitol. Directly behind the Whitehouse is Lafayette Square. Whitehouse Tours are still conducted, but you need to contact your congressional representative, provide the appropriate information and schedule a specific date and time. If you are not a U.S. citizen you can contact your embassy to arrange for a tour.
Monuments and Memorials Near the National Mall
The National Park Service has jurisdiction over the National Mall and all of the memorials and monuments located on it as well as a number of historically significant buildings around town.
The Washington Monument (Map It) sits in the center of the National Mall with the Lincoln Memorial across the reflecting pool to the west and the U.S. Capitol to the east. Free timed entry reservations are required to tour the monument, which involves taking an elevator up 500 feet to the top where there is an observation deck. While reservations are free there is a service charge when booking advanced reservations, which can be done here. Same day reservations can be obtained at the Washington Monument Lodge.
The Lincoln Memorial (Map It) is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Washington D.C. It’s steps were the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington for civil rights. From these stairs you can look across the reflecting pool at the Washington Monument.
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial (Map It) is located on the southern shores of the Tidal Basin just south of the Lincoln Memorial. The spring blossoms of the cherry trees, which are planted around the Tidal Basin is an especially scenic time to visit.
Ford’s Theatre (Map It) is not actually on the Mall, but is managed by the National Park Service. Tickets are required for entry and available on the day of the visit or can be reserved in advance through the Ford’s Theatre Society for a small fee.
Other Significant Buildings and Landmarks
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Map It) sits on the banks of the Potomac River with the infamous Watergate Complex to the north and the Lincoln Memorial to the south. It has several different venues and is host to over 2,000 events a year.
Arlington National Cemetery (Map It) is actually located just across the Potomac River in Virginia, but is often included when visiting Washington D.C. This cemetery is very big so if you are looking for a specific gravesite it is best to research this ahead of time. There is a tram tour that takes you around the cemetery. Some areas of interest include the gravesites of President John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Changing of the Guard and the Memorial Arboretum.
The Washington National Cathedral (Map It) looks like an old gothic cathedral, but was actually build fairly recently. Construction began in 1907 and finished 83 years later in 1990. This is an Episcopal Church and officially known as The Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. Several different types of tours are offered and tickets can be purchased here.