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“Spectacular in every way”

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Ranked #14 of 455 things to do in Washington DC
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 20 July 2014

The Basilica is the largest church in America, and one of the few American churches that really rivals the great European cathedrals in its size and splendor.

The Byzantine/Romanesque style with its massive pillars, round arches and mosaics is an interesting contrast to the National Cathedral's Gothic design with stained-glass windows.

The upper level is the main church, and is noteworthy for its soaring, painted domes and large mosaics. Both the upper level and lower level have many small chapels and oratories, each celebrating and sponsored by a different ethnic group or country (including chapels from Croatia, Slovenia, India, Ireland, Vietnam, Eastern Rite Catholics and African-American Catholics). Each chapel has unique statues and paintings celebrating the Saints and Catholic heritage of the people who sponsored it. Pope John Paul II prayed in the Polish chapel when he visited the Basilica shortly after becoming Pope.

It's a very lavish and ornate church, with marble and glittering stones everywhere. It feels so much like an old European Cathedral that it's almost surprising to see writing in English rather than Latin, Italian or French; only then do you remember that this church was only completed 60 years ago rather than centuries ago.

There's a one-hour guided tour, which gives a lot of detailed information about the Basilica and its artwork and meaning. Unfortunately, the guide kept emphasizing the need to rush and hurry and not delay in moving through the Basilica, which was needlessly stressful. I think this was mostly due to an unusually large crowd, though.

It's easy to spend more time than you anticipated here because there is so much to see, though an hour or two including the guided tour is certainly enough. There is even a small cafeteria and two large religious bookstores in the lower level, and parking is ample and free, which is a nice change from the usual situation around DC attractions.

1  Thank Brendan S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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894 - 898 of 1,616 reviews

Reviewed 19 July 2014

Just the sheer size of this Basillica will impress. It is absolutely beautiful. Don't miss touring the lower level as well. There is a crypt chapel that is impressive as well. Allow yourself at least 90 minutes and if you can go when tours are available, I highly recommend taking one. Our guide pointed out many things I wouldn't have noticed or known on my own

2  Thank 563kellyk
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 19 July 2014

What a truly beautiful experience to see such architecture in the US. The tile work is so striking. There is not one inch of the basilica that is not covered with tile, wood, or beautiful art work. It was truly a moving experience for all faiths.

1  Thank Anna G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 19 July 2014

Our visit to this Church was the highlight of a DC and NYC trip. If you are into architecture and art you will love this. We spent about 2 hours walking around and it was amazing the entire time. We didn't want to miss anything. You do not have to be Catholic to enjoy this church. The craftsmanship was top notch and the attention to detail was beyond belief.

1  Thank Cathy C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 19 July 2014

What a surprise! The docents are wonderful. You'll learn of the building of the Shrine and see fabulous pieces of art. Plenty of parking. Eat in the cafeteria.
Near Botanical Garden...also nice. And near Lincoln's Summer Home.

1  Thank Ronniejean
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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