Ready to visit the best landmarks in Washington DC? With all of the beautiful and historical places to see and all of the interesting things to do in Washington DC, it can be hard to pick which ones to check out and which ones to skip. I’m here to help!
Some of my favorite landmarks include:
- Smithsonian Castle [total hidden gem!]
- Washington Monument
- Fords Theatre
Let’s dive in and learn about other incredible landmarks that you can visit during your trip to DC!
How many landmarks are in DC?
There are more than 750 landmarks and 50 historical districts in Washington DC! I grew up going to Washington DC and go very often, so let me show you what you shouldn’t skip!
Best Monuments and Landmarks in Washington DC
The White House
Easily one of the best landmarks in Washington DC, The White House is arguably the most recognizable symbol of America. You are free to tour the building Tuesday through Saturday in the mornings.
For family travelers, this is truly one of the best things to do in Washington DC with kids as it is interesting and educational for young learners!
If you prefer to see this iconic landmark with the help of a tour guide, there are tours available to you that allow you to see the White House and more of the best landmarks in DC with an experienced guide.
Book here: Bus Tour to the Highlights of the Capital
As one of the best landmarks in Washington DC, you can expect to see many others gathered around the Lincoln Memorial while you are there. This memorial took eight years to build, starting in 1914 and ending in 1922.
You can reach this memorial on foot from the Capitol in about forty-five minutes or you can take the Metrobus or Metrorail. The nearest stations are Foggy Bottom and Smithsonian.
Part of what makes the memorial one of the best Washington DC landmarks is its beauty and its surroundings. You can see the reflecting pool, the Washington Monument, and more from the Lincoln Memorial.
Book Here: DC Hop On Hop Off Tour
USA Capitol Building
One of the best landmarks in Washington DC is the US Capitol Building. This building is home to the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is where the country’s laws are crafted and where debates and deliberations on national policy take place.
The Capitol Visitors Center is open every day except for Sunday. Here, tours are led by professional tour guides and will take you to the Crypt, the Rotunda, and the National Statuary Hall. The tours are free and reservations are recommended.
As this is one of the most famous places in Washington DC, you should consider putting it on your DC itinerary. The Capitol Hill and Library of Congress Tour is another tour option that shows you the Capitol Building and other sites around it!
Book Here: Capitol Hill and Library of Congress Tour
Another site to check out while you are in town is the World War 2 Memorial as it is one of the best landmarks in Washington DC. This monument recognizes the service of Americans during the war, honors those who lost their lives, and celebrates the victory in restoring freedom around the globe.
This landmark is open twenty-four hours a day, all days of the week. It is located at the end of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool across from the Lincoln Memorial. A short ten-minute walk along the water connects the two memorials.
Book Here: Historical Highlights of the National Mall
The Smithsonian Castle is the first and oldest Smithsonian building. It opened its doors for the first time in 1855 and while it no longer houses exotic treasures the way that it did in the past. It mostly acts as a headquarters for the Smithsonian Castle.
As one of the best landmarks in Washington DC, this historic building draws a lot of attention for both its history and its beauty. Perfect for photoshoots and educational opportunities, this is one of the most famous DC buildings.
There are several landmarks, museums, and other points of interest that you can reach from the Smithsonian Castle within a ten-minute walk, including the National Museum of African American History and the National Gallery of Art.
Without a doubt, the Washington Monument is one of the major landmarks in DC that almost everyone plans on seeing while they are in the city. As this is one of those famous landmarks in Washington DC that you will likely add to your itinerary, here are a few of my top tips for visiting.
First, I recommend taking as little as possible with you to the monument as you have to pass through security to get to the monument. Strollers are not allowed and water is only allowed in clear plastic bottles.
If you want to take a tour of the monument grounds, you can book ahead of time or try to get day-of walk-up tickets in the morning which are distributed at the Washington Monument Lodge.
Book Here: Guided National Mall and Monuments Walking Tour
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
This memorial down from the Washington Monument lists the 58,318 Americans who gave their lives during the Vietnam War to serve their country. It is the most-visited memorial on the National Mall, bringing in more than five million visitors each year.
Among the best landmarks in Washington DC, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial’s most prominent feature is the massive wall with service members’ names inscribed.
However, there is also an In Memory plaque, a flagpole with etchings of the military branches, and two other memorials just feet away; these include The Three Servicemen Statue and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.
Book Here: Big Bus Hop-On-Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour by Open-top Bus
By far one of the more interesting historical sites around Washington DC, Fords Theatre is a must for history-loving travelers. This theatre is most well known for being the location of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.
While you are here you can check out the museum, inside the theatre, Peterson House which is a boarding house across the street from the theatre where Lincoln passed away the next morning, and the Aftermath Exhibits where you can learn about the hunt for John Wilkes Booth and the nations mourning following Lincoln’s death.
Book Here: Lincoln’s Assassination Walking Tour
The MLK Memorial downtown is among the best landmarks in Washington DC. Standing tall in front of a row of Cherry Blossom trees, the memorial honors his legacy and the struggle for justice and equality.
You can reach the MLK Memorial via a short 0.6-mile walk from the Washington Monument.
The memorial is open at all hours and entrance is free. From the memorial, you can easily reach the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial or the Lincoln Memorial where you can find the spot on the steps where MLK gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Book Here: Morning Private Tour of Washington DC
Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
Millions of visitors a year visit this impeccable museum of natural history! Easily one of the best landmarks in Washington DC, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is among the best museums in Washington DC!
It is open seven days a week and has a large variety of exhibits for you to check out. There are exhibits about the African Bush Elephant, fossils, human origins, ancient Egypt, the ocean, and more. The best part about this museum is that is totally free!
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is a research library that acts as a research service to the U.S. Congress. Not only is the library one of the best landmarks in Washington DC, but it is also the oldest federal cultural institution as it was founded in 1800.
I love the interior of this beautiful building! The ornate details and round design are stunning. Take one peek inside and you will see why the library is among the most beautiful historical landmarks in Washington DC.
Entry to the library is free and you can get timed entry passes online before your visit. Keep in mind that the library is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is located on the Tidal Basin on the National Mall. The memorial is a beautiful marble building with a large statue of Jefferson inside. Surrounded by columns and topped with a dome, this is one of my favorite landmarks in Washington DC!
The 129-foot tall marble structure is made from Vermont marble and inside you will find quotes by Thomas Jefferson and information about what he was like as a president. From the memorial, you can reach the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the International Spy Museum within a twenty-minute walk.
The National Archives
This stunning building with tall dramatic columns out front is home to many of the most famous items in United States history like the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence.
The building itself acts as one of the best Washington DC monuments and inside, you can enjoy the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom where you can see the most famous historical documents among other exhibits.
Book Here: National Archives Guided Museum Tour
A canal may not be what first comes to your mind when you think of the best landmarks in Washington DC, but I’m here to tell you why it should be! This canal is the product of the dream of George Washington.
His dream was achieved when the canal was opened in 1850 and was used as the main transportation method for lumber and agricultural products. Today, taking a walk along the canal and checking out the restaurants nearby is one of the best things to do in Washington DC at night.
Theodore Roosevelt Island
Among the best landmarks in Washington DC is the beautiful Theodore Roosevelt Island. Once called Mason’s Island, this island was taken from neglected land to a place of honor when the memorial to President Roosevelt was placed there.
This is easily one of the best monuments in Washington DC as it is surrounded by natural beauty and hiking trails. You can reach the island via a pedestrian bridge on the Virginia side of the island or from the George Washington Parkway.
The trails here on the island are all less than a mile long and are not difficult, so you have a few opportunities during your visit to relax on the trails in an easy and leisurely way!
The best landmarks in Washington DC range from memorials and government buildings to monuments and museums. Which of these incredible sites in DC will you be visiting first?