Washington, D.C. travel guide

Washington, D.C. Tourism | Washington, D.C. Guide

You're Going to Love Washington, D.C.

Politics, culture, history and family attractions combine to form a perfect vacation package in Washington D.C., so why not book a getaway to America's capital for your next trip?

On one hand, Washington is a place to get in touch with history and the roots of democracy. Spend a few days on the Mall visiting Washington's huge array of memorials and shrines to political giants like Abraham Lincoln, inspirational heroes like Martin Luther King Jr and those who sacrificed their lives during the Vietnam War. Plan in advance, and you can even enjoy a magical tour around the White House - a once in a lifetime experience.

On the other hand, Washington D.C. offers plenty for thrill seekers and entertainment lovers. Watch NFL, Major League, NBA or NHL matches. Catch a music performance at the Kennedy Center. Visit the fantastic zoo or hop between gourmet restaurants from every part of the world.

Such a unique blend of history, politics and vacation attractions makes Washington D.C. a superb destination for families, couples and solo travelers, so if you haven't visited, now's the time to do so.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Washington, D.C.

A Chance to Visit the Nation's Political Heart

Washington D.C. is one of the most important cities on the planet for one single reason: it's the seat of the U.S. Federal Government. If you want to see how politics is done, tours of the White House or Capitol Hill are a must.

Take a Tour Through American History

Since its founding in 1801, Washington D.C. has seen a lot of history - from the savagery of the Civil War to the Great Depression and the Civil Rights era. You can get a great sense of how America has developed by touring attractions like the Lincoln Memorial, Ford's Theater and the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. If history is your passion, a visit to Washington D.C. will be utterly fascinating.

World Class Museums

Modern Washington isn't just a political center. It's also a major hub for arts and culture, mainly due to the vast Smithsonian Institution. You could spend days touring its 19 museums, which include the superb National Air and Space Museum, but don't neglect other institutions, like the quirky and fun Spy Museum or the Newseum, dedicated to the business of newspapers.

Food and Drink from all over the World

One of the benefits of hosting visitors from all over the world has been that Washington has developed a wonderfully cosmopolitan food culture. Dine at high-class Ethiopian restaurants like Dukem, try the Brazilian dishes at Texas de Brazil, enjoy authentic curries at Rasika or go for down-home country cooking at Southern Efficiency. Whatever you want, you'll find it in D.C.

Superb Sporting Attractions

Sports fans can also find something to love when they visit Washington D.C. There's NFL action when the Redskins are in town, while the Nationals compete in Major League Baseball, the Wizards play in the NBA and the Capitals in the NHL - so every major sport is covered.

What to do in Washington, D.C.

1. National Mall: Welcome to the United States

The National Mall is host to America's greatest museums, monuments, and memorials. The Washington Monument is the centerpiece, flanked by the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol Building, home to U.S. Congress. This cultural stretch can satisfy all interests, and popular highlights include the stunning Vietnam War Memorial, and the National Gallery of Art, which carries a world-renowned collection.

2. White House: Presidential Grounds

Home to every American President for the past two centuries, the White House is one of the most famous buildings in the country. The house is viewed by countless tourists from the lush surrounding gardens every day. With secret service agents casually surrounding the property, a visit to this house is like walking into a dramatic film set.

3. Smithsonian Castle: "...for the increase of knowledge."

The Smithsonian is an all-American institution boasting dozens of museums and research centers. The Smithsonian Building stands like a castle on the National Mall, architecturally magnificent and surrounded by it's finest gems. Favorites include the National Museum of Natural History, and the Air and Space Museum, home to the world's first airplane and countless spacecraft.

4. Georgetown: Historic Georgetown

The charming neighborhood of Georgetown is known for its historic 18th and 19th-century houses and quaint cobblestone streets. Nestled along the Potomac River, this popular area is beloved for trendy shopping opportunities, gourmet experiences and a slew of R&R activities along the waterfront. There is something for everyone in Georgetown!

5. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: A National Memorial

The Holocaust Memorial Museum is an institution that has reached millions with messages of tolerance and anti-genocide since it opened its moving halls in 1993. The collection and architecture work together to create a reflective and educational experience for visitors. With museum-goers hailing from a constellation of backgrounds and nationalities, it is a personal experience for all.

6. Arlington National Cemetery: Tribute to America's Fallen

Set on 624 acres, the Arlington National Cemetery honors American fallen soldiers. Dating back to the Civil War, the cemetery was built on the estate of Arlington House, Robert E. Lee's family home. The landmark includes the Arlington National Cemetery Historic District, which contains the Hemicycle, Memorial Drive, and the Arlington Memorial Bridge. The area also includes the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater, which hosts Veterans Day and Memorial Day services, as well as funeral and memorial services. The most frequently visited sites at the cemetery include the graves of President John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Also buried at Arlington are the astronauts killed in the 1967 Apollo 1 Command Module fire flash Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee, as well as Senator John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth.

7. Iwo Jima Memorial: Homage to the Marine Corps

The United States Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, was founded in 1954. The site is dedicated U.S. Marine Corps who have died in the line of duty since 1775. The design of the memorial is based on the 1945 photograph shot by AP war photographer Joe Rosenthal, who captured six Marines as they raised the flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. The memorial was created by sculptor Felix de Weldon and architect Horace W. Peaslee, who received funding for the landmark in 1947. The landmark, which features inscriptions commemorating all major Marine Corps battles, is cast in bronze and sits atop a black granite base from a quarry in Lönsboda, Sweden. In 1961, President Kennedy declared that the American flag would fly over the memorial in perpetuity.

8. Fort McHenry: An Important American Landmark

Fort McHenry, a coastal star-shaped fort used in the War of 1812, was built in 1798. Designated a National Monument and Historic Shrine in 1939, the fort features a replica of the 15-star/15-stripe U.S. flag. Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner at the fort following a bomb raid by the British in 1814. The national landmark, which holds a 4th of July celebration complete with cannon firings and a performance by the Guard Fife and Drum Corps, can be accessed by Water Taxi from Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

9. National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial: Gone But Not Forgotten

Designed by Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial is an outdoor landmark that honors the 184 people who died in the Pentagon and aboard American Airlines Flight 77 during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Inaugurated on September 11, 2008, the memorial features benches placed over reflecting pools that face the Pentagon's southern façade and bear the names of the victims, as well as a wall along the edge of the landmark that grows from three inches and to seventy-one inches, the ages of the youngest and oldest victims of the terrorist attack.

1. National Mall: Welcome to the United States

The National Mall is host to America's greatest museums, monuments, and memorials. The Washington Monument is the centerpiece, flanked by the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol Building, home to U.S. Congress. This cultural stretch can satisfy all interests, and popular highlights include the stunning Vietnam War Memorial, and the National Gallery of Art, which carries a world-renowned collection.

2. White House: Presidential Grounds

Home to every American President for the past two centuries, the White House is one of the most famous buildings in the country. The house is viewed by countless tourists from the lush surrounding gardens every day. With secret service agents casually surrounding the property, a visit to this house is like walking into a dramatic film set.

3. Smithsonian Castle: "...for the increase of knowledge."

The Smithsonian is an all-American institution boasting dozens of museums and research centers. The Smithsonian Building stands like a castle on the National Mall, architecturally magnificent and surrounded by it's finest gems. Favorites include the National Museum of Natural History, and the Air and Space Museum, home to the world's first airplane and countless spacecraft.

4. Georgetown: Historic Georgetown

The charming neighborhood of Georgetown is known for its historic 18th and 19th-century houses and quaint cobblestone streets. Nestled along the Potomac River, this popular area is beloved for trendy shopping opportunities, gourmet experiences and a slew of R&R activities along the waterfront. There is something for everyone in Georgetown!

5. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: A National Memorial

The Holocaust Memorial Museum is an institution that has reached millions with messages of tolerance and anti-genocide since it opened its moving halls in 1993. The collection and architecture work together to create a reflective and educational experience for visitors. With museum-goers hailing from a constellation of backgrounds and nationalities, it is a personal experience for all.

6. Arlington National Cemetery: Tribute to America's Fallen

Set on 624 acres, the Arlington National Cemetery honors American fallen soldiers. Dating back to the Civil War, the cemetery was built on the estate of Arlington House, Robert E. Lee's family home. The landmark includes the Arlington National Cemetery Historic District, which contains the Hemicycle, Memorial Drive, and the Arlington Memorial Bridge. The area also includes the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater, which hosts Veterans Day and Memorial Day services, as well as funeral and memorial services. The most frequently visited sites at the cemetery include the graves of President John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Also buried at Arlington are the astronauts killed in the 1967 Apollo 1 Command Module fire flash Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee, as well as Senator John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth.

7. Iwo Jima Memorial: Homage to the Marine Corps

The United States Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, was founded in 1954. The site is dedicated U.S. Marine Corps who have died in the line of duty since 1775. The design of the memorial is based on the 1945 photograph shot by AP war photographer Joe Rosenthal, who captured six Marines as they raised the flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. The memorial was created by sculptor Felix de Weldon and architect Horace W. Peaslee, who received funding for the landmark in 1947. The landmark, which features inscriptions commemorating all major Marine Corps battles, is cast in bronze and sits atop a black granite base from a quarry in Lönsboda, Sweden. In 1961, President Kennedy declared that the American flag would fly over the memorial in perpetuity.

8. Fort McHenry: An Important American Landmark

Fort McHenry, a coastal star-shaped fort used in the War of 1812, was built in 1798. Designated a National Monument and Historic Shrine in 1939, the fort features a replica of the 15-star/15-stripe U.S. flag. Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner at the fort following a bomb raid by the British in 1814. The national landmark, which holds a 4th of July celebration complete with cannon firings and a performance by the Guard Fife and Drum Corps, can be accessed by Water Taxi from Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

9. National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial: Gone But Not Forgotten

Designed by Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial is an outdoor landmark that honors the 184 people who died in the Pentagon and aboard American Airlines Flight 77 during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Inaugurated on September 11, 2008, the memorial features benches placed over reflecting pools that face the Pentagon's southern façade and bear the names of the victims, as well as a wall along the edge of the landmark that grows from three inches and to seventy-one inches, the ages of the youngest and oldest victims of the terrorist attack.

Where to Eat in Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C. is packed with superb restaurants from almost all areas of the world. If you want to splash out, head to Georgetown or the East End, where eateries like Kinship and Minibar offer gourmet entrees from elite chefs (and a meal will cost upwards of $60 per head). For more affordable eats, try the tapas selection at Jaleo, Ethiopian restaurants like Dukem in Shaw or El Chalan, the city's best Peruvian restaurant. Whatever your tastes, Washington has chefs who can deliver. Expect midrange meals to cost $15-25.

When to visit Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. in May
Estimated hotel price
₹ 2768
1 night at 3-star hotel
Washington, D.C. in May
Estimated hotel price
₹ 2768
1 night at 3-star hotel

Seeing the sights in Washington often requires a lot of walking, which can be tough in the extremely hot, humid summers. This makes spring and fall an excellent time to visit. With temperatures in the 60s most days, you will be able to wander the Mall and neighborhoods like Georgetown in complete comfort. Winter is a cheaper alternative, and the Mall can be magical in the snow, but Washington does experience severe freezes and snow storms, so it may not be for everyone.

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Temperatures
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Celcius (°C)
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How to Get to Washington, D.C.

Plane

If you are flying into Washington D.C., you'll have two potential entry points. Many domestic flights touch down at Ronald Reagan National Airport, which is around 3 miles south of the city center. From there, the best route into town is to take the Yellow or Blue MetroRail service, which takes 15 minutes. Buses 13F and 13G also run into the East End of Washington and cost $1.75. Another option is flying into Dulles International Airport, which is 26 miles out of town. From there, you can catch the Silver Line Express Bus to Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station, which costs $5. After that, take the MetroRail service into the East End. The whole journey takes around an hour. Alternatively, you can catch Metrobus 5A, which costs $7 and takes around the same amount of time.

Train

Washington's central Amtrak station is Union Station, located near Capitol Hill. The city has excellent connections to cities like Richmond, New York, Boston and Philadelphia via services like the Cardinal, Crescent, and Carolinian. There are also regional rail connections to cities like Fredericksburg, VA, and Baltimore.

Car

If you are driving into Washington D.C. from the north or south, I-95 is the road to take, while the Baltimore Parkway connects Washington with Baltimore. Anyone coming from the south and west can hook up with I-81, while anyone driving from Chicago needs to take I-65, then take I-70.

Bus

Washington D.C. has excellent bus connections with Eastern Seaboard cities like New York and Philadelphia via companies like Greyhound, Megabus, BoltBus, BestBus, Vamoose Bus, Peter Pan and Tripper Bus and fares from New York can be as low as $10. Most buses terminate at Union Station.

Airlines serving Washington, D.C.

United Airlines
Good (2,877 reviews)
American Airlines
Good (4,427 reviews)
Lufthansa
Good (2,198 reviews)
KLM
Good (355 reviews)
Air France
Good (406 reviews)
Delta
Excellent (3,090 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (1,345 reviews)
British Airways
Good (1,453 reviews)
SWISS
Good (461 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (1,231 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (983 reviews)
Iberia
Good (932 reviews)
Air Canada
Good (1,468 reviews)
Austrian Airlines
Good (285 reviews)
Etihad Airways
Good (316 reviews)
Singapore Airlines
Excellent (338 reviews)
TAP AIR PORTUGAL
Good (551 reviews)
Brussels Airlines
Good (103 reviews)
Finnair
Good (713 reviews)
Alaska Airlines
Excellent (2,680 reviews)
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Where to stay in Washington, D.C.

The West End – The West End lies west of the White House and offers plenty of upmarket hotels and attractions. It's the home of K Street, famous for its political lobbyists and Foggy Bottom, which hosts world institutions like the IMF. For tourists, the West End is the best place to stay if you are focused on touring the White House, and there are many other attractions in the neighborhood, including the National Geographic Museum and Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Popular Neighborhoods in Washington D.C.

The East End – The East End lies on the other side of the White House, and it's equally upscale. Attractions in the area are almost endless, from the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, to the National Air and Space Museum, Ford's Theater (the site of Lincoln's assassination) and the fascinating International Spy Museum.

Georgetown – Famous for its university, Georgetown feels different to the rest of Washington, which may be due to its being much older than the rest of the city (some buildings date back to the 1750s). It's a great base to explore the Downtown attractions, and has highlights of its own, including the beautiful gardens of Tudor Place, the 18th-century City Tavern Club and the chance to watch candlelit live music on Dumbarton Street.

Most popular hotel in Washington, D.C. by neighbourhood

Where to stay in popular areas of Washington, D.C.

Most booked hotels in Washington, D.C.

Nestor Hotel
Excellent (8.8, Excellent reviews)
₹ 6,505+
Grecian Bay
Excellent (8.6, Excellent reviews)
₹ 8,978+
Cavo Maris Beach Hotel
Excellent (8.5, Excellent reviews)
₹ 6,142+
Capo Bay Hotel
Excellent (8.4, Excellent reviews)
₹ 10,049+
Adams Beach Hotel & Spa
Excellent (8.1, Excellent reviews)
₹ 327,826+
Panthea Holiday Village Water Park Resort
Good (7.1, Good reviews)
₹ 7,118+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Washington, D.C.

Public Transportation

Public transportation in Washington is provided by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and options include MetroRail, MetroBuses and circulator buses which serve the major attractions (and cost just $1 for a single ride). The Metro is usually the best way to get around. Tickets cost $1.75 during off-peak periods and $2.15 at peak times, but day and week passes are also available and offer major savings. Visitors need to know that all Metro riders need to purchase a SmartTrip Card, which can be obtained from stations in the D.C. Metro area.

Taxis

If you don't have a vehicle of your own, taxis are a good way to avoid long walks between attractions. Taxi rates in Washington D.C. start with a basic charge of $3 and then charge $2.16 for every subsequent mile. However, getting around Washington is even cheaper with Uber, who charge a meter drop of $1.15, then around $1 per mile, with a minimum fare of $6.35.

Car

Renting a car isn't usually the best option in Washington D.C. (unless you are staying in an outlying suburb). That's because the major attractions are all located in the same neighborhood and parking at different locations isn't generally practical. The city also tends to experience heavy rush hour traffic, making Washington an awkward city to navigate by car.

Car hire agencies in Washington, D.C.

Enterprise

Enterprise

Hertz

Hertz

Avis

Avis
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The Cost of Living in Washington, D.C.

Shopping Streets

America's capital isn't usually thought of as one of the best places around to shop at boutiques or craft markets, but some districts have great places to browse for unique clothing and other items. Georgetown has some fantastic women's clothing stores like Violet and Ella-Rue, while Shaw offers apparel boutiques like Lettie Gooch. If you need to access a large-scale conventional mall, head to Potomac Mills in the suburb of Woodbridge, where the 200+ stores include major names like the LEGO store and Aldo.

Groceries and Other

Washington D.C. has its fair share of major supermarkets, including Giant, Aldi, Trader Joe's and Safeway. But if you want to shop for fresh produce and artisan foods, head to the Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, which is on every Saturday and Sunday. Prices are quite high by national standards, and you should expect to pay around $3.70 for 12 eggs or $1.90 for a pound of potatoes.

Cheap meal
₹ 1,236
A pair of jeans
₹ 4,084
Single public transport ticket
₹ 247
Cappuccino
₹ 339