The National Cathedral is a majestic structure, built in the early twentieth century in a striking Neo-Gothic style. It’s actually the second largest church building in the entire country, and is certainly among the most magnificent pieces of architecture in all of Washington, DC. In fact, it often makes the list of must-see buildings in DC according to architecture buffs and history fans!
Some of the artistic and architectural highlights of this building include the famed Rose Window, the ex nihilo sculpture, sculptures of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the Space Window (which actually includes a real lunar rock as part of the window design). There are also a number of fun and silly little gargoyles, including the “yuppie gargoyle” and the “master carver gargoyle.” Among other can’t-miss details? A sculpture of Darth Vader, located on the “dark side” of the church.
While the idea of a national place of worship was first conceived of by D.C. city planner Pierre L’Enfant, the National Cathedral today remains a site of worship for people across the entire city and throughout the nation. The Cathedral houses an active Episcopal congregation, but welcomes members of all faiths. They also welcome visitors who want to explore the Cathedral’s iconic art and architecture without participating in service.
If you’d like to tour the National Cathedral, you can choose one of three options with the Washington DC Explorer Pass (all subject to availability): an audio tour, a close-up tour, or a behind-the-scenes tour. Here’s some information about each of the tours to help you decide which is best for you.
Please note: all tours are subject to availability and assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Advanced reservations are not available.
Specialty tours are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis at the time of redemption. All tours are subject to availability. No phone reservations will be accepted.
Please follow signs to the main visitor entrance. Enter through the small set of wooden doors on the left-hand side of the building.