This self-guided Capitol Hill walk will take you to the world-famous halls of the US Capitol, Washington DC. In addition we will visit the Library of Congress and the US Botanic Gardens right below the hill.
Capitol Hill walk to the US Capitol
To see all these attractions you will preferably need a full day and prepare your visit in advance. To visit the US Capitol you need a reservation through on their website, at least during travel peaks.
However, in November there were no crowds. It was sunny, not too hot and autumn showed its best colors. Not a bad month to visit the Capitol Hill!
The Capitol Hill Walk on the Map
Map of the Capitol Hill walking itinerary
The map shows the Capitol Hill of Washington DC. The hill is located at the east end of the National Mall, to see the whole National Mall zoom out the map.
Our Capitol Hill walk is marked in blue on the map, not a long walk at all, probably something like a mile only.
The Congress Library is located behind the Capitol and so is the Supreme Court and some other institutions.
After you have completed the Capitol Hill walk, the next day you should take the National Mall, read about it here: National Mall Walking Itinerary, Washington DC. But now to the Capitol Grounds:
The US Capitol Grounds
Before getting indoors we will have a look at the green Capitol Grounds surrounding the Capitol building.
And why not walk a bit further away to the National Mall, at least to the water basin of Reflecting Pool that offers great views of the Capitol building:
The US Capitol seen from the Capitol Grounds and Reflecting Pool
Then, to find the entrance to the Capitol you have to go round the building. The entrance is behind the Capitol:
The US Capitol
The US Capitol, the highest building in Washington DC
This is the US Capitol, the highest building in Washington DC, seen from the square behind.
The US Capitol is not just a building among many others, but one of the most important buildings in the whole world and the home of the Congress and Senate of the United States.
The public enters at the lower level behind the building and of course all visitors are inspected.
The entrance hall of the US Capitol
To see the building you will have to join a guided tour, the time of which you should book in advance on their website.
Only during low season you might be lucky enough to get a tour without pre booking it, but probably after standing for ages in the ticket queue.
The House of Representatives
Capitol Hill walk: tickets to the House of Representatives
Then, if you want to visit the House Chamber where the Congress sits and the Senate Chamber where the senate sits, these visits must be arranged separately.
We got the tickets to both places. It was a positive surprise that they let even overseas visitors get into the Chambers and then watch their sessions.
Of course there was one more inspection for that. Cell phones, cameras and such were not allowed in the chambers and they re-checked our IDs. But the chambers where so highly interesting, definitely worth all the trouble!
Above you can see our tickets to the House of Representatives. That’s all we can show as cameras where not allowed.
Capitol Hill Walk: The Crypt
The Crypt of the U.S. Capitol
The guided tour of the US Capitol begins with the Crypt, a large hall with 40 Doric columns surrounded by remarkable statues from the different states.
The original idea with the crypt was to make it George Washington’s tomb.
Capitol Hill walk: the Crypt of the U.S. Capitol
Then the dome:
The Capitol Dome
Statues in the Dome of the US Capitol
The Dome of the US Capitol is full of amazing paintings and great statues showing the most important events in American history. And statues of remarkable American people.
Capitol Hill walk: the US Capitol Dome
And more statues will follow in the next hall:
National Statuary Hall
National Statuary Hall of the US Capitol
The Old Hall of the House of Representatives, the National Statuary Hall, also has statues from different states. Every state has two statues of its notable citizens in this hall of the Capitol.
Capitol Hill walk: National Statuary Hall
So now we have seen the Capitol and will move further to the next building, the Library of Congress.
To get to the library we only have to take an underground tunnel.
Capitol Hill Walk: Library of Congress
The Congress Library, Capitol Hill, Washington DC
The US Library of Congress is so huge. It is the world’s biggest library that has 150 million items in its collections.
The library is one of the three Capitol Hill buildings that any citizen is free to use, so it’s not only for the congress members.
If you only have time with one of the many library buildings, visit the Thomas Jefferson Building that’s known for its stunning architecture.
To get more out of your visit take a free one hour guided tour. On the tour the guide will show you all the highlights and after the tour you can examine more on your own.
The Great Hall of the Library of Congress
These pictures are from the Great Hall of the Library of Congress, decorated with fantastic arches, columns and balconies. Look at it!
Reading Room and the Bibles
The Main Reading Room of the Congress Library
This again is the Main Reading Room of the Congress Library. The massive hall is full of enchanting details, like the eight marble columns with female figures watching the readers sitting lower down in the hall.
The Gutenberg and Mainz Bibles of the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress also contains two real treasures dating back to the 1450s: the printed Gutenberg Bible and the handwritten Mainz Bible.
Jefferson Collection and Magna Carta
Thomas Jefferson’s Collection at the Library of Congress
And of course the library has much more, like a collection of Thomas Jefferson’s books, loads of old maps and bible. Then there are children’s books and comics and other things to see.
By the way, the old map in the picture below is worth 10 Million dollars. It’s the first map ever with the word America:
Treasures of the Congress Library, Washington DC
The day we were visiting happened to be the opening day of an exhibition of the original Magna Carta 1215. The Magna Carta (the photo up in the middle) was brought from the Lincoln Cathedral in Great Britain, just for the exhibition.
US Supreme Court
US Supreme Court on the Capitol Hill of Washington DC
Then, next to the Library of Congress is the United States Supreme Court. The court building looks a bit like a Greek temple and you can go in and watch the court’s proceedings for free.
We missed the court interior as it was already closed for the day at the time we were finished with our other Capitol Hill walk attractions. It was soon getting dark but luckily there was still some time to see the Botanic Gardens.
Capitol Hill Walk: US Botanic Garden
The conservatory of US Botanic Garden
After a long walk in cold Washington autumn weather we really needed a moment in a warmer, tropical climate. Especially having arrived from Florida two days earlier.
The Washington DC Botanic Garden in photos:
Capitol Hill walk: US Botanic Garden
We really appreciate that anybody is free just to walk in the conservatory and stroll in the all the beautiful gardens around it. They have such a huge amound of plants from different countries and climate zones.
And most of all I liked this little bird that was staring at me from the bush. But it was getting dark soon and it was time to finish out Capitol Hill walk.
Capitol Hill walk: a bird in the bush
So I hope you enjoyed reading about our little walk in the capital of the United States. If you have been to the Capitol Hill what more would you recommend to see on the hill?
Good bye from Washington DC!
More on Washington DC
If you are planning a trip to Washington DC, check out these two posts: