Washington DC Travel Guide

Explorer Washington DC

To learn about the history of the United States, Washington DC is the place to go. Formally known as the District of Columbia, it is affectionately known as “Washington”, “the District”, or simply “D.C.”. As the capital of the United States, the city has witnessed the biggest events in American history and played host to many major celebrations.

Since its founding in 1791, it has been home to the centres of all three branches of the federal government of the United States, including the Congress, President, and Supreme Court. You’ll also find six of the top 10 buildings in the American Institute of Architects’ 2007 ranking of “America’s Favourite Architecture” here in D.C. . If you are an architecture buff, you definitely can’t miss Washington when travelling in the United States.

Top Things to Do

White House

Since 1800, the White House has been the official residence and workplace of every President of the United States. As a National Heritage Site, it is owned by the National Park Service. The building was modelled on Irish country houses, and was ranked second on the American Institute of Architects list of “America’s Favourite Architecture”. It has always been opened to the public, although access is limited, and public tour requests must be submitted through a Member of Congress.

National Mall

This is a national park in downtown Washington, administered by the National Park Service. It sprawls across the West Potomac Park and Constitution Gardens to the west, as well as the area between the Lincoln Memorial and the United States Capitol. National Mall contains a number of museums and memorials and receives approximately 24 million visitors each year. It can take a day or more to explore the whole park.

Lincoln Memorial

Located on the west end of the National Mall, this American national monument was built in honour of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. The main building is designed to resemble a Greek Doric temple and contains a large seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln which stands 5.8m high from head to foot. The memorial has also been the site of many famous speeches, including Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Washington Monument

This is the world’s tallest stone structure and the world’s tallest obelisk, standing just over 169 meters tall on the National Mall. Built between 1848 and 1885, the monument was constructed to commemorate George Washington, the first American president. Sadly, the obelisk was damaged during the 2011 Virginia earthquake and Hurricane Irene in the same year and remained closed to the public even until today.

Islamic Center of Washington

As the biggest mosque and Islamic cultural centre in Washington, the all-white building is located on Embassy Row in downtown Washington. In addition to the mosque, the centre contains a library and classrooms where classes on Islam and the Arabic language are conducted. Around the building, you’ll find flags of the Islamic nations of the world flying high.

Where to Eat and Drink

In the national capital of the United States, you will definitely find foods from all over the world — whether you’re craving for Greek, Chinese or Middle Eastern cuisine. Those who want to try local fare will also find numerous famous all-American institutions here, as well as trendy gourmet bars that are all the rage these days.

recommended places to eat

Halal Kabob House

For inexpensive, comfort food, this fully-certified halal restaurant offers great value for money and freshly baked pita bread. Adding modern twists to traditional Indian Muslim dishes, the Kabob House serves genuinely good food with friendly service.

more info

Blue Duck Tavern

Located inside the Hyatt Hotel, this all-American tavern is headed by chef Brad Deboy, who is passionate about the art of simple yet innovative cooking, sourcing fresh, seasonal ingredients from regional farms. The majority of their dishes are prepared in the restaurant’s wood-burning oven, which is the focal point of their open kitchen, inviting diners to be a part of the culinary experience.

more info

The Red Hen

Located in Bloomingdale, one of D.C.’s coolest districts, this stylish restaurant features an open plan, with red-brick walls and wooden furniture. Besides having an extensive wine list, the restaurant serves up modern, wholesome Italian cuisine that everyone loves.

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Housed in the National Museum of the American Indian, Mitsitam (which means “let’s eat!” in the native language) serves dishes of the indigenous people of the United States. Each of the five food stations depicts regional cooking techniques, ingredients, and flavours. Selections include authentic Native foods such as traditional fry bread and corn totopos.

more info

Recommended Places to Stay

Rosewood Washington

Opened in 2013, the Rosewood is an elegant and intimate hotel – with less than 50 rooms – with a handsome red-brick facade. Located in the charming neighbourhood of Georgetown, alongside the historic C&O Canal.


Fairfax at Embassy Row

An institution in Washington’s hospitality industry, this heritage hotel has been hosting guests since 1927. The building itself is preserved for its historic significance — George HW Bush and Vice President Al Gore’s family .


The Jefferson

With a classic European style, this elegant hotel is built in honour of Thomas Jefferson, showcasing many paintings and original signed documents of the beloved former president.


Hampton Inn Fairfax

The best budget choice in town is the Hampton Inn Fairfax, next to the Dulles International Airport. It’s a perfect location to explore monuments in Washington, discover the Blue Ridge Mountains.


Best Time to Go

The best times to visit Washington are definitely in spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November). In spring, the temperatures are pleasant, ranging from 5 to 18°C. The Cherry Blossom Festival takes place around late March and early April, drawing in throngs of crowds, so be prepared for slightly higher prices. Autumn is the perfect time to come as the sweltering heat is over and in its place are crisp breezes and beautiful foliage all over the city.

Summer is not the best time to come as the temperatures are around 25 to 31°C and humidity very high. It’s also high season as holidaymakers from around the US descend on the capital city. Winter is the low season, as the city experiences freezing temperatures (ranging from -3 to 8°C) and occasional snowstorms.

Getting There

Many airlines fly from Saudi Arabia to Washington DC, Etihad Airways, and Saudia Airlines. There are several direct flights from Riyadh, though most flights have one or two stops. The journey is at least 12 hours.

Getting from Airport to City
  • By Train

    The metro system does not serve the Dulles International Airport directly, but you can catch the Washington Flyer Coach Service (more info below) to the nearest station, Wiehle-Reston East station. From there, downtown DC is a 45-minute metro ride away and costs $5.90 each way. It’s said the new metro silver line will eventually service the airport, but the completion date is still pending.

  • By Bus

    The Washington Flyer Coach Service connects the airport with the Wiehle-Reston Metro Station. A single journey costs around $5 and takes 5 to 7 minutes. Buses depart every 15-20 minutes from the Arrivals Hall. There’s also a Metrobus line 5A that runs between Dulles Airport and

  • By Taxi

    The Washington Flyer Taxi operates exclusively out of Dulles International Airport. There are no reservations required and taxis are available 24/7, every day of the year. A one-way journey to downtown Washington usually costs around $50 and takes around 40 minutes. Larger groups can use the SuperShuttle for door-to-door service to and from the airport. Reservations are required and can be booked online. A single fare costs around $20.

Extra tips
  • The official language of the United States, including Washington DC, is English.

  • The currency in the United States is the US dollar (USD). The current exchange rate is 1 SAR to 0.27 USD.

  • The United States uses 110-120 volts.

  • The plugs in the United States have two flat blades. Some plugs also have a third rounded grounding pin.