National Building Museum

National Building Museum information

Washington, DC , USA
Street 401 F St NW
Getting there
metro Judiciary Sq
More information
adult/child $8/5
Opening hours
10am-5pm Mon-Sat, from 11am Sun, tours daily 11:30am, 12:30pm and 1:30pm
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Lonely Planet review

Devoted to the architectural arts, this museum is appropriately housed in an architectural jewel: the 1887 Old Pension Building. Four stories of ornamented balconies flank the dramatic 316ft-wide atrium, and the Corinthian columns are among the largest in the world, rising 75ft high. An inventive system of windows and archways keeps the so-called Great Hall constantly glimmering in natural light, and this space has hosted 17 inaugural balls – from Grover Cleveland’s in 1885 to Barack Obama’s in 2009.

It is free to enter the building and look around. Pick up a self-guided tour brochure at the information desk, or join a free 45-minute docent-led tour . There’s also a nice cafe and nifty bookstore inside.

The admission fee is only for the exhibits, which are great if you’re an architecture buff. ‘Washington: City and Symbol’ examines the deeper symbolism of DC architecture; other exhibits rotate. Kids get their own hands-on displays, such as the past ‘LEGO Architecture.’ Check the website for a schedule of concerts and family programs.