Are you about to embark on your trip to Washington and you still don’t know which places to visit? In this travel guide we will give you all the information you need about this destination.
The city of Washington is one of the most famous cities in the USA, mainly because it is the official capital of the country, but also because it is home to the seat of government and the famous White House. If you are going to visit Washington you will immediately realize that it is a very different city from all the other cities in the USA, since it was designed by a French engineer, Pierre L’Enfant, in 1790 by orders of President Washington. In fact, Washington’s intention was to build a new capital as beautiful as the capital of France, Paris. It is for this reason that the entire central area of Washington is slightly reminiscent of Paris, with its grand avenues and beautiful gardens full of excellence and majesty. Here are the 17 most interesting places to visit in Washington.
1. National Mall
Visiting the National Mall in Washington is a must, since it is the central area of Washington where the most important monuments and buildings of the city are located. The National Mall is the entire area that extends from Constitution Avenue to Independence Avenue. This is where many of Washington’s tourist attractions are located.
2. The Capitol
The Capitol is one of the most important places in Washington, which is why thousands of tourists visit the city every year. It is located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and houses the country’s congressional chambers.
3. The White House
The White House is another must-see in Washington (even if only from the outside). Visiting the White House from the inside, especially for foreigners, is no easy task. The work center of the head of state is a very well protected place that requires a lot of paperwork and permits if you want to access.
4. The Washington Memorials
The Memorials are another of Washington’s attractions. You can visit the one next to the National Mall erected to honor one of the most important presidents in the history of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln and the obelisk that honors the memory of George Washington in the Georgetown neighborhood, a very interesting and beautiful place to visit, which contrasts greatly with the tourist part of Washington.
5. Arlington National Cemetery
On a hillside overlooking the city from across the Potomac River, Arlington National Cemetery is filled with memorials to American history and the men and women who were part of it: to soldiers, the tomb of President John F. Kennedy, to nurses, to victims of the Iranian Rescue Mission, and to various battles and groups, including one at the graves of Lt. Maj. Roger B. Chaffee and Lt. Col. Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, who died in a fire aboard their Apollo spacecraft. Another commemorates the seven Challenger astronauts. In addition to all the memorials, you should know that this is the resting place of more than 400,000 people.
6. Change of Guard
It is precisely here, at Arlington National Cemetery, where you can witness the changing of the guard ceremony. In a solemn and impressive ceremony, the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is changed every hour on the hour from October 1 to March 31, and every half hour from April 1 to September 30. Although the cemetery is not in the middle of the city, both the Metrorail and Metrobus systems have stops near the entrance.
7. National Air and Space Museum
The National Air and Space Museum is one of Washington’s most popular museums and features a collection of historic air and space craft including the original 1903 Wright Brothers Flyer and Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the first plane to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. The history of more recent space missions is also represented here by the Apollo 11 command module, which was part of the first manned mission to the moon. Many of the exhibits are interactive and all contain real historical objects, such as a touchable moon rock. In addition, you can enjoy the Albert Einstein Planetarium, an IMAX theater and the Public Observatory. The flight simulators (pay separately) are a great experience for kids and adults alike, so this is a tourist attraction to consider if you are traveling with the family.
8. Ben’s Chili Bowl
No trip to Washington D.C. is complete without the iconic half-smoked bowl at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Our recommendation: the chili half smoke. It’s a sausage topped with chili, onions and mustard – absolutely delicious!
9. National Museum of Natural History
The National Museum of Natural History is another must-see museum in Washington, especially if you are traveling with children, where you can learn the details of more than 125 million species of the animal, plant and mineral kingdom. Another highlight is the Hall of Human Origins, which traces our evolution over six million years. Children are fascinated by the dinosaur exhibits and the Discovery Room, which is very interactive: here they can touch and play with various artifacts.
This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city (1700s, even before Washington itself). Georgetown’s architecture, historic homes and boutique stores, cafes, live music venues, restaurants and small museums make this neighborhood a popular respite from the queues at downtown attractions. There are several things to do and visit in Georgetown: Dumbarton Oaks, the C&O Canal (parallel to the Potomac River), Dumbarton House, Tudor Place Mansion or the Kreeger Museum are some of the highlights.
11. Old Town Alexandria
Although it is not technically in Washington D.C., it is certainly worth a trip. On the other side of the Potomac River (south of Washington) you can go visit Old Town Alexandria, a beautiful colonial area that still preserves its buildings and streets in very good condition. Known for its 18th and 19th century architecture, fabulous restaurants, boutiques, and a great art and cultural scene, Alexandria is a place to consider when organizing a trip to Washington. Because its hotels for the stay are cheaper and if you travel by car you can stay in them and visit Washington just 15-20 minutes away.
12. Lincoln Memorial
Although the Lincoln Memorial is just one of Washington’s many monuments, the Honorable Abe, it is among travelers’ favorites. Art history and architecture buffs, meanwhile, will enjoy admiring the building’s striking design by Henry Bacon, which features 38 Doric columns, 36 of which represent the states of the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death. The best time to visit is at dusk, when the attraction is illuminated and the crowds are fewer.
13. Obelisk (Washington Monument)
The 169-meter white shaft is an icon of the city. It was built to honor the nation’s first president and although the plan was approved by Congress in 1783, the cornerstone was not laid until 1848. Due to lack of funds and the Civil War, the monument was not completed until 1885. You can still see the various stages of its construction by the three color changes of its facing stones; inside are engraved stones of states, cities, foreign countries, individuals and civic groups, many of them donors who helped in its privately funded stages. You can ascend the Washington Monument by elevator to the top and enjoy magnificent aerial views of much of Washington.
14. National Archives
The National Archives preserves some of the most important documents in American history: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Magna Carta, and many other priceless documents. It was built after many papers from America’s formative years were lost in fires or among other papers. Reservations are not required to visit the National Archives, however, it is a very popular attraction among Americans, so it is recommended to avoid queues or running out of admission.
15. Memorial Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is located in West Potomac Park, adjacent to the National Mall. The centerpiece of the memorial is a giant granite statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. called the Stone of Hope. The monument is but a quarter, but the only one dedicated to a non-president in the vicinity of the National Mall and also the only one honoring an African American.
16. Tidal Basin
The Tidal Basin, which could be translated as “tidal basin,” is a 2-mile-long pond that was once attached to the Potomac River. If you travel in spring you have to go almost obligatory: it is the time when the cherry blossoms (a gift to Washington from Tokyo) bloom in pink tufts, and attract hordes of visitors. You can follow the path around the lake or take a boat with oars (for rent). Also, this is the site of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
17. Spy Museum
Who hasn’t dreamed of being a spy at least once in their life? This curious museum houses the world’s largest collection of spy artifacts and offers a unique global perspective on the importance and impact of spies. It features numerous exhibits and interactive displays, and even a 1965 lipstick gun.