Washington DC is the capital of America and is a place rich with history and iconic buildings. Even if you’re not American, you’ll probably still have heard of at least many of these famous buildings before. Places like the White House and Capitol Building have been made famous in many works of art, movies and even video games. Washington DC borders the states of Maryland and Virginia and is home to many imposing neo-classical buildings found throughout the city. If you’re visiting Washington DC and want to see the highlights, here are some of the most famous buildings in the area.
1. Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is known as the “nation library of the U.S”. It is also the oldest federal institution in the U.S and it is so big that it is housed in three different buildings on Capitol Hill. The library claims that it is the “largest of its kind in the world” with collections in over 450 different languages. In 1812, much of it was burned down but by 1815, it went through a restoration project, with the most notable aspect of the process being the purchase of Thomas Jefferson’s entire personal library of over 6,000 books.
Library of Congress
Address: 101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC 20540, USA
Website: Library of Congress
2. Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral is the home of the archbishop of Washington. The neo-gothic style of the church is reminiscent of the English Gothic style of the late 14th century and over 270,000 people visit it annually. The cathedral began construction in 1907, and the first foundation stone was laid by then-President Theodore Roosevelt.
Washington National Cathedral
Address: 3101 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016, USA
Website: Washington National Cathedral
3. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Catholic church in the US and in North America. Featuring neo-Byzantine architecture, construction of the basilica began the 1920s and it is the patron home of the Catholic Church in the country. The basilica doesn’t have its own parish or community but it is located across from the Catholic University of America and three Popes have visited it so far.
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Address: 400 Michigan Ave NE, Washington, DC 20017, USA
4. Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial was built to memorialize President Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the US and one of the key figures that brought down slavery. The memorial is located on the national mall and it is one of the most visited sites in Washington DC. The building is in the form a Greek-style temple with Lincoln inside along with two inscriptions from the “Gettysburg Address” and his second Inaugural Address. The site was home of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream speech” and has been featured in countless movies from Forrest Gump to Planet of the Apes
Address: 2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA
Website: Lincoln Memorial
5. The White House
What is more iconic in DC than the White House itself? Probably nothing. One of America’s most famous national symbols, the White House has been the home of the president since John Adams in 1800. The building has undergone extensive reconstruction and renovation work since it was initially built and after being burned to the ground in 1814, it was reconstructed almost immediately by James Monroe. In 1909, President Taft created the West Wing, which is better known today as the oval office.
The White House
Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC.
Website: The White House
6. The US Capitol
The US Capitol building is the home of the United States Congress and is located on Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall. The original building was finished in 1800 and has since been expended and built in a neo-classical style with white exterior. The capitol is building is known architecturally for its large dome which only appeared in 1855. The building also interestingly features a crypt that was supposed to house the body of George Washington although because of his will, he is buried on Mount Vernon.
The US Capitol
Address: First St SE, Washington, DC 20004, USA
Website: The US Capitol
7. Smithsonian Institution Building
The Smithsonian Institution Building is nicknamed “The Castle” and for good reason. The red sandstone building was built in a 12th-century Norman-style motif and looks just like a castle. The building was completed in 1895 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the man who designed it also designed St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. The main Smithsonian Visitor’s centre is housed here as well as the crypt of founder James Smithson.
Smithsonian Institution Building
Address: 1000 Jefferson Dr SW, Washington, DC 20560, USA
Website: Smithsonian Institution Building
8. Thomas Jefferson Memorial
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is dedicated to one of America’s most important founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, who is known for drafting and writing the Declaration of Independence and was the American minister to King Louis XVI of France. He was the first secretary of state under Washington and the second Vice President under John Adams. Jefferson eventually became the third President of the US. The memorial sits in West Potomac Park overlooking the shores of the Potomac River. The memorial was built in 1939 and by 1947 a bronze statue of Jefferson was placed there.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Address: 701 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242, USA
Website: Thomas Jefferson Memorial
9. National Museum of the American Indian
The National Museum of the American Indian is part of the Smithsonian Institution and it is committed to preserving and understanding the culture of Native Americans from all over the country. Since 1989, the museum has repatriated over 5,000 items back to Native Americans and by the following year, the museum was officially part of the Smithsonian.
National Museum of the American Indian
Address: 4th St SW & Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560, United States
10. Washington Monument
What would be an article about Washington DC without the Washington Monument? The monument which bears the name of the city and dedicated to the man who would lead the US to independence and then be the first president. The monument is a large obelisk made out of marble and granite and stands as the world’s tallest obelisk at 554 feet (170 metres). Construction began in 1848 but only finished in 1888 with the civil war and lack of funds slowing down the process.
Address: 2 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20024, USA
Website: Washington Monument
Washington DC is the home of many famous landmarks and home of the American government. There are a ton of museums and sites to visit in Washington DC the only problem is finding the time to see them all. This list, therefore, condenses all that into a fun-size bucket list of the most prominent ones in the city that you should never miss!
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.