The United States Capitol is the landmark of Washington D.C. The construction of the US parliament sarted in 1793. In 1814 the Capitol was destroyed by British troops during the US aggression against Canada. The US Capitol received its dome in 1863 with the bronze statue "Freedom" on top by Thomas Crawford. A plaster copy of the Statue of Freedom is shown in the Emancipation Hall. The classicist architecture of the Capitol is a reminiscent of Athens, the cradle of democracy. The City Planner of Washington D.C. Pierre Charles L'Enfant, placed the Capitol on a 30-meter-high hill (Capitol Hill) above the city. The Capitol forms the eastern end point of the National Mall. The two diagonal Streets Pennsylvania Ave. and Maryland Ave. cross just below the dome of the Capitol, therefore the dome is the dominat structure in the cityscape. The Capitol is the heart of American democracy, home to the Legislative Chamber, the House of Representatives and the Senate. At the Capitol Visitor Center there is an exhibition about the building and it's history.
Visit the Capitol:
You can visit the Capitol, but you should register in advance for a guided tour. The tour takes about 1 hour. For information on registration check the link.
The neoclassical monument for Abraham Lincoln was created in 1922. Lincoln was president of the United States during the civil war between northern and southern states. He was in favor of the abolition of slavery and was shot dead in Washington DC in 1865. The Lincoln Memorial was designed by architect Henry Bacon and forms the endpoint of the Federal Mall to the west. Inside is a statue of Abraham Lincoln made of marble by sculptor Daniel Chester French. Lincoln sits in a chair and looks towards the Capitol. Above his head is the inscription: "In this temple - as in the hearts of the people - for whom we saved the union - the memory of Abraham Lincoln - is enshrined forever."
Martin Luther King made his famous speech "I have a dream" in 1963 in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
The Vietnam War lasted from 1964 until 1975. The escape of the Americans with helicopters from Saigon, sealed one of the most painful defeats of the United States. Over 58,000 US soldiers were killed in the Vietnam War, over 150,000 were wounded. The war caused a trauma in the American population, because the war took place in the media. War crimes, murder and destruction became visible to the whole world. It formed an anti-war movement that divided the American people. The Vietnam War was a staged war between capitalism and communism. Communist North Vietnam was supported by the USSR and the PR of Cina. About 2 million civilians were killed. Over 1 million soldiers of the Communist NVA and NLF were killed. About 220,000 soldiers of the South Vietnamese ARVN lost their lives.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was built in 1982 according to the design of architect Maya Ying Lin. She designed the Memorial Wall, a wall of black, polished granite engraved with the names of the fallen soldiers. The granite wall was built into the ground, with its two sides pointing to the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. The monument also includes the Bronze Three Servicemen, designed by Frederick Hart in 1984. For the 8 American women killed in Vietnam, Glenna Goodacre designed the Women 's Memorial in 1993.
The National World War II Memorial opened in 2004 to commemorate the more than 400,000 fallen soldiers and all US citizens involved in the war. About 16 million US soldiers participated in World War II. The old-fashioned memorial was designed by Leo A. Daly and Friedrich St. Florian. The WW II Memorial is located at the eastern end of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
The Washington Monument was opened in 1884 and was the tallest building in the world until the construction of the Eiffel Tower in 1889. The Monument is dedicated to the First President of the USA. It is a 169 meters tall reminiscent of an Egyptian obelisk. The Washington Monument was designed in 1848 by Robert Mills. The tower is not in the axis of the White House, as originally planned, because the ground was not sustainable at this location. The Monument was funded by donations and when the funds were spent in 1858, construction was suspended for 25 years. Finally the US Congress approved the money for completion in 1876. A colonnade was planned around the monument, which was canceled for cost reasons. Today 50 US flags surround the monument in a circle.
You can visit the Washington Monument and take a lift to the top of the tower. Since the monument is the highest building of the US capital, one has the most beautiful view over Washington DC. For current information on opening hours check the link.
The construction of the residence and office of the American President was started in 1792, as the first building in "Federal City", as Washington D.C. was called at that time. The White House was designed by architect James Hoban and completed in 1800. The first president in the White House was John Adams. In 1814 the White House was burned down by British troops as revenge for the US attack on Canada. In 1817 the president's house was rebuilt. President Theodore Roosevelt named the building "White House" and built the west wing in 1902. His cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt built the east wing in 1942. The most famous room in the White House is the "Oval Office" with the President's desk.
The library was first housed in the Capitol. When the Americans thought they might invade Canada in 1814, the British landed in Washington DC and set fire to the new capital. All books burned in the Capitol. Thomas Jefferson provided his private library to the nation. In 1897 the Library of Congress got its own building, named after Thomas Jefferson. The magnificent building of the architects Smithmeyer and Pelz was designed in the style of the Italian Renaissance. Verry impressive is the huge reading room under the dome. There is a free tour explaining the symbols and architecture of the Jefferson Building.
The Supreme Court is the highest court of the United States of America. The Supreme Court was built in 1935 by Cass Gilbert. The architect became famous with the neo-gothic Woolworth Building in New York City, which was for many years the tallest building of the world. Gilbert chose the Greek style for this building, because Greece is the origin of democracy. Under the pediment you can read the letters: EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW. The two sculptures next to the staircase are designed by James Earle Fraser. On the left "Contemplation of Justice" and on the right "Authority of Law". The Supreme Court is open to the public. Check openig hours at the website of the Supreme Court below.
The Jefferson Memorial was built in 1943 for the author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States. The building is a reminiscent of the Pantheon in Rome. John Russel Pope's building is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the United States. Thomas Jefferson was an architect, philosopher, musician, scientist and politician. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the initiator of the Jefferson Memorial. The gleaming white rotunda stands at the Tidal Basin, a small bay of the Potomac River. Under the closed dome stands a 6-meter-high bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson. On the walls are quotes from Jefferson's famous speeches. Around the Tidal Basin are Cherry Trees, a gift from Japan from 1912. For cherry blossom, around mid-March to mid-April, the Jefferson Memorial is the most beautiful photo opportunity of Washington D.C ..
The Ford's Theater became world famous through the assassination of Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. The theater is a famous sight of Washington DC and can be visited on guided tours. The interior looks just like on that day of the assassination of the President. You can see the President's Box but can not enter. With about 650,000 visitors a year, Ford's Theater is one of Washington DC's top attractions.
Like many American cities, Washington DC has a Chinatown. However, this is much smaller than Chinatown in New York City or San Francisco. At the corner of 7th Street / H Street stands the Chinese Friendship Archway. In the adjacent streets there are Chinese restaurants and shops. The zebra crossing at this intersection has Chinese zodiac signs on the road surface.
Union Station is the main train station of Washington DC. When it opened in 1908, it was the largest station in the world. The classical building is modeled after the Arch of Constantine in Rome. The 29 meter high entrance hall is decorated with gold leaf. Due to the increase in car traffic and the construction of large airports, the station was soon oversized. Around 100 trains stop daily at Union Station. The Union Station was therefore rebuilt in 1988 and is now home to over 100 shops. A parking deck was built above the tracks, that also houses the long distance bus station. Compared to Europe, trains in the US are more expensive and slow. It is much cheaper to take the bus, but it will take even more time then the train.
Georgetown is the oldest part of Washington DC, the small town that existed before the US capital was built. Georgetown was founded in 1751 and has retained its charm from the British colonial era. There are even some buildings that are still preserved from this period. On M Street stands the Old Stone House (photo) from 1761, which is used as a museum. Here you can see how the first settlers of the area lived. In Georgetown there are many boutiques and restaurants. The small town atmosphere makes Georgetown a popular destination for tourists and locals.
How to get there?
From the subway station Foggy Bottom, it takes about 20 minutes to walk to Georgetown. From Washington Circle, you can take buses to M Street in Georgetown.
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was built in 1836 and runs parallel to the Potomac River. Coal was shipped from the Appalachians to the Chesapeake Bay. In 1924 the C & O Canal was closed. In the past, excursion boats used to sail along the canal, but now the waterway is a recreational area. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal also flows through Georgetown, where you can walk along the shore on the old towpath. Numerous bridges cross the old canal. Above the waterway there are several cafes and restaurants.
The National Cemetery is located in the neighboring town of Arlington. The most famous attraction of the Arlington National Cemetery is the US Marine Corps War Memorial. The cemetery is on the other side of the Potomac River. From the Lincoln Memorial you can walk across the Arlington Memorial Bridge (approximately 1.3 kilometers). The Marine Corps Memorial is located at the north end of the Arlington Cemetery. It was inaugurated in 1954 and depicts a World War II scene captured by photographer Joe Rosenthal in 1945 on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. Sculptor Felix W. de Weldon rebuilt the scene with 108 individual parts. The photographer called his picture Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, he got the Pulitzer Prize for this picture.
How to get there?
Take the metro to Rosslyn, from there it is about 650 m to walk to the US Marine Corps War Memorial. It is about twice as far from Arlington Cemetery metro station.
The Eastern Market is an old brick market hall that still serves as a market. However, the market is relatively small and has only one restaurant. There are plenty of restaurants, cafes and nice shops in the area around the market and on 8th Street, south of the metro station Eastern Market.
U Street is the best known center for evening entertainment in the capital. There are bars, restaurants, nightclubs and theaters. Most restaurants and shops can be found on 14th Street between U Street and S Street. The most famous snack in Washington DC is Ben's Chili Bowl (photo), many celebrities have eaten here, including President Barack Obama. The Lincoln Theatre built in 1912 had a major impact on the development of U Street to become an entertainment district.
How to get there?
There is a metro station of the yellow and the green line at U Street: U St / African-American Civil War Memorial / Cardozo Station
Welcome to Washington D.C.
Washington is one of the few cities in the world that was built as a capital city. In 1792 the master plan was designed by Pierre Charles L'Enfant. The American capital is characterized by diagonal streets, which meet at Circles. Unlike other major cities in the country, there are no skyscrapers in the city center. High-rise buildings where banned in 1899. Almost all sights of Washington D.C. are situated at the "National Mall", where you will also find the famous museums, like the Smithonian Castle or the National Air and Space Museum.