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Spying is something that has long captured the imagination, with its inspiring plenty of movies and other media (foremost of which is James Bond). Go to Washington, D.C. and visit the International Spy Museum and take a deep dive into the history of espionage. Discover the real and the make-believe worlds that gave rise to James Bond and countless other espionage movies and novels.

Washington, D.C. is famous for its impressive Smithsonian Museums - but the capital has plenty of other interesting museums to explore as well. The many museums in Washington, D.C. are enough to leave the most avid museum-goers museumed out. Over in Nevada, if one is visiting Las Vegas, then make sure one puts the Mob Museum high up on one's bucket list.

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The Greatest Spy Museum & Deep Dive Into Espionage

The International Spy Museum boasts the largest collection of international espionage artifacts on display. It first opened in 2002 and moved to its current location at L'Enfant Plaza in 2019.

  • Artifacts: Over 7,000 Artifacts, of Which Around 1,000 Are On Public Display
  • Largest: Display Of Spy-Related Artifacts

The museum has thousands of artifacts as well as many historical photographs, interactive displays, media, and other attractions.

The International Spy Museum traces the full history of espionage. Embark on the shadowy world of spying as far back as Ancient Egypt. Journey onto the Greek and Roman Empires, and then through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the British Empire, the American War of Independence, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, the American Civil War, the War World, the Cold War, and finally through today. See how the United States tracks and finds the most wanted terrorists around the world today.

Visitors learn all about both the real history of espionage and espionage in popular culture and film. Practice one's skills in code-breaking, peep into covert action and discover espionage gadgetry. Protect one's cover in an interrogation room in Communist East Berlin.

See unassuming everyday items that seem like they are right out of a movie. See things like a lipstick pistol, eyeglasses with concealed cyanide pills, a fountain pen camera, and more.

The museum is interactive. Beyond all the displays and multimedia shows, the museum even hosts regular book signings with former spies and national intelligence officials. So one may even be able to get a book signed by a real-life spy.

They even have workshops for aspiring spy fiction writers and lectures about espionage.

Related: This Is What You'll See In America's Strangest Museum Exhibits

Exhibits & Interactive Activities Of The International Spy Museum

There are plenty of exhibits for everyone to explore spread over different levels at the museum.

Explore the Briefing Center, where visitors will receive their cover identities and test out their spy skills. On the 5th floor, visitors come face to face with spies and spymasters, gadget makers, scientists, and engineers from the ages. See how the best of human imagination and ingenuity is channeled to steal secrets.

Learn to think like an analyst at the Make Sense of Secrets exhibits and try one's hand at code-craking and think like an analyst. Learn about age-old techniques used to surreptitiously influence events abroad and learn about covert missions, both successful and failed.

On the 4th floor, visitors see how spying has shaped the world all the way from the American Revolution to today's cyber warfare. Hear what real spies think of on-screen spies like 007.

Visitors get to test their spy skills in 17 different digital and physical interactives in the permanent exhibitions.

Related: How To Get The Most Out Of A Historical Visit To The Pearl Harbor Museum & Memorial

Planning A Visit To The International Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum is housed in an impressive 140,000-square-foot steel and glass building - in other words, the building itself isn't particularly clandestine. And spoiler alert, it turns out spies don't wear a trench coat and a fedora hat.

  • Days Open: Open Seven Days A Week

Opening Hours:

  • Monday to Thursday: 9.00 am to 7.00 pm
  • Friday to Sunday: 9.00 am to 8.00 pm

The museum is one of the more popular museums in the city, so expect a crowd.

Admission:

  • Adult: $27.95 (Aged 13-64)
  • Youth: $17.95 (Aged 7-12)
  • Child: Free (Aged 0-6)

The museum shop is also a must. Browse their spy gadgets like a mug shaped like a briefcase and a car key that doubles up as a mini camera.