GUIDE TO TOUR THE U.S. CAPITOL BUILDING AND SEE CONGRESS IN SESSION
Learn all you need to know about visiting and touring America’s center of democracy.
The U.S. Capitol Building is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world and the center of American democracy. The world-famous domed building is home to the United States House of Representatives and Senate; where America’s congressmen and congresswomen conduct business, debate laws and pass bills on behalf of the American people. The U.S. Capitol and U.S. Capitol Visitor Center is also one of DC’s most popular monuments and museums and welcomes millions of visitors each year.
How do I arrange a tour of the United States Capitol Building?
Plan your visit in advance! A public tour of the U.S. Capitol is free and open to anyone who makes an advanced reservation, although there are some same-day tickets available by standing in line at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center (note that lines will be long during spring and summer). We recommend reserving a reserving a tour date and time, or you can book a staff-led tour through the office of your representative or senator.
All tours begin and end at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, open Monday-Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (except Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day and Inauguration Day). Tours typically take about 90 minutes and are fully accessible for people with disabilities.
What’s in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center?
You’ll find a cafeteria and gift shop in the Capitol Visitor Center. The gift shop carries merchandise inspired by the art and architecture of the U.S. Capitol. The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. for continental breakfast and lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you haven’t printed your tour reservation, bring along the number you were assigned. There are free listening devices in multiple languages for international visitors.
Can I see Congress in session?
The guided tour doesn’t include the Senate and House galleries. However, visitors can obtain free passes through their congressmen to view both chambers when Congress is in session. International visitors can ask about gallery passes at the House and Senate Appointment Desks on the upper level of the Capitol Visitor Center. When Congress is not in session, the galleries are open to the public Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. However, viewing hours are subject to change and are not always the same for the House and Senate galleries. You can check the schedules with your Congressional office when requesting gallery passes. Read more information about watching Congress in session and viewing the House and Senate galleries.
How do I get to the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center?
Because there is very little parking, it is best to travel via the Metro or the DC Circulator. There are three Metro stops within walking distance of the U.S. Capitol: Union Station (Red Line), Capitol South and Federal Center SW (Orange, Silver and Blue lines). The Capitol Visitor Center, which serves as the main public entrance, is located beneath the East Front plaza of the U.S. Capitol at First and East Capitol streets.