The U.S. Capitol dome towers above the Roman columns and manicured gardens of this iconic heart of American government. Topped by the bronze Statue of Freedom, the Capitol is the political and geographic center of Washington D.C. The building houses the legislative branch of Congress, with the Senate meeting in the north wing and the House of Representatives in the south wing. When Congress is in session, visitors can watch politicians debate all flavors of legislative issues, as they’ve done here since 1800.
Areas beyond the visitor center are only accessible by guided tour. Options include group or private tours of Washington D.C. that take in the Capitol Building and include reserved tickets. The Capitol also offers official tours; booking far in advance is highly recommended—passes are available 120 days in advance—though a limited number of same-day, guided-tour passes are offered at the visitor center. You can also book reserved entry via a VIP experience.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Areas beyond the visitor center are only accessible by guided tour.
- Separate passes are required to view a session of Congress or a Congressional committee hearing. US citizens can obtain one from their state senator or representative; foreign visitors can try at the Capitol’s House and Senate appointment desks.
- When Congress is in session, a flag is raised above the appropriate wing (either the Senate or House). The spectacle is especially impressive when both are in session simultaneously.
- Capitol tours are family-friendly.
- No food, drink, or bags larger than 18 inches (46 centimeters) are permitted.
- A wide range of accessibility services are available to visitors. There is an on-demand shuttle service for those with limited mobility.
How to Get There
The U.S. Capitol is at the far eastern end of the National Mall in Washington D.C. Enter via the visitor center on East Capitol Street at First Street NW. You can easily get to the Capitol by foot, bike, car (though there is virtually no parking nearby), bus, or Metro. The nearest Metro stations are Union Station, Capitol South, and Federal Center SW.
When to Get There
The Capitol Visitor Center is open from 8:30am to 4:30pm Monday through Saturday except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Inauguration Day. Visit in spring to see cherry blossom blooms or in winter to avoid the crowds. DC can be especially humid in summer.
Must-See Sights Near the Capitol Building
Aside from the Capitol Building’s opulent chambers and impressive rotunda, the site overlooks the National Mall and is in close proximity to many other sights of great historic and cultural significance. Many Washington D.C. tours combine a Capitol Building visit with stops at other major landmarks such as the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the US Supreme Court Building, and the Library of Congress.