Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall (Travel Photo Guide)

The Lincoln Memorial is one of Washington DC’s most iconic sights. The grand columns and massive Abraham Lincoln statue inside are a must stop if you’re visiting Washington DC. Located on the west side of the National Mall at the end of the Reflecting Pool the memorial is maintained by the National Park Service and is enjoyable from all angles.

The main focal point of the Lincoln Memorial is a 175-ton statue of Abraham Lincoln sitting that is 19 feet tall. Lincoln sits facing the Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool looking out on the columns of the Memorial.

Behind Lincoln is the inscription “in this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever”. While on the North chamber is his second inaugural address and the South chamber has the Gettysburg Address inscribed. Both are iconic speeches in American history.

From the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial you can see the Washington Monument, Reflecting Pool, and United States Capitol on the far end of the mall. You’ll also spot an inscription from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial heading down to the Reflecting Pool.

Sunrise Inside The Lincoln Memorial
Sunrise from inside the Lincoln Memorial

I highly recommend stopping by the Lincoln Memorial for sunrise since you can get a great photo of the Washington Monument from the steps with the Reflecting Pool reflecting the sun’s glow.

How to get to the Lincoln Memorial

Many of the metro stops are about a mile away from the Lincoln Memorial so you’ll need to walk a bit to get to the memorial. The best metro stops for the Lincoln Memorial are Foggy Bottom (0.9 miles away) and the Smithsonian (1.2 miles away) metro stop.

You can typically find hourly parking on Ohio drive SW which is a couple of blocks away. If you are parking at sunrise (which typically has tons of parking) you can park on Rock Creek and Potomac parkway which has spots on both sides of the road near the memorial.

The Lincoln Memorial is completely free to visit, you can wander as you please inside and out. Plus you can visit the small gift shop inside the main hall for postcards, etc. There are also public restrooms located underneath the memorial but frequently have a line.

Lincoln Memorial on Google Maps

Interesting Lincoln Memorial Facts

Here are some interesting & fun facts about the Lincoln Memorial.

Typo in the Lincoln Memorial (Euture)
  1. There was a mistake made on Lincoln’s Second Inauguration Address that’s carved in the Lincoln Memorial Chamber. An engraver put a “E” where he meant to put a “F” in Lincoln’s Second Inauguration in the word “Future”. Even though the mistake has been fixed, you can still notice the fix if you look closely.
  2. One of the initial designs for the Lincoln Memorial was a Pyramid. The Lincoln Memorial Commission chose Henry Bacon’s design, which was based on the Parthenon, over the unique ideas of John Russell Pope. Pope also drew a Mayan temple with steps and an eternal flame, a ziggurat with a statue of Abraham Lincoln, and an Egyptian pyramid with classical porticoes. Pope was turned down for the Lincoln Memorial, so he designed the Jefferson Memorial instead.
  3. The Lincoln Memorial is based on the Parthenon. There were only 36 states at the end of the Civil War which is why the memorial features 36 Doric columns. On top of the Lincoln Memorial are the names of 48 states. At the time of the dedication in 1922, there were only 48 states.
  4. The walls and columns of the Lincoln Memorial lean inward. The symmetry of the memorial is just an illusion, the National Park Service said this was done “to compensate for perspective distortions which would otherwise make the memorial appear asymmetrical.”
  5. In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. When walking the steps to the Lincoln Memorial you’ll notice those words are carved into the ground to honor the speech.

Photography Tips for the Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial is by far one of my favorites places to photography in Washington DC. No matter the time of day there is always something grand to capture.

The Lincoln Memorial is often busy with tourists during the day. Since it’s open 24/7 I would recommend going in the middle of the night or sunrise if you are trying to avoid crowds.

Photographer planning a trip to DC?
Read: Best Places to Take Pictures in Washington DC

You are allowed to use tripods on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial. The only place tripods aren’t allowed at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and interior. If a park ranger sees you using one in those areas they typically will tell you about the tripod rules. Just use common sense and make sure you aren’t blocking any walking paths with your tripod and you shouldn’t have any trouble.

Photographers at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

I recommend bringing a wide angle lens (like the Canon RF 15-35mm) which will allow you to capture the grand nature of the area including looking up at the columns, Lincoln’s interior room, and reflection on the Reflecting Pool.

Using a zoom lens you can capture details such as the state names on the top of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Arlington Memorial Bridge.

If you have a telephoto lens you can also capture the US Capitol and Washington Monument from the sides of the Lincoln Memorial or Reflecting Pool.

Lincoln Memorial Pictures

Here are some of my favorite pictures of the Lincoln Memorial that I have taken over the years. Sunrise is by far my favorite time to be at the Lincoln Memorial.

Lincoln Memorial Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

What does the Lincoln Memorial stand for?

The Lincoln Memorial was built to honor the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Located on the west side of the National Mall in Washington DC it faces the Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol.

Who made the Lincoln Memorial?

Henry Bacon is the architect behind the design of the Lincoln Memorial, while the magnificent statue of President Lincoln was created by the talented sculptor Daniel Chester French.

When was the Lincoln Memorial built?

The Lincoln Memorial took 8 years to complete and was finished in 1922.

What hours are the Lincoln Memorial open?

The main chamber of the Lincoln Memorial and the grounds around it are open 24 hours a day. Restrooms, and gift shop and museum are open during the day, see hours on the National Park Service Website. Note that during special events the Lincoln Memorial may be closed.

How many steps does the Lincoln Memorial have?

The Lincoln Memorial has 87 steps. That includes 58 steps from the chamber to the plaza and 29 steps from the plaza to the Reflecting Pool. The 87 steps represent Abraham Lincoln’s iconic ‘four score and 7 years ago’ speech during the Gettysburg Address (a score is 20 years). During open hours there is an elevator to take you to the main chamber as well.

How many columns are at the Lincoln Memorial?

There are 36 Doric columns surrounding the Lincoln Memorial, each column represent one of the 36 states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death.

What is on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial?

At the heart of the memorial, a grand statue of President Lincoln can be found. Etched into the wall on his right side is the renowned Gettysburg Address, while on the left side, the northern wall, you’ll discover the text of Lincoln’s second inaugural address.

What is underneath the Lincoln memorial?

Under the Lincoln Memorial is a large cave area with dirt floors and concrete walls that isn’t accessible to the public. On the first floor below the main chamber there is also a small museum, restrooms, and an elevator for the public.

Is there parking at the Lincoln Memorial?

There isn’t parking directly at the Lincoln Memorial. You can find spots fairly close though on Ohio Drive SW, Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, or just parking around the National Mall.

Can you take pictures in the Lincoln Memorial?

Yes! Photography is allowed and encouraged at the Lincoln Memorial. It truly is one of the best places to photograph in all of Washington DC. Just note that tripods aren’t allowed in the main chamber or on the steps.

What is the closest Metro station to the Lincoln Memorial?

In the vicinity of the Lincoln Memorial, you’ll find three Metro stations that are easily accessible: Foggy Bottom, Arlington Cemetery, and Smithsonian.

I hope you enjoy your visit to the Nation’s Capital! I’ve visited the Lincoln Memorial dozens of times and it never gets old, no matter what time of day you visit. I also recommend walking to the Vietnam War Memorial, World War II Memorial, Washington Monument, and Thomas Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin.

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