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18 Iconic Washington DC Buildings and Landmarks to Visit

By Molly Weinfurter


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Washington DC is known for its many unique buildings, memorials, and other landmarks. There are so many gorgeous historical sights scattered throughout the country’s capital.

Iconic Washington DC Buildings and Landmarks

Thus, visiting DC can be a fun and educational experience for your whole family.

There’s no shortage of places to see, so be sure to add these 18 iconic Washington DC buildings to your itinerary.

#1 – U.S. Capitol

Of course, every capital city has a capitol building worth seeing. It’s likely the most recognizable building in Washington DC. It’s the official meeting place of the U.S. Congress, and it often allows public tours. This beautiful structure has gone through a lot since its construction in 1783. It was burnt, rebuilt, expanded, and restored, which is how it still looks so impressive to this day.

#2 – White House

The White House is another one of the most unforgettable buildings in Washington DC. It began construction while George Washington was president, so he never lived in it. John Adams and his wife were the first residents of the White House, and it has been the official home for presidents ever since. It’s massive, with 6 floors and about 132 rooms. There are a few public rooms that guests can tour.

#3 – Lincoln Memorial

The Abraham Lincoln Memorial is mesmerizing no matter how many times you visit it. Over 7 million people visit this structure every year, which includes a 19-foot statue of President Abraham Lincoln. In addition to its unique appearance, this memorial was also the location of many big events, such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

#4 – Mount Vernon Estate

Technically, the Mount Vernon Estate is just outside of Washington DC, but it’s still worth driving to. Many DC residents travel to Mount Vernon for a day trip or a weekend getaway. Since the White House wasn’t completed at the time, this was the 500-acre estate of George Washington and his family. Visitors can tour many areas of the estate, including the kitchen, stables, and coach house.

#5 – Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is another structure in DC that you can’t miss. It’s a 555-foot-tall stone structure that makes up an iconic part of the city’s skyline. It was completed in 1884 as a way to honor President George Washington. In fact, you can even go inside this monument, but only a limited number of people can fit inside at once.

#6 – U.S. Treasury Building

The U.S. Treasury Building is located next to the White House, and it’s the location of the United States Department of Treasury. Throughout the 1800s, the structure burned down and was rebuilt several times. It’s known as the third oldest Washington DC building that’s occupied. It even sits on five acres of beautiful gardens.

#7 – National World War II Memorial

The National World War II Memorial is a newer structure, built in 2004. It’s made of 56 pillars, and each one symbolizes a state or territory that participated in the war. It also has a lovely fountain in the center to add to the beauty of the memorial. It’s one of the few memorials that doesn’t have any names listed on it.

#8 – Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is another must-see memorial in Washington DC. It’s one of the more modern memorials, which was built between 2009 and 2011. It was inspired by some of the lines from the famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Plus, it was even sculpted by famous artist Master Lei Yixin, who has sculpted over 150 public monuments.

#9 – Arlington House

This attraction is actually located nearby DC in Arlington, Virginia, but it’s worth the trip. The Arlington House and Arlington National Cemetery are both historical sites that were once the property of Robert E. Lee’s family. Since this structure sits on top of a hill, it provides some of the best views of Washington DC.

#10 – Ford’s Theater

Ford’s Theater certainly isn’t an uplifting location, but it’s from a memorable part of history. It’s the theater where John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Today, this building offers museum exhibits and live theater shows. Across the street is The Peterson House, which is the place where Lincoln died following the shooting.

#11 – Smithsonian Castle

If you love seeing castle-like structures during your trips, then the Smithsonian Castle, also known as the Smithsonian Institute, is one of the coolest buildings in Washington DC. It’s a Victorian style building made of red sandstone. It was first the home of Joseph Henry, the first Secretary of the Smithsonian. Today, this castle is home to the Smithsonian’s administrative offices and to an information center for visitors.

#12 – Eastern Market

This historical market is one of the only current public markets in Washington DC. The original market building from 1873 burned down in 2007, but it has since been restored. At this market, you can find a wide variety of things to purchase, such as flowers, baked goods, meat, and dairy products. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, it’s still a fun area to explore.

#13 – Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

As the name implies, this building was the home of Lincoln’s advisor, Frederick Douglass. He purchased the home in 1877, but it’s unclear what year it was built in. In 2007, the structure was restored and reopened as a tourist attraction. Both the home and the grounds of the property are now open to the public, but reservations will be required for a tour.

#14 – Union Station

Union Station is one of the most beautiful train stations you’ll find. It has been restored since its opening, but it still holds its historic charm. The marble flooring and 50-foot arches are just some of the amazing aspects of its architecture. It’s still a transportation station, along with a shopping space and a resource center for visitors.

#15 – Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is another iconic structure in DC, where many tourists go to pay their respects. It has three significant sections: The Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. All three areas are equally impressive, and they bring in about 5 million visitors every year. It’s a common area to grieve and remember those lost in war.

#16 – National Mall

No, the National Mall isn’t a giant shopping center and it’s not just one building either. Instead, it’s large beautiful park area. Inside the park, you’ll find lots of the other buildings and monuments mentioned on this list, including the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and U.S. Capitol. So, in between visiting other structures, you can explore the park area of the National Mall.

#17 – Korean War Veterans Memorial

The Korean War Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 1995, which was the 42nd anniversary of when the war ended. At this landmark, you’ll find the statues of 19 soldiers. Each statue represents a squad on patrol, and the statues create a mesmerizing reflection on the wall next to them. There is also a mural wall at this memorial, which showcases about 2,500 photos of the individuals who served in the Korean War.

#18 – Jefferson Memorial

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is another one of the most iconic Washington DC buildings. It was built between 1939 and 1943 in honor of the third president. It was modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, which is why it has such incredible architecture. Some of the most unique aspects of the memorial are the columns, marble steps, and the bronze statue of Jefferson. It has many historic artifacts inside, including the Declaration of Independence.

By visiting these famous Washington DC buildings, you can have a fun trip that’s also educational. You’ve probably seen most of them in photos or history textbooks, but it’s much more interesting to see them up close and in person. So, if you’re trying to decide on a special trip for your family, why not visit the country’s famous capital city?

About Molly Weinfurter

Molly Weinfurter is a freelance writer and editor that specializes in family, travel, and animal-related topics.

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