The US Capitol | Attraction Guides | History Hit

The US Capitol

Washington, District of Columbia, United States

Sarah Roller

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: S.Borisov / Shutterstock

About The US Capitol

The US Capitol is the seat of the United States Congress, made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives, and, with its famous neoclassical façade and dramatic dome, is an iconic building in its own right.

History of the US Capitol

Construction of the first incarnation of The US Capitol began in 1793 and the US Congress first met there – in what would be its north wing – in November 1800. Now, the House of Representatives uses the south wing, whilst the Senate uses the north wing. Since 1800, the US Capitol has been the setting for many important national events such as presidential inaugurations, which still happen there today.

Following the 1814 burning of Washington, the Capitol was restored, and underwent a series of renovations and additions – primarily in the 1850s – as well as reconstructions and restorations. The dome has similarities to that of Les Invalides in Paris, which inspired the architect of the Capitol dome: made of cast iron, it’s said to weigh over 4 million kgs. A visitor centre was added in the early 2000s for the first time.

The US Capitol today

Today, The US Capitol is both the home of the US legislature and a museum of American history and art. Unsurprisingly, as the seat of government, security is extremely tight – expect thorough searches and long lines. Check the size of your bag before entering too.

Free tours of the Capitol building itself are available (including a short, somewhat cheesy film), but must be booked in advance, and there is also a new visitor centre with exhibits about the US Capitol and its history. For a slightly different experience, try and get a gallery pass to watch Congress in session. It’s more of a faff (you’ll need to get one from a government official) but always fascinating to see democracy in action.

Getting to the US Capitol

The Capitol is pretty hard to miss if you’re in D.C – it’s iconic, and at the heart of where visitors spend much of their time. Enjoy the Capitol Reflection Pool on your way over. Capitol South subway station is less than a 10 minute walk away, and D.C’s main Union Station is a 15 minute walk away, with interstate connections running regularly.

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