USA District of Columbia 

A Guide to Washington

Capital and seat of the Federal Government, Washington D.C. rose out of a mosquito-infested marsh on a site 10 sq. miles either side of the Potomac River in the north-east of the country in 1800. Designed by French engineer l’Enfant, the influence of Versailles is clearly seen. This elegant Neo-Classical city with wide tree-lined avenues, parks and gardens, museums, monuments, memorials and stately buildings - no skyscrapers in this perfectly laid out city - make Washington one of the world’s great capitals. And it is so easy to get around as most attractions are within walking distance on The Mall. But for a quick orientation of the city, jump on the trolley trams which allow you to get on and off at will.

The Mall, a 2-mile long green swathe of meadow-like boulevard, is dominated by three architectural statements:

The stunning white Capitol, topped by an enormous dome crowned with the Spirit of Freedom, and surrounded by a 68-acre park of ancient trees, fountains and statues, has sweeping views down The Mall. It is the symbol of democracy, being the legislative centre of the country and centre of the city.

The Washington Monument, a white marble obelisk standing 556-ft high midway down The Mall, is the city’s most prominent feature. Take the elevator to the top - or climb the 889 steps! - for a bird’s-eye view of this magnificent city, set amongst forests.

The Lincoln Memorial, resembling the Parthenon in Athens, and overlooking the tranquil oblong Reflecting Pool, graces the far end of The Mall. A 19-ft high statue of
the seated Abraham Lincoln gazes eternally at the Capitol.

Another architectural gem is the colonnaded domed Jefferson Memorial on the banks of the Potomac’s Tidal Basin, best visited in spring when hundreds of old Japanese cherry trees burst into ethereal bloom which take your breath away. The memorial contains a 19-ft high statue of the third president, author of the Declaration of Independence.

The White House, opposite Lafayette Park, is surrounded by lush lawns, gardens and fountains. Concerts are held in the President’s ‘back yard’, the 54-acre lawned Ellipse.

The Supreme Court is situated east of the Capitol. A marble Great Hall lined with columns leads to the elegant courtchamber where visitors are permitted into court sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays from October to April.

The stylish Library of Congress, an Italian Renaissance-style building a block away from the Supreme Court, houses a vast collection of books, manuscripts, microfilms, maps and music.

When one thinks American museums, one thinks Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum complex originally housed in the Victorian redbrick castle
 
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