American Masterpiece: Visiting the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Can’t visit Europe but want to feel like you’re there? Head to D.C.
The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. is an opulent alternative to Europe for architecture buffs, literati, and photographers. It’s one of the most beautiful constructions in American history.
By the numbers, the Library of Congress is monolithic:
- More than 164 million items total
- Including more than 38 million cataloged books and other print materials in 460 languages
- More than 70 million manuscripts
- The largest rare book collection in North America
- The world’s largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings
The Thomas Jefferson Building alone is worth making the trip to D.C. Completed in 1897 and built in the Italian Renaissance style, no expense was spared in its construction.
More than 50 American painters and sculptors were commissioned to ornament the Beaux Arts style building with fine decorations, murals, and paintings. Marble halls, columns and steps, carved hardwoods, and a stained glass dome are features of the design.
How to Visit the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is open to those age 16 and older without charge or special permission.
By taking free guided tours offered several times a day you can see both the Great Hall and, from the Visitors’ Gallery located just off of the Great Hall, you will be able to view the Main Reading Room from above (but not enter it). Monday through Saturday you also have the option of walking around on your own, using the self-guiding brochure.
The Library is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to the public. You must exit by 5:30 p.m.
Stay tuned for a full Washington, D.C. post with more things to do!
I visited Washington, D.C. in my Airstream trailer on the Great American Roadtrip. To see where else I’ve been, sign up for my weekly newsletter.