National Building Museum

National Building Museum information

Washington, DC , USA
401 F St NW
Getting there
Metro: Judiciary Sq
More information
adult/child $8/5
Opening hours
10am-5pm Mon-Sat, from 11am Sun
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Devoted to architecture and urban design, the museum is appropriately housed in a magnificent 1887 edifice modeled after the Renaissance-era Palazzo Farnese in Rome. Four stories of ornamented balconies flank the dramatic 316ft-wide atrium and the Corinthian columns rise 75ft high. There's no charge to view the glimmering public areas; the admission fee is for the exhibits, which will please architecture buffs.

The space has hosted 17 inaugural balls – from Grover Cleveland’s in 1885 to Barack Obama’s in 2013. Step inside to see the inventive system of windows and archways that keep the Great Hall constantly glimmering in natural light. For more information, pick up a self-guided-tour brochure at the information desk, or join a free 45-minute docent-led tour (11:30pm, 12:30pm and 1:30pm). There’s also a nice cafe and a nifty bookstore inside.

The museum's Building Zone for kids is a local secret, where two- to six-year-olds stack block towers, drive toy bulldozers and otherwise construct in the hands-on play area.