25 Famous Washington DC Landmarks You Must See
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A visit to Washington, D.C. is much like stepping into an open-air museum. Everywhere you turn is a monument or historic building waiting to greet you.
Notable for the diversity of its neighborhoods and the near-constant humming of the government machine, D.C. is sure to impress. The city is home to over 75 National Historic Monuments as well as 30 National Parks!
In the list below are the most famous Washington, D.C. landmarks no visitor should miss. However, in a city as culturally rich as this, let your curiosity be your guide, and you will surely discover something fascinating.
Are you on your way to Washington, D.C. last minute?
Book your Washington, D.C. accommodation and experiences early! See the short list of top suggestions below.
Top Accommodation in Washington, D.C.
- The Dupont Circle Hotel (5-star rating)
- Hyatt House Washington DC/The Wharf (relax by the pool)
- Hotel Madera (4-star rating)
Top Tours and Experiences in Washington, D.C.
- Washington DC Monuments by Moonlight Tour by Trolley (likely to sell out)
- Private Washington DC Guided Tour (rated highly)
- Three-Hour DC Nighttime Monuments Guided Sightseeing Bus Tour (very popular)
- DC Monuments & Memorials Night Tour (very popular)
- Best of DC Plus US Capitol Grounds & Access to National Archives (very popular)
- 25 Washington, D.C. landmarks
25 Famous Landmarks in Washington, D.C.
- The National Mall
- Washington Monument
- The White House
- Abraham Lincoln Memorial
- Thomas Jefferson Memorial
- United States Capitol
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
- Korean War Veterans Memorial
- Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
- Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
- Arlington National Cemetery
- The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- The Smithsonian Institution
- International Spy Museum
- National Portrait Gallery
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
- Washington National Cathedral
- National Gallery of Art
- Dupont Circle
- National Archives Museum
- National Museum of Women in the Arts
- Library of Congress
- The Pentagon
- Ford's Theatre
Washington, D.C. Landmarks Map
A map of Washington, D.C. landmarks. Use the map to explore all of the points of interest.
The National Mall
The National Mall tops this Washington, DC landmarks list as it contains all of the United States' most treasured national landmarks. The National Mall receives over 24 million visitors annually and has been the stage for some of the nation's most important democratic demonstrations.
The landscaped park stretches a length of two miles between the Lincoln Memorial and the US Capitol. The National Mall is the stage of the nation, holding everything from presidential inaugurations and Fourth of July festivities to classical concerts and sporting events.
If visiting with your partner, strolling along the mall makes for a perfect Washington, DC date idea too!
An easy way to visit the National Mall and other sights is with a tour. Washington DC Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley Tour is highly sought-after and requires reservation. Furthermore, Moonlit Tour of the National Mall, Washington DC is very popular with most visitors.
Completed in 1884, the Washington Monument is one of the most iconic landmarks of Washington, D.C. Standing at over 554 feet tall, this white marble obelisk is the tallest stone structure in the world. It was built in memory of the first American president, George Washington.
After years of renovation, the Memorial reopened to the public in 2019. Be sure to take in the view from the observation deck, with a panorama stretching over 25 miles. Breathtaking indeed.
Many companies have experiences that visit the Washington Monument. The experience Washington DC Monuments by Moonlight Trolley Tour is likely to sell out, so booking in advance is recommended. Another option, Private Washington DC Guided Tour has a high rating, with most travelers giving it a five-star rating.
The White House
The White House has the most famous address in the world - 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue - which is, of course, the home of the United State's President. Surely the most famous site in Washington, D.C., the White House, has been the president's official home for over 220 years.
During tours of this National Historic Landmark, visitors are allowed limited access to the State Floor, including the Red Room, Green Room, and State Dining Room. The East and West Wing (housing the Oval Office) is strictly prohibited to the public.
If you want a relaxed trip, these are the best tours that visit the White House.
Abraham Lincoln Memorial
Built in honor of the 16th American President, Abraham Lincoln, the Lincoln Memorial is among one of the most famous Washington monuments. The neoclassical temple houses a 19-foot tall statue of Lincoln, seated, lost in thought.
The Memorial has become a symbolic center for race relations in the United States. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr delivered his 1963 "I Have a Dream" on the steps of the monuments to a crowd of over 250,000 people.
If you want an enjoyable trip, these are the top-rated experiences that visit the Lincoln Memorial.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Among the many famous monuments in Washington, D.C., the Jefferson Memorial may be the most beautiful.
Situated on a bank of the Potomac River within a grove of Japanese cherry trees (springtime is spectacular), the neoclassical rotunda was inspired by the third American president's own architectural theories.
Within, visitors will find a bronze statue of Jefferson alongside excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, being its principal author, carved along the walls.
United States Capitol
There are many important buildings in Washington, D.C., but none like the U.S. Capitol building. Built in 1800, it stands at the city's center with its 288-foot neo-classical dome visible from across the skyline. It is definitely one of the most famous landmarks in the USA!
A visit to the Capitol includes entry into the Crypt, Rotunda, and the National Statuary Hall. Visits to the House and Senate chambers require special passes and are not included in the official tour of the Capitol.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
In 1982, artist Maya Lin conceptualized a bold 246-foot black granite wall engraved with the names of the 58,320 soldiers killed during the Vietnam War. Initially met with public resistance, the Vietnam Memorial is one of the most poignant and important places in Washington, DC.
With over 2 million visitors annually, many leave flowers and mementos in memory of their loved ones lost. Items left at the Memorial are collected daily by the National Park Service, who catalog and store the items. Several items have found their way into the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
The most sensitive of the presidential monuments in Washington, D.C., is the FDR Memorial.
Bronze sculptures, inspired by iconic photographs from the Great Depression, deliver a compelling history lesson to visitors. They depict the lives of everyday Americans under the 12-year presidency of one of the U.S.'s most beloved and controversial presidents.
Do not miss the statue of the seated 32nd president together with his Scottish Terrier, Fala. It is a charming reminder of the human face behind national leaders.
Are you looking to have a stress-free day trip? See the most popular experiences that stop at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Nineteen stainless steel soldiers advance through the trees, making the Korean War Memorial one of the most artistic Washington, D.C. landmarks and monuments. Each soldier in "The Column" stands over 7 feet tall, collectively representing a platoon on patrol.
The Mural Wall adjacent is a 164 foot long, black granite wall depicting ghostly scenes from the war. Each part of the monument forms a haunting portrait of survival and remembrance.
Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
One of the most famous places in Washington, D.C., is the Reflecting Pool. 2,030 feet and only 18 inches deep, the pool reflects both the Lincoln and Washington Memorials. 25 million visitors annually laze around the pool, picnic on the grass, and jog down its walking paths.
The Reflecting Pool has deep symbolic importance for the American people. Swimming in the ornamental pool is strictly prohibited and could result in serious legal troubles.
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
With so many historical sites in Washington, D.C., the MLK Memorial is one of the city's newest additions. Opening in 2011, the Memorial honors the legacy of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.
At the site, you will find a monumental statue titled the "The Stone of Hope," with the leader emerging, arms crossed, from white granite. Ringing the statue is an Inscription Wall with 14 of MLK's most moving quotes. They stress the primary messages of Dr. King: justice, democracy, hope, and love.
Arlington National Cemetery
Spanning over 639 acres, Arlington Cemetery has been the final resting place for soldiers killed in battle since the Civil War.
Sprouting from the earth are rows of identical marble headstones that form an intricate geometry. The patterns formed by the graves are a stirring reminder of the cost of war.
Notable burials include John F. Kennedy, his grave marked by an "eternal flame," and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is a symbolic resting place for deceased soldiers whose remains have not yet been identified.
Joining a tour is a convenient way to visit Arlington National Cemetery and other attractions. The tour Private DC Trip From New York is widely acclaimed and has an average rating of five stars. Additionally, Guided Walking Tour of Arlington National Cemetery With Changing of the Guards is very popular with all visitors.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Adjacent to the National Mall, this emotional museum provides a compelling interpretation of Holocaust history.
With over 1.5 million visitors annually, the museum's interactive collection contains more than 12,500 artifacts. These include replicas of the train boxcars used to transport Jews as well as Nazi propaganda and the personal belongings of victims.
The Museum's "Hall of Remembrance" is a somber memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, with guests lighting candles, visiting the eternal flame, or chanting out the names of the dead.
If you are looking for a planning-free way to explore, these well-rated tours explore the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The Smithsonian Institution
Called the "Nation's Attic," the Smithsonian spans over 19 museums, 21 libraries, nine research centers, and a zoo! Its collection contains more than 150 million items, and entry to any of the institution's galleries is free.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the newest addition to the Smithsonian, charting the history of Black expression in the United States, while the National Air and Space Museum is a popular favorite for visiting families.
Whatever your inclination, the Smithsonian has a museum for you!
An easy way to visit the Smithsonian Castle and other sights is with a tour. Segway Tours in Washington DC is frequently in high demand, and booking is necessary.
International Spy Museum
Washington, D.C.'s Spy Museum is an interactive exploration of the history and tradecraft of modern espionage. Did you know that there are more spies in Washington, DC than in any other city on the planet?!
Each visitor receives an undercover identity and a secret mission. Your mission is to gather as much information about the world of espionage as you can.
This is done through the five interactive exhibits before reaching the Debriefing Room, where you receive the conclusion of your mission alongside a performance debrief summarizing your top spy skills.
If you want a relaxed trip, these are the top-rated experiences that visit the International Spy Museum.
National Portrait Gallery
One of the most famous galleries in the United States is the National Portrait Gallery, which was founded in 1962. The venue is known for showcasing the portraits of numerous influential figures, with a total of 23,000 works in the gallery's collection.
Notably, you can see the portrait of every US president when visiting the gallery. Other individuals whose portraits are on display include Harriet Tubman, Frida Kahlo, and Juliette Gordon Low.
Exploring the gallery will take an hour or two. Guided and self-guided tours are also available.
Consider joining a tour to explore the National Portrait Gallery. The tour Private DC SUV Tour is often praised by travelers and rated five stars.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Another of the outstanding Smithsonian museums in DC is the National Museum of Natural History. Opened in 1910, the museum houses an array of exhibits relating to the natural world.
Displays cover wildlife found in the world today and conservation efforts. You'll also find exhibits covering the ancient world, including those on dinosaurs, ancient Egypt, and human evolution.
Notably, the museum houses the world's largest collection of natural history specimens. Taking the time to explore this iconic museum is a must! The venue also hosts after-hours events if you want to visit in the evening.
If you are looking for a planning-free way to explore, these are the best tours that visit the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
Washington National Cathedral
Another of the many famous buildings in Washington, DC is the Washington National Cathedral. Built in the early 1900s, the cathedral was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
Designed in a Neo-Gothic style, the cathedral is breathtaking to see from the outside. As you venture inside, you'll be amazed by the interior design, which features tall ceilings, stained glass, and religious statues.
Washington Cathedral is open for active worship as well, with service dates and times available online. The landmark is located 15 minutes from central DC when driving.
Several companies provide tour options. These well-rated tours explore the Washington National Cathedral.
National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art is another renowned attraction located on the National Mall. It comprises the main art gallery and a beautiful sculpture garden.
The gallery was founded in 1937 and houses an extensive collection of over 75,000 works. A range of artistic genres are on display, with works from artists of many nationalities and eras.
In addition, you can view many world-renowned paintings as you wander around the gallery. Just a few of the individuals with pieces on display include Rembrandt, William Blake, and Johannes Vermeer.
Between November and March, there is also an ice skating rink in the sculpture garden.
If you want an enjoyable trip, these are the top-rated experiences that visit the National Gallery of Art.
Dupont Circle is a vibrant neighborhood in central DC. It has outstanding bars, eateries, and other entertainment attractions. If looking for fun things to do at night in Washington, DC, heading to Dupont Circle is highly recommended.
For dinner, making a reservation at Obelisk is a must. The high-end restaurant is renowned for its Italian multi-course set menu. Another popular spot is Agora, which serves contemporary Mediterranean cuisine.
After eating, visit The Dupont Circle Hotel's bar, Doyle. The stylish and sophisticated bar serves elegant cocktails, sparkling wine, and spirits.
National Archives Museum
One of the most important places in Washington, DC, that you can visit is the National Archives Museum. Located inside the museum for visitors to see is a range of artifacts that are significant to United States history. Artifacts include the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
The Emancipation Proclamation, the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, and the Articles of Confederation are some more of the notable documents housed at the National Archives. Along with these documents, you can see exhibits on US politics, culture, history, and important events.
A trip to the National Archives Museum has to be added to your Washington, DC itinerary!
National Museum of Women in the Arts
The National Museum of Women in the Arts houses a vast collection of works by impressive female artists. Founded in 1981, the goal of the gallery is to highlight the artistic achievements of women across the globe.
Pieces on display include paintings, drawings, sculptures. There are also displays dedicated to literary works and performing arts. Along with viewing the works, you can learn more about the women who created them.
In total, there are 4,500 pieces in the museum's collection. These works date from the 1500s to today. Some of the women with pieces in the museum include Louise Bourgeois, Frida Kahlo, and Mary Cassatt.
Library of Congress
The official research library of the United States Congress is the Library of Congress. It was founded in 1800 and today holds 171 million items. The library is also the oldest federal institution in the country.
Before exploring the collection, you can admire the building's breathtaking architecture. As you look around, you'll discover a range of rare books and other publications.
You can also visit a library dedicated to Thomas Jefferson. There are library exhibits that cover famous authors and famous pieces of American literature.
Are you looking to have a stress-free day trip? Check out the top-rated tours that visit the Library of Congress.
One of the most important buildings in Washington, DC, is the Pentagon. Construction of this iconic structure began in 1941, and it gets its name from having five sides, in the shape of a pentagon.
The government building is used by the United States Department of Defense and is seen as a symbol of the US military. Each of the five sections of the building represents the five branches of the US Armed Forces.
Tours are available, but check the website to see if they are during your visit. These guided tours of the building will allow you to understand more about operations at the Pentagon and how they help with national security.
There are a few companies that offer experiences at the Pentagon. The experience Extended Monuments & Memorials Tour is rated very highly; most travelers score it five stars.
Opened in 1863, Ford's Theatre is another of the buildings in Washington, DC, with a rich history. The most notable event linked to the theater is the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. In 1865, just two years after its opening, the president was assassinated as he watched a performance.
Today, Ford's Theatre still hosts performing arts productions, which you can purchase tickets for online. There's also a museum to explore, with many exhibits on President Lincoln and his assassination by John Wilkes Booth.
This list covered the most famous Washington, D.C. sites and attractions. However, it has not even begun to scratch the surface of the many sites spread across the capital that are worthy of a visit.
And remember, nearly all of the city's attractions are free, subsidized by the federal government. Thank you, Uncle Sam!
This article was edited by Loredana Elena.
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