The U.S. Capitol Building, the meeting chambers for the Senate and the House of Representatives, is one of the most recognizable historic buildings in Washington, DC, located at the opposite end of the National Mall from the Washington Monument. It is a prominent landmark and an impressive example of 19th-century neoclassical architecture. The Capitol Dome was completely restored in 2015-2016, fixing more than 1000 cracks and giving the structure a beautiful polished appearance.
With 540 rooms divided among five levels, the U.S. Capitol is a massive structure. The ground floor is allocated to congressional offices. The second floor holds the chambers of the House of Representatives in the south wing and the Senate in the north wing. Under the dome in the center of the Capitol Building is the Rotunda, a circular space that serves as a gallery of paintings and sculpture of American historical figures and events. The third floor is where visitors can watch the proceedings of Congress when in session. Additional offices and machinery rooms occupy the fourth floor and the basement.
Visiting the U.S. Capitol
Capitol Visitor Center- The facility opened in December 2008 and greatly enhances the experience of visiting the U.S. Capitol. While waiting for tours, visitors can browse galleries displaying artifacts from the Library of Congress and National Archives, touch a 10-foot model of the Capitol Dome and even watch live video feeds from the House and Senate. Tours begin with a 13-minute film exploring the history of the Capitol and Congress, shown in the facility's orientation theaters.
Guided Tours - Tours of the historic U.S. Capitol building are free, but require tickets which are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. The hours are 8:45 a.m - 3:30 p.m. Monday - Saturday. Visitors can book tours in advance at www.visitthecapitol.gov. Tours can also be booked through a representative or Senator's office or by calling (202) 226-8000. A limited number of same-day passes are available at the tour kiosks on the East and West Fronts of the Capitol and at the Information Desks at the Visitor Center.
Watching Congress in Session- Visitors can see Congress in action at the Senate and House Galleries (when in session) Monday-Friday 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Passes are required and may be obtained from the offices of Senators or Representatives. International visitors can receive Gallery passes at the House and Senate Appointment Desks on the upper level of the Capitol Visitor Center.
Capitol Complex and Grounds
In addition to the Capitol Building, six Congressional office buildings and three Library of Congress buildings make up Capitol Hill. The U.S. Capitol grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (also known for designing Central Park and the National Zoo), and include more than 100 varieties of trees and bushes and thousands of flowers that are used in seasonal displays. The U. S. Botanic Garden, the oldest botanic garden in the country, is a part of the Capitol complex and is a great place to visit year-round.
Annual Events on the West Lawn
During the summer months, popular concerts are held on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Thousands attend the Memorial Day Concert, A Capitol Fourth and the Labor Day Concert. During the holiday season, members of Congress invite the public to attend the lighting of the Capitol Christmas Tree.
E. Capitol St. and First St. NW, Washington, DC.
The main entrance is located on the East Plaza between Constitution and Independence Avenues. (across from the Supreme Court). See a map of the Capitol.
The closest Metro stations are Union Station and Capitol South. See a map and directions to the National Mall
Key Facts About the U.S. Capitol
- Construction of the U.S. Capitol began in 1793. The original building, completed in 1826, was made of brick clad in sandstone. The north and south wings and connecting corridors added in the mid 19th century and the replica of the East Front constructed in the 20th century, are made of brick clad in marble. The dome is made of cast iron.
- The Capitol is 88 feet above sea level (the top of the Washington Monument is 209 feet higher than the top of the Capitol Building).
- There are 100 statues in the Statuary Hall Collection, two from each state.
- The largest statue in the Statuary Hall Collection is the statue of King Kamehameha I, donated by the state of Hawaii. It is 9'-10" tall and stands on a 3'-6" granite base.
- The Rotunda is a circular room in the center of the building beneath the Capitol dome. It is the tallest part of the building, 96 feet in diameter and rises 180 feet from the floor to the canopy.
- Atop the U.S. Capitol dome is the Statue of Freedom, a classical female figure with long, flowing hair wearing a helmet with a crest composed of an eagle’s head and feathers. She stands on a pedestal on a globe encircled with the motto E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one).
- Official Website: www.aoc.gov
Attractions Near the U.S. Capitol Building
- U. S. Botanic Garden
- The Supreme Court
- The Library of Congress
- Union Station
- Eastern Market
- Folger Shakespeare Library & Theatre