19 Washington DC Landmarks You Must See

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As the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. is certainly not lacking in historic landmarks and monuments to see that bring alive the history of the United States in a dramatic and incredible way.

When visiting the capital, you really should reserve a full day to see all of the Washington DC landmarks we have listed here. As you travel between these memorials and monuments, you’ll become immersed in the story of the beginnings of America, the wars its fought, and the victories it’s had.

» You might like Where to See Cherry Blossoms in DC.

Jefferson memorial and the tidal basin

» You might like 15 Awesome Places to Visit in the United States.

Where to Stay in Washington DC See all hotel options

  1. Willard Intercontinental – this is an exceptional hotel close to everything
  2. Conrad Washington DC – right next to the Capital One Arena and great restaurants
  3. Westin Washington DC City Center – right in the center of everything

Best Tours and Experiences in Washington DC

  1. Tickets for Monuments by Moonlight
  2. Private Washington DC Guided Tour
  3. Capitol Hill Guided Walking Tour with Entry to US Capitol & Library of Congress
  4. Arlington National Cemetery Guided Walking Tour with Changing of the Guards

There’s nothing quite like walking around the National Mall where many of these landmarks are. There’s so much to see and do that you’ll easily fill an entire day – or 2-3 if you stop at the many museums that are interspersed throughout. Be prepared for a lot of walking!

Use this 3-day Washington DC itinerary to help you plan your trip.

» Want more? We’ve got a great 3-day itinerary to make your planning easier. Add to your plan with these 50 top activities to do in Washington DC, or see it like a local with these non-touristy things to do. We also recommend seeing these special landmarks.

Where to Stay in Washington DC

There are a lot of great neighborhoods in Washington where you can stay as a tourist and fully enjoy yourself. Where you stay depends a lot on what you want to do and your budget. For budget travelers, it may be more economical to stay outside the city in Arlington or Alexandria and take the Metro in.

Map of Hotels in DC

Top Landmarks to See in Washington DC

The White House

The White House

The White House is the official residence of each US president since 1800. It’s located in Washington DC and visitors can admire it from afar or stop by the White House Visitor Center to request access for a self-guided tour

Book this tour: White House and Pennsylvania Avenue Architecture Tour.

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial is an American national monument built to honor the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. It is located on the western end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., across from the Washington Monument.

Book this tour: Washington DC Monuments by Moonlight Tour by Trolley

Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial

Vietnam Veteran's Memorial

The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial is an incredibly moving display of the names of more than 58,000 U.S. service members who fought in the Vietnam War, those who died in service in Vietnam/South East Asia, and those who were declared missing in action during the War. The wall is a poignant reminder of the lives lost in battle.

Washington Memorial

Washington Memorial

Free tickets for the trip to the top of the Washington Memorial are given on a first-come first-served basis starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Washington Monument Lodge at 15th Street adjacent to the monument.

The visit takes you to the top where the view of the city is one of the best you can find. Alternatively, you can just walk around the base and admire the monument and surrounding flags.

Ford’s Theatre

Yes, Ford’s Theater is still an active theater with regular productions that you can attend, and it’s a pretty cool way to see a historical location. When I lived there, I went to Ford’s Theater to see A Christmas Carol every year. It was magical.

Downstairs is a museum containing many artifacts from Lincoln’s presidency and assassination.  Advance reservations are recommended during tourist season.

Book this tour: The Lincoln Assassination Walking Tour

FDR Memorial

FDR Memorial

The FDR Memorial is one of my favorites on the mall. The monument focuses on the story of the U.S. while FDR was President and features waterfalls and moving statues, including one of FDR in a wheelchair near the entrance.

It’s a peaceful and moving tribute to an American icon. If you’re up for it, take a tour of the monuments at night and you’ll see them in a new, more dramatic, light.

⇒ Over 30% off on unforgettable Night Tours in Washington DC

Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial

The Jefferson Memorial is a huge presence in DC, along the Potomac River. It’s a great place to see the Cherry Blossoms from when they are in bloom, or to have a picnic on a sunny day.

Of course, you’ll want to hike the stairs for a view of the towering Thomas Jefferson statue that stands in the middle.

⇒ Book your Washington DC Guided Night Tour here.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Martin Luther King Jr Memorial

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial opened in October 2011, a few months after the 48th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech. Set in the greater National Mall area, the memorial occupies four acres of land in West Potomac Park and looks out over Tidal Basin near the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.

The site includes both a commanding 30-foot statue of Dr. King and a 450-foot granite inscription wall, featuring 14 excerpts from King’s speeches, sermons and other public addresses.

 Tour to book: African-American History Tour with Reserved Museum Entry

World War II Memorial

World War 2 Memorial

Another moving tribute on the National Mall is the World War II Memorial. In the center of the monument is a shallow pool surrounded by 56 pillars – one for each of the states and territories of the U.S. that sacrificed soldiers to the war.

On one side is a Freedom wall that has 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war.

Korean Memorial

Korean War Memorial

The Korean War Veterans Memorial honors the 5.8 million Americans who served in the Korean War (1950-1953). The memorial consists of life-like statues of a patrol squad, a walled triangle inscribed with scenes depicting the Korean War, and a reflecting pool.

Book this tour: DC at Dusk Guided Night Tour

Washington National Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral

The Washington National Cathedral is a historic building that welcomes all visitors, regardless of faith. More than 400,000 people visit the cathedral each year and it has been used for state funerals for 21 American presidents.

U.S. Capitol Building

US Capital Building

The Capitol dome towers above the Roman columns and gardens of Washington D.C., which is the political and geographic center of America. The Statue of Freedom stands atop the Capitol, symbolizing American freedom. It’s a gorgeous building to walk through and it’s an experience you won’t forget, due to its grandeur. We won’t let the events of Jan 6 sway that.

Book this tour: Capitol Hill and DC Monuments Tour by Electric Cart

Old Stone House

Old Stone House

The Old Stone House is a historic building in Washington, D.C., that was built in 1765. Today, a knowledgeable park ranger greets visitors as they enter the building and shares the colorful history of the capital city’s oldest structure. Visitors can take an informal tour through Old Stone House.

Book this tour: Historic Georgetown Architecture Tour

U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial

Iwo Jima memorial

This statue of Marines raising the American flag on Japanese soil after the Battle of Iwo Jima is dedicated to the military service of U.S. Marines since 1775, when they first fought in defense of American soil.

The 32-foot soldiers and 60-foot flagpole comprise the largest bronze memorial in the world, while the Stars and Stripes here are made of real cloth. The statue’s flag flies 24 hours a day pursuant to a 1961 proclamation made by President John F. Kennedy.

Albert Einstein Memorial

Albert Einstein Memorial

The Albert Einstein Memorial is a statue of the world-renowned astrophysicist, located on the grounds of the National Academy of Sciences. The statue is 12 feet tall and depicts Einstein in a seated posture with a ponderous expression and holding a sheaf of papers.

U.S. Air Force Memorial

Air Force Memorial

The U.S. Air Force Memorial, officially dedicated on October 14, 2006 by President George W. Bush himself, is a new memorial in the Washington area designed to honor the men and women who serve and sacrifice for the U.S. Air Force. Architect James Ingo Freed designed the formidable three-spire monument to depict the contrails of three USAF Thunderbirds flying in the missing-man formation traditionally reserved for Air Force Funerals.

National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial

Pentagon 9/11 Memorial

The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial is located adjacent to the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The memorial features 184 illuminated benches spread across two acres (one hectare), each dedicated to a victim of the tragedy.

U.S. National Arboretum

US National Arboretum

The National Arboretum is a large, diverse expanse of gardens and forests located in Washington, DC. The arboretum is home to the National Bonsai Museum, the National Herb Garden, and 200-year-old U.S. Capitol columns.

U.S. Navy Memorial

US Navy Memorial

The U.S. Navy Memorial is a circular plaza with a “Granite Sea” map of the world in the center. Two tall, arced buildings encompass the map, and there are fountains with pools, sculpted panels, and long columns around it.

Where To Stay

Washington DC has an array of neighborhoods, each with its own unique architectural style and cultural flare. Whether you’re going to DC for sightseeing, shopping, or a vibrant night scene—we’ve got you. For more information check out the best areas to stay in Washington DC.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some must-see attractions in Washington DC?

Washington DC is home to many iconic attractions, including the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian Museums, the White House, and the United States Capitol. Visitors can also explore historic neighborhoods like Georgetown and Dupont Circle in the city, or take a stroll along the Potomac River.

How can I get around Washington DC?

Washington DC has an extensive public transportation system, including the Metro subway and bus system, which is a convenient and affordable way to get around the city. Visitors can also use ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, or rent a bike or scooter to explore the city on their own.

When is the best time to visit Washington DC?

The best time to visit Washington DC depends on your preferences. Spring (March-May) and fall (September-November) are popular times to visit, as the weather is mild and there are many outdoor events and festivals. Summer (June-August) can be hot and humid, but it is also peak tourist season, with many attractions and museums offering extended hours. Winter (December-February) is typically the least crowded time to visit the city, but it can be cold and snowy.

How can I visit the White House or the United States Capitol?

Visitors can tour the White House and the United States Capitol by booking a tour in advance through their Member of Congress. These tours are free, but they do require advance planning and security screening. Visitors can also view the White House from outside the gates on Pennsylvania Avenue, or take a guided tour of the Capitol Visitor Center.

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19 Washington DC Landmarks You Must See

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