Union Station in Washington DC (DC Photo Guide)

Union Station in Washington DC is quite a stunning sight. Union Station is located in the heart of DC just a short walk from the U.S. Capitol. Built in 1908 Union Station is a travel hub for DC including buses, trains, and a DC Metro stop.


History of Union Station

The name “Union Station” originated from the fact that these stations were originally owned by multiple rail companies or unions. Despite the grand architecture and Roman sentries adorning the walls inside the main concourse, the term “Union” in “Union Station” has no connection to the Civil War. Instead, it signifies the collaboration between different rail companies.

In the United States, there are numerous union stations scattered across the country. These stations serve as major transportation hubs where multiple rail lines converge. While the exact number may vary, it is worth noting that many cities in the United States have their own union stations, allowing for efficient interconnection and seamless travel between various railway networks.

On any given day, Union Station serves as a travel hub for a substantial number of individuals, with approximately 100,000 people utilizing its facilities daily. This figure is inclusive of individuals using both the main hall and the adjacent metro station, ensuring a comprehensive estimate of daily foot traffic at Union Station.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Union Station experienced a period of decline and neglect. Despite efforts to establish a National Visitors Center at the station for bicentennial celebrations, the condition of the station worsened. This led to its closure for a significant part of the 1980s. The neglect and lack of maintenance during this period left the station in a state of disrepair, diminishing its overall appeal and functionality. The deterioration of Union Station emphasized the need for substantial renovations and revitalization efforts.

As you enter Union Station you’ll notice classic architectural elements like stunning columns. On top of the columns are six colossal statues on the exterior of Union Station represent the American Renaissance. While the main hall of the station includes incredible gold accents. As you head back toward the trains there is a small shopping area with a food court as well.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Union Station experienced a period of decline and neglect. Despite efforts to establish a National Visitors Center at the station for bicentennial celebrations, the condition of the station worsened. This led to its closure for a significant part of the 1980s. The neglect and lack of maintenance during this period left the station in a state of disrepair, diminishing its overall appeal and functionality.

This led to a major renovation in 1988, the station we see today was reopened. The renovation was made possible by a combination of public and private funding, totaling $160 million. The result is an impressive blend of both style and practicality.

Exterior of Union Station in Washington DC
Front of Union Station

Union Station played a crucial role during World War I as one of the primary hubs for the mobilization effort. Not only was it a central transportation point for numerous troops passing through, but it also served as a significant location where influential women, such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, worked tirelessly in the canteen to contribute to the war effort. Their dedicated efforts, along with those of numerous other individuals, helped ensure the efficient mobilization and support of troops during this critical time.

American flag in front of Union Station in Washington DC

Union Station stands out as a uniquely suitable location for hosting a black-tie presidential inaugural ball, surpassing the typical expectations of a train station. Situated in close proximity to the esteemed US Capitol Building, this opulent venue effectively captures the significance and grandeur of such a momentous event. Unlike numerous train stations, Union Station possesses an elegance and grandeur that make it an exceptional choice for this prestigious gathering.


How to get to Union Station

Located just a 10 minute walk from the United States Capitol Union Station is fairly easy to get to. To the north of Union Station you’ll find H street and the H street trolly system. Inside Union Station is a red line metro stop and an Amtrak line.

Metro: Taking the DC Metro to Union Station is extremely easy since it is a dedicated stop on the red line.

Driving: Parking near Union Station isn’t too difficult, there are typically parking spots to the east in the neighborhood. Union Station also has a dedicated parking lot for longer stays. If someone is dropping you off there is a large drop off area out front. Additionally you can find plenty of taxis in the front if you need a ride.

Of course it’s also easy to rent a Bikeshare bike or scooter to get to Union Station.

Union Station on Google Maps

Union Station Pictures

Here are my photos of Union Station in Washington DC over multiple years. Including pictures from the giant American flags out front for the 4th of July and large Christmas Wreaths for the holidays.

I highly recommend bringing a wide angle lens to capture the grand nature of Union Station’s main hall. A zoom lens can also help you photography smaller details like the stunning ceiling or the US capitol from Union Station.


Frequently Asked Questions about Union Station

What is Union Station?

Union Station is a transportation hub located in Washington DC. It is served by Amtrak, MARC, VRE, and the DC Metro, making it a major transportation hub for the region.

When was Union Station in DC built?

Union Station originally functioned as a train station in 1907 while the main building itself was completed in 1908. It was designed by architect Daniel Burnham and was considered one of the grandest train stations in the world at the time. The station underwent a major renovation in the 1980s and was reopened in 1988.

Why was Union Station built?

Union Station was designed as a grand entrance to the capital of a growing nation and served as the main portal for anyone coming to Washington, D.C. From afar during an era where rail was the main mode of intercity transport.

What are the hours of operation for Union Station?

The station is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, individual businesses within Union Station have their own hours.

Is there parking available at Union Station?

Yes, Union Station has a large parking garage. The garage is open 24 hours a day and parking rates vary depending on the length of stay.

What amenities are available at Union Station?

Union Station has a variety of amenities, including restaurants, shops, and a food court. There is also a bike sharing station located outside the station for those who prefer to travel by bike. Additionally, there are luggage storage facilities available for travelers.

Can I take a bus from Union Station?

Yes, Union Station is served by several bus companies, including Greyhound, Megabus, and BoltBus.

What is the best way to get to Union Station?

The best way to get to Union Station depends on your starting location. The station is easily accessible by car, bike, and public transportation. The DC Metro’s Red Line stops at Union Station, making it a convenient option for those traveling within the city.

Are there any hotels located near Union Station?

Yes, there are several hotels located within walking distance of Union Station, including the Phoenix Park Hotel and the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.

Do I need a permit to take photos in Union Station?

When it comes to taking photos inside Union Station, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind. The official Union Station website states that anyone is welcome to take pictures inside the station. However, if you plan to use professional equipment such as a tripod, it is necessary to obtain a permit.

Anyone is free to take pictures inside Union Station. However, if you will be using professional equipment such as a tripod, a permit is required.

Union Station’s Website

If you need to use more professional equiptment like lighting or tripods you can get a permit on their website.

Is Union Station accessible for those with disabilities?

Yes, Union Station is fully accessible for those with disabilities. The station has elevators, ramps, and accessible restrooms throughout the facility.


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I hope you enjoyed my quick travel guide to Union Station. When I am out photographing DC I typically stop at Union Station to get a few quick photos.

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