Arriving in Washington D.C. makes one think this is the promised white city. And it is. In the central part of the city the traveller is met with huge Greek style columns and pantheon-like buildings. In the centre of it all? – Congress. A crown jewel of all these buildings.
To those that don’t know, D.C. is the capital city of the U.S.A., situated in its special administrative zone along the Potomac river. This visit was part of our trip on the East Coast of the United States – Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York and Boston.
Having just arrived from Philadelphia by coach, we decided to go to our hotel Hilton Garden Inn Washington DC/U.S Capitol and leave our luggage and check in. We wanted to get the most out of D.C. and indeed we did.
If you don’t have enough time in the city, you might consider Hop-on Hop-off Washington DC Bus Tour to cover the main attractions.
Arriving to the National Mall in central D.C., you can only help but admire the grandeur of the buildings you are presented with. It’s everything you see in the movies and more. To help you get around the National Mall, you can use the Circulator bus which stops alongside the many monuments and government buildings. When we were there, it is was free as it was out of season, but they do offer different tariffs when in season.
United States Capitol, the meeting place of the United States Congress, is an amazing building dominating the Mall’s landscape. We would definitely recommend visiting this place but do book in advance. Appointments are free and guided but beware that security is strict and you will need your passport.
Once in the building, you will learn through the guided tour all the symbolistic elements that are embedded in the architecture as well as the history behind it. What must be said is that as illustrious and grand the building may look, Congress was build using black slaves with cheap immigrant (mostly European) workforce.
But this is the story of D.C. and most of the U.S.. It is thought that the costs in present money and labour conditions would’ve bankrupted the U.S., should they have attempted this again.
Next on the list – The Supreme Court. From the photos you can see that we were helped by a glorious day but the building is just as majestic as you’d imagine from these shots. It’s immense, imposes respect but more importantly the architecture behind it is incredible.
When going in, the hallways are huge and create a tomb-like atmosphere of solemnity. One interesting aspect is that you can’t take any imagery or record anything in the main court room. We’ve managed to take a photo of a miniature version of it.
Next up is the Library of Congress which is the research library that officially serves the United States Congress and is the de facto national library of the United States. This immense building filled with knowledge is accessible by all, no matter orientation, language, ethnicity, nationality.
All you need is to sign up to become a member and you can access any of its books immediately. The registration can be done on the spot. Most tourists use this opportunity to get in the actual dome rather than read any of the books, but I guess the photos must be worth it!
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Most museums in D.C. are free. However, there is one museum that has the most to offer. The Smithsonian. The story behind it is interesting as well. A former rich English scientist, James Smithson wanted to leave his wealth to his nephew.
However, his nephew having passed away before the will could be executed as stipulated and hence the next beneficiary on the will list was the U.S. Government with the provision that they use this money to raise a museum.
The delegates tasked to retrieving the inheritance went to London and made sure to get the newest coins for that year. The reason? They wanted to make sure they are getting the full amount of gold provisioned in the will so they can melt in the U.S., otherwise older coins might have been chipped, damaged and might have had a few milligrams of gold shaved here or there. Getting your money’s worth couldn’t be truer.
And so they did and the U.S. Government raised The Smithsonian and the many museums this organisation covers to date. Entrance is free and there is always a free intro guided tour included. Additional tours that delve into each section are paid.
The vary Smithsonian museums cover many topics from African American culture, Vietnam War to Science and Nature. There is certainly a topic for all groups here for sure. We visited the following museums and would certainly recommend them – National Museum of American History, National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle)
Every so often is good to remind ourselves of the wars and battles our fore-fathers have fought, to remind us of the privilege it is to live in a free world society. Although not all wars and rebellion causes are as poetic, many have also some dark sides to it.
Going through the memorials in D.C., reminds us all of the courage and determination one nation can have in pursuit of its goals. This determination, unfortunately, is seen in the many names seen on the remembrance planks that tell a story of how blood thirsty the Gods of war are.
One thing worth noting is that some of the memorials, dedicated to former presidents, can be an impressive visual sight for anyone. The demeanour of these statues imposes respect and makes us all take a moment and admire these statues.
Where to eat?
Yep – you thought I wouldn’t include this bit? Thinking of D.C. one might imagine a cuisine that features European like food. You know, butter mostly. Couldn’t be more wrong – Ethiopian and chili dogs are what make up the culinary landscape. Who would’ve thought.
In-between these many buildings and government organisations we did find a jewel with hearty American food. Founding Farmers. And yes – it is good. Wholesome American cuisine that covers many foods and variations. Prices won’t be as cheap but hey – how often are you in D.C.?
Portions are generous and the prices are on par but you easily forget that once you sip a bit more of your whisky sour and dive into your cornbread.
What else is there?
For starters go and have a stroll by the White House. We were told by locals that depending on the administration you can have more or less security around this perimeter. We went there in February 2019 and in between us and the White House, there were 7 lines of defence. You will also see the National Christmas Tree – yes – and it’s protected by law.
There are other famous buildings and POIs you can see, just explore the surrounding area and you will be amazed! We would also recommend the National Archives to see The Public Vaults and the Charters of Freedom (the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights), just be prepared for airport-style security checks.
We were truly inspired by our visit to Washington D.C. and the vast amount of places to see and visit at the National Mall. The Capitol visit definitely stood out for us – you can see what a complex administrative apparatus the U.S. Congress really is.
The promise that each person can change their social status through hard work is a promise this organisation tries to accomplish daily – it is called – The American dream.
Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:
- Flights – we use flight aggregators such as Skyscanner and Google flights to find the best options. You can find more information about finding cheap flights here.
- Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.
- Transport – consider Rentalcars.com for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.
- Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.
- Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.
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