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Smithsonian Institution Building

Certificate of Excellence
Neighbourhood: National Mall
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Address: 1000 Jefferson Drive SW, Washington DC, DC 20013-7012
Phone Number:
+1 202-633-1000
08:30 - 17:30
Open now
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Sun - Sat 08:30 - 17:30
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Fee: No

The world's largest museum and research complex is actually comprised of 19...

The world's largest museum and research complex is actually comprised of 19 museums and the National Zoo, with subjects that vary from African Art to the postal service, sculpture to space exploration.

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TripAdvisor Reviewer Highlights

Read all 3,323 reviews
Visitor rating
  • 1975
  • 569
    Very good
  • 207
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  • 6
Smithsonian Castle

Great "castle" and information hub for the Smithsonian museums. Expected more from the cafe, but a great stop to start your tour of museums.

4 of 5 bubblesReviewed 5 weeks ago
Daphne L
Houston, Texas, United States
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3,323 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

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Showing 2,801: English reviews
Houston, Texas, United States
Level Contributor
20 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 5 weeks ago

Great "castle" and information hub for the Smithsonian museums. Expected more from the cafe, but a great stop to start your tour of museums.

Thank Daphne L
St. Petersburg, Florida
Level Contributor
549 reviews
189 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 127 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 11 December 2016 via mobile

We stopped in the Smithsonian Institution Building to see where all this got started. The exhibit section in the building is very interesting and the architecture is worth the stop by itself. This is not one of the many "must-see" activities in Washington DC. But if you're in the area and want to visit a castle, this is the only... More 

1 Thank NXTTRP
Level Contributor
74 reviews
28 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 51 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 5 December 2016

The old Smithsonian building is now used exclusively for administrative purposes. The only part open to the public are the pretty front gardens. So, if you happen to be in the vicinity for some other reason, take a look, but it's certainly not worth going out of your way for.

Thank 88AVANTI
Level Contributor
37 reviews
25 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 5 December 2016

If you can, start here. It opens before the other Smithsonian museums do and they offer a free introductory tour most every morning. We got a tour and were out just about the time the other museums were opening.

Thank mshinall
Level Contributor
168 reviews
105 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 69 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 4 December 2016

The so-called "Smithsonian Castle" is an architecturally interesting building which now houses the overall Smithsonian information/visitors centre, and has a very small cafe with both usual and some unusual food, decently (for Washington) priced.

Thank LottyToronto
Level Contributor
100 reviews
34 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 29 November 2016

At the Castle, the light from stained glass windows puts a patina of age that really enhances the varied displays featuring historical objects from the many different museums along the National Mall. The exhibits will rotate, and while we were there a huge Tarantula that had lived in the insect zoo was near a Ming Dynasty vase, and down the... More 

Thank Helen C
Washington DC, District of Columbia
Level Contributor
79 reviews
26 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 20 November 2016

If you're coming to see DC, this should be your first landing point. You can learn about the history of the Smithsonian Museums, their origins, and it's a beautiful visitor's center equipped with assistance, tours, and maps. It's a beautiful old building. I wouldn't spend too much time at the gift shop or food places here, however. The gift shops... More 

Thank Vanessa L
Leeds, England, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
84 reviews
31 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 17 November 2016

We called in on the way to the Science museum. looked around for a while, bought a tee shirt. then went to get a sandwich. The price... $10.50 each. We decided against it. As we were walking away a chap from the gift shop caught us up to say we had left the debit card in the shop and he... More 

Thank PBPG
Tampa, Florida
Level Contributor
21 reviews
20 attraction reviews
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 17 November 2016

First stop in the Smithsonian tour, The Castle. Small exhibit inside on how this all came about, then you will want to continue and see the rest of the exhibits.

Thank Robert C
Columbus, Ohio
Level Contributor
497 reviews
149 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 143 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 16 November 2016

I would suggest to anyone starting to tour the Smithsonian Museums in the City that they start here. It provides a really nice background on who John Smithson was, and why he donated the funds to start the museums - and how it almost never happened. They also have a really neat digital interactive map in the lobby to guide... More 

Thank Scott S

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Questions & Answers

Here's what previous visitors have asked, with answers from representatives of Smithsonian Institution Building and other visitors
4 questions
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Questions? Get answers from Smithsonian Institution Building staff and past visitors.
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Typical questions asked:
  • Do I have to buy a ticket for my infant?
  • How do I get there using public transportation?
  • Is there a restaurant or café onsite?