Washington DC Travel & Information Guide
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Smithsonian Institute Building & Botanical Gardens


The Smithsonian Institution Building, better known as the Castle, is a Norman-style red sandstone building on the National Mall. It is the first Smithsonian building ever built, and now houses the Smithsonian Information Center.

James Renwick, the designer of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, also designed the Smithsonian Institution Building. Better known as the Castle, the building has come to symbolize the Smithsonian Institution itself. Completed in 1855, the Castle originally housed the entire Smithsonian Institution, including exhibits, research facilities, offices and even served as the home of the Institution’s secretary and his family.

Today, the Castle houses the Smithsonian Information Center where information on current Smithsonian exhibits is available. It is a good idea to start your tours of the Smithsonian at the Information Center. A short film describes the general layout of the Smithsonian, and displays give information on specific exhibits. Multilingual services are also available.

The Castle and Information Center open at 9 AM, an hour before the Museums open, so you can prepare your touring schedule without wasting valuable time. Planning in advance will allow you to make the most of the Smithsonian’s 15 museums and 140 million artifacts.

Behind the Castle is the Enid Haupt Memorial Garden. This beautiful 4-acre garden is notable for its beauty as well as its distinction as the largest rooftop garden in the world.

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