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A Walking Tour of Washington DC


A Walking Tour of Washington DC

story by: Tom Ricketts

Being the capital city of the most powerful nation on the planet must be a pretty tough gig, but it’s one that the city of Washington DC excels at. Meticulously well planned, the city is full of famous landmarks, impressive architecture, a glut of museums, wide avenues and expansive parkland.

The site of Washington DC was chosen in 1790 by the man himself, George Washington, the first President of the United States and the city’s namesake. Still smarting from their victory in the American Revolutionary War, the Americans designed and built many grandiose buildings to rival those of Europe. The most famous are of course the White House, the US Capitol building, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument. Most of these landmarks (and many others) surround the massive National Mall, a long strip of parkland which runs from the Capitol to the Potomac River, making this the perfect place to begin a self guided walking tour of the city.

Start at the easily recognisable US Capitol Building, Washington’s equivalent of the Beehive. The impressive building is over 200 years old. Underneath the building is the visitor centre where guided tours depart. It’s a first come, first serve basis so be there early if this is a must do, the lines get very long.

On the other side of the building you’ll find the National Mall. Bordering the mall for the next four of five blocks is the legendary Smithsonian Institution. Often erroneously called the Smithsonian Museum, the Institution is actually a collection of 19 different museums in the city. Popular museums here include the National Air and Space Museum, Museum of American History, Museum of Natural History and the American Art Museum. And the best thing of all is that they’re all free to enter! But it doesn’t stop there, other museums in the city include the International Spy Museum, Shakespeare Library and the Newseum. In all there’s over 200 museums and galleries to keep you occupied!

Next up is the 169 metre Washington Monument, once the tallest structure in the world. Although it does just look like a giant stone obelisk, the Washington Monument actually has a viewing platform up the top. Even better, tickets are free although, again it is on a first come, first serve basis. The nearby Old Post Office Pavilion has a clock tower which also has excellent views of the city and Washington Monument, without the crowds of tourists.

Turn right at the Washington Monument and you have the most famous place of residence in the world, the White House. You can easily view the White House from the National Mall, or walk a further block towards the White House for a better view, and to chat to the protesters. If you’re here at Christmas, the National Christmas Tree is erected just across the road.

Back in National Mall and heading towards the river will bring you to the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, and at the far end, the Lincoln Memorial. This is where the huge statue of Abraham Lincoln seated in contemplation is housed. The Lincoln Memorial is also great to visit on a fine evening as the sun goes down and lights illuminate the striking white columns and facade. Around the memorial and reflecting pool are various war memorials including the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial.

Finally, take a left along the river towards the Jefferson Memorial and conclude your walking tour with views over the lagoon towards the Washington Monument. Or those keen to keep going can cross the bridge here and visit the Pentagon across the river in the state of Virginia!

If you're wanting to spend a good chunk of time in the various museums, chances are you won't be able to complete this circuit in day. Ask you friendly House of Travel consultant about the fantastic bike tours available, as the wide streets and miles (literally) of parkland also make Washington DC the perfect place to explore by bike. 

> Read more about our favourite museums in Washington DC here.


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