New York may be the largest city in the USA, but Washington D.C. has been the capital since 1800 and is definitely worth a visit. This article describes the origins of the city and some of its highlights. Submitting an ESTA application is also required for a trip to Washington.
Origins of the city
Both the US capital and the state of Washington are named after the first President of the United States, George Washington (1732-1799). To distinguish the city from the state, Washington D.C. is usually referred to. D.C. stands for ‘District of Columbia’. The city is deliberately not attributed to a state, because people want to ensure that no state influence is exerted on the capital.
In the USA, it was decided not to designate the largest city as the capital. Washington D.C. is a planned city, which means that the city was designed before construction began. In the 2019 census, Washington D.C. had a population of about 705,000. Since 2009, an ESTA is required for a trip to Washington.
The National Mall: buildings, museums and monuments
If you like to visit buildings, museums and monuments, Washington D.C. is the right place for you. The National Mall, an area stretching from the Capitol to the Washington Monument, has numerous interesting museums, memorials and buildings, most of which are freely accessible to the public.
Washington D.C. is home to the offices of the three branches of the United States federal government: as the crow flies, the White House (executive branch), the Capitol (legislative branch) and the Supreme Court (judicial branch) are no more than three kilometres apart. The front view of all three buildings is beautiful (especially at night), but it is also worthwhile to see them from the inside. However, you cannot simply join a guided tour. To visit the Capitol or the Supreme Court, a reservation is required, and to join a tour of the White House, you will need to submit a request to a congressman or senator, and the decision on whether you can visit the White House will be made two weeks later. The tours tend to fill up quickly, so be sure to book early. In addition, Americaʼs capital city has one of the largest libraries in the world: the Library of Congress. Admission to the Libraryʼs three separate buildings is free, and you can also join a free tour of the Thomas Jefferson Building. There is no need to book in advance.
Admission to most museums in Washington D.C. is free. The most famous museum in Americaʼs capital is the National Air and Space Museum. The National Air and Space Museum and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia (an annex of this museum) together manage the worldʼs largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft accessible to the public. Art lovers can admire famous works by Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Da Vinci in the National Gallery of Art, African art in the National Museum of African Art or Asian art in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art. Interesting (natural) history museums are the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of Natural History.
In addition to buildings and museums, Washington D.C. is home to various memorials, from monuments to the soldiers who fought in the Second World War, the Vietnam War and the Korean War to monuments to former presidents such as Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt and other famous people such as Martin Luther King. The worldʼs largest obelisk, the Washington Monument, is also located in Washington D.C. You literally cannot miss this 169-metre high obelisk. A lift takes you to the top of this monument that was built in honour of the former president George Washington.
As a British or Irish citizen, you need to have a US visa or ESTA for a holiday, business trip or transit to the United States. When applying for an ESTA, you do not have to visit the embassy or consulate in person. You can easily submit an ESTA application online through the application form on this website. From the moment of approval, the ESTA is valid for two years. During these two years, an unlimited number of trips to the USA can be made, as long as each stay does not exceed the maximum stay of 90 days. Due to the long validity of the ESTA, it is possible to apply for your ESTA before you even start planning your trip.