The Pentagon on the banks of the Potomac is a building where the number 5 is of great importance. It is laid out in the form of a pentagram, with each side of the pentagon in turn consisting of five parallel rows of buildings, the so-called rings. Each of these rings in turn consists of five floors. This is how the characteristic shape is created. Another special feature is that – despite its imposing size – every point in the Pentagon can be reached from every floor in just seven minutes on foot.
The building has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1989 and has also had the status of one since 1992 National Historic Landmark inside. It is therefore worth paying a visit to the building when on vacation in and around Washington DC. However, due to the security measures in place for foreign visitors, getting inside is relatively expensive.
Activities in the Pentagon
The Pentagon is usually only viewed from the outside by vacationers from abroad. However, under certain conditions it is also possible to pass the main entrance and take part in guided tours through the characteristic sight and spend a few hours inside. In addition, on the banks of the Potomac you will find the concrete building itself, among other things, the “Pentagon Memorial” and the Pentagon Mall, a large shopping center that invites you to enjoy activities during your trip.
Guided tours of the Pentagon
Over 106,000 visitors take part in the year after year guided tours through the US Department of Defense. The tours last about 60 minutes and lead over a distance of over two kilometers through the building. During the tours, you can learn a lot about the four branches of the military and the armed forces. Also worth seeing are the memorial to the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks near the crash site and the associated memorial chapel. In the Hall of Heroes you will find the names of the heroes who have been awarded the Medal of Honor, but also a variety of other military exhibits.
Who can take tours of the Pentagon?
Anyone wishing to take a tour of the Defense Ministry’s headquarters should make a reservation in good time. Participation in the guided tours must be booked at least 14 days in advance. Reservations can be made 90 days in advance at the earliest. Experience has shown that the tours are quickly booked out. While US citizens can apply online, international visitors must apply for the tour through your home country’s embassy.
Those who have a Pentagon badge and escort privileges have the opportunity to show friends and family members through the building themselves. In this case the route is via the Pentagon Force Protection.
When do the tours take place?
The tours take place Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday from 12 a.m. to 4 p.m. No guided tours are offered on public holidays.
What do I have to expect when I visit the Pentagon?
The Pentagon is one of the most closely guarded places in the world. Access for employees is only possible with a corresponding ID. Strict safety regulations also apply to visiting the building as a tourist, which must be followed without exception. If this is not observed, tours can be canceled.
It is important to keep these rules in mind:
- You must arrive 60 minutes before the scheduled tour to allow time for the security clearance. If your group arrives late, the tour can be canceled. The security check also includes a scan, as is customary at airports. The main entrance is on the southeast side of the Pentagon.
- Upon arrival at the Pentagon Metro entrance, identification and a copy of the confirmation email must be presented. Expect your wallet to be searched.
- Avoid using anything that could theoretically injure someone. These include knives, pepper spray and similar items as well as large bags or rucksacks. Such items may not be taken into the building.
- Electronic devices such as mobile phones, cameras, video cameras and tobacco products may be taken into the building, but not used there. It is recommended not to take them with you. Since no photos are allowed to be taken anyway, it makes no sense to carry them through the corridors.
- Taking photos is not permitted inside or outside the Pentagon.
- You must not lag behind the other participants on the tour.
Note : The building on the Potomac is generally barrier-free and there are ramps for wheelchair users. However, physically handicapped people should visit the Pentagon with someone who can assist them if necessary.
The Pentagon Memorial
The Pentagon Memorial is a memorial on the banks of the Potomac, dedicated to the 184 people who died in the 9/11 attacks on the site. The Pentagon Memorial is located southwest of the Pentagon in Arlington.
The victims at this national memorial are commemorated by benches on which the age of the dead and their position at the time of the attack are noted. The benches in the memorial are arranged along an age line and designed so that the 77 victims who were on board the American Airlines flight are different from the people who worked at the Pentagon that day.
The individual benches in the memorial are surrounded by 85 curled myrtles (camp currents) and the “Age Wall”, which increases by one centimeter per year in relation to the age of the victims. A black granite stone commemorates the date and time of the plane crash and the purpose of the memorial.
The memorial is a bit away from the Pentagon. As there is limited parking here, it is advisable to take the metro to the Pentagon or Pentagon City station and walk the rest of the way.
The memorial is open to the public without restriction all year round. The public toilets at the entrance are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Photos may be taken at the Pentagon Memorial.
The Pentagon City Mall
If you need a little relaxation after visiting the Pentagon on your trip, you can Pentagon City Mall (official name: Fashion Center at Pentagon City) pay a visit. It is the largest closed shopping center in Arlington and houses the major department stores Nordstrom and Macy’s as well as over 100 smaller stores from various retailers. There are also countless restaurants to dine in the mall. From quick snacks to take away to sophisticated cuisine, nothing is left to be desired.
Must-see attractions near the Pentagon
- Washington DC: The capital of the USA has numerous renowned museums, world-famous monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial and, last but not least, famous landmarks such as the White House and the Capitol. Washington DC is a place where life pulsates and which also has a lot to offer those who want to experience more than just culture on vacation.
- Arlington National Cemetery: Arlington National Cemetery is one of the 139 national cemeteries in the United States. John F. Kennedy, General John J. Pershing, and William Howard Taft are buried here. The National Cemetery is less than four kilometers from the Pentagon.
- United States Air Force Memorial: The memorial, consisting of three towers, is also in Arlington, towers over the Pentagon and is right next to the National Cemetery. Visiting the attraction in Arlington is free daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Access is closed at Christmas.
- DEA Museum & Visitors Center: The Drug Enforcement Administration Museum and Visitors Center is under the Drug Enforcement Administration and is also located in Arlington. The purpose of the museum is to educate the public about the influence of drug addiction in the past and present. The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (excluding public holidays).
Getting to the Pentagon
- By metro: Take the yellow or blue line to the Pentagon stop.
- By rental car: There is no public parking at the Pentagon itself. If you are coming by car, it is best to park at the Pentagon City Mall and then take the pedestrian tunnel to the Pentagon.
The address is:
- 1400 Defense Pentagon
- Washington DC
The Pentagon has six postcodes. These zip codes are for the city of Washington, even though the building on the Potomac River is actually in Virginia.