Let’s play out a scenario: You are in Washington DC for the first time and you want to see the highlights. That means you want to see the monuments, the Capitol building, and of course the White House. Is it possible to do it all on foot or do you have to rent a cab? How long does it take to see the monuments and how much will it cost?
Free Walking Tour Washington DC Monuments
Pick a starting spot anywhere on the tour to start your tour and then just complete the loop. The closest Metro station to the Capitol building is the Capitol South Metro Station. You do NOT want to drive in the city if possible. I highly suggest that you take public transportation and leave your car at your hotel.
This walking tour is approximately 5 miles (more if you take the side trip to Arlington Cemetery). So think about how long it takes you to walk 5 miles and then add in time for pictures and sight-seeing to determine how long this tour will take you.
Stop 1: US Capitol
East Capitol St NE & First St SE, Washington, DC 20004
31 min (1.6 mi) to next stop
If you have time to walk around the back of the Capitol, you can get some beautiful views as well as see the Supreme Court and Library of Congress.
- Walk down the National Mall past the Smithsonian Museums toward the Washington Monument
- Distance: 1.5 miles (or less depending on whether you walk all the way up to the Capitol or the Washington Monument)
- Things to See along the way: You will walk past the National Archives, Sculpture Garden, Botanic Garden, most of the Smithsonian Museums.
Stop 2: Washington Monument
15th St NW, Washington, DC 20024
17 min (0.8 mi) to next stop
- There are restrooms available to the public at the base of the Washington Monument.
- If you look to the right from the Washington Monument, you will see the large park known as the Ellipse. Beyond that, you can see the White House!
Stop 3: Thomas Jefferson Monument
701 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242
11 min (0.6 mi) to next stop
You can walk right up to the Jefferson Memorial or just enjoy the view as you walk around the Tidal Basin. We didn’t have time to go to the base of each of the monuments, but you can still enjoy the experience.
Stop 4: Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial
1850 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242
6 min (0.3 mi) to next stop
Continue on around the Tidal Basin and you will see the FDR Memorial.
Stop 5: Martin Luther King Jr Monument
1964 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024
7 min (0.3 mi) to next stop
Keep walking around the main path and you will come to the MLK Jr. Monument.
Stop 6: Korean War Memorial
4 min (0.2 mi) to next stop
The Korean War Memorial is next on the way to the Lincoln Monument.
Stop 7: Lincoln Monument
Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC 20037
3 min (0.2 mi) to next stop
Climb up the steps and enjoy the Lincoln Memorial up close.
Don’t forget to enjoy the view of the Washington Monument back across the Reflecting Pool.
**Optional Stop 8: Arlington Cemetery
If you’re short on time, you may want to board the Circulator Bus (Fee: $1.00 each ride) and ride from the Capitol all the way to the Lincoln Memorial Stop. You can then walk across the bridge to Arlington Cemetery before it closes for the evening. Changing of the Guard occurs every half hour during summer season. *Note that Arlington Cemetery Closes at 7:00 pm.
Take the time to see John F Kennedy’s Grave.
Stop 9: Vietnam Wall Memorial
5 Henry Bacon Dr NW, Washington, DC 20245
9 min (0.5 mi) to next stop
After you walk down from the Lincoln Monument, go to the left of the Reflecting Pool to view the Vietnam Wall Memorial.
Stop 10: World War II Memorial
1750 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024
17 min (0.8 mi) to next stop
Stop 11: White House
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500
The view of the White House from the Washington Monument side is the most famous place to see the most famous home in the nation. It is possible to see it from the other side, but it gated off and you don’t get near as good a view.
Of course, there is much more to see in Washington DC, but this loop will help you see the highlights if you are short on time.
What is your favorite memorial or monument in Washington DC? I’d love to hear!
Heading to Washington DC so you can enjoy this free walking tour? Make sure you check out how much your trip is going to cost!