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Where to Get the Best Views of the Washington, DC Skyline

Terrace Overlooking Potomac River from John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts - Where to Get the Best Skyline Views in Washington, DC

Head to these terraces, towers and rooftops for next-level views of the DC skyline.

While the nation’s capital has no shortage of great rooftop bars and restaurants, it also includes some especially iconic cityscapes with marble landmarks and sweeping National Mall vistas. Here's where you can get a bird’s-eye view of the DC skyline at these high-above-the-city hot spots.

1 The Washington Monument

View of the National Mall from the top of the Washington Monument - Where to get the best views in Washington, DC

This recently reopened monumental obelisk was built to honor George Washington, America’s first president, and stands today as the world’s tallest freestanding stone structure at just over 555 feet. The minute-long ride up 50 stories to the top includes a video from the National Park Service about what to expect. From the observation deck, you can see nearly 25 miles into the horizon in every direction, including landmarks like the U.S. Capitol, the White House, Arlington National Cemetery and the Washington National Cathedral.

2 The Old Post Office Clock Tower

View of Washington Monument and Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture from the OId Post Office Tower in Washington, DC

Situated on Pennsylvania Avenue, also known as “America’s Main Street,” the Old Post Office clock tower features an observation deck with sweeping views of every direction of the city. Marvel at one-of-a-kind scenes of the U.S. Capitol building, and then admire panoramas of the National Mall. Not only are the cityscapes plentiful, but the clock tower also features the Bells of Congress – ten 300- to 3,000-pound bells which replicate the ones tolling at Westminster Abbey. Situated in the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., the tower is operated by the National Park Service.

3 The Kennedy Center

View of Arlington from Kennedy Center Terrace - Where to get the best view in Washington, DC

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a world-class venue with a year-round calendar of theater, music and dance. But even if you don’t have tickets to a performance, it’s worthy of a visit. The wrap-around outdoor terrace is open to the public and offers views of the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial and the historic Watergate Hotel. You can also soak in the views from the Kennedy Center’s Roof Terrace Restaurant, which takes pre-performance reservations and hosts a bountiful Sunday brunch.

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4 The Watergate Hotel

@topofthegate - Evening Crowd at Top of the Gate Rooftop Bar and Restaurant at The Watergate Hotel - Where to Get the Best Views in Washington, DC

The Watergate is well-known for its Nixon-era scandal, but The Watergate Hotel recently reopened after a multi-million dollar renovation, which included the unveiling of Top of the Gate. The rooftop restaurant and bar boasts 360-degree views of Washington, DC and Virginia. Grab a cocktail and toast to one of DC’s best views.

5 Washington National Cathedral

@markalanandre - View of Washington, DC from the top of the Washington National Cathedral

The gorgeous architecture of the Washington National Cathedral is reason enough to head way up Wisconsin Avenue. Daily self-guided tours showcase the cathedral’s history and intricate architectural details. But if you want to experience perhaps the best rooftop view in the city (located on a hill, the cathedral claims the highest point in DC), you’ll want to book the Tower Climb tour. The guided tour has you climbing 333 steps to the cathedral’s central tower. Along the way, you’ll see stunning stained glass, get up close and personal with the cathedral’s famed gargoyles and conclude with a breathtaking view of the city below.

6 W Hotel

POV Rooftop and Lounge at the W Hotel - Where to Get the Best Views of Washington, DC Skyline

Want to visit the White House without having to actually be signed in? Then head to the W Hotel. The swank hotel’s rooftop bar and lounge, POV, overlooks the White House and is favored by DC’s see-and-be-seen set. The view of the Washington Monument isn’t too shabby either. Bottle service is available at this DC hot spot and you’ll want to dress to impress if you head there for cocktails.

7 The Newseum

@christemmi - View of Pennsylvania Avenue and the U.S. Capitol from the Newseum - Where to get the best views in Washington, DC

Head to the sixth floor of this interactive museum dedicated to the First Amendment for a panoramic view of Pennsylvania Avenue that’s rivaled by few locations in the nation’s capital. The museum's Hank Greenspun Terrace also features a permanent 80-foot-long exhibit detailing the rich history of one of the most famous avenues in America.

8 Reagan National Airport
Reagan National Airport @brenntravels

One thing that never gets old to Washingtonians: a window seat when flying into or out of Reagan National Airport, one of three airports that serve the District. DCA is located just across the Potomac River in Virginia and the flight path often includes simply stunning views of the DC landscape. Before taking off, utter ye old Irish blessing, “May the wind blow from the north for amazing views henceforth.” Try for a seat on the left side when you’re arriving and the right side when leaving town for a photo op you can’t get from any rooftop in the city. 

Want to add food and drink with your view? Check out the top rooftop bars and restaurants. Otherwise, now that you have the lay of the land, experience the city on a tour or discover the neighborhoods of Washington, DC.