The United States Capitol is one of the most iconic monuments in the country that symbolizes its democracy. A visit to Washington DC would not be complete if we did not visit such an important building inspired by the values of freedom, equality and justice.
Next, we go inside the Capitol to get to know it better and give you some tips to organize a visit.
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What is the Capitol?
It is the seat of the legislative chambers of the United States. It therefore houses the House of Representatives and the Senate. In its surroundings are also the headquarters of the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress.
In fact, the Capitol is made up of a grouping of buildings of similar architectural style that began to be built towards the end of the XNUMXth century, as the epicenter of the city of Washington as it developed.
Where is the Capitol located?
It is located on a hill called Capitol Hill, from which you have impressive views and the Capitol seems even bigger, giving that feeling of power.
Where to start the visit?
A good idea may be to start visiting Washington DC starting from the National Mall, a huge outdoor area surrounded by gardens, monuments and memorials that bear witness to the history of the United States since its inception. It is the area where the capital shows all its power, impressing all who contemplate it.
President George Washington commissioned the French architect Pierres Charles L'Enfant in 1791 to design a great city that could compete with any of the great European capitals. In this way, on the banks of the Potomac River, what would be the capital of the United States of America began to rise.
Since then, two centuries have passed and Washington DC has become a very important city worldwide. At nearly 3 miles long, the National Mall stretches from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.
A walk through the Mall can take almost the whole day given the large number of museums that flank it as well as the presence of several memorials to illustrious personalities and monuments. Now, what we are dealing with in this post is the Capitol so we are going to get to know it better.
Visiting the Capitol
Its construction began in 1793 and was finished in 1883 following a neoclassical style. The reforms and extensions followed one another during the following decades. The result was an impressive building surmounted by a large dome topped by a female statue and a staircase opening onto the National Mall. All in gleaming white.
From a distance it can be seen as two of the main avenues of the city, Maryland and Pennsylvania, end there.
The Capitol is a building of immense proportions. The north wing corresponds to the Senate while the south wing corresponds to the House of Representatives. On the upper floors there are galleries that the public can visit on certain occasions, the Visitor Center being the place specially designed to attend to visitors.
It is located below street level on the east side of the House of Representatives and has been open since 2008. The entrance is located on First Street behind the building.
What is the Visitor Center like?
It is a space specially designed to satisfy the curiosity of visitors to the Capitol. From its upper floor you can see the interior of the dome of Congress and some of the emblems of the United States that we can find here are: a replica of the Statue of Liberty that crowns the dome, a model of it, the table in which Abraham Lincoln signed the act of his second term or the first stone that George Washington placed in 1793 to build the Capitol.
In turn, through the Visitor Center you can access the Thomas Jefferson building of the Library of Congress directly. One of the most interesting places of the visit to the Capitol.
The Visitor Center is made up of:
- Exhibition Hall: exhibition dedicated to the Capitol and the history of Congress as an institution.
- Emancipation Hall: space where the general services are located.
- Shops, services and lockers
Are there guided tours of the Capitol?
Of course, but a prior reservation is required. All guided tours begin and end at the Visitor Center. These are free of charge and their hours are from 08:30 to 16:30 from Monday to Saturday except for Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving and the day the president is inaugurated.
Free guided tours are also available at the Library of Congress. They last about an hour and take place from 10:30 a.m. to 15:30 p.m. every hour from Monday to Friday.
Can you visit the Senate and the House of Representatives?
It is possible but for this you need a special pass and they are not part of the visit to the Visitor Center. Both cameras can be visited both when there is a session and when it is in recess, but for this the pass must be obtained in two ways:
- Foreigners should go to the counters on the upper level of the Visitor Center (Senate and House Appointment) and request the pass there. Depending on the activity of the Congress, they are likely to have an appointment for the same day.
- Residents of the United States can request the pass through their representative in these chambers.
When there is no session in the chambers, they are open from 9am to 16:15 pm from Monday to Friday. If they were in session, an access time would be indicated.
Tips for visiting the Capitol
- At the access to the Visitor Center there is a strict security control.
- If you visit the Capitol, arrive on time and show up 15 minutes before the scheduled visit time.
- It is not possible to go up to the dome of the Capitol.
- If you go with very young children, you should know that you cannot enter the Senate and Congress with carts, but you can do the guided tour of the Visitor Center.
- It is possible to take personal videos and photos of the visit, except in the Exhibition Hall, but not professional ones. The reason is to protect the ancient documents that are exhibited there.