The capital of the United States is one of the most bustling cultural locations in the entire country. While anyone can enjoy a trip here, its rich political and social history makes it especially interesting for those fascinated by the United States inner workings and legacy.
There’s so much to see here, but there’s no need to worry about how much it’ll cost you. Most major monuments and museums in Washington D.C. are completely free! You heard that right. So if you’re looking to get a sweeping overview of one of the most relevant cities in the nation without spending a dime, read on. We’ve got you covered.
10 The White House
Touring the home of every U.S. President since John Adams is fascinating and free. Public tours can be made through your Congress members as early as three months before your visit and as late as three weeks prior to it.
Guests who go on tours get to wander through the East Wing, Green Room, State Dining Room, and more. During select months, it is also possible to tour the White House Garden. This tour is definitely worth booking, as not only is it free, but you get to see a rich piece of living history!
9 Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is an Egyptian style stone obelisk built to commemorate George Washington. It stands over 550 feet tall and was once the tallest structure in the world until that title was taken over by the Eiffel Tower at the end of the 1800s.
The building is free to go up in and offers the best view of the city. Tickets are offered on a first-come-first-serve basis, so be sure to get there early. While you’re at it, consider exploring the rest of The National Mall right outside the monument. Nicknamed “America’s front yard,” the over two-mile National Mall is the nation's most-visited national park — and perhaps one of the most gorgeous.
8 National Archives Museum
This history-loaded museum lets guests view the country’s founding documents including the original Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
The museum features permanent exhibits on the promises of America’s founding documents and national treasures. It also features a special exhibit on the history of women’s voting rights, which will be open through January 3, 2021.
7 National Gallery Of Art
This popular art museum in D.C. features a wide variety of paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, and more from the Middle Ages to the present. In other words, this is a place art lovers have to check out.
The National Gallery of Art’s highlights include the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the U.S., the largest mobile created by Alexander Calder, and Gerard van Honthrost’s monumental The Concert. The gallery sees over 5 million visitors a year, placing it on the top-ten most visited art galleries in the world list.
6 Arlington National Cemetery
Located across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. is Arlington National Cemetery, a beautifully preserved military graveyard that gives visitors the chance to reflect on the sacrifice soldiers have made for their country.
One of the most visited monuments at the cemetery — The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier — honors deceased service members whose remains are not identified. Every half an hour, the symbolic Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place for spectators to witness. The gravesite of President John F. Kennedy can also be viewed at this location.
5 Library Of Congress
The largest library in the world is located in Washington D.C. It contains research materials from across the world in more than 450 languages and over 38 million books. This doesn’t include its over 8 million pieces of sheet music, 14 million photographs, 5 million maps, and 70 million manuscripts. In other words, it’s gigantic.
Free one-hour tours of the Thomas Jefferson Building are available throughout the year, but visitors are also welcome to explore on their own.
4 Smithsonian Museums
The Smithsonian Institution features 17 incredible museums and galleries stocked with every type of artifact imaginable. While the National Museum of Natural History boasts plants, fossils, meteorites, and animals, the National Air and Space Museum houses planes, missiles, and lunar modules. These two alone attract over 5 million visitors each, and that’s not even including the 15 other museums. Did we mention there’s also a Smithsonian zoo?
Even wilder than that is the fact that they’re all free. It’ll take you several days to venture through these collections loaded with interesting artifacts.
3 Lincoln Memorial
This iconic Greek Doric temple houses a gigantic sculpture of Abraham Lincoln with inscriptions of his two best-known speeches behind him. The site also happens to be the location at which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
The memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day and attracts more than seven million visitors annually. The building is also featured on the back of the U.S. five-dollar bill and the penny, so if it looks familiar, it’s probably because it is.
2 The Capitol Building
The United States Capitol is where the legislative branch of government works out of every single day. It also houses incredible works of art and breathtaking architecture, so it’s worth a visit. The exterior of the building alone is something to behold, with its huge dome top and detailed columns.
Guests who book tickets in advance can tour the building’s Crypt, Rotunda, and National Statuary Hall. These informative tours tell visitors of the building’s rich history and the interesting events that have occurred there.
1 The Pentagon
If you book tickets at least two weeks in advance, you can get a glimpse into the five-sided building that acts as the United States Department of Defense. Considered the world’s largest office building, The Pentagon stretches across more than 6.5 million square feet of space. That’s crazy, considering that it was built in only 16 months.
There are tons of things to see in D.C., and chances are you won’t be able to see it all during a single visit — but if you hit the city's most recognized locations, you'll get a pretty good glimpse at it.