Five Things Not to Miss During a Tour of the United States Capitol Building

A Tour of the United States Capitol Building shermian lim

Heading up to the U.S. Capitol Building

I love the architecture of the US Capitol Building, inside and out. If you love it as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know that you can take a tour the United States Capitol Building for free, provided they aren’t closed for special events. During off-peak season, it’s easy to just walk in and join a tour slot. I suggest advance online booking if you’re visiting in the summer.

Headsets, which are handed out after the obligatory welcome film, is how your tour guide will talk to you about the Capitol Building’s standout features, (as well as call to group members who straggle a little too long at one spot for the tour guide’s comfort.)

During the tour of the United States Capitol Building, don’t be surprised to find your gaze focused upwards more than half the time.

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US Capitol Building shermian lim

The famous dome

Ceilings

Coffered ceilings feature gold-gilded geometric shapes and trim, which are offset by matching and eye-pleasing wall colours — making them beautiful and interesting to observe.

Stairwell leading up to the rotunda, the room directly under the Capitol dome

A Tour of the United States Capitol Building shermian lim

Coffered ceiling and other details in the rotunda

US Capitol Building shermian lim

Another coffered ceiling

Most of the notable murals and paintings are also located above eye level. The “Apotheosis of Washington,” located on the ceiling of the Capitol dome, requires a 180-degree head tilt. Good eyesight is an advantage.

US Capitol Building shermian lim

“The Apotheosis of Washington,” which depicts a revered George Washington in heaven

Statues

Statues of historical Americans abound. Every state is represented by at least one famous person from decades past, some positioned in the visitor lobby, others in the “crypt” and still others in the National Statuary Hall. Dozens of marble-limestone figures tower above everyone else, stoic and dignified.

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The grand National Statuary Hall

US Capitol Building shermian lim

Liberty and the Eagle statue in the National Statuary Hall

A Tour of the United States Capitol Building shermian lim

My favourite one here is Rosa Parks, the one that is (naturally) sitting down.

A Tour of the United States Capitol Building shermian lim

The Car of History: Clio, muse of history, “recorded” the proceedings of the House of Representatives when they convened in the National Statuary Hall, back in the day

Other reads: Washington D.C. at Night

Others: Crypt, Chamber and Desk

Other tour highlights include: the “crypt,” where forty columns stand two by two in a circular pattern, holding up that grand ol’ dome of the Capitol Building. That’s a heavy responsibility! (Pun unintended.)

A Tour of the United States Capitol Building shermian lim

The “Crypt”

Old Supreme Court chamber, used in the 1800s before present day Supreme Court got built. Back in those days, the chamber’s ceilings were considered an architectural feat. A gold clock sits on the opposite wall facing the seats of the judges. It’s survived about 150 years and still displays the correct time.

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Old Supreme Court Chamber

The former location of John Quincy Adams’ desk in the National Statuary Hall, also known as the whisper spot and the only part of the tour that you’ll be asked to look downwards. Legend has it that from his desk, Adams could hear conversations being held on the other side of the room, even those muttered in low voices. To demonstrate this, your tour guide may walk over to the other side of the room as you gather around the whisper spot. Moments later, you’ll hear her/his voice as if she/he is standing next to you.

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I’m little skeptical that it worked as well back when the entire room was filled with desks, people working, chattering and moving about, but the story was quite memorable, and an entertaining end to the tour.

A Tour of the United States Capitol Building shermian lim

View of the Mall from the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building

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