U.S. Capitol Tours and Information

U.S. Capitol Tours

The United States Capitol is a monument, a working office building, and one of the most recognizable symbols of representative democracy in the world.

Visitors are welcome to enter the building through the Capitol Visitor Center, located underground on the east side of the Capitol. You can begin your Capitol experience at the Visitor Center by visiting our temporary exhibits, perusing our Gift Shops or dining in our Restaurant. Please review the U.S. Capitol prohibited items list before your visit.

Guides using translation devices lead foreign language tours each day. Tours in Mandarin and Spanish are offered at 8:40 a.m. Each tour is walk-up only (no advance reservations are accepted). Tours are limited to 50 visitors.

The Capitol Visitor Center, the main entrance to the U.S. Capitol, is located beneath the East Front plaza of the U.S. Capitol at First Street and East Capitol Street.

All visitors view the historic areas of the Capitol on a guide-led tour. The tour includes visiting the Crypt, the Rotunda, and National Statuary Hall. The tour does not include visiting the Senate and House Galleries, which require separate passes.

The Capitol Visitor Center welcomes visitors from across the United States and around the world. Identification is not required to enter the Capitol or to enjoy a tour.

All tours, programs and activities are free of charge.

 

What do you need to know?

Prohibited Items

Capitol visitor policies are designed to keep visitors and staff safe and secure and to preserve the collections, facilities, and historic building and grounds for generations to come.

Before entering the Capitol Visitor Center, all visitors are screened by a magnetometer and all items that are permitted inside the building are screened by an x-ray device. The following items are strictly prohibited in the Capitol, including the Capitol Visitor Center:

  • Liquid, including water
  • Food or beverages of any kind, including fruit and unopened packaged food
  • Aerosol containers
  • Non-aerosol spray (Prescriptions for medical needs are permitted.)
  • Any pointed object, e.g. knitting needles and letter openers (Pens and pencils are permitted.)
  • Any bag larger than 18" wide x 14" high x 8.5" deep
  • Electric stun guns, martial arts weapons or devices
  • Guns, replica guns, ammunition, and fireworks
  • Knives of any size
  • Mace and pepper spray
  • Razors and box cutters

Please note that the U.S. Capitol Police are authorized to make exceptions if a prohibited item is determined to be necessary and required to serve childcare, medical or other special needs. If you have questions, please call the Office of Congressional Accessibility Services at 202.224.4048.

The following restrictions apply only when visiting the House and Senate Galleries.

  • Battery-operated electronic devices (medical devices are permitted)
  • Cameras
  • Cans and bottles
  • Creams, lotions or perfume
  • Packages, briefcases, backpacks or suitcases
  • Strollers
  • Video recorders or any type of recording device

***Each Gallery operates a checkstand where visitors may store these items securely while they are visiting that Gallery.

***Smoking is not permitted anywhere in the Capitol, and food and drink are only allowed in the Capitol Cafe.

Visitors with Disabilities 

  • All public tours of the Capitol are accessible. The Office of Congressional Accessibility Services (OCAS) can provide tours specifically designed for visitors with disabilities. For information about these tours or any accessibility questions, please call OCAS at 202-224-4048.
  • Listening devices with audio description of the orientation film are available at the Information Desks in Emancipation Hall.
  • T-coil receivers for use on the tour are available after the conclusion of the orientation film. Request them from Capitol Visitor Center staff once you exit the theater. Standard assisted listening devices are also available. Visitors should check manufacturer product information if they are uncertain if their individual hearing aid is compatible with MyLink t-coil receivers.
  • An ASL tour of the Capitol is available here.
  • Sign language interpretation for tours is available when booked in advance. Email Interpreters@saa.senate.gov. All films have open captioning.
  • Family Restrooms are available throughout the Capitol Visitor Center.
  • Service animals are allowed in the Visitor Center and the Capitol.
  • A public TTY is located near one of the gift shops on the Upper Level.
  • Copies of all Capitol Visitor Center brochures in alternative formats (large print, braille, HTML) are available at the Information Desks.
  • Emergency evacuation information for visitors with disabilities is available here.
  • Additional information on accessibility in the Capitol and the House and Senate Office Buildings is available at the Architect of the Capitol's Web site here.
  • Both the Senate and House have accessible Galleries which include televisions with closed-captioning, as well as assistive listening devices (ALDs). In addition, the Senate has informational materials available in alternative formats.

Visitors Requiring Shuttle Service to the Capitol Visitor Center Entrance

For your convenience, the Capitol Visitor Center provides an on-demand shuttle service for individuals who use manual wheelchairs or who need mobility assistance. The shuttles run from the bus drop-off and pick-up areas on the West side of the Capitol to the Capitol Visitor Center entrance at the center of the Capitol’s East Plaza. They operate continuously, as needed, from 8:30am – 4:30pm, Monday – Saturday.

Advance reservations are not required for individuals or small groups. However, if you are traveling with a large group requesting mobility assistance, we strongly recommend that you contact the Office of Congressional Accessibility Services at 202.224.4048 prior to your visit. Please provide as much advance notice as possible to help facilitate your request.

Personnel in the kiosks can provide additional information about the service and call a shuttle for you if one isn’t already there. The west side kiosk is located near Independence Avenue and First Street SW, across from the U.S. Botanic Garden. The east side kiosk is located near East Capitol Street NE/SE and First Street NE/SE, across the street from the U.S. Supreme Court and the Library of Congress Jefferson Building.

Any CVC staff member in a red shirt, vest or jacket can also answer your questions about the shuttle service, as can staff in the Office of Congressional Accessibility Services, 202.224.4048.

Watching Congress in Session

The Senate and House Galleries are open to visitors whenever either legislative body is in session; however the Galleries are not included as part of the U.S. Capitol tour. Passes are required to enter the Galleries. Visitors may obtain Gallery passes from the offices of their senators or representative. International visitors may inquire about Gallery passes at the House and Senate Appointment Desks on the upper level of the Capitol Visitor Center.

When the House of Representatives is not in session, visitors with passes are admitted to the Gallery from 9 a.m. to no later than 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The last entry into the Gallery may be earlier than 4 p.m. based on demand. Visitors are advised to arrive prior to 4 p.m. for the best opportunity to view the Gallery. The House Gallery is closed on holidays and is subject to unplanned, temporary closures when the House is out of session.

The Senate Gallery is open during scheduled recesses of one week or more, and visitors are admitted to the gallery from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., Monday through Friday. On recess days, the Gallery closes at 4:30 p.m. The Senate Gallery is closed on weekends and holidays (unless the Senate is in session) and during any recess or adjournment of less than one week. For information on whether the Senate Gallery is open, please call 202.224.0057.

Entry to the House and Senate Galleries is through the upper level of the Capitol Visitor Center.

How do I get scheduled for a tour?

Click here to visit the U.S. Capitol's official page.