Are you looking for the most famous landmarks in Washington DC to plan your upcoming trip? We’ve got you covered!
This guide dives into the most popular Washington DC landmarks – from the US Capitol Building to Korean War Veterans Memorial.
Did we miss any of your favorite DC landmarks in this guide? Let us know the best landmarks in DC in the comments – thanks!
Best Way to See These DC Landmarks
To be honest, the best way to see the most iconic landmarks in Washington DC is to map out your own itinerary – or to take a tour!
Washington DC is renowned for its moonlight monuments tours and this is seriously the coolest way to check them all out!
Best Landmarks in Washington DC (+ Map)
Below, you will find an extensive list of some of the best landmarks in DC – but, if you’re looking to see their location at a glance, here is a map to help you out!
To add this map to your Google Maps account, click the ‘Star’ icon next to the map name. You can then view it on your cell phone or computer by heading to your Google Maps account and going to ‘Your Places’.
1. The White House
If you’re traveling to the nation’s capital, be sure to visit The White House, as it’s an essential part of any Washington DC experience!
The White House has been the residence of numerous Presidents since the 18th century and has been the site of major world events (and the occasional controversy!).
Although the building has undergone significant changes over the years through numerous renovations and restorations, it remains a can’t-miss DC landmark.
You can catch a glimpse of the White House through the fence, which is the easiest way to view it. However, if you want to tour the White House, you need to make advance reservations.
Citizens should arrange a tour through their members of Congress, while foreign citizens should contact their embassy in Washington DC to help organize a tour.
Do check before to ensure tours are actually running during the time of your visit!
Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500
2. The US Capitol Building
The United States Capitol, the legislative branch of the US government (the Senate and the House of Representatives) calls this recognizable building ‘home’.
The building was constructed in the 1800s, and the design was chosen through a competition that invited architects to submit proposals.
Unfortunately, most of the submissions were unsuitable or too expensive, but, a design from an amateur architect was selected as the winner. And, 14 years after its completion, the US Capitol was destroyed by the British.
Despite the damage, the Capitol was rebuilt over the years, with various parts undergoing reconstruction, including a somewhat problematic renovation of the east facade.
You can visit the US Capitol, which has several exhibits and a gift shop, on your Washington DC trip! Tours run from Monday to Saturday and can be booked online or on the day of your visit.
Address: First St SE, Washington, DC 20004
3. The National Mall
When you’re in Washington DC, be sure to visit the National Mall, which is famously called “America’s Front Yard” and managed by the National Park Service.
This expansive park is home to several iconic sites and buildings in the country, such as the United States Capitol and the Washington Monument.
Additionally, the National Mall has witnessed several significant events in history, from Presidential Inaugurations to crucial moments in the Civil Rights movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech!
You can access the National Mall at any time, as it is open 24 hours a day, and there are ranger services available throughout the day.
4. The National Archives
If you’re interested in American and world history, the National Archives is a must-visit place in DC!
This archive houses some of the most crucial documents in history, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Magna Carta, and several other priceless papers.
The archives were established to provide a secure location to store documents after many papers from America’s early days were lost in fires or among other paperwork.
Although reservations are not required to visit the archives, it’s suggested to book them in advance to avoid showing up disappointed!
If you want to learn more about the archives and their contents, I highly recommend booking a tour.
Address: 700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20408
5. Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial is a monument that pays homage to one of the country’s most beloved Presidents.
This iconic site holds great historical significance, as it has been the location of many significant events, such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
The statue has several interesting features, including hands that may spell A and L in sign language, which the sculptor may have done intentionally.
Additionally, there was a spelling error during the Second Inaugural Speech carving, where an E was mistakenly carved instead of an F, but it has been concealed since.
The Lincoln Memorial, located on the western side of the National Mall, is accessible 24 hours a day and is one of the city’s most famous tourist attractions.
It is particularly stunning during spring in the nation’s capital when the area is filled with the famous DC cherry blossoms!
Address: 2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC 20002
6. Washington Monument
When you’re on the National Mall, don’t forget to visit the Washington Monument, which is the world’s tallest obelisk!
This impressive stone structure, dedicated to the memory of the first President, George Washington, was the tallest building in the world until the Eiffel Tower surpassed it.
You can take an elevator to the top of the monument, where you can spend ten minutes on the observation deck, but it’s best to book tickets in advance, as lines can be very long.
Interestingly, there is a 12-foot replica of the monument hidden under a manhole cover near the monument for mapping purposes.
If you ask a ranger nicely, they might be willing to show it to you!
7. Library of Congress
One of the most incredible places to explore in DC is the Library of Congress, a massive library that houses more than 170 million items, making it the largest library on the planet!
Although the library’s primary mission is to support Congress, it’s also open to the public, and visitors can take a tour or do research in the reading rooms.
The building itself is stunning, with murals and mosaics, and it boasts several exhibitions that display its vast collection, including the Gutenberg Bible, Thomas Jefferson’s library, and the papers of US Presidents.
In addition, the Library of Congress is where the United States Copyright Office is situated, and copyrighted materials are registered there.
With something for everyone, from history enthusiasts to literature lovers, the Library of Congress is one of the most popular DC landmarks that should be on your itinerary (especially if you’re a history buff).
Address: 101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC 20540
8. Arlington National Cemetery
Be sure to visit Arlington National Cemetery if you have a weekend or longer in Washington DC! It is a cemetery that honors those who served in the Armed Forces and is the nation’s most famous burial place.
Since the Civil War, the cemetery has been in use and is the final resting place of numerous soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the country.
Apart from military burials, the cemetery also has other notable non-military burials, including John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
One of the most famous tombs is the one dedicated to the unknown soldier, which is dedicated to those who died during wars and could not be identified.
It is free to enter the cemetery and walk around on your own. If you would like to take a guided tour by shuttle, tickets are $15, although military personnel can get discounted rates. Please note that the famous landmark is actually located in Arlington VA, not in Washington DC (super close by though)!
9. Washington National Cathedral
The Washington National Cathedral is a Protestant-Episcopal church that has been the venue for several significant ceremonies, such as state funerals, Presidential prayers, and remembrance services.
The church is also where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his final sermon before his assassination.
The Washington DC landmark’s architecture is a combination of various classic styles, but it is mainly considered Neo-Gothic. The church’s exterior features gargoyles and grotesques, two of which were created by winners of a design competition.
Make sure to take the time to explore the building and search for one of the competition entries, a grotesque image of Darth Vader’s helmet!
Address: 3101 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016
10. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is situated in West Potomac Park near the National Mall.
The memorial’s main attraction is the massive granite statue of Martin Luther King Jr. known as the Stone of Hope.
One thing to know is that this monument is the 4th one dedicated to a non-President in the vicinity of the National Mall, and it is the only one that honors an African American there.
Address: 1964 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20003
11. Thomas Jefferson Memorial
The Jefferson Memorial is one of the most visited monuments in the country and it is located in West Potomac Park, just south of the National Mall at the Tidal Basin.
The circular building is designed in Jefferson’s favorite architectural style and can be seen in structures he designed, such as the Rotunda at the University of Virginia (a UNESCO World Heritage Site!).
The monument is surrounded by a variety of Japanese Cherry Blossom trees, and every year during the spring, it serves as the host of the National Cherry Blossom Festival (or at least the most iconic landmark during the time).
This two-week festival celebrates the colorful sakuras and the friendship between Japan and the US.
Address: 16 E Basin Dr. SW, Washington, DC 20242
12. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Another famous Washington DC icon is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, one of the most impressive structures in the city.
This church is one of the largest in the world and took almost a century to build, with the final pieces being finished in 2017… 97 years after construction began!
The church’s interior is breathtaking, with expansive mosaics adorning the ceilings. One of the most noteworthy mosaics is the trinity dome, one of the world’s largest in that style.
The church is often referred to as “America’s Catholic Church” and is very welcoming to visitors of all denominations.
Guided tours are available, and you can learn about the artwork and architectural design of the building.
Address: 400 Michigan Ave NE, Washington, DC 20017
13. Ford’s Theatre
Be sure to stop by Ford’s Theatre, one of the world’s most famous theaters, although far more for its history than its theatrical productions.
This theater is the site where President Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 which was one of the most significant events in American history.
Following the assassination, the theater was closed to the public and transformed into offices and a warehouse, quickly falling into disrepair and partially collapsing.
After being repaired, the building continued to house offices and a small museum dedicated to Lincoln.
In the 1960s, it was restored to be a theater once again and continues to put on performances, although the Presidential box always remains empty.
Visitors can take a tour of the theater, as well as the museum across the street and the Peterson House, where Lincoln eventually passed away.
The museum not only covers Lincoln’s life but also the Civil War and the conspiracy that led to his untimely death.
Address: 511 10th St NW, Washington, DC 20004
14. The Capitol Stones
If you venture into Rock Creek Park, you can discover a hidden treasure known as the Capitol Stones, which are the remnants of the east facade of the Capitol Building.
For a long time, the stones were considered nothing more than an urban myth, but they do exist!
In the 1950s, a decision was made to add an extension to the Capitol Building, which many politicians protested as unnecessary and detrimental to the historically significant building.
Despite these protests, a former Congressman with no architectural experience was tasked with redesigning the building.
While the columns that lined the east facade were eventually relocated to the National Arboretum, the building’s stones were more challenging to dispose of due to their historical significance.
As a result, they were secretly stashed away in Rock Creek Park. Although neither the city nor the National Park Service acknowledges or maintains the stones, they can be discovered about half a mile from the nature center.
15. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is an unmissable attraction when in Washington DC!
You will find the outdoor memorial located in West Potomac Park, taking up a vast 7.5 acres, making it one of the largest presidential memorials in the city.
The memorial consists of four outdoor rooms, each representing one of FDR’s terms in office, with water features, sculptures, and quotes from the President.
It’s designed to give visitors an immersive experience of the life and presidency of FDR.
Walking through the memorial will transport you back in time and allow you to learn about the contributions of one of America’s most iconic Presidents.
Address: 4305 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20408
16. Korean War Veterans Memorial
The Korean War Veterans Memorial pays tribute to the brave individuals who served in the Korean War and is an iconic landmark in DC.
Located in West Potomac Park near the Lincoln Memorial, the outdoor memorial is made up of 19 striking stainless steel statues, representing a platoon of soldiers on patrol.
The statues are arranged in a triangular formation, representing the geography of the war, while a granite mural wall displays images of soldiers, equipment, and loved ones back home.
To fully appreciate the emotional impact of the memorial, it’s best to visit at night, when the statues are illuminated, and create a powerful and moving atmosphere.
Address: 900 Ohio Dr. SW, Washington, DC 20024
17. Ruins of the Columbian Cannon Foundry
One of the newer discoveries in the city are the ruins of the Columbian Cannon Factory.
This historic foundry was operational in the early 19th century, producing a significant amount of ammunition for the Army.
Despite an attack by British Redcoats who set it on fire, the foundry miraculously survived, thanks to an unseasonal downpour that extinguished the flames.
Over time, the foundry became outdated and fell into disuse, and the buildings were destroyed by railroad construction and the passage of time.
Today, all that remains are the walls of some of the outbuildings, which can be found along the Capital Crescent Trail.
Address: 38.9054, -77.0790
18. Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Make sure you don’t miss the Vietnam Veterans Memorial when visiting Washington DC, which is located in Constitution Gardens.
The memorial is designed to honor the brave men and women who served and died in the Vietnam War. It consists of two black granite walls that display the names of over 58,000 fallen soldiers.
The walls are created to reflect, so visitors can see themselves alongside the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
It’s an emotional and touching tribute that honors the sacrifices of those who served in one of the most divisive conflicts in American history.
Address: 5 Henry Bacon Dr. NW, Washington, DC 20002
19. Navy Yard Railroad Gun
The Railroad Gun located at the Navy Yard is a formidable machine of war and an excellent example of its monstrousness.
During WWI, the gigantic gun was positioned on train lines far from the front line and bombarded German forces from afar.
Despite its effectiveness, the gun’s modernity made it incompatible with the military tactics employed during that time.
The Navy Yard’s outdoor ordnance museum houses the Railroad Gun, and it’s open from Mondays to Fridays.
Nonetheless, the fence along the Anacostia River Trail offers a glimpse of the gun to those who want to view it without visiting the DC museum.
Address: 736 Sicard St SE, Washington, DC 20374
20. Congressional Cemetery
The Congressional Cemetery is famous for being the burial place of members of Congress who passed away while serving in office.
It’s also the site of funerals for some former Presidents, and the funeral format here influenced modern-day state funerals.
The cemetery is still active, so be respectful of ongoing services while exploring if you put it on your itinerary!
If you’re a member of the Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery, you can pay an additional fee to let your dog walk off-leash within the cemetery grounds (the fee goes to help with upkeep).
Address: 1801 E St SE, Washington, DC 20003
21. The Tidal Basin
If you’re in Washington DC, don’t miss out on visiting the Tidal Basin, a man-made reservoir that is fed by the Potomac River.
The basin is surrounded by several notable monuments (many previously mentioned above!), such as the Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.
In the spring, the area is particularly picturesque, with thousands of cherry blossom trees lining the basin and displaying beautiful shades of pink and white.
You can take a leisurely stroll around the basin or rent a paddleboat to fully experience the beauty of the place.
The Tidal Basin is an ideal location for a picnic or a romantic evening walk and it is super photogenic – so bring your camera along)!
22. National World War II Memorial
When you visit the National Mall, be sure to see the National World War II Memorial, which pays tribute to the 16 million American men and women who served in World War II, including the 400,000 who lost their lives.
The centerpiece of the memorial is a large fountain surrounded by 56 pillars made of granite, each representing a state or territory that participated in the war.
The memorial also has two pavilions, one honoring the Atlantic theater and the other the Pacific theater.
It’s a beautiful and moving memorial that honors the courage and sacrifice of so many during this pivotal moment in history.
Address: 1750 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024
23. The National Theatre
Another iconic Washington DC landmark is the National Theatre, a historic performance venue located downtown.
Dating back to 1835, the theater has been a stage for numerous famous plays, musicals, and other performances. The opulent interior boasts intricate details and comfortable seating for guests.
Renowned actors such as Laurence Olivier, Katherine Hepburn, and James Earl Jones have graced the stage at this DC icon!
The theater hosts a wide range of shows throughout the year, from classic plays to modern musicals.
Make sure to witness the magic of this famous venue and the exceptional performances that take place within its walls.
Address: 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004
24. Smithsonian Museums
When you’re in Washington DC, you can’t miss the Smithsonian museums, which form the largest museum, research, and education complex in the world.
With 19 museums and galleries, most of which are situated on the National Mall, each museum has its unique focus, showcasing exhibits ranging from art and history to science and technology.
They should each be on here individually, but we have opted to include them as a ‘group’!
The National Museum of American History houses iconic artifacts such as the original Star-Spangled Banner and the First Ladies’ Inaugural Gowns.
Meanwhile, the National Air and Space Museum has on display the Wright brothers’ Flyer and a space shuttle.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum features a remarkable collection of works by American artists, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture is a tribute to African Americans in the US… including their ongoing fight for equality.
The Smithsonian museums are open to the public every day of the year except Christmas Day and are free to visit, making them an ideal family-friendly place to visit during your visit to Washington DC!
Did we miss any of the best landmarks in Washington DC in this guide?
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Megan is a travel blogger and writer with a background in digital marketing. Originally from Richmond, VA, she has lived all around the world (including Germany, Finland, Norway, etc) but her heart always finds its way back to Virginia. This blog is to help encourage travelers to explore the great state of VA… and its wonderful neighbors! Megan has written for or been featured by National Geographic, Forbes, Lonely Planet, Fodor’s Travel, the New York Times, and more. She has visited 45 US states and 100+ countries… and wholeheartedly believes that Brunswick Stew is probably the greatest food to ever exist.