Congress Hall in Philadelphia
The sparse House of Representatives on the first floor (Lower House)—where the desks for 106 representatives from 16 states still sit—looks much as it did when it hosted John Adams’ inauguration in 1797. The second floor (Upper House), where the U.S. Senate met, is more elaborate, with deep green walls and fabric, a hand-loomed carpet bearing seals of the original 13 states, and oil portraits of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette bequeathed by the French.
Entry to Congress Hall is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. From March through December, visitors can only explore the building on a 20-minute guided tour. Although organized tours are not offered in January and February, park rangers are on hand to answer questions. Congress Hall is also a typical stop on history-themed walking tours of Philadelphia, which is a good way to get a broader picture of the city’s history.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Congress Hall is a must-visit for spontaneous history buffs—tickets are not required..
- The first floor of Congress Hall is accessible for those with mobility impairments; access to the second floor is via stairs.
- Visitors must pass through a security screening area.
How to Get There
Congress Hall is conveniently located in the center of Philadelphia, close to major attractions and hotels. After passing through the security screening area at 5th and Chestnut Streets, walk past Independence Hall and the Great Essentials to reach Congress Hall (near the corner of 6th and Chestnut Street).
When to Get There
The building is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Christmas Eve it closes 3 p.m. Congress Hall is closed on all major federal holidays except Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Veteran's Day. The hall is busiest with visitors from April through October—as it is not possible to book a visit in advance, try to arrive early during busy times.
Several landmark locations are within an easy walk from Congress Hall. They include Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and adopted; Betsy Ross House, believed to be where the seamstress lived when she sewed the first American flag, and Declaration House, where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.
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- Liberty Bell Center
- Independence Mall
- Philadelphia Old City Hall
- National Liberty Museum
- Library Hall (American Philosophical Society Museum)
- President's House
- Independence Visitor Center
- National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH)
- Washington Square Park
- Second Bank of the United States
- Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
- Dolley Todd House
- Carpenters' Hall
- New Hall Military Museum
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