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An interior courtyard inside a museum. The ceiling has curved glass and people sit at tables across the floor.
National Portrait Gallery
CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Imag

D.C.'s most beautiful interiors, mapped

It’s what’s on the inside that counts

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National Portrait Gallery
| CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Imag

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.

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Washington National Cathedral

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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.

The interior of a large cathedral with multiple stained glass windows. Getty Images

Four Seasons Hotel

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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.

Islamic Center of Washington

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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.

The inside of a mosque, filled with people. There are tiles throughout. Getty Images

Hillwood Estate

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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.

Dupont Circle Metro Station

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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.

A subway station with Brutalist walls and ceilings. People walk on the platform as a train pulls away. The Washington Post via Getty Im

The Mayflower Hotel

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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.

National Portrait Gallery

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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.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

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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.

The interior of a museum with decorative iron casing. Getty Images

The Peacock Room

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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.”

Carnegie Library

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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.

A curved stairwell inside a neoclassical library. It has big arched windows. Getty Images

Shaw (Watha T. Daniel) Neighborhood Library

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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.

Getty Images

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.

National Gallery of Art

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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.

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National Building Museum

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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.)

The great hall of a romanesque building with eight huge columns inside. Universal Images Group via Getty

U.S. Capitol

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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.

The interior of a dome in a capital building. There is a painted fresco in the middle of the ceiling. Getty Imagaes

Union Station

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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.

Library of Congress

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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.

The huge reading room of a neoclassical library, filled with desks arranged in a circle. ullstein bild via Getty Images

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

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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.

Washington National Cathedral

The interior of a large cathedral with multiple stained glass windows. Getty Images

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.

The interior of a large cathedral with multiple stained glass windows. Getty Images

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.

Islamic Center of Washington

The inside of a mosque, filled with people. There are tiles throughout. Getty Images

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.

The inside of a mosque, filled with people. There are tiles throughout. Getty Images

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.

Dupont Circle Metro Station

A subway station with Brutalist walls and ceilings. People walk on the platform as a train pulls away. The Washington Post via Getty Im

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.

A subway station with Brutalist walls and ceilings. People walk on the platform as a train pulls away. The Washington Post via Getty Im

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.

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.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

The interior of a museum with decorative iron casing. Getty Images

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.

The interior of a museum with decorative iron casing. Getty Images

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.”

Carnegie Library

A curved stairwell inside a neoclassical library. It has big arched windows. Getty Images

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.

A curved stairwell inside a neoclassical library. It has big arched windows. Getty Images

Shaw (Watha T. Daniel) Neighborhood Library

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

Jaleo

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.

National Gallery of Art

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

National Building Museum

The great hall of a romanesque building with eight huge columns inside. Universal Images Group via Getty

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.)

The great hall of a romanesque building with eight huge columns inside. Universal Images Group via Getty

U.S. Capitol

The interior of a dome in a capital building. There is a painted fresco in the middle of the ceiling. Getty Imagaes

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.

The interior of a dome in a capital building. There is a painted fresco in the middle of the ceiling. Getty Imagaes

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.

Library of Congress

The huge reading room of a neoclassical library, filled with desks arranged in a circle. ullstein bild via Getty Images

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.

The huge reading room of a neoclassical library, filled with desks arranged in a circle. ullstein bild via Getty Images

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.