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The U.S. National Arboretum | © Nicolas Raymond / Flickr
The U.S. National Arboretum | © Nicolas Raymond / Flickr
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20 Must-See Attractions in Washington, D.C.

Picture of Aparna Krishnamoorthy
Updated: 9 May 2017
With so many things to do and see in Washington, D.C., including historical monuments, government buildings, free museums, and more, it can be overwhelming to narrow down a list of must-visit places. To make it easier for you, Culture Trip has come up with a list of 20 must-see attractions in the nation’s capital.
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Washington Monument and the National Mall

The National Mall is one of the most picturesque areas of the city, highlighted by the towering Washington Monument in the center, and lined with several commemorative monuments. Even if you are in town only for a short trip, this is a must-visit stop for any first-time visitor.

Washington Monument, 2 15th St NW, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 426 6841

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The U.S. Capitol

Take a guided tour of the legendary building that houses the American legislature. The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center has a ton of information about the history and the operations of this house of government.

The Capitol, East Capitol St NE & First St SE, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 226 8000

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Library of Congress

The largest library in the world and one of the most prestigious, the stunning Library of Congress sits in three buildings and houses over 160 million items. It is also the oldest federal cultural institution in the U.S.

The Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 707 5000

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U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Adjacent to the National Mall, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum provides somber and deep documentation and interpretation of Holocaust history. View photographs and various artifacts and learn personal stories from this period of the Nazi regime.

Holocaust Museum, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 488 0400

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Supreme Court of the United States

Tour the Supreme Court and attend a free lecture about the building’s history and the proceedings of the court. If the court is in session (Monday–Wednesday during the months of October–April), arrive early to get a free spot to watch a case being argued.

Supreme Court of the United States, 1 First St NE, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 479 3000

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Georgetown and the Waterfront

Stroll through the bustling streets of Georgetown, filled with shopping destinations and restaurants, and then make your way to the Georgetown Waterfront to take in views of the Potomac and enjoy a meal at one of the dining venues overlooking the water. Wander off the main area to look at some of the most expensive real estate in the city.

Georgetown Waterfront, Water St NW, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 895 6000

National Zoo

Park, Zoo
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Mei and her popsicle at the National Zoo
Mei and her popsicle at the National Zoo | © Brian Gatwicke / Flickr

National Zoo

The expansive and free National Zoo is a fantastic place to walk around with or without kids. Make sure to see the giant pandas, the big cats, and the great apes! It is also a great spot for a morning run before the crowds arrive.

Smithsonian National Zoological Park, , +1 202 633 4888

More Info
Mon - Sun:
8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Accessibility & Audience:

Family Friendly, Accessible (Wheelchair)

Services & Activities:

Free

Atmosphere:

Touristy, Instagrammable, Outdoors

Lincoln Memorial

Memorial
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Lincoln Memorial

The neoclassical Lincoln Memorial is a tribute to America’s 16th president and is best seen at night. Located at the western end of the National Mall, the views from the memorial are nothing short of spectacular. Walk around all sides to get the perfect shot!

Lincoln Memorial, 2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 426 6841

More Info
Mon - Sun:
12:00 am

Accessibility & Audience:

Accessible (Wheelchair), Family Friendly, Dog Friendly

Services & Activities:

Guided Tours, Free

Atmosphere:

Outdoors, Instagrammable, Historical Landmark, Touristy
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Thomas Jefferson Memorial

With marble steps and iconic columns, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a smaller version of the Roman Pantheon, and its interior walls contain inscriptions from the Declaration of Independence. It’s especially spectacular during the spring cherry blossom season but is still a must-stop year-round.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial,

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Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Take a look at historic aircraft and space vehicles including the Apollo Space Module, see how an actual space toilet looks, and peer through a giant telescope at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. With lots of interactive exhibits and fascinating pieces to learn about, this stop will leave you in awe.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, 600 Independence Ave SW, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 633 2214

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National Gallery of Art

Browse through the National Gallery of Art’s exhibits, featuring works of art from numerous countries, artists, and historical eras. Go up to the rooftop to get a fabulous view of the Capitol, and also make sure to take the groovy tunnel between the East and West Building.

Smithsonian National Gallery of Art, 6th & Constitution Ave NW, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 737 4215

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The Kennedy Center

Visit The Kennedy Center, a performance arts space, to see a free show (daily at 6 p.m.) or one of their current performances, and make sure to stop by the rooftop terrace for panoramic views of D.C. and the Potomac River. The nine different performance stages present the best in music, dance, theater, international, and children’s programs.

John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St NW, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 467 4600

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World War II Memorial

Flanked by the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, the beautiful World War II Memorial, complete with bronze sculptures and stone architecture, pays tribute to the Americans who served in the war, honors those who fell, and recognizes the victory of freedom over tyranny.

World War II Memorial, 1750 Independence Ave SW, Washington, D.C., USA

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Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial pays tribute to the best-known leader in the civil rights movement—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Located next to the National Mall, this beautiful stone sculpture contains a number of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s quotes engraved in the memorial.

Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial, 1964 Independence Ave SW, Washington, D.C., USA, +1 202 426 6841

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