Washington is often overshadowed by two other U.S. tourist giants: Boston in the north and the great New York in the south.
However, the capital of the United States is a city worth spending a few days in.
The District of Columbia – on the banks of the Potomac River, between Maryland and Virginia – was created as an independent entity to house the nation’s capital.
Founded in 1790, George Washington commissioned the city project to French-American architect Pierre-Charles L’Enfant, who designed a city full of wide avenues and straight street intersections. The most important of these avenues is Pennsylvania, which connects the White House and Capitol buildings.
Washington, D.C., is much more than just a capital. Lacking the aggressive skyscrapers of other American cities, it uses its simple and efficient subway system to enjoy its impressive museums, official buildings and open spaces.
If you are in New York and want to explore Washington, you can hire the one-day excursions offered by the agency City Travel NYC, experts in getting their customers live an unparalleled experience:
So that you don’t miss anything, here we leave you the best things to see in Washington:
1. The Capitol
It’s one of the brightest stars on the National Mall, where most of Washington’s historic monuments come together. The “Mall”, as the locals call it, can be traveled on foot, although on summer days this can become an arduous task.
Recognized around the world as the symbol of the United States, the Capitol is the seat of the House of Representatives and the Senate. It was built between 1793 and 1812, with subsequent reforms between 1958 and 1962.
You can visit its interior for free, and admire its wonderful frescoes, reliefs and paintings, some of which represent chapters of American history.
An underground passageway takes you to another of the best places to visit in Washington…
2. Library of Congress
Connected to the Capitol by an underground passage, the Library of Congress is a hidden pearl to see in Washington.
It is the largest library in the world and is housed in a raised building that was erected using the Paris Opera as a reference. Most people end up visiting only parts of it, but if you’re passionate about it and have time, you can book free tours.
Among the treasures you can find there are three copies of the Bibles printed by Gutenberg, another copy of the earlier (handwritten) Bible, and Thomas Jefferson’s draft Declaration of Independence.
3. The White House
Another one of the crown jewels to see in Washington.
Raised in 1792 by James Hoban, it was destroyed by English troops in 1814, and rebuilt again in 1818.
Inside you can visit the East, Blue, Green and Red rooms. The Dance and the one dedicated to state dinners are only accessible with advance reservations.
In any case, even if you don’t go inside, it’s clear that you can’t leave Washington without a picture of its White House. Next to it are other famous official buildings, such as the Treasury (1883) and the Executive Office (1871). In addition, if you visit the city in summer, in the green esplanade that occupies the Avenue of the Constitution you will be able to enjoy concerts outdoors carried out by the orchestra of the American army.
4. The Lincoln Memorial
Not only is it one of the best places to visit in Washington, but it is also one of the most emblematic monuments in the United States.
It is located at one end of the Mall and is separated from the Washington Monument by the Reflecting Pool. Its central piece is the enormous marble statue that shows the former president seated and thoughtful. It is surrounded by 36 columns symbolizing each of the 36 states that made up the country at the time of Lincoln’s death.
It was created in 1922 and also includes some beautiful murals. This has been the place where many historical acts of the history of the United States have taken place, being one of the most remembered, the speech that Martin Luther King began with the phrase “I have a dream…”, in 1963.
This one, like so many other monuments in the “Mall” are open 24 hours a day, so don’t miss the opportunity to visit it at night, when everything looks spectacular thanks to an intimate lighting.
5. Washington Monument
And if Lincoln’s is the most emblematic, Washington Monument is the most visible.
It’s impossible not to recognize that monolith pointing to the sky. No less than almost 170 meters high, although it was smaller when it rose, in 1854. Take the elevator to the top of it and enjoy the best views you can see in Washington.
6. The National Mall and Veterans Memorial
The immense landscaped, pond-spotted space between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial serves as an exhibit site for Washington’s most important monuments.
There you’ll find places that remind you of the soldiers who fell in the wars of Korea, Vietnam and the bloody Second World War. Each of them has its own statues, monoliths and reminders.
The same esplanade also celebrates the 4th of July and, any time of the year when the sun shines, many locals and tourists take the opportunity to lie on the lawn and prepare a picnic.
7. National Air and Space Museum
One of the best museums to see in Washington is also one of the best in the world… At least if you like airplanes and spacecraft, you won’t find another place on the planet that shows so many of these specimens to the public.
Some of the historical pieces that you are going to see in this Smithsonian site are: the original model with which the Wright Brothers Flyer flew in 1903, the Spirit of St. Louis (with which Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic alone for the first time) and the main module of Apollo 11.
But that’s just a small part of the fascinating world waiting for you inside. Permanent and temporary exhibitions that illustrate the science, history and technology of aviation and the conquest of space, covering topics such as the importance of aviation in the two great wars or the race to conquer space.
As if all this were not enough, you can also visit the Albert Einstein Planetarium, where you will find an IMAX cinema and the Public Observatory, from where you can admire lunar craters and other planets using their telescopes.
For children – and not so children – there are even combat aircraft simulators. If you like all this, give for a whole day without problems.
8. National Art Gallery
Housed in two buildings connected by a tunnel, Washington’s National Gallery of Art is one of the nation’s finest art museums.
Here you can admire masterpieces by European and American painters and sculptors. Brilliant temporary exhibitions complete the great perennial exhibition, which includes the only Da Vinci painting housed in an American museum: Ginevra de Benci. Other works by Monet, Degas, Renoir, Rembrandt, El Greco and Vermeer are among the most admired in the museum.
In addition, if you visit the museum any Sunday between autumn and spring, you will be lucky enough to attend a free concert.
9. National Museum of Natural History
A good plan to do in Washington if you travel with children is to visit the National Museum of Natural History.
This museum is actually very interesting for visitors of any age and shows the evolution of the species over the last 6 million years. The dinosaur zone and the interactive “Discovery Room” are usually preferred by the little ones.
10. Jefferson Memorial
The third president of the United States also has his Memorial in Washington. In this case, it is a kind of Roman pantheon, with a dome supported by 54 columns. Inside, a statue, just over 6 meters high, of Jefferson follows you with his gaze. Around it are engraved fragments of the Declaration of Independence.
All this beautiful set is reflected in the Tidal Pool, which is surrounded by a beautiful circle of Japanese cherry trees. The place is especially beautiful in spring, when these cherry trees bloom.
11. Arlington Cemetery
There are few places to see in Washington that make your hair stand on end like this one.
Here, among a pile of white lined tombstones, you will find the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, that of John F. Kennedy and the monument of the American Marines planting the flag in Iwo Jima, after that important battle of World War II.
If you want to delve into the history of the place, the best thing you can do is go to its visitor centre.
12. Georgetown Historic District
The neighborhood between 27th and 33rd Streets, between Rock Creek Park and K Street NW, is the oldest in the city. Its origins date back to the 18th century, even before Washington was created as a city.
Here you will find Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic church in the United States and the Jesuit College. But, above all, it is a beautiful place, with tidy streets filled with low houses, colorful facades, which house small businesses, restaurants, cafes and small and interesting museums.
Walk or bike along the Potomac River, through the gardens of Dumbarton Oaks and visit Tudor Place, an early 19th-century mansion built by Martha Washington’s granddaughter.
Among the museums in this area, the Kreeger Museum stands out, with an art collection (1850-1970) that includes paintings by authors such as Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Chagall, Gauguin and Picasso.
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