Beginning of main content

Smithsonian Castle

Standing as a symbol of early Washington development, this structure invites you to explore the nation’s greatest museums, which contain some of the country’s most intriguing artifacts.

As you pass the monuments along the National Mall in Washington, D.C., notice the unusual sight of the Smithsonian Castle, the Smithsonian Institution Building. Built in 1855, the castle originally stood alone, a Norman-style turreted structure of red sandstone across a canal from downtown D.C. Now it is surrounded by a museum complex containing some of the country’s greatest treasures. Inside it holds the crypt of James Smithson, who provided the institution’s initial funding.

James Renwick, Jr. designed the castle, although he had no architectural training. He later designed famous St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. Notice how Renwick incorporated Gothic features of rose windows, vaulted ceilings and tall narrow windows in the castle and his other buildings. Near the White House, visit another building he designed, the Renwick Gallery, now part of the Smithsonian, filled with American crafts.

Make the Smithsonian Castle your first stop on your museum tour of Washington, D.C. It serves as the Smithsonian Visitor Center, providing free information about the nearly 20 Smithsonian buildings in Washington. Talk with volunteers and use interactive tools to learn about the museums, plan your visits and tour the castle. Stop for a meal at the Castle Café or a seasonal cart outside the building. Visit the Museum Store and use the site’s free Wi-Fi. The castle is open daily except Christmas.

Stand at the Washington Monument gazing toward the white dome of the U.S. Capitol. Notice the striking sandstone of the Smithsonian Castle jutting a bit into the grass of the National Mall. Allow several days in your D.C. trip to visit the nearby Smithsonian museums including the Air and Space Museum, the Natural History Museum, the American History Museum, the American Indian Museum, the African American History and Culture Museum, the African Art Museum and several galleries.

Reach the Smithsonian Castle on a Mall walking tour or ride the metro to the Smithsonian and use the Mall exit. Driving in this part of Washington, D.C. is often congested, especially during holidays. The Smithsonian has no parking, but commercial lots are available north and south of the castle.


Guide to Exploring around Smithsonian Castle


Trip Type
Flight 1
Flight 2
Flight 3
Flight 4
Flight 5
Map

Lodging Near Smithsonian Castle

See all 767 Hotels near Smithsonian Castle
$91
Hamilton Hotel Washington DC

Hamilton Hotel Washington DC

1001 14th St NW, Washington
4.3
of 5, from 1,914 reviews
4.5 out of 5.0

This hotel is 5 blocks from the White House and 8 blocks from the National Mall. The Washington Monument, National World War II Memorial, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial are all about a mile away.

$79
Washington Plaza

Washington Plaza

10 Thomas Circle NW, Washington
4.3
of 5, from 8,021 reviews
4.0 out of 5.0

Ideally located on Thomas Circle, near Massachusetts Avenue in the heart of Washington DC, this Kennedy-era hotel is 0.3 miles from MCPherson Square Metro Station and 0.7 miles from the Smithsonian Museums. The White House is 6 blocks from the hotel.

$71
POD DC

POD DC

627 H Street NW, Washington
4.3
of 5, from 541 reviews
4.0 out of 5.0

Located in Chinatown, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Verizon Center and Ford's Theater. White House and United States Capitol are also within 1 mi (2 km).

$109
Grand Hyatt Washington

Grand Hyatt Washington

1000 H Street NW, Washington
4.4
of 5, from 4,874 reviews
4.5 out of 5.0

This Washington hotel sits just 4 blocks from the Verizon center, 6 blocks from the White House and just 7 blocks from the National Mall. The Smithsonian Museum and national monuments are nearby. In-lobby access to Metro Center also available.

$172
The Watergate Hotel

The Watergate Hotel

2650 Virginia Ave NW, Washington
4.6
of 5, from 310 reviews
5.0 out of 5.0

Located in Foggy Bottom, this luxury hotel is within a 15-minute walk of George Washington University and Georgetown Waterfront Park. Lincoln Memorial and White House are also within 1 mi (2 km).

$159
JW Marriott Washington DC

JW Marriott Washington DC

1331 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington
4.4
of 5, from 1,944 reviews
4.5 out of 5.0

This 15-story hotel is adjacent to the National Theater, 2 blocks from the White House, 4 blocks from the National Mall, 1 mile from the Capitol, and 2 miles from Georgetown.

$87
Holiday Inn Washington-Capitol

Holiday Inn Washington-Capitol

550 C St SW, Washington
4.2
of 5, from 3,544 reviews
3.5 out of 5.0

Holiday Inn Washington-Capitol is located 0.1 mile from the National Air and Space Museum, half-mile from National Mall and Smithsonian Institute, and 3 miles from Arlington National Cemetery.

$124
Hyatt Place Washington DC/National Mall

Hyatt Place Washington DC/National Mall

400 E Street SW, Washington
4.4
of 5, from 908 reviews
3.5 out of 5.0

Located in Capitol Hill, this hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of United States Capitol and National Mall. Nationals Park is 1.4 mi (2.3 km) away.