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Smithsonian Institution Building, Washington DC

4.5
#5 of 54 in Historic Sites in Washington DC
Castle · Hidden Gem · Government Building
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Constructed of Seneca red sandstone in a faux Norman style that combines elements of late Romanesque and early Gothic architecture, Smithsonian Institution Building houses a visitor center and the administrative offices of over a dozen specialized museums. Nicknamed the "Castle" and finished in 1855, this building consists of a central section, two extensions, and two wings. Four large and five smaller towers are primarily decorative. Two galleries on the second floor contain the visitor information area, which offers free Wi-Fi, interactive displays, and maps. Use the visitor center's computers to find answers to most common questions about this complex of museums, or walk through the northern entrance to visit the tomb of the institution's founder, chemist and mineralogist James Smithson. Plan to visit Smithsonian Institution Building and other customer-reviewed, writer-recommended Washington DC attractions using our Washington DC itinerary planning site.
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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
3,545 reviews
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4.5
TripAdvisor
  • This is the original Smithsonian museum in 1855. Like a medieval castle, Smithsonian Institution Building chronicles the story of James Stimson aka the founder of everything and how one building... 
    This is the original Smithsonian museum in 1855. Like a medieval castle, Smithsonian Institution Building chronicles the story of James Stimson aka the founder of everything and how one building...  more »
  • PROS * Building in the design of a castle * Unique style * Original first museum * Current exhibit is privately about the history of the building itself * Contains the remains of founder James... 
    PROS * Building in the design of a castle * Unique style * Original first museum * Current exhibit is privately about the history of the building itself * Contains the remains of founder James...  more »
Google
  • We came to DC during memorial weekend. We walked around the gardens and took pictures from the outside, but didn't have the time to go inside. It was my husband's first time and he was so impressed by the moon garden and the building. The building is really nice and does look like a castle. He loved it.
  • Smithsonian Castle Information Center is an excellent first stop to learn about the various museums and what to see. It is built of red sandstone and looks like a Medieval Revival style building. James Smithson’s crypt is in a small chapel like room. There is a historic carousel at the north entrance. There is also a beautiful garden.

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