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17 Famous Washington, D.C. Landmarks You Must See

Washington, D.C. landmarks are some of the most recognizable in the world. The lively capital of the United States is home to a treasure trove of iconic landmarks, from grand monuments and majestic memorials to prestigious government buildings and vibrant neighborhoods.

Washington, D.C., preserves the nation’s history and pays tribute to those who lost their lives for their country. If you’d like to immerse yourself in a place that truly embodies the spirit of a nation, join me as I unpack the timeless allure of Washington, D.C.’s most celebrated landmarks.

17 Washington, D.C. Landmarks You Must See

Washington, D.C. is an excellent place to marvel at some of the most famous landmarks in North America. Here are some of the most outstanding landmarks in Washington, D.C.

1. Washington Monument


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Standing 169 meters (555 feet) tall, the Washington Monument is arguably the most famous of all of D.C.’s landmarks. The towering marble obelisk commemorates one of the Founding Fathers and the First President of the United States, George Washington.

The colossal stone structure is surrounded by 50 American flags at its base, representing the states of the nation. After admiring the monument from the ground, take the elevator to the observation deck, where you’ll be rewarded with sweeping city views.

Top Tip: You can see all the top attractions in D.C. with a hop-on hop-off trolley tour. And if you prefer to see the landmarks without the crowds, a nighttime tour will be right up your alley.

2. The White House


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Located at the most famous address in the world – 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, The White House is the official workplace and residence of the President of the United States. The white-washed state house has been home to every President and their family since 1800.

You can see where all the important decisions are made by booking a tour at The White House Visitor Center. Although you’ll have limited access to the statehouse, you can walk through the State Dining Room, Red Room, and Green Room.  

3. Lincoln Memorial

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Built in honor of the 16th President of the United States—Abraham Lincoln, the Lincoln Memorial is a neoclassical structure that resembles The Parthenon in Greece. The landmark features a 5.8-metre (19-foot) marble statue of the President seated and seemingly deep in thought.

Lincoln Memorial also has 36 Doric columns holding up the roof. This symbolizes the 36 states of America that existed at the time of his death. During your visit to the memorial, please take note of the inscriptions from some of his most famous speeches around the statue.

4. United States Capitol


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The United States Capitol serves as the seat of Congress. Essentially, it is the legislative branch of the federal government. The Capitol Building houses the Senate and the House of Representatives – so this is actually where the real decisions are made.

The building features an 88-metre (289-foot) neoclassical dome that dominates the D.C. skyline. You can tour the interior, where you’ll see art murals, the beautiful frescoes of the Capitol Rotunda, the crypt, and the chambers of the House and Senate.

Top Tip: You can see the U.S. Capitol Building and the Library of Congress – the research arm of Congress with a guided walking tour.

5. Smithsonian National Museum of American History


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If you’re a history buff or you just like pondering philosophical questions, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History may have all the answers you’re looking for. The museum is one of the most visited in the U.S., drawing over three million visitors annually.

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History has three floors; the lower level, outdoor sculptures, and archives and study centers. On display, you’ll find artefacts about the cultural, military, political, scientific, and social histories of the United States.

6. National Mall

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Photo by Paula Nardini on Pexels

The National Mall is one of the most cherished symbols of American heritage and democracy. Spanning over three kilometers (1.9 miles), the National Mall is home to many of Washington D.C.’s most iconic landmarks. 

Dotted across the well-kept lawns of the National Mall, you’ll find many famous landmarks in the U.S. The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial are all located within the park.

Hosting many presidential inaugurations, Fourth of July festivities, and even sporting events – it’s not a surprise that the National Mall receives over 25 million visitors annually.

Take a guided National Mall tour, and get to see about 10 iconic landmarks, and if you are a night person, there’s also a nighttime tour for a crowd-free experience.

7. Vietnam Veterans Memorial & Korean War Veterans Memorial


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Sitting on each side of the Washington Monument, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Korean War Veterans Memorial pay tribute to the many people who lost their lives for their country.

At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, you’ll find a black 243-metre (797-foot) granite wall engraved with the names of over 58,000 servicemen and women who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. On the side of the reflective pool, you’ll find the Korean War Veterans Memorial. 

It pays tribute to the 5.8 million Americans who served in the war – over 50,000 lost their lives and 8,000 listed as M.I.A or buried at sea. You’ll find 19 steel statues of soldiers from different branches of the armed forces dotted across the grounds.

8. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum


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If you’re up for an out-of-this-world experience, look no further than the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The museum is home to the largest and most significant collection of aviation and space artifacts in the world.

You’ll get to see some of the most significant aspects of U.S. history through exhibitions like the 1903 Wright Brothers Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis, and many more. You can also catch a movie at the museum’s IMAX theatre.

9. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial


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Located along the Tidal Basin on West Potomac Park, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, although fairly new, is one of the most significant landmarks in Washington, D.C. 

The monument comprises the Stone of Hope – a 9.11-metre (30-foot) granite statue of Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King Jr. You’ll find 14 of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s quotes inscribed around the statue.

10. National Gallery of Art


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If you’re an art lover, there’s no better place in D.C. to immerse yourself in creativity than the National Gallery of Art. The gallery boasts an extraordinary collection of 141,000 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculptures, and decorative arts. 

You’ll also find modern media tracing the development of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present day.

11. Arlington National Cemetery


Photo by J. Amill Santiago on Unsplash

Sitting along the banks of the Potomac River, the Arlington National Cemetery is a 259-hectare military cemetery reserved for American soldiers killed in battle since the Civil War. The cemetery is also the final resting place for many famous people, including John F. Kennedy, Thurgood Marshall, and the Unknown Soldier.

12. Thomas Jefferson Memorial


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Reminiscent of the iconic Pantheon – one of the famous monuments in Rome, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial pays tribute to the founder of the Democratic-Republican Party and one of the Founding Fathers.

As you enter the memorial, you’re greeted by a 5.8-meter (19-foot) bronze statue of Jefferson, with excerpts from the Declaration of Independence surrounding him. Visit in the spring and see the monument with a vibrant backdrop of blooming Japanese cherry blossoms.

13. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


Photo by J. Amill Santiago on Unsplash

Sitting adjacent to the National Mall, this museum pays tribute to millions who lost their lives during the Holocaust. It takes you on an emotional journey of the Holocaust through 12 500 artifacts and exhibits documenting the atrocities the Jews faced at the hands of the Nazis. 

You’ll get to see haunting images of life in the ghettos and concentration camps, replicas of the train boxcars used to transport Jews, personal belongings of the victims, and Nazi propaganda.

14. Ford’s Theatre


Photo by Wiki Commons

Known as the location of Abraham Lincoln’s gruesome assassination, Ford’s Theatre is a Washington, D.C. building enthralled in bloody history. The Victorian-style theatre boasts a museum where you can learn about events leading up to the assassination and the aftermath through exhibitions. 

Today, Ford’s Theatre still hosts performing arts productions and live performances.

15. The Pentagon


Image by David Mark from Pixabay

The headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, the Pentagon, is one of the most famous buildings in the world. The building serves as a symbol of the U.S Military, with each of the five sections representing the five branches of the US Armed Forces.

You can take a tour of the Pentagon but check their website first to know more about the guided tours and their availability. You’ll get to learn about the various operations at the Pentagon and visit the Hall Of Heroes – a dedication to the recipients of the Medal of Honor.

16. Washington National Cathedral


Image by cbhagman from Pixabay

Officially named The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, Washington Cathedral is the second largest church in the U.S.

The Neo-Gothic cathedral boasts a breathtaking interior featuring a tall ceiling and religious statues. The cathedral is open for active worship and tours – attracting over 400,000 people annually, regardless of their faith. 

17. Georgetown Historic District


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As one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods, the Georgetown Historic District is a captivating neighbourhood that seamlessly blends historic charm with modern vibrancy. 

Famous for its cobblestone streets, row houses, and 18th-century architecture, this picturesque district exudes a timeless ambience. Admire the colourful houses and visit the many boutiques, galleries, and upscale restaurants. 

Best Washington, D.C. Landmarks | Wrapped Up

So there you have it. Washington, D.C. Landmarks are like a time machine that takes you on an incredible journey through American history and culture. You’ll love exploring these places from the Washington Monument to the iconic White House — and let’s not forget the United States Capitol and charming Georgetown Historic District. 

They’re not just buildings or monuments. They’re symbols of democracy, power, and the American spirit. So if you’re up for some serious awe-inspiring landmarks, D.C. is where it’s at!

I covered all of the costs related to this article on landmarks in Washington DC. This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click through on some of the links in the article and end up making a purchase I may receive a small commission.

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