Welcome to Washington
Europeans first arrived along the Potomac River in the 16th century and the area quickly became prosperous; tobacco brought vast wealth to the gentleman planters, and the abundance of slaves gave them ample time for leisure. After the revolutionary war Congress had to decide on the location of a new ‘Federal Town’. The 10 square miles (26 sq km) between Maryland and Virginia, which is now the District of Columbia, was finally selected for its strategic location between North and South.
French architect, Pierre L’Enfant, was chosen to plan the town, and as he pegged out streets 150 feet (46m) wide, and one grand avenue 400 feet (122m) wide and a mile long, the local landowners thought he’d gone mad – he was throwing away valuable land that could be used for farming! It was to take 50 years before Washington, DC (District of Columbia) took on the air and appearance of a capital city.
Today, Washington, DC with its low-profile skyline is a city of green parks and open spaces, grand buildings, historic landmarks, marbled monuments and impressive museums, with character-filled neighbourhoods that support a thriving cultural scene.
This thriving cosmopolitan city is an international hub of power and diplomacy, commanding the political centre stage for the world’s most powerful nation, and representing all the democratic ideals that the country takes pride in. Washington, DC was one of the targets of the terrorist attack on the USA on 11 September 2001, when a hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon, the heart of national and international security. Since then security has remained high around Washington’s key monuments and police checks at top city attractions have lent a sober air to this pleasant city.
After politics, tourism is the capital’s main industry. The city plays host to millions of people annually who come to explore famous sights such as the domed US Capitol, the stately White House, Lincoln Memorial and the soaring Washington Monument. The most well-known sights are located along the National Mall, a green park stretching from the US Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial on the Potomac River, and include several memorials to great US presidents of the past, as well as the outstanding museums of the Smithsonian Institute. Almost all major attractions are free.