12 Famous Landmarks in Washington, D.C. You Must See

Last Updated on February 12, 2023 by Nikki Jain

Washington, DC is the kind of US destination you can visit several times and still not see everything.

With so many historically significant things to see and do, it can be daunting to narrow down a list of the best Washington DC landmarks.

We’ve come up with a list of must-see landmarks in our nation’s capital to use as a starting point.

From the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials to the iconic Washington Monument, these are some of the many important landmarks in Washington, DC.

The Must-See Washington DC Landmarks

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1: White House

White House
Dreamstime/Jon Bilous

Start your capital trip with one of the top historical sites in Washington, DC – The White House.

You'll need to jump through a couple of hoops to secure your spot inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, so plan ahead.

Submit a public tour request through your members of Congress three months in advance and no less than three weeks before your visit.

Once inside, you'll get to see the public rooms of the East Wing, the State Dining Room and the China Room and get a view of the beautiful White House Rose Garden.

Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500

2: Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Flickr/Derek Key

Known as "the Wall," the Vietnam Veterans Memorial remains one of the most somber and visited landmarks in Washington, DC.

The long black-granite wall is emblazoned with the names of more than 58,000 Americans who gave their lives in the Vietnam War.

The names are ordered by the date they passed away, not alphabetically.

There are three distinct sections: the Three Soldiers Statue, the Vietnam Women's Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, which holds 58,272 names of soldiers who gave their lives or were MIA during the war.

Address: 5 Henry Bacon Dr NW, Washington, DC 20245

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3: World War II Memorial

World War II Memorial
Flickr/Nicolas Raymond

The World War II Memorial is one of the must-visit Washington DC landmarks that honors America's "Greatest Generation" with 56 pillars symbolizing states and territories, as well as Washington, DC, that participated in the war.

These stone and bronze sculptures recognize the Americans – 16 million members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, those on the homefront and the sacrifice of 405,399 Americans – who helped restore freedom and end tyranny around the world.

Notice the Freedom Wall with its 4,048 gold stars – each star represents 100 Americans lost in the war. Open to the public 24 hours a day; the Memorial sits on the National Mall at the east end of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.

Address: 1964 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20227

4: Korean War Veterans Memorial

Korean War Veterans Memorial
Unsplash/Brittany Colette

Another sobering Washington DC landmark, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, is located on the eastern side of the Mall.

It pays tribute to the 1.5 million Americans who served during "The Forgotten War."

The memorial itself is comprised of 19 stainless-steel soldier statues, set as if in combat and placed to appear as if marching toward an American flag.

Nearby, a long granite wall honors the unnamed troops who fought in the war.

Take time for quiet reflection at the Pool of Remembrance. Look, too, for the Mural Wall, where you’ll find nearly 2,500 photos of individuals who served in the Korean War.

Address: 900 Ohio Dr SW, Washington, DC 20024

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5: Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Flickr/Ron Cogswell

Commemorate America’s greatest Civil Rights Movement leader at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, sculpted by Master Lei Yixin.

The concept for this historic site in Washington, DC was influenced by a line from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

The memorial sits on four acres along the Tidal Basin, next to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and shares a sightline between the Lincoln and the Jefferson memorials.

And, as a nod to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the official address of the memorial is 1964 Independence Avenue SW. It is Washington, DC’s fourth memorial to honor a non-president and the first to honor a man of color.

Address: 1964 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024

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6: Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Flickr/Ken Chan

As you’re walking around the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC, you’ll see the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, an homage to 12 years of American history and the country’s longest-serving president through four unique outdoor rooms.

Each of these rooms represents one of FDR's terms as President of the United States during the Great Depression and World War II era.

At seven acres, is the largest presidential memorial on the National Mall.

Look for an impressive bronze sculpture of the 32nd president of the United States, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Roosevelt’s beloved dog, Fala, and scenes from the Great Depression.

Famous quotes are etched into red South Dakota granite throughout the memorial.

Address: 1850 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242

7: Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Flickr/Jiuguang Wang

Indeed, one of the most iconic Washington, DC landmarks, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, was modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.

A low dome is supported by 54 Ionic columns, creating a dramatic spot for the 19-foot bronze statue of Jefferson, the third president of the United States.

The monument stands at the far edge of the Tidal Pool in a straight line with the White House.

John Russell Pope’s design reflects Jefferson’s love of classical architecture, seen at Monticello and the University of Virginia Rotunda.

Inside the monument, look for excerpts from Jefferson’s famous speeches, as well as the Declaration of Independence.

If possible, visit the monument during the spring, when the cherry trees around the Tidal Pool are in full bloom.

Address: 701 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242

8: Washington Monument

Washington Monument
Unsplash/Bob Bowie

Among the most-visited landmarks in Washington, DC is the emblematic Washington Monument, built to honor George Washington.

Once the tallest building in the world at 555 feet, this tribute to the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and first president of the United States remains the world's tallest stone structure and obelisk.

Today's visitors can whisk to the top of the 50-story monument via a minute-long elevator ride, during which they'll watch a video from the National Park Service on what to expect during their visit.

From the top, it's possible to see almost 25 miles in every direction.

During the two-minute ride back to the bottom, visitors get a glimpse of the monument's interior walls with its commemorative stones to Washington himself, placed there by various states and civic groups.

Address: 2 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20024

9: National Mall

National Mall
View of the National Mall in Washington D.C. with the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool | Shutterstock/Kamira

Encompassing countless memorials and monuments that honor American presidents, heroes and forefathers, the National Mall continues to be the United States’ most-visited landmark.

The park runs more than two miles from the Lincoln Memorial on the west to the US Capitol in the east.

The center point is the Washington Monument. As you tour Washington, DC, you'll realize you're spending a lot of time on the Mall, visiting the monuments and getting from one place to the next.

This is where the annual Independence Day celebration takes place, as well as various Smithsonian festivals throughout the year.

During the summer months, military bands often perform at venues along the Mall in the evenings.

Address: Constitution Ave NW, Washington DC, DC 20565

10: Ford’s Theater

Ford’s Theater
Flickr/NCOLCoE Public Affairs

More than a Washington, DC historic site, Ford’s Theater is a working performance venue, a world-class museum and an educational center.

Learn about the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln at the site of the president’s assassination in April 1865.

See artifacts related to the assassination conspiracy, including the derringer used by John Wilkes Booth, and explore Lincoln's presidency and the Civil War through insightful exhibits.

Join one of the park ranger programs to learn more or attend a One Destiny performance in the spring and early summer, where costumed actors portray historical figures who were present on that fateful evening.

You can also take a walking tour of the neighborhood around the theater with a costumed historical figure from Civil War Washington.

Address: 511 10th St NW, Washington, DC 20004

11: Arlington House & Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington House & Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington Cemetery Memorial Entrance and former home of Robert E. Lee Virginia, at Fall | Shutterstock/MDart10

High on the hill above Arlington National Cemetery sits the Greek Revival-style Arlington House, the former home of General Robert E. Lee and his wife, Mary Anna Custis Lee.

With its huge Doric columns and covered entrance porch, the house stands as a lasting memorial to Lee for his role in promoting reunion after the Civil War.

While you're here, start your Arlington National Cemetery at the welcome center, where you'll find interesting exhibits and maps useful in touring this Washington, DC landmark.

You can visit the John F. Kennedy gravesite and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, witness the Changing of the Guard and explore the Memorial Arboretum.

Many of those lost in more contemporary times are buried here as well, including the Space Shuttle Challenger victims and those who lost their lives in the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001.

Address: 321 Sherman Dr, Fort Myer, VA 22211

12: Abraham Lincoln Memorial

Abraham Lincoln Memorial

Truly one of the most glorious monuments in America and a top Washington, DC historical site, the Abraham Lincoln Memorial is as inspiring as it is imposing.

One of the top-visited National Park Service sites in the country, the huge neoclassical memorial features a 19-foot statue of Lincoln presiding over the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument in the distance.

Look for the words of Honest Abe’s two most famous speeches etched into the walls of Henry Bacon’s impressively designed monument.

Thirty-six of the 38 Doric columns represent the number of states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death.

If possible, visit the memorial after dark, when the crowds are fewer and the monument is at its most atmospheric.

Address: 2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC 20037

Enjoy your trip to these Washington DC Landmarks!

This list covers some of the most popular monuments and landmarks in Washington, DC. However, there are many other sites in DC that are worth checking out:

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • President's Park
  • Rock Creek Park 
  • Kennedy Center for Performing Arts
  • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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