I’ve spent years filling my Instagram feed (@someguy) with beautiful photos of Washington DC. Some of my favorite places to photograph in DC include iconic spots like the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and the Tidal Basin but I also love less known locations. There are a ton of Instagrammable places in DC that I want to share with you!
In this article I’ll be showing you the best places to photograph in DC! I’ve included my favorite photos of each spot, tips when visiting, and even the best times to visit specific spots.
Here is my list of the best places to take photos in Washington DC:
1. The Washington Monument
The Washington Monument is the most iconic and recognizable building in Washington DC. It’s hard not to photograph the Monument since it’s DC’s tallest building. There are plenty of places to see the Washington Monument from including the Tidal Basin, steps of the Lincoln Memorial or standing right next to the base. Standing on the west side of the Reflecting Pool, looking toward the Washington Monument and its reflection, is my favorite view.
You can also get tickets to go to the top of the Monument. From the windows of the Washington Monument you can see over 50 miles! There is also a small museum to visit when you’re at the top of the Monument.
The grounds of the Washington Monument are open 24 hours a day; making it a great place for night photography. You can also see the Lincoln Memorial and US Capitol from the base on the Monument. From the base of the Washington Monument you can also see the Capitol and Lincoln Memorial which is great if you have a telephoto lens handy.Washington Monument on Google Maps
2. The US Capitol
The United States Capitol has to be my favorite building in all of Washington DC. There are plenty of views of the Capitol around the city but if you want an iconic view head to the east side of the building. On the east side of the Capitol there are huge glass panels that are great for getting reflections of the dome in.
If you arrive at the Capitol for sunrise I highly recommend setting up at the Capitol Reflecting Pool which will give you a great reflection of the sky and Capitol dome. For sunrise I typically park on Madison Dr NW which has paid parking starting at 6am.
You can also enter the Capitol if you have tickets. Tickets can be picked up the same day you visit but I recommend viewing their website for full details.
Unique Times to Visit: Head to the Capitol during the holidays and you’ll be able to see the Capitol Christmas Tree lit up on the west lawn.US Capitol on Google Maps
3. The Bridge at The Yards Park
If you love unique architecture the bridge at The Yards if a fantastic spot to capture day or night. I wouldn’t recommend heading here too late since you’ll be hassled by security guards after 10pm.
To avoid large crowds I’d recommend avoiding this location when a National’s game is happening. After exploring Yard Park make a stop by Ice Cream Jubilee for a delicious scoop. Additionally you can walk down the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail that runs along the river towards Nats Park.The Yards Park on Google Maps
In the center you’ll find a massive LED screen which is fun to shoot at night with a friend. Plus there are tons of reflective surfaces including water features and store windows. If you want to see more from CityCenter before visiting you can watch my video where I visit at night.
Unique Times to Visit: During the DC Cherry Blossom Festival (usually in March) CityCenter adds awesome pink lanterns to Palmer Alley. Additionally for July they changed the lights in Palmer Alley to be red white and blue. During the Winter months they had giant snowflakes lining the Alley as well. The themes in Palmer Alley frequently change but if you check the location tag on Instagram you can see what it typically looks like that day.CityCenterDC on Google Maps
5. The Friendship Arch in Chinatown
Probably the most iconic part about DC’s Chinatown is the Friendship Arch right in front of the Capital One Arena. One thing I love about this intersection is that it turns into a 4 way stop allowing you to get into the middle of the road safely for a few seconds.
You can also take a photo of the Friendship Arch from above at the Crimson View bar in the Pod hotel.
One of my favorite times to visit the Friendship Arch is at night to capture light streaks passing in front of the arch. When you’re in Chinatown you can also take a short walk to CityCenterDC and take a photo of the metro station.Friendship Arch on Google Maps
6. Culture House (Super Colorful Church)
One of the most colorful buildings in DC is Culture House (formerly Blind Whino). This colorful church is sure to add a splash of color to anyone’s Instagram feed. The interior of Culture House is periodically open as well which includes beautiful stained glass and local art shows.Culture House on Google Maps
7. Tidal Basin
The Tidal Basin is a staple of Washington DC, I recommend visiting the Tidal Basin for peak cherry blossom bloom for the most iconic photos. The Tidal Basin also offers sweeping views of the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument.
Best Time to Visit: I highly recommend visiting the Tidal Basin for the Cherry Blossom peak bloom which is usually in March. Do research before visiting since estimates are commonly off by a week or more.Tidal Basin on Google Maps
8. Thomas Jefferson Memorial
If you’re walking around the Tidal Basin you can’t miss the Jefferson Memorial. The massive columns around the edges are beautiful and offer a great view of the Washington Monument.
Be prepared to walk to if you’re heading to the Jefferson Memorial. The parking lots are about 0.5 miles away and sometimes an Uber can be tough to get here. I have had luck getting cab on E Basin Dr SW when I have left the memorial. Typically I like to walk around the entire Tidal Basin when visiting the Jefferson Memorial.Jefferson Memorial on Google Maps
9. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
Another spot on the Tidal Basin that is hard to miss is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The Memorial features a large stone sculpted to look like Martin Luther King, Jr. When walking around the grounds you’ll also be able to see the Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin.
James Madison Memorial Building
Right next to the U.S. Capitol and Library of Congress is the James Madison Memorial Building. The external columns located right outside of the building is perfect for stride bys, portraits, or even a background of engagement photos.James Madison Building on Google Maps
10. Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is one of the largest libraries in the world and full of classic DC architecture.
The main reading room is one of the great sights to see in the library. You can view the reading room from a balcony on most days, plus on Columbus & Presidents’ Day you can enter the floor of the main reading room.Library of Congress on Google Maps
11. Lincoln Memorial
There are many great views of the Lincoln Memorial and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. There’s nothing like sitting with the columns of this Memorial during a sunset or sunrise. If you’re at the memorial I recommend walking around back to the west side to photograph the columns with no tourists in sight.
From the steps of the memorial you can also get fantastic photos of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. I love going down to the water and photographing the Washington Monument with epic reflections right against the water.Lincoln Memorial on Google Maps
12. National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art is one of DC’s many free and awesome museums with plenty to photograph (check out their rooftop on the east building). I usually stop in at the East building and photography their massive stairwell and light tunnel (perfect for bokeh lovers). There is plenty to see in the West building as well so I recommend exploring the entire thing.
Unique Time to Visit: During the holidays the light tunnel connecting the East and West building includes red and green colors.National Gallery of Art on Google Maps
13. National Arboretum
The National Arboretum is a great outdoor space to shoot (plus it’s free!). From the Capitol Columns, Bonsai trees on display, and large fields it doesn’t get much better. The Arboretum is also perfect for a picnic or an engagement photoshoot. There are also a few trails to explore in the Arboretum including collections of plants from all over the world.National Arboretum on Google Maps
14. United States Botanic Garden
The United States Botanic Garden is full of unique greenery, interesting spaces, and seasonal decoration. By far the most photogenic room is the “Tropics” room with a suspended canopy walk. In addition to the indoor spaces there are also gardens around the grounds to explore.DC Botanic Garden on Google Maps
15. ARTECHOUSE DC
One of the newest art exhibits in DC is ARTECHOUSE which is loaded with seasonal interactive art. Before heading to ARTECHOUSE I recommend checking their website to see what exhibit is happening and to buy tickets.
In addition to the interactive art spaces ARTECHOUSE has a small bar where they make cocktails that you can interact with using AR in their app.ARTECHOUSE on Google Maps
16. National Cathedral
The grounds of National Cathedral are fun to explore for all kinds of photography. Especially when the gardens are blooming in spring. There are plenty of stunning spots around the Cathedral to take portraits or just to photograph the greenery. You can also go into the Cathedral and explore the halls and architecture.
If you plan on doing a professional shoot at the Cathedral you can obtain a permit on their site. For more rules regarding photography consult their website.National Cathedral on Google Maps
17. Dumbarton Oaks Gardens
Taking a trip to Dumbarton Oaks feels like you’re in a totally different country. With its $10 admission fee it’s well worth the price if you want to be engulfed in unique gardens. The grounds also include a museum to explore as well. People often photograph the Orangery which is a room covered in vines in the gardens.Dumbarton Oaks on Google Maps
18. Hirshhorn Museum
The Hirshhorn has become a very popular spot to Instagram in DC due to its Yayoi Kusama Exhibit that was in town in 2017. Entitled ‘Infinity Mirrors’ the exhibit offered infinity rooms with stunning reflective views. The exterior is built with a very unique circular architecture.
The Hirshhorn has also acquired a permanent Infinity Room from Kusama which recently opened.
When you’re visiting the Hirshhorn you can also head next door to the Enid A. Haupt Garden next to the Smithsonian castle. Well worth the detour if the magnolias are in bloom (spring).Hirshhorn on Google Maps
19. American Art Museum / Portrait Gallery
The hallways and Kogod Courtyard of the National Portrait Gallery are some of the coolest places in DC to explore and photograph. The Kogod Courtyard also has a cafe and free wifi so it’s a great place to edit your photos. The museum has free entry and is open in Chinatown until 7pm.
One of the Portrait Gallery’s latest additions is Barack Obama’s official presidential portrait which is worth stopping in to see.National Portrait Gallery on Google Maps
20. Smithsonian Castle
Built in 1855 the Smithsonian Castle is stunning especially with the sun hitting it. Located directly on the National Mall it’s easy to spot the Smithsonian Castle’s 145 foot tall spire. The Enid A. Haupt Garden to the south of the castle is also incredible especially during when tulips or magnolias are in bloom.Smithsonian Castle on Google Maps
21. Union Station
Union Station has classic beautiful architecture inside and out. I especially love the corridor just outside the front doors that features a stunning ceiling with hits of gold.
Union Station also includes a food court which is perfect for a quick bite or coffee.
Unique Times to Visit: If you visit during the holidays you’ll be treated to massive wreaths around the entrance. Additional around the 4th of July there are massive American flags in the same spot.Union Station on Google Maps
22. The Watermelon House
If your Instagram account if full of colorful photos you’ll love the Watermelon House. With a massive watermelon mural on the side this house is sweet. Often when people are visiting the Watermelon House they will post a photo of themselves jumping in front of the mural. Additionally there is a cute kiwi mural next to it as well.Watermelon House on Google Maps
23. Any Metro Station
Most of DC’s metro stops have the classic “Waffle” pattern pictured below but if you go out of the city a bit you’ll find even more unique stations.
If you enjoy more modern architecture be sure to stop at the newly created Silver line stops. The stops are a perfect place to use a slow shutter speed to capture the motion of the metro cars. I don’t recommend using a tripod in the Metro stations but if you get caught acting like a clueless tourist should get you out of any trouble.Chinatown Metro on Google Maps
24. Capitol Hill Row Houses
All over Capitol Hill you’ll find beautiful row homes and cute parks. You’ll find plenty to see on East Capitol St NE and around Lincoln Park.
Walking around the neighborhood you’ll find plenty of colorful homes and stunning turrets. Take your time and explore the area, it’s a fun place to see the changing of the scenes as well.Capitol Hill on Google Maps
25. Georgetown Row Houses
This isn’t a specific spot but a neighborhood full of beautiful row homes. If you love posting colorful houses on your Instagram feed this neighborhood is for you. If you visit during Halloween or Christmas you’ll see loads of decorations on people’s steps, windows, and doors.
You’ll have no trouble finding something to Instagram in Georgetown. Parking isn’t too bad and once you are parked I recommend just walking blocks to explore the area.Georgetown on Google Maps
26. Washington DC Skyline from Arlington, VA
One of the best views of DC’s skyline is from The Netherlands Carillon in Arlington, Virginia. It’s a classic view of the skyline with views of the US Capitol, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial, plus it’s a perfect spot for sunrise.
Also while visiting this spot you can visit the US Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial) which is a short walk away.
For this location you’ll need a lens with a good amount of zoom, I shot this with a 300mm on a full-frame camera.The Netherlands Carillon on Google Maps
27. Spy Museum
The Spy Museum has relocated to the heart of L’Enfant Plaza near The Wharf. To enter the building you’ll need to buy tickets which you can do on their website. While the interior offers many floors of exhibits I enjoy photographing the exterior of the building at night due to its unique design. If you want to see more about the Spy Museum you can watch my video here.Spy Museum on Google Maps
28. Little Leaf
One of the cutest shops to take photos in DC is Little Leaf. This plant shop is located near 14th street and has a lust environment worth checking out. In addition to plants Little Leaf typically has postcards and other small gifts.
Sadly little leaf will be closing on November 7th, 2023.Little Leaf on Google Maps
29. Old Post Office Tower
The Old Post Office Tower offers some amazing views of Washington DC. Especially if you’re unable to get tickets to the Washington Monument the Old Post Office Tower is a great option.
This landmark run by the National Park Service is free to the public and doesn’t require tickets in advance. Best of all it’s located right off the National Mall in the Waldorf Astoria making it a quick stop if you’re downtown.Old Post Office on Google Maps
30. Rock Creek Park
The largest park in Washington DC is Rock Creek Park. With over 2,000 acres of streams, hikes, and roads there is plenty to see in Rock Creek Park. Some highlights of the area include Peirce Mill, Miller Cabin, Rapids Bridge, and Boulder Bridge.
Planning a trip to D.C. in Fall?
Read: Best Places to See Fall Foliage in Washington DC
By far the best time to be in Rock Creek is for fall foliage. Of course it’s pleasant to explore the area in other seasons but fall colors are a must visit.Rock Creek Park on Google Maps
31. United States Air Force Memorial
Just outside of DC is the stunning Air Force Memorial next to the Pentagon. There is a little parking lot here and I’ve never had trouble parking here at sunset. It offers great views of the city if you have a zoom lens plus photos of the memorial itself are fantastic if you have a wide lens.Air Force Memorial on Google Maps
32. Call Your Mother (Pink Building in Georgetown)
One of the brightest pink buildings in DC is Call Your Mother‘s location in Georgetown. Formerly the space of Greenworks florist the pink building has become popular for taking portraits. Best of all you can enjoy a delicious bagel when stopping by.Call Your Mother on Google Maps
33. Blagden Alley
Located near the Convention Center tucked down an alley you’ll find Blagden Alley. While it’s an active road there are plenty of instagrammable spots in Blagden Alley. Most notably is the rainbow LOVE mural painted on garage doors that is perfect for portraits. While in Blagden Alley you can stop by La Colombe for a coffee, get a drink a Calico, or get dinner at Tiger Fork.Blagden Alley on Google Maps
34. The Wave Wall Mural
Located around the block from Call Your Mother in Georgetown The Wave Wall mural is a popular spot for portraits and selfies. Painted by J. McConnell the mural is inspired by the iconic The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai. You’ll find the mural on the side of a building in an alley on O Street NW near Saxbys coffee shop.The Wave Wall on Google Maps
35. The White House
One of the most visited buildings in DC has to be the White House. You can get pretty close to the White House on either the north or south side. Periodically public access will be closed if there is a special event; typically you can get pretty close all-day.
If you’re visiting the White House you can also try setting up a White House tour. You can get a public tour by submitting a request through your member of congress.
During the holidays you can view the National Christmas tree on the south lawn of the White House.The White House on Google Maps
36. The Wharf
Located south of the Washington Monument on the Potomac River is The Wharf. It has become quite the tourist attraction with plenty of restaurants, waterfront views, and nightlight. For photographers there are plenty of opportunities to photograph the area at nigh or sunset.The Wharf on Google Maps
37. Arlington Memorial Bridge
One great view of DC is from the My Vernon trail next to the Arlington Memorial bridge. Whether you’re taking pictures on the sidewalk of the bridge or different angles around the bridge it you’ll have plenty to see.
There are a few locations to park if you are trying to get a skyline view of the city. Typically I park at Theodore Roosevelt Island’s parking lot which is free and is about a 20 minute walk on Mount Vernon trail to get closer to the bridge. Other parking options are across the river near the Lincoln Memorial then you’ll have to cross the Arlington Memorial bridge which is also scene since it faces the Lincoln Memorial.Arlington Memorial Bridge on Google Maps
38. Flying In/Out of Ronald Reagan National Airport
The best view of DC has to be from flights coming in/out of Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA). A little tip, when leaving DC sit on the right side of the plane, while entering DC sit on the left side of the plane. Sometimes the direction of the wind will affect how you land at DCA but there is a high chance you’ll get the correct flight path for seeing all of DC.
Getting Around DC
The easiest way to get around DC is to use the Metro. You can walk to most of the spots listed by heading to the Smithsonian metro stop on the mall. You can also use Google maps to map any spot and it’ll show you the proper metro stop to get there. If you take the metro you’ll need a metro smartrip card which can be setup in Apple or Google wallet without downloading an app.
If you aren’t a fan of the metro you can also rent a bike using the Capital Bikeshare or my personal favorite grabbing a scooter. Plenty of companies have popped up with scooters all over DC including Lime, Uber, and Lyft. If you have the Uber or Lyft app you can easily go to them and select to scooter option to see scooters around you. Just remember to check the parking map since a lot of the National Mall is a no parking zone for scooters.
I really hope my list of the most Instagrammable places in DC jump starts your trip to Washington DC. There is so much to explore in DC so I recommend leaving plenty of time to explore all of our beautiful city! If you enjoyed my article you can follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
If you have a car you can also explore other parts of the DMV. Outside of DC in Maryland you’ll find National Harbor which has great views of DC and Virginia has Old Town Alexandria full of historic homes.
For even more ideas you can also read my friend Angela Pan’s book with more detailed guides about DC photography. You can find it on Amazon in the link below.
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