4th St. and Constitution Ave. NE
HOURS: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.;
closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day
The collection of Western art in the National Gallery of Art is so large—more than 110,000 paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts objects—that it requires two buildings to house it.
The West Building, which contains artwork spanning the Middle Ages to the late 1800s, is the original, a 1941 neoclassical marble structure designed by John Russell Pope, architect of the Jefferson Memorial  and the National Archives , that features an immense dome with an oculus and towering interior garden courts.
It contains nearly 100 galleries filled with the world’s greatest works, including those by Dutch masters, American artists, French impressionists, and Renaissance geniuses. The only Da Vinci oil painting in the United States is here, Ginevra di’ Benci, as are two Raphaels, a bevy of Renoirs, a few Vermeers, and numerous Monets, Gaugins, and Van Goghs.
Across 4th Street NW is the East Building, a modern H-shaped wedge designed by I. M. Pei that showcases the museum’s collection of contemporary works, including those by Picasso, Matisse, Pollock, Mondrian, Miró, O’Keeffe, LeWitt, and more. A huge Alexander Calder mobile greets entrants to the building; wings hold galleries organized by artist or genre.
The two buildings are connected via an underground tunnel that is a favorite for youngsters, with a padded moving walkway that carries visitors through a groovy light show and feeds into a sunny cafeteria and gift shop. The coffee kiosk here is a personal favorite; nowhere else in DC can you enjoy top-shelf gelato and relax to the sounds of a rushing waterfall cascade surrounded by beautiful gifts and art.