It is common for cities to give names of important figures of history to monuments, houses and streets. In Washington D.C., almost everything has the name of former president, wars or some other theme that refers to periods of the history of the United States. Central streets and avenues have state names; monuments recall the Second World War and the conflicts in Vietnam and Korea; the National Mall, the most visited region of the city, which receives more than 25 million tourists each year, is bordered by the Constitution and Independence avenues, and has at its ends the Lincoln Memorial (with a big statue of the former president at the top of the staircases) and the Capitol, the home of the US Congress.
One of the coolest ways to get to know Washington D.C. is by bicycle. The city has many flat areas, more than 80 kilometers of bike lane and about 160 lean lending stations (www.capitalbikeshare.com). Take one at one location and return at another for $ 7 a day (additional fees are charged if the return or exchange of the bike passes for half an hour). The bikes are so active part of the day to day of the city that even the buses have support to carry them in the front.
For being a bike friendly city, renting a car is not a must in your 48 hours in Washington. However, some routes can become too long if you rely solely on public transport – the subway does not cover 100% of the city – and you may not be able to visit all the planned places because of the time it will spend with the displacement. Anyway, get ready for some walking trails during the ride (even if you choose to bike), especially in the central region. And be aware: some attractions may seem super close, but actually require you to spend a bit more of the shoe sole than you would like. Taxis are not all standardized, as in New York, for example.
Every tourist that visits the capital of the United States has to take a walk in the gardens of the surroundings and take a photo in front of the rails of the White House. The house where President Obama lives is one of the country’s icons and the perfect place to start the tour of Washington DC because of its location: it’s across the boardwalk from the Pennsylvania Avenue, the Treasury Department and to the north of the most touristic region of the city. For a free guided tour at White House, you need to schedule a few months in advance, and the process is very bureaucratic (but not impossible). Nearby is the Old Ebbitt Grill, a large restaurant that was once frequented by politicians, former presidents and celebrities, since its opening in 1856. The tip is to make a reservation on the site before heading to the venue – depending on the time , the standby time can be up to one hour. Order a crab cake single (for one person) and, if you like oysters, try at least one of the menu options.
Washington DC is full of monuments and memorials related to wars and famous battles, like Iwojima’s.
To the south of the White House, the “downtown” area of the city, home to most of Washington’s tourist attractions, known as the National Mall, is a kind of “miniseries terrace” in Brasília that houses stately, such as the old post office, the Old Post Office Pavilion, the city’s most famous monuments such as the obelisk known as the National Monument, and an immense collection of museums.
To visit the Smithsonian’s 19 museums and free galleries (www.si.edu/Museums) along the National Mall, you will need much more than two days, mainly because many of them are historical and have lots to see . One tip: you can cycle through all of them to get around – and also because the buildings alone are worth the ride – or go straight to the Smithsonian Information Center in the Castle, the information center of the place. The garden of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Botanic Gardens and the Capitol Tour (must book before) are great things to do for a first day in the city: you will see a bit of history, nature and beautiful sculptures. There is a bike station very close by. Park and enjoy.
One of the most emblematic buildings of the capital, the Capitol is the home of the American Congress. Credit: Thinkstock
For dinner, you can go to the Golden Triangle (www.goldentriangledc.com/) near the White House. One option is the restaurant of renowned French chef Alain Ducasse (www.adour-washingtondc.com/) at the St. Regis Hotel. Attention: in order to avoid finding closed restaurants, make sure that those you want to meet open on weekends (some houses in this commercial area of the city only open from Monday to Friday and usually close early, which may be inconvenient for the tourist who is not looking at the clock).