From the White House to breathtaking artworks to gentle nature walks in DC’s stunning parks, sightseeing in Washington is a pleasing mix of history and beauty.
Begin to familiarise yourself with DC by heading directly to the National Mall, a grand open park area in the centre of the city. The Mall makes sightseeing in DC simple, since many of the major tourist sights and monuments can be found herel, including the US Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool and the Holocaust Museum.
The location of so many iconic moments in history - not to mention movie scenes - The White House has been the official residence of all the presidents except Washington. A tour inside these hallowed white walls is too good an opportunity to miss, but you’ll need to arrange well in advance to secure a free tour of the White House; tickets must be reserved through your embassy. Once inside you’ll get to see such areas as the ballrooms, the State Dining Room and the entrance hall, though not, alas, the oval office! After your visit check out the White House Visitor Centre, at the southeast corner of 15th and E Streets or, if you didn’t get a ticket for the President's residence, opt for a tour of the Capitol Building, which can be taken on a walk-in basis.
With so many statues and memorials in Washington, you’ll be spoiled for choice. But make a special effort to investigate the Lincoln Memorial, with its arresting Greek temple-like architecture. The Gettysburg Address is inscribed on the memorial’s south wall and Lincoln's second inaugural speech on the north. Also, fact fans, the memorial steps were the site of Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream…’ speech.
If you’re keen on art and historical objects, you could easily spend your entire holiday exploring the famous Smithsonian Institution, Jefferson Drive. The world’s largest museum and research complex, the Smithsonian consists of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park and nine research facilities and is home to millions of artworks and objects. And, rather wonderfully, admission is free.
Once you’ve had your fill of stone and marble, head to the Tidal Basin, a partially man-made reservoir between the Potomac River and the Washington Channel, filled with a grove of beautiful Japanese cherry blossom trees. Offering wonderful views of the Washington Memorial, the Tidal Basin is home to the popular Cherry Blossom Festival in spring.
Great Falls Park, on the Potomac River, is an 800-acre area of spectacular natural beauty, popular with locals and tourists. Take a picnic, go hiking, or even rock climbing and horse riding or just take a leisurely walk and check out the stunning 20 foot waterfalls.