Tourists ask this all the time.
It’s not from the top of the Washington Monument despite being the highest point in town. Ditto for the Old Post Office Pavillion or the National Cathedral. And while the porch at the Newseum is great for seeing Capitol Hill, all these points aren’t as good as two places across the Potomac River.
The best daytime view of Washington (above) is from the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. The whole town is layed out in front of you. The same essential view can be seen from nearby Arlington House. Both require a moment to catch your breath after climbing a steep hill, but it’s worth it.
The best nighttime view is from the nearby Netherlands Carillion between Arlington National Cemetery and the Iwo Jima memorial. You can line up the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol. The cemetery is closed at night so this is your best stop, though the Air Force Memorial on the other side of ANC is pretty good, too.
The most picturesque view from street level is M St. in Georgetown. Just a nice glimpse of the old days. But, Embassy Row along Massachussetts Ave. with its flags runs a close second. Of course, the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin is the best, but only lasts a week or so.
What are your favorites?