20 Washington DC Landmarks

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Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States and a city filled with places most people around the world have seen in movies. Located in a Federal District, it is not part of any of the 50 states, instead situated on land donated by the states of Mayland and Virginia.

More than 20 million people visit each year, making it one of the most visited cities in the United States. With an immense collection of things to do and see, those who want to experience everything Washington D.C has to offer are going to need to commit some serious time to the endeavour.

However, for those who want to explore the city but don’t have quite that amount of free time to spare, there are the 20 landmarks in Washington D.C. you should not miss. These are the most iconic and historical locations that any trip to the nation’s capital wouldn’t be complete without visiting.

Washington DC Landmarks

The 20 Best Landmarks In Washington DC

1- The White House

national landmarks in washington dc The White House front view with blue sky and green lawn
Everyone in the world has seen The White House on the news, making it one of the most famous landmarks in Washington DC. Photos supplied by Destination DC.

Built at the very end of the 18th century, The White House has been the official residence of every United States President during their term.

The only exception to this is George Washington, who served as President before it was completed.

Its stunning white façade is based on traditional English and Irish county houses and is a grand piece of architecture.

A National Heritage Site, it is open to tours and visitors and is a fabulous place to learn more about the history of the U.S. government.

The White House is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, 20500.

2- The Pentagon

While technically located in Arlington, Virginia, on the other side of the Potomac River, The Pentagon remains one of the most famous landmarks for visitors to Washington D.C. to see.

The United States Department Of Defense headquarters is an impressive building constructed in the shape of a massive pentagon that covers more than 6.6 million square feet (620,000 square metres).

Take a guided tour to discover the history of the U.S. military and the construction of the building. Visit the Hall Of Heroes, which is a shrine dedicated to the recipients of the Medal Of Honor.

3- Smithsonian National Museum Of American History

washington dc landmrks and monuments The Smithsonian National Museum Of American History
The Smithsonian National Museum Of American History is another Washington DC landmark where you could spend days at.

This Smithsonian museum is one of the most visited museums in the United States, with more than 3.8 million annual visitors.

It has three floors and a lower level, outdoor sculptures, archives, and study centres.

The 1964 museum began as the Museum Of History And Technology and grew into the museum it is today.

It features displays and artefacts relating to the cultural, military, political, scientific, and social histories of the United States.

Smithsonian National Museum Of American History is at 1300 Constitution Avenue NW, 20560.

4- Lincoln Memorial 

washington dc landmarks

The Lincoln Memorial is another landmark in Washington D.C. not to miss.

It features a 19-foot (5.8 m) marble statue of the 16th U.S President Abraham Lincoln seated in a massive building inspired by the Parthenon.

The building has 36 Doric columns holding up the roof in a symbolic gesture that represented the 36 states in the Union – at the time when Lincoln was assassinated – holding up the nation. 

A U.S National Memorial, it was designed and carved over eight years between 1914 and 1922.

Inside the building, there are beautiful murals, monuments, and sculptures.

Lincoln Memorial is at 2 Lincoln Memorial Circle NW, 20002

5- United States Capitol 

Originally built in 1800, the United States Capitol houses the U.S. Senate and the House Of Representatives.

Designed in a Neo-Classical style, it boasts an iconic dome and white exteriors that are frequently copied by many of the state capitol buildings around the country.

Visitors can take guided tours around the interiors, which feature incredible murals and works of art, as well as easily recognisable locations like the Capitol Rotunda, crypt, and the chambers of the House and Senate.

Located at the original centre of the Federal District, it is surrounded by beautiful grounds and sports four flag poles that fly flags at different times to signify what is taking place within.

United States Capitol is at First Street SE, 20004.

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washington dc famous landmarks blue cockeral sculpture on the patio of the NGA
The Hahn/Cock sculpture of German artist Katharina Fritsch’s giant blue cockerel is a Washington DC landmark that symbolises strength, awakening and regeneration.

Washington DC’s National Gallery Of Art is one of the largest museums by area in the United States and the 21st most visited art museum in the world.

It is considered to be among the greatest museums in America yet doesn’t charge for admission, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to see its wonders.

Its collection of over 75,000 pieces includes decorative arts, drawings, medals, paintings, prints, photographs, and sculptures, covering the evolution of western art from the Middle Ages to the present day.

It also features the only painting by Leonardo Da Vinci anywhere in the Americas.

National Gallery Of Art is at Constitution Avenue NW, 20565.

7- Washington Monument

famous landmarks in washington dc
The Washington Monument was one of the tallest structures in the world for a period of time.

The Washington Monument is a 555-foot (169 m) obelisk located at the heart of the National Mall to honour the first President of the United States, George Washington.

It is a U.S National Memorial and has been listed on the U.S National Register Of Historic Places since 1966.

It was erected over 40 years from marble, with the stone structure completed between 1848 and 1884 and the internal metalworks and memorial stones finished by 1888.

The monument held the record of the world’s tallest structure for five years between 1884 and 1889, losing it when the Eiffel Tower was completed.

Lucky visitors can take an elevator to the top of the monument to take in stunning views of Washington D.C, although tickets are extremely limited.

Washington Monument is at 2 15th Street NW, 20024.

8- Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

The largest reflecting pool in Washington D.C sits at the centre of the National Mall, sandwiched between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, reflecting both structures in its water.

One of the most iconic locations in the city, it receives 24 million visitors each year.

Surrounded by walking paths and trees, it is a beautiful location for a leisurely stroll to take in the views.

The pool has been used as a location for many important events, including National addresses by various U.S. Presidents.

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool is at 2 Lincoln Memorial Circle NW, 20024.

9- Washington National Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral is a Gothic Washington DC landmark to tick off your to-see list.

Its official name is quite a mouthful – the Cathedral Church Of Saint Peter And Saint Paul In The City And Diocese Of Washington – and it’s no wonder most people refer to it as the Washington National Cathedral.

The second-largest church in the United States was designed in Neo-Gothic style and modelled closely on English structures from the late 14th century.

Built between 1906 and 1988, it is a fabulous destination to learn about the religious history of the United States and take in some of its most stunning architecture.

It has previously been ranked as the third most popular piece of architecture in all of America.

Washington National Cathedral is at 3101 Wisconsin Avenue NW, 20016.

10- George Washington Equestrian Statue

Sculpted by George Clark in 1860, the George Washington Equestrian Statue is a striking bronze statue depicting the first U.S. President George Washington on horseback, riding into battle.

Listed on the U.S National Register Of Historic Places, the statue is located in the centre of the Washington Circle.

This Washington DC monument is a memorial to the American War Of Independence.

George Washington Equestrian Statue is at 2192-2442 K Street NW, 20037.

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historical landmarks in washington dc National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery is another Washington DC landmark to tick of your to-visit list.

Open to the public since 1968, the National Portrait Gallery houses portraits of influential Americans throughout the country’s history.

It features a collection of more than 21,000 pieces and is the only museum dedicated exclusively to portraiture.

Operated as part of the Smithsonian Institution, it is located in another worthy DC landmark, the Old Patent Office Building. The patent office is one of the oldest patent offices in the United States, covering an entire city block.

The gallery receives more than 1 million visitors each year, and entry is entirely free.

National Portrait Gallery is at 8th And G Streets, 20001.

12- Arlington National Cemetery

Set across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, the Arlington National Cemetery is a vast military cemetery covering 639 acres (259 ha).

It’s the final resting place of members of the U.S military who have died in combat, many of whom have been buried dating back to the Civil War.

The cemetery is listed on the National Register Of Historic Places.

Pay your respects at the graves of fallen heroes and visit the landmarks like JFK’s Eternal Flame, the Memorial Amphitheatre, and the Tomb Of The Unknowns.

13- Ford’s Theatre

historic landmarks in washington dc Ford’s Theatre
Ford’s Theatre is another famous historic landmark in Washington DC.

Ford’s Theatre is a historic theatre best known as the site of the assassination of former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.

On 14 April 1865, John Wilkes Booth shot the president in the head during a performance of the play ‘Our American Cousin’.

Booth was a Confederate sympathiser born in Baltimore where slavery was still legal at that time.   

He had been plotting to kidnap Lincoln, whom he saw as a tyrant who was depriving the Confederates of their rights to legalise slavery and couldn’t believe his luck when Lincoln attended a play in the theatre where he was performing. 

You can enjoy performances in this historic destination while taking in its stunning architecture or take guided tours to learn more about the building and its infamous incident.

Ford’s Theatre is at 511 10th Street NW, 20004.

14- Smithsonian National Zoological Park

Smithsonian National Zoological Park is one of the USA’s oldest zoos and has been operating since 1899.

It offers free entry for all visitors and is open every day of the year except for Christmas Day.

Its collection of 2,000 animals includes amphibians, Asian elephants, big cats, birds, great apes, insects, reptiles, a range of aquatic animals, and their iconic giant pandas.

Smithsonian National Zoological Park is at 3001 Connecticut Avenue NW, 20008.

15- Basilica Of The National Shrine Of The Immaculate Conception

landmarks in washington dc Basilica Of The National Shrine Of The Immaculate Conception
The Basilica is an architecturally lovely landmark in Washington DC.

The Basilica is the largest Roman Catholic church in North America and one of the largest in the world. It’s also the tallest habitable building in Washington D.C.

It was designed in the Byzantine Revival and Romanesque Revival styles, it took almost 100 years to complete, with construction beginning in 1920 and not finishing till 2017.

Visitors can either attend a service at the cathedral or wander around both its interior and exterior, taking in the fabulous architecture and works of art.

Basilica Of The National Shrine Of The Immaculate Conception is at 400 Michigan Avenue NE, 20017.

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16- Thomas Jefferson Memorial

national historic landmarks in washington dc Thomas Jefferson Statue
Thomas Jefferson Statue is an impressive monument in Washington DC honouring the man himself.

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a memorial built to honour one of the founding fathers of the United States and the Democratic-Republican Party and the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence.

Featuring Neoclassical architecture, it is built with a columned rotunda in the style of the Pantheon in Rome and located on an artificial reservoir known as the Tidal Basin.

Featuring a statue of Thomas Jefferson himself and inscriptions from the Declaration Of Independence, it ranked fourth on a “List Of America’s Favourite Architecture”.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial is at 16 East Basin Drive SW, 20242.

17- Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is spread over 7.5 acres (3 ha)and is dedicated to America’s 32nd President.

It features four rooms, each representing a term in his 12-year presidency.

The memorial includes statues of FDR and his famous dog, inspired by pictures of the two, monuments based around events from the time of his presidency, waterfalls, and carvings of some of his most famous quotes.

FDR Memorial is at 1850 West Basin Drive SW, 20242.

18- Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

The memorial features an impressive 30-foot (9.1 m) statue of the famous civil rights leader.

Carved out of granite, the memorial was opened in 2011 and is a short walk from where he delivered his infamous “I Have A Dream” speech.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is at 1964 Independence Avenue SW, 20003.

19- Smithsonian Castle 

landmarks washington dc Smithsonian Castle
The Smithsonian Castle is another Washington DC landmark and a popular museum.

Built-in 1855, the Smithsonian Castle is designed in the Norman Revival style from Seneca red sandstone.

The very first Smithsonian building, it is the location of the Smithsonian Institution’s administrative offices and information centre.

The visitor centre includes interactive displays, maps, and informative computers, while there is also a crypt that houses the tomb of James Smithson, the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution.

The building has been listed as a National Historic Landmark since 1965.

Smithsonian Castle is at 1000 Jefferson Drive SW, 20560.

20- National Archives Museum

The National Archives Museum is home to some of the most important and historical documents that record milestones of the way of life in the USA, such as the Bill Of Rights, the Constitution, and the Declaration Of Independence.

You will also find additional documents such as the Articles Of Confederation And Perpetual Union, Emancipation Proclamation, the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, the Magna Carta, and several other photographs and artifacts relating to the USA’s history and culture.

Guided tours are available for visitors and take around 90 minutes to complete.

National Archives Museum is at 701 Constitution Avenue NW, 20408.

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Steve Burden is an avid traveller and experienced writer. As a former pro wrestler, Steve used to travel frequently for work throughout the USA and Europe. Having spent the last decade travelling all over the world in search of new sights and experiences, he has turned his love for travel into a new career helping others decide on the best places to visit, as well as what to see when they get there.