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National Cathedral - Washington, DC

A Visitor’s Guide to the Washington Cathedral


Photo © Medioimages/Photodisc

The National Cathedral in Washington, DC is the sixth largest cathedral in the world. Although it is the home of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and it has a local congregation of more than 1,200 members, it is also considered to be a national house of prayer for all people. The Cathedral is known as Washington National Cathedral, though its official name is the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul.

The National Cathedral is an impressive structure, English Gothic in style, with exquisite architectural sculpture, wood carving, gargoyles, mosaics, and more than 200 stained glass windows. The top of the Gloria in Excelsis Tower is the highest point in Washington, DC, while the Pilgrim Observation Gallery in the Cathedral's two west towers offer dramatic views of the city.

See Pictures of the National Cathedral

Over the years, the National Cathedral has been the host to many national memorial services and celebrations. Services were held here to rejoice the end of World Wars I and II. The Cathedral was the setting for State funerals for three presidents: Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. Following the September 11th terrorist attacks, George W. Bush honored the victims of that day with a special prayer service here.

The National Cathedral offers daily services available to the public. Special events are held throughout the year, including organ recitals, choir performances, the annual Flower Mart Festival, jazz, folk and classical concerts and more. The National Cathedral is an especially nice place to visit during the holiday season. See the calendar of holiday events. For a weekly listing of special events, visit the official website.

Tours of the National Cathedral

You can take a guided or a self-paced tour of the National Cathedral and explore its dramatic art and Gothic architecture. Guided tours last approximately 30 minutes and are offered on an ongoing basis throughout the day (check the "Plan Your Visit" calendar on the Cathedral's website for tour availability on the day you're hoping to visit). No reservations are required. Be sure to take some time to walk the grounds as well. The property includes the Bishop's Garden, four schools, and two gift shops.

The following tours are a unique way to visit the National Cathedral:
  • Tour and Tea Program - Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Cost: $30 per person. A guided tour highlights the cathedral’s art, architecture and history. Afterwards, enjoy tea and scones in the beautiful St. Paul Room, complete with panoramic views of Washington, DC. Reservations are required. Make a reservation online.
  • Gargoyle Tours - Available April through October. Take a tour with a gargoyle expert and learn the history of these fascinating creatures. The tour includes a slideshow followed by a guided outdoor tour, providing guests a chance to spot many of the whimsical gargoyles and grotesques, including monsters, dogs, cats, birds, horses—and even Darth Vader. Reservations are recommended. Admission is $10 per adult or $5 per child (12 and under). Recommended for ages 10 and older. See an updated schedule and make a reservation.
  • Volunteer Work Days, Woods Walks, and Bird Walks - These special events are a part of the All Hallow Guild’s Olmsted Woods Restoration and Stewardship Project. No reservations are required and the tours are free of charge. Call (202) 537-2319 for dates and times.
3101 Wisconsin Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20016. (202) 537-6200. The nearest metro station is Tenleytown-AU. The entrance to the parking garage is at Wisconsin Avenue and Hearst Circle.

Suggested donation of $10/person. Proceeds support Cathedral programs and ministry, as well as building operation and earthquake repair. All groups with 13+ people must make a reservation to visit the Cathedral or its grounds at all times. For more information on group visits, visit the group website.

Monday–Friday 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.; until 8 p.m. most Tuesdays and Thursdays mid-June – August; Saturday 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tours Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. and 12:45 – 3:15 p.m.; Sunday 1 – 2:30 p.m. Gardens are open daily until dusk.

Official Website

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