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FAQ: How do I visit the U.S. Capitol?

family in front of capitol building

Learn all you need to know about touring America’s center of democracy.

United States Capitol East Front - Washington, DC

Touring the United States Capitol Building

The U.S. Capitol Building is the center of American democracy. The world-famous domed building is home to the House and Senate and it’s where America’s congressmen and congresswomen conduct business, debate laws and pass bills on behalf of the American people. The U.S. Capitol is also one of DC’s most popular monuments and museums and welcomes millions of visitors each year.

Guided tours of the U.S. Capitol are free, but reservations must be made in advance. You can reserve a tour date and time online and learn more about U.S. Capitol tours here. American citizens can also book a staff-led tour through the office of their representative or senator.

All tours begin and end at the Capitol Visitor Center, open Monday-Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (except Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day and Inauguration Day). Tours are conducted from 8:50 a.m. to 3:20 p.m and take about 90 minutes. Tours are fully accessible for people with disabilities.

What will I see on the tour?

capitol rotunda

Guided tours begin with a 13-minute intro film, followed by visits to the Crypt, the Old Senate Chamber, the Capitol Rotunda and National Statuary Hall (make sure your guide demonstrates the “whispering gallery”). Leave time to explore the Capitol Visitor Center - it includes many interactive, family-friendly exhibits.

The guided tour doesn’t include the Senate and House galleries. However, visitors can obtain free passes through their congressmen to view both chambers when Congress is in session. International visitors can ask about gallery passes at the House and Senate Appointment Desks on the upper level of the Capitol Visitor Center. When Congress is not in session, the galleries are open to the public Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. However, viewing hours are subject to change and are not always the same for the House and Senate galleries. You can check the schedules with your Congressional office when requesting gallery passes. Read more information about watching Congress in session and viewing the House and Senate galleries here.

How do I get to the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center?

Because there is very little parking, it is best to travel via the Metro or the DC Circulator. There are three Metro stops within walking distance of the U.S. Capitol: Union Station (Red Line), Capitol South and Federal Center SW (Orange, Silver and Blue lines). The Capitol Visitor Center, which serves as the main public entrance, is located beneath the East Front plaza of the U.S. Capitol at First and East Capitol streets.

Looking for more in the neighborhood? Take advantage of our guide to Capitol Hill.