If you only have a short time in Washington DC you can still make the most of it and manage to see all the Instagrammable places in the city. Washington is famous for it’s history, monuments and museums, meaning there are lots of photo spots to discover here!
One great thing about Washington is that nearly all the museums are free so even if the weather isn’t great there’s still lots to keep you occupied! Plus it keeps costs down if you’re trying to explore Washington on a budget! All the photography spots listed below are free to go to so there is no excuse! Now are you ready to see the most Instagrammable places in Washington DC?
When is the best time to visit Washington DC?
Washington DC gets VERY cold in the winter. And it gets really hot during the summer. Therefore the shoulder seasons are a great time to visit. Spring time is perfect as this is when the cherry blossom are in bloom (usually late March/early April). The Washington DC cherry blossoms are a spectacular sight to see – although be prepared for the crowds!
During early June the temperatures are still pleasant, plus the Capital Pride (annual LGBT festival) is held at this time every year. Washington DC is a very gay friendly city with a very vibrant and welcoming LGBTQ community.
Open: 24 hours
Best to visit: early morning or at night lit up
The Lincoln Memorial is a giant monument that bears an imposing seated statue of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. Lincoln is often considered the greatest US President.
From the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial you can look out towards the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
Sunrise is a great time to visit and take photographs here as the sun will be behind the Washington Monument. In the picture below I got there around 10am but I love how the sun is in the sky here.
At the other end of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool is the World War II Monument. This is a really beautiful monument and fountain that honours the 16 million US citizens who fought in the war.
The National Mall is the pedestrianised grassy walk stretching from the Lincoln Memorial to The Capitol Building. It encompasses many monuments and museums. This area is open 24 hours a day so you can come as early or as late as you want. At night all the buildings and monuments are fantastically lit up so it is really worth trying to visit the sights again after sunset too if you have the time (and energy!).
Open: 24 hours
Best to visit: any time, not too busy here
The Washington Monument (below left) is the tallest building in Washington DC. There are lots of good angles to take nice pictures from, whether you’re right next to the monument, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial or at the Tidal Basin.
The White House
If you’re standing with your back against the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial to your left, about 700 metres infront of you is The White House (middle picture below). If you want to see it, go across Constitution Avenue, across The Ellipse lawn and then you’ll be able to see The White House through the barriers. It’s not really the most ‘Instagrammable’ place of Washington DS due to all the barriers, and you can’t get very close but it’s worth a look. Also next to The White House was this beautiful building in the below right picture.
The Tidal Basin is a reservoir very close to the WWII Monument and the Washington Monument. It is the best place to take photos of the cherry blossom in spring (usually March), where you can frame the Jefferson Memorial in between the cherry blossom. Cherry Blossom season is a very popular time in Washington so if you’re visiting when the flower is in bloom during the Cherry Blossom Festival you’ll need to get here at sunrise to get good shots.
Even if it is not cherry blossom season, the view across the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial is stunning.
US Capitol Building
Cost: Free to visit and take pictures from the outside. If you want to go inside for a tour it is still free but you are advised to book in advance. Click here to go to the official website. You will need to create an account before you can reserve a time slot. You can enter the Capitol Building from 08.30-16.30 Monday to Saturday.
The United States Capitol Building is home to the US Congress and the seat of the Federal Government and is one of the most iconic buildings in Washington.
If you get here for sunrise, take pictures near the reflecting pool where you can see the dome of the Capitol Building reflecting in the water. It is simply beautiful. Look how the sky was changing during the time I was there. If you wander round you’ll find so many unique places to take pictures of the dome. Even during the day it is not too busy and easy enough to take pictures if you walk around to the back of the building.
During Christmas time there is also a beautiful Christmas tree outside on the West Lawn.
The Jefferson Memorial is another impressive memorial and is especially stunning and atmospheric at night lit up. It was built between 1939-1943 in memory of the Founding Father of The United States, Thomas Jefferson.
Located just off The National Mall, Union Station is a great place for photography. The architecture both inside and outside is beautiful. Inside the Grand Hall has a stunning white ceiling with gold details, or you can take pictures outside of the stunning archways. You’ll need to get here early if you want pictures without other people in! I was here at about 3 in the afternoon and luckily people don’t gather in the indoor atrium, so even though there are people in the background, nobody was near me in the picture at least.
3. National Portrait Gallery
Open: 11.30am – 7pm daily
One of the most beautiful museums in Washington DC is the National Portrait Gallery. This art museum focuses on famous Americans and exhibitions are regularly changing. When you are finished looking round or you need a rest head to the outdoor space: Kogod Courtyard. The courtyard is attached to both The National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, located just on the other side. The courtyard features a stunning glass ceiling – great for Instagram shots! It also has a coffee shop and free wifi here – great if you need a break in between all the sightseeing!
Chinatown is literally just around the corner from the National Portrait Gallery (1 block away). Make sure to check out the Friendship Archway at the entrance to Chinatown – it is beautiful and very impressive when lit up at night.
Street Art & Wall Murals in Washington DC
LOVE wall mural – Blagden Alley
Blagden Alley is a group of alleyways full of street art about a 15 minute walk from Chinatown. It was once an area for working-class immigrants but soon became the hub of DC’s underground art scene. There are several wall murals here but the most impressive and most well known is the LOVE wall mural pictured.
It can be a bit tricky to find the ‘LOVE’ wall mural as several streets are called Blagden Alley in this area. Confusing right?! So head for the La Colombe Coffee Roasters and you’ll find the DC Alley Museum adjacent to it. Click here for the exact location on Google maps.
The Watermelon House
A 10 minute walk from Blagden Alley takes you to our next street art. On the side of a house in the Shaw neighbourhood of DC lies an impressive watermelon wall mural. Pretty cool huh?! You can actually just type ‘watermelon house’ into Google maps and it will show you the location!
US National Arboretum
Open: From 8am-5pm daily.
A little out of town, (a 10 minute taxi from the Capitol Building), the US Arboretum is a large outdoor space with lots of trees, plants and interesting places to photograph. The most impressive view is of the 22 Corinthian columns that stand in the field here. They were originally part of The US Capitol when it was erected in 1828. They were later removed in the 1950’s when The Capitol Building was extended and the columns were no longer strong enough to support the building. You can get some really nice shots with these columns.
You can also wander around the bonsai tree garden and see these unique trees.
Georgetown is a charming neighbourhood located a couple of miles west of downtown Washington DC on the Potomac River. Spend some time wandering around the streets of Georgetown – the row houses are grand and very beautiful. We were here during Halloween and there were so many decorations on people’s windows, doors and steps!
Greenworks is the most Instagrammable building in Georgetown. Greenworks is a cupcake bakery shop located inside a bright pink building.
The Netherlands Carillon, Arlington
The view from The Netherlands Carillon offers one of the best views of DC. You can see The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Memorial and the Capitol Building from here (but you’ll need a good zoom lens!). Arlington is a short walk from the Lincoln Memorial but is actually located in a different state: in Virginia, not DC!
The Culture House DC
Colourful murals adorn this building, once known as The Blind Whino. Previously a Church, it now houses an art gallery.
National Gallery of Art
Open: 10am-5pm Monday – Saturday (11am-6pm Sunday).
The National Gallery of Art (NGA) is another really popular museum in Washington DC and there are several Instagrammable places inside. You can go onto the rooftop of the East Building and take a photo of the 15 ft cobalt blue rooster “Hahn/Cock”. Or there is the LED light tunnel that links the East and the West Buildings.
Washington DC Travel Information
The best way to get around DC is by metro as it is cheap, efficient and convenient. If you get off at Smithsonian, lots of the sights above are within walking distance. Don’t make the mistake of hiring a car and trying to park in the centre as traffic is really bad and there isn’t much parking available – this is absolutely one of the things you should not do when visiting Washington DC!
If you are looking for more Instagrammable guides to US cities:
Most Instagrammable Places in LA
Most Instagrammable Places in Chicago
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