DestinationsPopular Government Buildings, Monuments & Memorials to Visit in Washington D.C.

This article describes the most popular buildings, monuments & memorials to visit in Washington D.C. and where they are located.

Government Buildings

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 United States Capitol building in Washington D.C.

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 Supreme Court building in Washington DC.

The National Archives Museum (Map It) is located just west of the U.S. Capitol one block north of the Mall. There are several informative exhibits and a gift shop on the first floor. Original documents important to the founding of the United States are located on the second floor in the main rotunda.

The main rotunda of the National Archives Museum where you can view original documents related to the founding the the United States such as the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the United States Bill of Rights.

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.

Aerial view of the Whitehouse and south lawn in Washington D.C.

The FBI Headquarters (Map It) offers a tour called The FBI Experience, but you need to request a tour from your congressional representative ahead of time.

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 Washington Monument light up at night.

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.

View of the Lincoln Memorial from across the reflecting pool on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

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.

View of the Jefferson Memorial at dawn viewed from across the tidal basin with pink Japanese Cherry blossoms in the foreground.

The World War II Memorial (Map It) is located at the eastern end of the reflecting pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial (Map It) is located just southeast of the Lincoln Memorial.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Map It) is located just northeast of the Lincoln Memorial.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial (Map It) is located southeast of the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the shores of the Tidal Basin.

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

Union Station (Map It) is 2 blocks north of the Capitol and is a wonderful historic building with shops, bars and restaurants inside.

Inside Union Station in Washington D.C.

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.

Arlington National Cemetery.

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.

Washington National Cathedral, a cathedral of the Episcopal Church, located in Washington, D.C.