The US Capitol is the most prominent sight in Washington DC and an essential stop for anyone with a political bent.
George Washington laid the building’s cornerstone in 1793 in a ceremony rich with Masonic symbolism, and though the Capitol was torched by the British during the War of 1812, it was rebuilt and repeatedly expanded over the ensuing centuries. Ten presidents – most recently Gerald Ford – have lain in state in the impressive Rotunda, which, capped by a massive cast-iron dome 180ft high and 96ft across, links the two halves of Congress – the Senate in the north wing, the House of Representatives in the south. When the “Tholos” lantern above the dome is lit, Congress is in session. The Rotunda is decorated with massive frescoes and paintings of national heroes, and other highlights include the esteemed casts of famous personages in National Statuary Hall; the historic chambers for the US Senate and Supreme Court; and the Crypt where George Washington was supposed to be buried, but which now serves as an exhibition hall.