The Capitol is among the most architecturally impressive and symbolically important buildings in the world.
The Senate and the House of Representatives have met here for more than two centuries. Begun in 1793, the Capitol has been built, burnt, rebuilt, extended, and restored; today, it stands as a monument not only to its builders but also to the American people and their government.
Whether you are here to get information about an upcoming visit, to involve yourself in the workings of the Senate and House of Representatives, or to be inspired by two centuries of art and architecture, this site will be a gateway to your Capitol experience.
The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center is the newest addition to this historic complex. At nearly 580,000 square feet, the Visitor Center is the largest project in the Capitol's more than two-century history and is approximately three quarters the size of the Capitol itself. The entire facility is located underground on the east side of the Capitol so as not to detract from the appearance of the Capitol and the grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1874.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 the Exhibition Hall, perusing our Gift Shops or dining in our Restaurant.
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 child care, medical or other special needs. If you have questions, please call the Office of Congressional Accessibility Services at 202.224.4048.
The following items are not allowed in the Senate and House Galleries:
• Battery-operated electronic devices (medical devices are permitted)
• Cans and bottles
• Creams, lotions or perfume
• Packages, briefcases, backpacks or suitcases
• 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.
Also, note that smoking is not permitted anywhere in the Capitol, and food and drink are only allowed in the Capitol Visitor Center Restaurant.