United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. (Photo Guide)

When you think of Washington DC it’s hard not to think about the United States Capitol building. Located at the east side of the National Mall it’s hard to miss this incredible building.

The US Capitol building has to be one of my favorite places to photograph in DC, with its neoclassical architecture and great vanish points it’s hard not to include it in photos of the National Mall. The term “Capitol” derives from the Latin word “Capitoline Hill,” which refers to one of the seven hills of Rome.

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The west side of the U.S. Capitol is usually the most popular side for tourists since it faces the mall and is near other attractions. Personally I love visiting the east side which is usually less crowded. The only downside of photographing the Capitol is that you can’t get on the stairs for a higher view of the mall.


Getting to the US Capitol Building

United States Capitol Dome

The U.S. Capitol building in centrally located in DC on the east side of the National Mall. If you’re anywhere on the National Mall you’ll most likely be able to see the Capitol dome. Located behind the United States Capitol is the Library of Congress, Supreme Court, and various office buildings.

If you plan on taking the Metro to the Capitol there are a few stops you can take. To get to the Capitol you can take the Capitol South station (0.2 mile orange/silver/blue line) or Union Station (0.8 mile, red line).

I find parking around the US Capitol typically easy. You can usually find free stops near the east side in the Capitol Hill neighborhood or paid spots on the west side around the National Mall.

You can always take a Capital Bikeshare bike or rented scooters to the Capitol building as well.

United States Capitol Building on Google Maps

History of the United States Capitol

The history of the US Capitol dates back to its construction in the late 18th century. It was designed by architect William Thornton and serves as the meeting place for the United States Congress.

The building has undergone significant expansions and renovations over the years, with the iconic dome added in the mid-19th century. In the 1850s, the building was made bigger by adding wings to house the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives is in the south wing and the Senate is in the north wing.

It has witnessed numerous important events in American history, including presidential inaugurations, the passage of significant legislation, and even the attack during the War of 1812. Today, the US Capitol stands as a symbol of American democracy and continues to be a focal point for political and historical significance.


Photos of the United States Capitol Building

Here are my photos of the U.S. Capitol building over years of living in Washington DC. No matter your lens or camera wandering the grounds of the US Capitol is always a stunning sight.

If you’d like to buy a print check out U.S. Capitol building prints.


Permits and Photography Details at the US Capitol

Typically the grounds of the Capitol building are open 24/7 so you are free to roam unless there is an event or special security enforcement. Tripod are prohibited anywhere but grassy areas without permit. The Capitol Police are typically informative so just ask questions if you aren’t sure where you can take pictures.

If you want to use a tripod or other photography equipment on paved areas you can request a permit on their website.

I love photographing the building anytime of day but if you go around blue hour you can get great shots of the dome lit up. Especially when capturing the reflection in the large marble slabs on the east side of the Capitol.

US Capitol building at night
US Capitol building at night

United States Capitol Frequently Asked Questions

What is the United States Capitol Building?

The United States Capitol Building is the home of the United States Congress, the legislative branch of the federal government. It is located in Washington D.C., the capital city of the United States of America.

What is the history of the United States Capitol Building?

The United States Capitol Building has a long and storied history. It was first built in 1800, and has undergone several expansions and renovations since then. The building has been the site of many historic events, including presidential inaugurations, speeches, and protests.

Can I visit the United States Capitol Building?

Yes, the United States Capitol Building is open to visitors. However, due to security concerns, visitors must go through a screening process before entering the building. It is recommended that visitors make reservations in advance to ensure a spot on a tour.

What can I see at the United States Capitol Building?

Visitors to the United States Capitol Building can see many historic and iconic features, including the Rotunda, the Crypt, and the National Statuary Hall. They can also see the House and Senate chambers, as well as various exhibits and displays throughout the building.

What is the significance of the United States Capitol Building?

The United States Capitol Building is one of the most significant buildings in the United States, and indeed, the world. It is the site of the legislative branch of the federal government, and has been the site of many historic events and decisions that have shaped the course of American history.

Is US Capitol open to public?

Yes! You can visit the grounds of the US Capitol anytime, unless a special event or security event is happening. To visit the interior, you’ll need to book a tour though.

What is the architecture of the United States Capitol Building like?

The United States Capitol Building is an impressive example of neoclassical architecture. It features a large dome, which is a prominent feature of the building’s exterior. The interior of the building is equally impressive, with intricate carvings, murals, and other decorative elements.

Is the United States Capitol Building accessible to people with disabilities?

Yes, the United States Capitol Building is fully accessible to people with disabilities. The building has ramps, elevators, and other features that make it easy for people with mobility impairments to navigate.

Can you visit the U.S. Capitol without a tour?

You can visit the grounds of the United States Capitol without a tour but if you want to visit the interior to see things like the Capitol Rotunda you’ll need to be on a tour.

What is the best time to visit the United States Capitol Building?

The United States Capitol Building is open to visitors year-round, but the best time to visit depends on your preferences. Some people prefer to visit during the summer, when the weather is warm and there are more events and activities happening in the area. Others prefer to visit in the winter, when there are fewer crowds and the building is decorated for the holidays. Personally I love to visit the US Capitol in the fall and during sunset or sunrise.


Thanks for reading my United States Capitol travel guide. The United States Capitol stands as a symbol of democracy, unity, and resilience in the USA. Its iconic dome and stunning architecture reflect the nation’s rich history and the enduring values upon which it was built. From the legislative chambers to the historic statues and artifacts, a visit to the Capitol immerses visitors in the essence of American governance and the pursuit of liberty.

Whether as a tourist or a student of history, the Capitol offers a profound experience that encapsulates the American spirit. I highly recommend everyone gets a chance to visit this stunning building.


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