Woah. That’s the word you’ll most likely say when walking into any of the buildings and spaces on this list. They represent some of the most stunning interiors in the area, from churches and hotels to museums and, yes, even the Metro.Read More
D.C.'s most beautiful interiors, mapped
It’s what’s on the inside that counts
1. Washington National Cathedral
Just look up when you enter the National Cathedral and admire its stained glass windows. The nave is gigantic and gorgeous. No surprise there: The cathedral is the sixth-largest cathedral in the world and the second-largest in the U.S. Be sure to venture to the downstairs levels as well for all sorts of spaces.
2. Four Seasons Hotel
This longtime Georgetown hotel offers roughly 18,000 square feet of event space, including a 4,600-square-foot ballroom and 222 guest rooms. Don’t miss the artwork throughout and in the garden area.
3. Islamic Center of Washington
Established in 1957, the Islamic Center of Washington, in Kalorama, was once the largest mosque in the Western Hemisphere. It contains a library and classrooms as well as a myriad of mosaics and decorative columns inside.
4. Hillwood Estate
While the garden is certainly a sight to see at Hillwood Estate, the premises include several ornate buildings. In the main building, which dates to 1955, Marjorie Merriweather Post collected Russian imperial and 18th century French decorative art. The estate debuted as a public institution in 1977.
5. Dupont Circle Metro Station
The Dupont Circle Metro station, on the Red Line, is a prime example of the subway system’s Brutalist architecture. In 2014, the American Institute of Architects recognized Metro for setting “standards of excellence for its architectural design and significance.” How about those ceiling tunnels? The north entrance, a group of three escalators surrounded by greenery and a Walt Whitman quote, is nice too.
6. The Mayflower Hotel
Located in Dupont Circle, the Mayflower Hotel has one of the most stunning hotel lobbies in the city. Thanks to a $22 million renovation in 2015, all 10 floors of the luxury hotel were restored with a toned color scheme, plus new furniture and carpeting. The ballrooms and meeting rooms were also refreshed.
7. National Portrait Gallery
Inside the National Portrait Gallery in Chinatown, visitors can find the expansive Kogod Courtyard. The space is apt for cracking open a book, relaxing, and enjoying the design of the undulating glass ceiling. The design for the courtyard was first chosen in 2004 after an international competition. London-based architects Foster + Partners, the same firm behind New York City’s Hearst Tower, was named the winner.
8. National Museum of African American History and Culture
From the contemplative oculus to the bronze-colored corona, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is a crown jewel of the District. It’s equally striking inside and outside. It was designed by David Adajye and Phil Freelon, among other noted architects, and has won awards.
9. The Peacock Room
Photos don’t do justice for this extravagant room at the Freer Gallery, restored to its original 1908 appearance. Architect Thomas Jeckyll created a place for British shipping magnate Frederick Leyland to showcase his blue-and-white Chinese porcelain collection. The interior offers complex textures and what American expatriate artist James McNeill Whistler described as a “harmony in blue and gold.”
10. Carnegie Library
This neoclassical structure, dating to the early 20th century, was the first desegregated public building in D.C. It was also the city’s first public library when it opened. Nowadays, it’s a flagship Apple store and also used as space for the Historical Society of Washington. The interior was impressively refurbished to prepare for the Apple store.
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11. Shaw (Watha T. Daniel) Neighborhood Library
Built in 2010, this library occupies a triangular island in Shaw, offering a ground-floor children’s area, a teen space, and two 12-person conference rooms. Architecture firm Davis Brody Bond Aedas designed the building and won various award for it.
As one of D.C.’s most memorable José Andrés-founded restaurants, Jaleo boasts not only boast good food but thoughtful design. It has artistic touches like wooden bead curtains and hexagons tessellated along the walls and ceiling. Even the bathroom is undeniably unforgettable.
13. National Gallery of Art
Designed by I.M. Pei and John Russell Pope, this historic museum blends both old and new. It is spread across two wings; one houses modern art, the other pre-18th century art. An LED light installation called “Multiverse” connects the two wings.
14. National Building Museum
The National Building Museum’s enormous Great Hall is a stunning space with larger-than-life columns, perfect for admiring. The 1887 structure was previously known as the Pension Building and hosted several presidential inaugural balls. In 1985, it was designated a National Historic Landmark. Today the Great Hall regularly features interactive exhibits. (The museum will close for repairs for a few months starting in December 2019.)
15. U.S. Capitol
This one’s an obvious choice. If you’re interested in touring the Capitol building, be sure to make a reservation way ahead of time. Once inside, it’s recommended to see the inside of the iconic dome.
16. Union Station
Most who cross through Union Station are too focused on getting from Point A to Point B to notice the beautiful architecture inside, but it’s worth a look. In 2016, Union Station’s Main Hall was restored with new paint and repairs to damage done during a 2011 earthquake.
17. Library of Congress
This must-see landmark is one of D.C.’s most elegant places and the U.S.’s oldest federal cultural institution. Absolutely visit the breathtaking main reading room and admire its arches, statues, and stately desks.
18. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
You may feel goosebumps inside this massive church. The Brookland basilica is the largest Catholic church in the U.S. and North America. Let your eyes feast on the artwork and painted murals.