From the President's home at the White House, to the home of Congress and the Senate on Capitol Hill, this is the city where the government of America conducts it day-to-day business. And from the tall white obelisk of the Washington Monument, to the striking Lincoln Memorial, Washington is a city packed with reminders of an American past that stretches from Founding Fathers to Civil War to Civil Rights.

If everything seems so very familiar when you wander around Washington, that's because it is. Countless films, books and news broadcasts have stamped these symbols of power into the world's consciousness. The National Mall, that criss-cross of parkland that's the backdrop for much of the city's architectural and monumental drama, is really the only place to start.

Here you can walk the spaces that have packed with the American people at times of crisis and celebration – Martin Luther King's famous 'Dream' speech rang out here. So too did the noise of the Vietnam War protests, and the crack of fireworks each Independence Day on 4th of July. The Mall is also where America tries to heal its wounds. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is tucked into a corner, a poignant reminder that while America doesn't always agree, it can still put divisions behind it.

This capital city is big on celebrating all aspects of the national culture. The National Air and Space Museum vies for your attention with the National Museum of Natural History, which jostles with the National Gallery of Art. There is a museum dedicated to the news media at the Newseum, and one that thrusts you into the role of secret agent, the International Spy Museum.

Foggy Bottom has the remnants of a notorious slum tucked in amongst its government offices and cultural centres. Watergate hides here too. And the Arlington National Cemetery doesn't just provide America's fallen with their last resting place. General Lee – that hero of the South who almost broke up the United States – has his home here. His estate was chosen as the national war cemetery as punishment for leading the Confederates armies.

And what about the 'D.C.' bit – the District of Columbia – in the name. It isn't there merely to set the capital apart from the State of Washington, on the far-flung north-west US coast. As the capital, the District of Columbia is wholly separate from the strongly independent States that make up the United States of America. Visit any one of those States, and you'll get a window onto a piece of the American soul. But it's only in Washington D.C. that those pieces are woven together to make the American Dream whole.

Known for

Museums, Historical Buildings and Monuments

Explore map

Where to stay in Washington

Downtown Washington D.C.
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Downtown Washington D.C.

Museums, Culture, Monuments

Art galleries, museums and theaters as well as vibrant entertainment, nightlife and shopping districts await in this city center neighborhood.

Georgetown
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Georgetown

Historical Buildings, Universities, Museums

A pleasant suburb on the banks of the Potomac River, home to the city’s oldest buildings, great shops and stylish bars.

Dupont Circle
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Dupont Circle

Museums, Culture, Dining

Funky shops, historic houses and fascinating museums have turned this once-exclusive neighborhood into a fun-loving bohemian district. 

Capitol Hill
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Capitol Hill

Museums, Monuments, Libraries

Home to the emblematic U.S. Capitol Building, this central neighborhood is famous for its historic landmarks, markets, museums and nightlife.

Foggy Bottom
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Foggy Bottom

Museums, Monuments, Universities

A district of culture, learning and politics and where old town meets new, river mists shroud its terraced alleys and where a President once fell from grace.

Chinatown
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Chinatown

Museums, Culture, Chinatown

Discover a city center neighborhood with a variety of Asian shops and restaurants. Visit the nearby galleries, museums and entertainment centers.

Top hotels in Washington

Estimated price for 1 night / 2 adults
Image for Omni Shoreham Hotel
Omni Shoreham Hotel
4 out of 5
2500 Calvert St Nw, Washington, DC
NZ$240/night
23 Aug. - 24 Aug.
4.4/5Excellent! (4,218 reviews)

Located in Woodley Park, this hotel is 0.9 mi (1.5 km) from Smithsonian's National Zoo. Woodley Park-Zoo Station is only a 4-minute walk and Cleveland Park Station ...

4.4/5Excellent! (4,218 reviews)

"The staff or employees of Omni Shoreham lack common courtesy and are not people friendly. Not all but most news to be trained to deal with the hotel guest."…"

Reviewed on 20 Aug. 2019

Omni Shoreham Hotel
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Washington Plaza
4 out of 5
10 Thomas Circle NW, Washington, DC
NZ$177/night
25 Aug. - 26 Aug.
4.3/5Excellent! (9,549 reviews)

Located in Downtown Washington D.C., this hotel is within a 15-minute walk of National Geographic Society, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, and White ...

4.3/5Excellent! (9,549 reviews)

"Hotel was centrally located but the room was rather small. Staff was very friendly and accommodating."…"

Reviewed on 19 Aug. 2019

Washington Plaza
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Grand Hyatt Washington
4 out of 5
1000 H Street NW, Washington, DC
NZ$231/night
2 Sep. - 3 Sep.
4.4/5Wonderful! (5,595 reviews)

Located in Downtown Washington D.C., this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of CityCenterDC and Ford's Theater. White House and Walter E. Washington Convention ...

4.4/5Wonderful! (5,595 reviews)

"Our bath tub knob was loose. Kept falling every time we used it. Fortunately, it did not land on anyone’s toes. Also I wished our inner shower curtain was new. It was a bit yellow."…"

Reviewed on 21 Aug. 2019

Grand Hyatt Washington

Popular activities in Washington

White House
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White House

Explore the home and workplace of the president of the United States. See entertainment areas and state rooms and learn about the history of this famous building.

Washington Monument
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Washington Monument

This mammoth monument to America's first President and foremost founding father casts a long shadow over Washington – but for a long time it's place was in doubt.

Lincoln Memorial
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Lincoln Memorial

This Memorial houses a statue of the President who took a stand against slavery – and who had just started to heal the nation, when he was brutally assassinated.

United States Capitol
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United States Capitol

Sitting on top of Capitol Hill is a Washington landmark that’s been the home of American democracy for more than 200 years.

Jefferson Memorial
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Jefferson Memorial

A place to muse on the words of one of the authors of the US Declaration of Independence, and perhaps its most thoughtful of Presidents.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial
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Vietnam Veterans Memorial

One of the quieter, reflective corners of the Mall, this memorial carries the name of every single soldier who died in America's most controversial war.

Top activities in Washington

DC Hop On-Off Tour + Arlington Cemetery Tour + Water Taxi
Image for DC Hop On-Off Tour + Arlington Cemetery Tour + Water Taxi

DC Hop On-Off Tour + Arlington Cemetery Tour + Water Taxi

NZ$65

Named “Washington's Best Tour” by the Washingtonian Magazine, the Old Town Trolley offers the most comprehensive tour of the Nation's Capitol. Sit back while expert tour guides help you discover the beauty and majesty of Washington D.C.

Guided Monuments & Memorials Tour at Dusk
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Guided Monuments & Memorials Tour at Dusk

NZ$90

Your tour begins at the US Navy Memorial and loops around the National Mall, stopping at iconic landmarks and powerful tributes to key moments in American history along the way.

Washington, D.C. Day Trip from New York
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Washington, D.C. Day Trip from New York

NZ$250

Take a day trip out of the city to soak up the history and architecture of another East Coast metropolis—Washington, D.C. Check out the monuments and memorials of the National Mall, see the White House, and dive into the fascinating exhibits at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

Discover DC – Memorial Sightseeing Bus Tour
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Discover DC – Memorial Sightseeing Bus Tour

NZ$115

Start at the open plaza of the U.S. Navy Memorial and listen as your informative guide tells you about the significance of each feature, like the bronze statue of the Lone Sailor that stands in memory of all naval service personnel.

Washington DC African American Heritage Tour
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Washington DC African American Heritage Tour

NZ$128

Delve into the African American heritage of the United States and its capital city on this local-led tour of D.C. Visit landmarks like Frederick Douglass' house and the Martin Luther King Jr.

Washington, D.C. Day Trip with Transportation from NYC
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Washington, D.C. Day Trip with Transportation from NYC

NZ$226

Break out of the Big Apple and spend a day cruising around Washington, D.C. on this full-day tour with transportation from Manhattan. Check out memorials dedicated to early presidents, visit Arlington National Cemetery, and get the chance to explore aviation legends at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

Read travel guides and advice on visiting Washington

LGBT destination guide: Washington, DC
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LGBT destination guide: Washington, DC

Discovering the LGBT side of the nation’s capital

Food trucks in Washington, DC
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Food trucks in Washington, DC

Finding meals to go from food trucks in the nation's capital

Capital theater scene
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Capital theater scene

Exploring the theater options in Washington, D.C.

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