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The PA State Capitol

The Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg is a priceless palace of art filled with opulent décor, brilliant paintings and statues, and centuries of commonwealth history.

Take a Free Tour

It's free to visit the Capitol building and take a guided tour while your expert escort points out the artistic and architectural highlights.First, a little bit of history. The Capitol building you see today was built to replace an old brick capitol building that burnt to the ground in 1897. Construction on the new Capitol occurred between 1902 and 1906 and cost $13 million. Our Capitol is considered to be the most ornate Capitol building in the United States. On October 4, 1906, President Teddy Roosevelt came to Harrisburg for the building’s dedication and was quoted, “It’s the handsomest building I ever saw.”

PA State Capitol Tour

Tour Details 30-minute guided tours  are offered every half hour Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 4 PM. Weekends and most holidays offer tours at 9 AM, 11 AM, 1 PM, and 3 PM. You can schedule a tour online or call the Tour Guide Office. Groups of 10 or more need to call ahead. During regular weekdays, you can take a self-guided tour with the aid of the  mobile app  or a self-guided brochure . Here are a few tips to keep in mind for your visit:

  • The Capitol is a working office building. Please use indoor voices and don’t run through the halls. 
  • Food and beverages are prohibited on the tour and in the Welcome Center.
  • Read the Capitol’s  security procedures  before you arrive. Confiscated items will not be returned.
  • You can take photos throughout the tour except when the Legislature is in session; however, no video or audio recordings are permitted in any room without prior approval.
  • When the Legislature is in session, you can watch the proceedings from the chamber galleries. These areas are open to the public, and seating is available on a first come, first served basis.
  • The Capitol tour, Welcome Center, and Capitol Gift Shop are  accessible  for individuals with special needs.
  • Street parking is available around the Capitol. Use the code LUVHBG on the Parkmobile app for four hours of free parking on Saturdays! For additional parking information, contact the  Harrisburg Parking Authority .
  • During regular weekdays there are four public entrances to the Capitol: East Wing Entrance at the Fountain, Main Rotunda Entrance at Third and State Streets, North Office Building on North Street (closes at 3 PM) and Irvis Office Building on Walnut Street (closes at 3 PM).
  • For more information, view the  Capitol’s FAQs .

  

Main Rotunda

Begin your tour in the breathtaking rotunda featuring a 52-million-pound dome that reaches 272 feet from floor to ceiling. The designer modeled the Capitol dome after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Atop the dome sits a 17-foot, 3-ton gilded bronze statue named Commonwealth.   

The staircase is made of Italian marble and modeled after the grand staircase of the Paris Opera House. The Moravian-tile floor, known as the carpet of history, is original to the building and contains nearly 400 pictures.

The Senate Chamber

Pennsylvania has 50 senators, and the Senate is presided over by the Lieutenant Governor. The desks in the chamber are the original desks, built in 1906 from mahogany from Belize. The marble around the bottom of the room is from Ireland, and the gold French velvet drapes in each window weigh 87 pounds a pair!  

The painting that spans the top of the room is called International Understanding, and the figure in the middle represents unity. The four vertical images in the front of the room represent our country’s turning points including “Creation of a Nation” depicting Revolutionary War times and “Preservation of a Nation” depicting Civil War times.

The House Chamber

Pennsylvania has 203 members of the House, presided over by the Speaker of the House. Unlike the Senate’s roll call voting, the House casts their votes electronically using a red or green button at their desk.  

The marble that wraps the bottom of the room is from the Pyrenees Mountains of France. The marble was donated to the Capitol by monks. Shortly after, their quarries closed and never reopened again. The painting in the center of the room, The Apotheosis of Pennsylvania, is the largest painting in the Capitol. The circular painting in the ceiling is called The Passage of Hours featuring 24 maidens for 24 hours of the day.  

The two small chandeliers weigh two tons each while the four larger ones weigh 4 and a half ton – that’s about the size of a male African elephant!

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court in Harrisburg is one of three in the state of Pennsylvania. Seven justices sit across the front of the oldest Supreme Court in the United States.  

Like the Senate and House chambers, the mahogany woodwork is original to the building. The beautiful green stained glass dome is the only one of its kind in the Capitol. Look up because the ornate chandeliers each contain a statue!  

This room is filled with beautiful paintings by Violet Oakley themed with “Law.” Above the doorway, you’ll find a unique and multilayered work depicting a woman’s portrait looking back at you and the words “Love, Law And Wisdom” intricately woven into the design. 

More Unique Features

  • The Pennsylvania Capitol building is unique because it houses all three branches of Government under one roof.
  • All the gold that you see in the Capitol is real, made of 23-karat gold leafing. However, it is unknown how much gold is really in the Capitol because they never kept track of it during installation!
  • The 24 stained glass windows in the Senate and House chambers represent early ideas, industries, sciences, and arts of Pennsylvania.
  • The brilliant paintings in the Senate Chamber, Supreme Court, and the Governor’s Reception Room are the handiwork of Miss Violet Oakley who was 28 years old when she was commissioned to paint for the Capitol in 1902. As you can imagine this was quite a privilege for a woman during this time. She completed 43 paintings throughout the Capitol, and it took her 25 years to complete her commission.
  • There are over 200 hand wound clocks throughout the Capitol Complex that are tended every seven days.

Interactive Welcome Center

History becomes hands-on in the Capitol’s  Interactive Welcome Center , open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Learn about Pennsylvania’s legislative processes then cast your vote! Stomp on trivia answers, turn wheels, pull levers, and touch screens to reveal something even Mom & Dad didn’t know about Pennsylvania!  

Capitol Shop & Restaurant

​ Commemorate your trip to our commonwealth with a gift or souvenir. The gift shop is open 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM on regular weekdays. If you’ve worked up an appetite, the Capitol Restaurant by C&J Catering offers a variety of delicious food in a cafeteria style. The restaurant is open for breakfast, 7:30 AM to 10:30 AM and lunch, 10:45 AM to 3 PM.

PA State Capitol Night

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Capitol Visitor Services

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  • Office of the Secretary
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Jill Fetter, Director B-1B Main Capitol Building Harrisburg, PA 17120 (717) 787-6810 or (800) 868-7672 www.pacapitol.com

The Capitol offers tour guide services to Members, staff and visitors to our beautiful Capitol. Guided tours of the Capitol can be scheduled online or by calling 787-6810 or (800) 868-7672. Guided tours are offered regular weekdays every half hour from 8:30 a.m. through and including 4:00 p.m.; weekends and most holiday tours are offered at 9, 11, 1 and 3. Due to construction and/or unforeseen emergencies, it is recommended you call ahead to confirm the schedule. The tour schedule is subject to change without notice. Groups of more than 10 people should be scheduled well in advance. Please note that most spring dates are booked before December 31 . Advance planning is highly recommended. Tours can be tentatively scheduled. Groups of less than ten usually can be accommodated without prior notice, except in the spring due to the large volume of school field trips.

Capitol Visitor Services also staff the Information Desks in the Main Rotunda, as well as the East Wing Rotunda, and maintain the modernized, educational and interactive Welcome Center and the Capitol Gift Shop .

visit harrisburg capitol building

You are invited to explore all things Pennsylvania by visiting the Welcome Center . Learn about Pennsylvania government -- and have fun in the process -- by reading, listening, touching and interacting with colorful, informative exhibits. The Welcome Center is located in the East Wing of the Capitol, and is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Welcome Center is a good first stop for visitors to Pennsylvania's Capitol. A series of educational displays explain, among other things, how laws are made - and even allow visitors to "vote" on legislation. Visitors can also find out who their representatives are in the Senate and the House. Please note, the Capitol and Welcome Center are accessible for individuals with special needs.

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Uncovering PA

Touring the Pennsylvania State Capitol: America’s Handsomest Building

Taking a tour of the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg.

Situated in the heart of downtown Harrisburg is a building once called by President Theodore Roosevelt the “handsomest building I ever saw”: the Pennsylvania State Capitol. If you’ve ever visited the city, it’s likely that you’ve seen this majestic building, or at least its green dome, standing out among the otherwise unremarkable skyline.

The capital of Pennsylvania was moved from Philadelphia to Lancaster in 1799, and then to Harrisburg in 1812. The first capital building burned to the ground in 1897 (though several of the Capitol’s columns still exist ), and the second was abandoned due to a lack of funding in 1899.

Finally, after four years of construction, the capitol building you see today was dedicated in 1906. However, it was another 21 years before all of the interior artwork was completed.

Best Places to Photograph in Harrisburg: State Street

Today, more than 100 years after its dedication, the Pennsylvania State Capitol building is still one of the “handsomest” buildings you’ll find in America. However, if you’ve only seen the outside of this majestic building, you’re missing out on the even more spectacular interior. This is definitely one of the most beautiful places in the city and a great place for photographers visiting Harrisburg .

I recently had the chance to the visit the capitol building for the first time in many years. Stepping through the giant bronze doors, I was instantly struck with how beautiful the inside of the building was. The rotunda dome towered more than 200 feet above my head and was painted with one of the most striking patterns I had ever seen. The painted and tiled murals that lined the walls near the dome created a feeling of grandeur and elegance that you usually only find in the most beautifully designed churches in Europe.

Touring the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

While it is possible to visit the Pennsylvania State Capitol building without a tour guide, I would highly recommend the free tours that they offer of the building. Since it is a working government building, there are no signs to tell you about the building’s history. And, while there is a brochure for self-guided tours, there is really no reason not to take one of the guided tours offered daily.

Tours of the building last roughly 30 minutes, and start under the capitol’s rotunda with a bit of information about the building and its construction. The guides are incredibly knowledgable about the building, even knowing where the tiles on the rotunda come from (the still operating Moravian Pottery and Tile Works in Doylestown, Pennsylvania ).

Some of the beautiful artwork inside the rotunda of the Pennsylvania State Capitol

Both rooms are quite exquisite, with large murals decorating each chamber, and old mahogany desks sitting on the floor below.

If you visit on a weekday, it’s also worth spending some time visiting the Capitol Welcome Center, which has more information about the entire Capitol complex, including the State Museum of Pennsylvania , and several interactive exhibits to help teach children more about the building.

Touring the PA State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed my tour of the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg . Having not been inside the building in many years, I had forgotten how remarkably beautiful it is, and I really enjoyed learning more about the capitol’s history. If you are planning a trip to Harrisburg , I would definitely recommend taking a bit of time to tour the Pennsylvania State Capitol. It’s definitely one of the best free things to do in Harrisburg .

Note: Guided tours are limited to 40 guests per session so reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 1-800-868-7672.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Tours

See map below for other area attractions.

Great places to stay near Harrisburg and Hershey

  • The Hotel Hershey - A classic and luxurious hotel
  • Hilton Harrisburg - Stay in the heart of Harrisburg
  • Londonderry Inn - A peaceful B&B near Hersheypark
  • Red Lion Hotel - The area's highest-rated hotel on Trip Advisor.
  • Econo Lodge - Great value with excellent reviews
  • Find more great places to stay on Airbnb!

Click the map to see more nearby things to do

Map of PA Dutch Country

More nearby places to explore

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Exploring the Whimsical Mr. Ed’s Elephant Museum near Gettysburg

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Tasting Tradition at Wacker Brewing Company in Downtown Lancaster

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Visiting the Reading Pagoda: Pennsylvania’s Japanese Oddity

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Visiting Cumberland County Historical Society Museum to Learn About Regional History

Find more things to do in pennsylvania dutch country.

Jim Cheney of UncoveringPA

Jim Cheney is the creator of UncoveringPA.com. Based in Carlisle near Harrisburg, Jim frequently travels around Pennsylvania and has visited, written about, and photographed all 67 counties in the state. He has also traveled to more than 30 different countries around the world.

2 thoughts on “Touring the Pennsylvania State Capitol: America’s Handsomest Building”

I can remember visiting the capital 50 years or so ago. it was definitely beautiful.

You should visit it again, Janelle. It’s still beautiful, and tours are free!

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Expert Explorers

Tips for Touring the Pennsylvania State Capital Building in Harrisburg

  • Post last modified: February 24, 2022
  • Post author: Nicole

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One of the most beautiful buildings in the nation, or “handsomest,” as President Roosevelt once said, is the Pennsylvania State Capital Building in Harrisburg.

A phenomenal site from the outside, topped with a dome modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the inside of the capital building is even more spectacular. Italian marble staircases, gold-leafed archways, stained glass windows, and Renaissance worthy murals made us feel as if we were transported back to Europe.

It’s an exciting place to tour and it’s completely free. If the Pennsylvania State Capital Building isn’t already on your must-see list, we are going to inspire you to add it.

PA State Capital Building Pinterest Image (1)

Table of Contents

Where to Stay in Harrisburg

Let’s start out with where to stay when visiting Harrisburg.

There are plenty of chain brands in and around the city; however, if you’re looking for something with a bit of character, let us introduce you to two fantastic choices. 

Booking.com - Book a Late Escape Deal and get 15% off

  • The City House B&B is only a 10-minute walk away from the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. However, it only has four rooms. With its good food, good value, free private parking, and central location, it books out quickly.
  • The Manor on Front Street is a magnificently restored historic stack-stoned building now made into a bed & breakfast. It’s a little further along the river, but also includes free parking. With only six suites, it also books out quickly.

How to Tour the Pennsylvania State Capital Building

Brightly colored domed ceiling, Pennsylvania State Capital Building, in Harrisburg

There are two ways to tour the Pennsylvania State Capital.

  • Free 30-minute guided tours usually run every half hour Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. On the weekends and most holidays, tours run at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., & 3:00 p.m. Though they do close on some holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Usually, group size is limited to 80 people (during Covid it has been set to 40 people).
  • Self-guided tours are only available on the weekdays, so the weekdays are the best time to go. Check in at the information desk to grab a self-guided brochure.

We recommend doing both. It’s the only way to see all the open public spaces.

Start your visit with the guided tour to get your bearings. This will give you access to a chamber you can’t go without a key. However, the tour doesn’t go everywhere, so you’ll want to explore on your own afterwards.

If you visit in spring, book your tour as early as possible (up to a year in advance). This is because it’s school field trip season and the capital is a popular place for field-trips.

Outside of spring, on a weekday, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting on a tour at last minute.

It’s important to note. To enter the Pennsylvania State Capital, you will need to go through security. Plan to arrive 15 minutes early for your tour just in case there is a line.

What Can I See on a Guided Tour?

View from third floor of central staircase, Pennsylvania State Capital Building, in Harrisburg

Guided tours start in the Main Capitol Rotunda . The tour guide will explain the history of the building and point out some very interesting details around the room.

Next, you’ll head upstairs. However, what you see on the tour really depends on what government bodies are in session.

On my first trip, the tour only visited the Senate Chamber, as both the House and Supreme Court were in session. However, on our most recent trip, none of the government was in session, so the tour visited three magnificent rooms. 

Senate Chamber

View through archway of senate chamber, Harrisburg State Capital Building, PA

In our opinion, this is the most beautiful room in public view. Every inch of the room is elaborately decorated, and you get a great view of it from the upstairs public gallery.

With so many details it’s hard to take them all in. However, the guides do a fantastic job explaining the paintings and pointing out some of the details you would likely miss.

For example, if you look at the lights, you’ll notice Xs in the center of the globe. This isn’t a special light bulb, but rather the diamond cut in the glass itself.

Dimond cut lights in chandelier hanging above the Senate Chamber, Pennsylvania State Capital Building, in Harrisburg

House Chamber

This is where the House of Representatives meet. As it needs to seat all 203 members, it’s huge!

Like the Senate Chamber, the House Chamber is covered in gold leaf, topped by elaborate murals, and surrounded with stunning stained-glass windows.  

House Chamber, Pennsylvania State Capital Building, in Harrisburg

Supreme Court Chambers

Hidden behind lock and key are the chambers of the Supreme Court. Dimly lit, the chamber glows from the stunning stained-glass dome above the room. Apparently, this dome is not visible from the outside. The only way to see it is from inside the chamber.

You can only view this room with a tour, but while it is not in session. It’s worth checking the Supreme Court calendar to make sure court will not be in session during your visit.

Supreme Court bench, Pennsylvania State Capital Building, in Harrisburg

What Can I See on a Self-Guided Tour?

With a self-guided tour of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building, you can visit both the Senate and House chambers , even if they are in session. However, gallery seating is first-come, first-served.

You can also visit the Governor’s Reception Room , the Senate Library , and the museum .

Before wandering around by yourself, we recommend downloading the PA Capitol App to your phone. It is free and full of information on each of the rooms. It even includes videos and maps on each area of the building.

Governor's Reception Room

Governors Office, Pennsylvania State Capital Building, in Harrisburg

The guided tour doesn’t stop in the Governor’s Reception Room, but you quietly can.

The room is surrounded in wood walls and has two fireplaces. The large golden lamp posts in the corners, make quite the impression. However, it’s the painted murals that caught our attention most.

Painted by Violet Oakley, around 1902, the murals tell the story of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania. The series is called, The Founding of the State of Liberty Spiritual . Oakley even traveled to England to do research for the paintings.

Senate Library

Senate Library, Pennsylvania State Capital Building, in Harrisburg

This small room deserves a quick peak. In addition to the cabinets of large reference books, there’s a small exhibit worth reading through.

After you’ve finished your tour, head downstairs to the small museum. There are a lot of interactive games aimed at children, but there are a few fun photo opportunities, including in front of the giant Lego “Commonwealth” statue (aka the lady on top of the PA Capital Building).

There are even a few nostalgic displays for those who grew up in the US. Anyone else remember Bill from School House Rock? Yup, maybe showing my age a little.

Bill from School House Rocks, Pennsylvania State Capital Building, in Harrisburg

Outside the Pennsylvania Capital Building

Before leaving be sure to go out the east exit to get a fantastic view of the fountain and State Street Bridge. We thought the west side was stunning, until we saw this.

Depending on the day you visit, you may not be able to re-enter from the east entrance. Though it’s worth walking around the building for the gorgeous views.

fountain with capitol in the background as seen from the East wing of the Pennsylvania State Capital Building, in Harrisburg

Where to Eat in Harrisburg

  • The Pennsylvania State Capital Building has a cafeteria onsite , not far from the little museum. I ate there the first time I visited. Though it has a limited menu, the food isn’t bad.
  • On this trip we tried Alicia’s Deli Restaurant for lunch. They mostly do burgers and sandwiches. Everything was good and the facilities were really clean.

More Travel Guides You May Find Useful

  • 10 Things To Do in the Heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country
  • 16 Foods To Try in Pennsylvania Dutch Country
  • Day Trip To Philadelphia: 10 Things First Time Visitors Must Do
  • What Can You Do At Valley Forge National Historical Park?
  • Full list of Pennsylvania Travel Guides

We recommend and use these companies to arrange our travel plans; they make travel planning easy and affordable. If you have questions on our experiences, feel free to ask us !

  • Book Flights: Skyscanner
  • Book Accommodation: Booking.com
  • Book Rental Cars: Rentalcars.com
  • Buy Travel Gear: Amazon

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Touring the Beautiful Pennsylvania State Capitol Building

November 4, 2021

President Theodore Roosevelt once remarked that the Pennsylvania State Capitol was the "handsomest building [he] ever saw". As you drive into Harrisburg and catch site of the gleaming gilded bronze dome, you'll be intrigued. However, once you enter this opulently-designed capitol for the free tour, you'll quickly realize why the president made such a claim. Let me show you why PA's beautiful capitol is a must-see building on your next East Coast road trip!

This post contains affiliate links which means I receive a small commission if you purchase something using the links. This won’t cost you anything extra but helps keep this blog going. Thank you for your support!

Where is Harrisburg, PA?

Although many people incorrectly think of Philadelphia as the capital of Pennsylvania, it is not. Instead, Harrisburg, a small city a couple hours west of Philly in Central Pennsylvania, holds that distinction. 

Situated along the Susquehanna River, Harrisburg feels to me more like a charming small town than a capital city. Over the past several years, the downtown core has been revitalized and is home to several good restaurants, a Central Market, plus the Pennsylvania State Capitol.

Where to Stay near the PA State Capitol

If you're staying in Harrisburg for a couple nights, I highly recommend staying in downtown close to the State Capitol Building. It's a vibrant section of town near many restaurants and bars, coffee shops, historic buildings, plus a scenic river trail. 

Use the map below to start your search for fantastic accommodations in Harrisburg, PA.

Before You Visit the Pennsylvania State Capitol

As you plan your trip to Harrisburg, here are a few things to keep in mind to help you decide the best time for you to visit the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building.

Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, PA

Opening Hours and Tour Options

Regular weekdays - guided tour or self-guided tour.

On regular weekdays, the PA State Capitol Building is open to the public from 8:30 am - 4:30 pm. During this time, they offer guided tours every 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can wander around the Capitol at your leisure following the self-guided tour. 

Since we preferred a self-guided tour, I'm glad we visited the capitol on a weekday afternoon. On the day we visited, however, we only saw a few people on the guided tours. If we'd chosen that option, we would've been in a small group.  

Self-Guided Tour - Download the Pennsylvania Capitol App

If you're planning to take a self-guided tour, be sure to download the Pennsylvania Capitol App before your visit. It's easy to use and includes most of the information provided on the guided tour. 

PA State Capitol App

Pro Tip:  The Supreme Court is only accessible on the guided tour so even though you can read about it on the app, you cannot actually go inside on your own.

Weekends & Holidays - Guided Tours Only 

On weekends and holidays, you must join a guided tour in order to tour the State Capitol. Weekend tours are only offered a few times per day (9 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm) and are capped at 40 people per tour.

In order to secure a spot, you should consider  booking your free guided tour of the PA State Capitol online in advance . 

Is the PA General Assembly in Session?

If you'd like to see a session of the General Assembly during your visit, then be sure to check whether they will be in session. You can check their schedule on the PA General Assembly website .

While you are allowed to watch a session from the public viewing areas above the chambers, you are not allowed to take photos while the Legislature is in session.

As you'll see, I took many photos, which meant the General Assembly was not in session during our visit.

About the Pennsylvania State Capitol

Designed by architect Joseph Miller Huston, the Pennsylvania State Capitol cost 13 million (US) dollars to build and was finished on October 4, 1906. Designed in the American Renaissance style, Huston envisioned the Capitol to be a "palace of the arts". As such, he commissioned the finest artists to create beautiful murals, stained-glass windows, and other fine pieces which adorn the Capitol.

Today, this state capitol building is the functional seat of government, in which laws are passed, for the state of Pennsylvania.

Free Tour of the Pennsylvania State Capitol

Once you've arrived in Harrisburg, head towards the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building at the intersection of Third and State Streets* to start your free tour.

*Although on weekdays, visitors can enter the capitol through several entrances, on weekends this is the only entrance open.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg

Parking Tips:  In downtown Harrisburg, you'll find plenty of street parking and parking garages. Visit Park Harrisburg to find more information. If you download the parking app to pay, you may also be able to receive a few hours of free street parking around the Capitol on Saturdays by using the code LUVHBG. 

Capitol Welcome Center

After you've gone through security to enter the Capitol, you can start your tour right away. Or, if you'd like to learn more about the Pennsylvania government and its legislative process, I recommend visiting the interactive Welcome Center first. 

The Welcome Center is located in the East Wing of the Capitol and is only open Monday - Friday from 8:30 am - 4:30 pm.

Overview of the Self-Guided Tour

As I mentioned previously, we decided to guide ourselves around the PA State Capitol using the app. We enjoyed the self-guided tour option that the app provided because it allowed us to take our time in each room. This way, I could take a million photos without disturbing a tour guide or others in the group. 

The tour of the Pennsylvania State Capitol is comprised of five main parts. To give you an idea of what to expect, I'll share a brief overview of our self-guided tour.

1) Main Rotunda

When you enter the Capitol, the first thing you'll see is the incredible Rotunda. Modeled after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the 272-ft high, 52-million pound dome will take your breath away.

And perhaps the staircase looks familiar? That's because it was inspired by the famous staircase at the Paris Opera House (Palais Garnier).

Rotunda at the Pennsylvania State Capitol

Looking up in the Rotunda

Turn your eyes upward to the dome's interior and you'll find several paintings by Edwin Austin Abbey, an American muralist, illustrator, and painter.

Abbey designed the small medallions to represent art, law, religion, and science. While the four larger murals represent Pennsylvania's primary industries in the early 1900s. Coal, oil, and steel are represented in three murals, plus another depicts William Penn's ships coming to the New World. 

Abbey Paintings at the PA State Capitol

If you're using the app, be sure to click into each section - Stairs, Artwork, Lighting, etc. - for details on each design feature.

2) Senate Chamber

Next on the tour is the Senate Chamber. If you're using the app, click at the bottom where it says "Continue Tour: Senate Chamber". A map pops up directing you how to get to the next part of the tour.

The Senate meets in the Senate Chamber. In Pennsylvania, there are 50 State Senators, who serve a four year term. The Lieutenant Governor, who presides over the Senate, sits at the front of the room. 

Pennsylvania Senate Chamber at State Capitol

When we opened the door and entered the Senate Chamber, I had flashbacks to touring palaces in Europe upon seeing the grandiose décor of the room.

Key Features of the Pennsylvania Capitol Senate Chamber

A few things immediately catch your eye as you gaze around the room. Beautiful Belize mahogany desks date back to 1906 and paintings by Violet Oakley are featured prominently around the room. In total, Violet Oakley painted 43 murals for the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building, which took her 25 years to complete.

Violet Oakley Paintings in Senate Chamber of PA State Capitol

Around the room, you'll notice ten beautiful stained-glass windows, which Philadelphia native William Brantley Van Ingen designed. These murals represent the early ideas and industries of Pennsylvania. Each window is 200 pounds and 4 feet in diameter. Even on a cloudy day, the windows are stunning.

Railroad stained-glass by William Brantley Van Ingen

3) Supreme Court

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which is the oldest in the U.S., meets in this room to decide questions of state constitutionality.

Key Features of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Unfortunately because we did not take the guided tour, we were unable to view the inside of the Supreme Court. This is one drawback to doing the tour on your own. Despite missing this room on our self-guided tour, I read on the app that in this room you'll find more paintings by Violet Oakley. 

In addition, the Supreme Court chamber contains the only stained-glass dome in the Capitol. Completed by Alfred Goodwin, this dome cannot be seen from the outside - one reason to hop on a guided tour!

4) House Chamber

The House of Representatives meets in the House Chamber. Pennsylvania has 203 members in the House, who serve a two year term. The Speaker of the House is the oldest elected office in Pennsylvania and this person is voted into office by his or her peers.

Pennsylvania House Chamber at State Capitol

Key Features of the Pennsylvania Capitol House Chamber

Inside the House Chamber, you'll once again see works by Edwin Austin Abbey which dominate the front of the room. Abbey's "The Apotheosis" is located directly behind the Speaker's podium. It features explorers and various leaders from the Pennsylvania's past. At the center of the painting is William Penn, a Quaker who founded the colony that would become Pennsylvania, with Benjamin Franklin (in blue) at his side.

Abbey mural in House Chamber at PA State Capitol

Edwin Austin Abbey's "The Apotheosis"

As in the Senate Chamber, William Brantley Van Ingen designed the stained-glass windows that adorn the room. The small chandeliers in the room each weigh 2 tons and the larger ones weight 4.5 tons - the size of a large male African elephant. Can you imagine sitting below those things?!    

Stained-glass windows and chanedelier in House Chamber

5) Senate Library of Pennsylvania

To finish up the tour, stop by the Senate Library. This library has served as the major source of information for this institution for over two hundred years. As visitors, you cannot check out any books, but it's fun to take a quick look to see the library.

Senate Library at PA State Capitol

Pennsylvania State Capitol Exterior

Once you've finished touring the inside of the Capitol, be sure to stroll around Capitol Complex. From the outside, you'll be able to fully appreciate the impressive gilded bronze dome. 

Pennsylvania War Veterans' Memorial Fountain at State Capitol

Around the complex, you'll also find various monuments and statues commemorating various historical figures and events. Use this brochure on Landmarks of Pennsylvania's Capitol Complex to help guide you around the premises.

Hartranft Statue at PA State Capitol

Underground Railroad Monument

As we walked around the Capitol, I noticed another monument that's worth a stop (not in the brochure). On Walnut Street, you'll find a group of statues which mark the location of Tanner's Alley, an important area of the Underground Railroad in the 1850s.

Underground Railroad Monument, Harrisburg, PA

Final Thoughts

After our tour of the Pennsylvania State Capitol, I highly recommend a visit - especially for architecture, art, or history buffs. Not only is the building itself impressive but the works by various American artists inside are worth the trip alone. Plus, it's a great free activity for a visit to Harrisburg, PA!

Have you toured any of the U.S. state capitol buildings? How does the Pennsylvania State Capitol compare? Let me know in the comments below.

Other Articles You Might Enjoy

If you're planning a trip to Pennsylvania, you might also find these articles helpful:

  • Beautiful Drive to Historic Covered Bridges in Lancaster County, PA
  • 14 Unique Places to Stay in Lancaster, PA
  • 12 Fun Things to Do in Harrisburg, PA

Happy travels!

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Touring the Beautiful Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg, PA

The one time we got to Harrisburg, we didn’t have time to visit the state capital. Really regretting that now! What a beautiful building. We definitely need a return visit!

That happens to me so often on trips as well – running out of time to visit the inside of buildings. I hope you’ll be able to return to Harrisburg one day to visit the Capitol building. It’s definitely worth a visit.

I must admit we have spent a lot of time walking around state (and provincial) capitals and enjoying the grounds and architecture. But we have not been inside. Sometimes it is opening hours and sometimes the time we planned for our visit. So it was great to see your visit to the Pennsylvania State Capitol. Good to know there is an app to download in advance. We need to get better at checking for that before we visit spots. Definitely a beautiful building.

Thanks for reading, Linda. We usually do the same thing and only walk around the outside of the state capitols. My brother-in-law lives in Harrisburg and highly recommended we visit. He talked it up so much that we had to go inside and we weren’t disappointed.

Becky, I can’t believe how colorful the PA State Capital is. Love the stained-glass windows and Senate Chamber. The most magnificent section would have to be the Rotunda and staircase. I also enjoyed the Underground Railroad sculpture. Stunning!

Thanks for reading, Tom! It was hard to know which room I liked best in the PA State Capitol – so many magnificent works to enjoy.

Great information and post. Awesome

Thanks so much for reading! Glad you enjoyed it.

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Pennsylvania State Capitol

visit harrisburg capitol building

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visit harrisburg capitol building

  • Harrisburg Transportation Center • 7 min walk

visit harrisburg capitol building

Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

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Pennsylvania State Capitol, Harrisburg

Book a Tour

Reservations are recommended .

The Capitol Visitor Center is open Monday-Saturday from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tours begin every 10 minutes until 3:20 p.m. All tours are led by our professional tour guides and visit the  Crypt , the  Rotunda  and  National Statuary Hall . The tour does not include the  Senate and House Galleries . The tour route is subject to change.

Reservations are recommended, but not required. Visit the  schedule a tour  page to select a day/time for a reservation. Same day passes may be available. Visitors without reservations are encouraged to arrive at the Capitol Visitor Center as early in the day as possible, but no later than 2:30 p.m., to obtain passes.

All tours, programs and activities are free of charge.

Visitors enter through the Capitol Visitor Center, located underground on the east side of the Capitol. Please leave time to go through security and review the U.S. Capitol’s  prohibited items list  before your visit.

You can begin your Capitol experience at the Visitor Center by visiting Exhibition Hall , perusing our Gift Shops or getting a bite to eat at the Capitol Cafe.

For information on tours offered in Mandarin and Spanish, please view the Foreign Language Tours page.

How Do I Cancel My Reservation?

You can cancel your reservation through your account in the Capitol Visitor Center’s online reservation system.

Go to  https://tours.visitthecapitol.gov  (A new page will open.)

Beneath the blue banner reading “Reserve a Tour of the Capitol,” click on the link to log in. (A sign in/signup dialog box will open.)

In the sign in section, log in with your email address and password.

Search for reservations by clicking “More” in the “My Reservations” tab.

Once you have located your reservation, click the link to “Cancel.”

People in hall

visit harrisburg capitol building

Harrisburg, PA Region: Dutch Country Roads

The capital of our Commonwealth, Harrisburg is situated along the banks of the Susquehanna River. The ornate dome of the Capitol dominates the skyline; when the structure was dedicated in 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt said, "It's the handsomest building I ever saw." Visitors can tour this historic structure and marvel at its sheer size: the structure covers five and a half acres. The Rotunda, a copy of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, rises 272 feet. Visitors can also take in performances at the Harrisburg Shakespeare Festival, attend a Harrisburg Senators baseball game, or check out the Susquehanna Museum of Art. Every year, the Pennsylvania Farm Show delights 400,000 locals and tourists with exhibits, competitions, and plenty of food. It is the largest indoor agricultural event in the country.

More adventures in Dutch Country Roads

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New & Improved: The Age of Convenience in the Home

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The Pennsylvania Capitol

Plan a visit.

  • Video Tours
  • The General Assembly

Visit The Capitol

Everything you need to know about visiting the Capitol.

Book a Tour

Book a guided tour of the beautiful PA State Capitol building.

Visitor Services

Just have a question? Look no further. We're here to help.

Download Our Free Mobile App!

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Watch Pennsylvania General Assembly sessions live

Capitol Tours :

Due to the impending snow storm Friday, February 16th into Saturday, February 17th, the 9:00am and the 11:00 am Capitol Tours are cancelled. 

Sorry for any inconvenience. Safe Travels.

Your safety is important to us. We ask that you comply with the following guidelines.

Tours fill quickly. We recommend scheduling in advance.  Walk-ins are welcome according to availability.

Arrive 15 minutes prior to your tour time and check in with the guide at the information desk.

Our tours are limited to 40 guests total per tour. Book your tour online at www.pacapitol.com. You may now book one year in advance.

As a reminder self- guided tours are not   permitted weekends and holidays.

Sincerely, the Capitol Tour Guides.

The Pennsylvania State Capitol building is a functional seat of government, where laws are passed and the public policy is set for over 12 million residents of Pennsylvania. Visitors are welcome to explore the Capitol Building at their leisure, on regular weekdays. Leave plenty of time to visit our Interactive Welcome Center and Capitol Gift Shop .

Tours are limited to 40 people total per tour. Groups with more than 40 people will require multiple tour times. Please schedule accordingly

Visitors must use the public entrances - East Wing Entrance at the Fountain on Commonwealth Avenue (also the handicapped entrance), and the Main Rotunda Entrance at Third and State Streets ( view map ). For more on security at the Capitol, please click here .

Parking/Directions

Located in center-city Harrisburg, there are many ways to get to the Capitol and several parking opportunities.

Interactive Welcome Center

We invite you to explore all things Pennsylvania by visiting the Interactive Welcome center, located in the East Wing, at the Capitol. Open regular weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Senate Library Exhibits

Journey from the Senate of the past to the Senate of today through these exhibits.

Capitol Events

Find out the latest on what's going on at the Capitol.

The Capitol Complex

The Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex is comprised of the buildings owned by the Commonwealth and are centered around the Capitol in Harrisburg.

Capitol Shop

When visiting Pennsylvania's Capitol, be sure to stop by The Pennsylvania Capitol Shop, located off the East Wing Rotunda. The Capitol Gift Shop is open 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. (regular Weekdays)

Capitol Guided Tours

Take a free tour guided by one of our Capitol History specialists.

Watching Session

Information for watching House or Senate session.

Capitol Tour Etiquette

Things to keep in mind while touring the Capitol.

Accessibility Services

Information on wheelchair and handicapped parking availability.

Area Attractions

As you plan your visit to the Pennsylvania State Capitol, be sure to consider other local attractions.

Where to Eat

The Capitol Restaurant is a cafeteria style eatery located on the concourse level of the East Wing.

Touring Tips

Some tips and hints to get the most of your Capitol touring experience.

Keystone Classroom

Information and printable publications that you may find helpful, whether you're planning to visit the Capitol or teaching Pennsylvania history.

Maps of the Capitol Building and Capitol Complex

Frequently Asked Questions

Some answers to the most commonly asked questions.

What our visitors are saying?

I am thrilled to see that you have a video tour so I can share the link with my students since they are missing their field trip due to the quarantine. I was also delighted to hear Tammy's voice on the video. Please let her know that she is our absolute favorite tour guide (I've been to the Capitol for tours over 20 times!) and she does a fantastic job speaking clearly and including all of the amazing facts that the Capitol has to offer. Thank you so much for giving our students to opportunity to see your amazing building and learn about our state's history and Capital. 4 years ago

This is a stunningly beautiful building. 5 years ago

An amazing piece of architecture. Be sure to check it out. 5 years ago

The architecture in the senate and house chambers is incredible. Worth taking the tour. 5 years ago

Very nice Capitol! Decked out In 24k gold, very opulent. Definitely recommend coming here and taking a tour, they are free but very detailed. 5 years ago

The capitol building is absolutely beautiful! I took my five-year-old son and he also enjoyed it. We walked around a bit on our own, but also went on the short (30 mins) guided tour. The tour guide was very knowledgeable. My son was a big fan of the Welcome Center downstairs in the East Wing. I look forward to going back. 6 years ago

A great place to visit when in Harrisburg. 6 years ago

History, art, architecture and learning how government works combine to make a memorable and worthwhile experience, 7 years ago

Beautiful building, free tour, friendly staff. 7 years ago

WHTM Harrisburg

Capitol building steps vandalized during ‘unauthorized demonstration,’ officials say

H ARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM)– An investigation is underway after part of the Capitol Building was vandalized Tuesday, according to state officials.

A spokesperson for the state wrote in a statement that there was an “unauthorized demonstration” held by a group of people and someone put food coloring on the snow-covered steps.

“On February 13th, approximately 30 individuals held an unauthorized demonstration without a permit on the front steps of the Capitol Building,” the statement reads. “One individual admitted to pouring food coloring on the snow-covered steps. The organizers were made aware that they would be responsible for the cost of the clean-up and any permanent damage.”

The person who poured the food coloring could face charges but that is determined by the outcome of the investigation, according to the spokesperson.

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There also was no exact monetary amount regarding the damages as that is still being assessed.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to ABC27.

Capitol building steps vandalized during ‘unauthorized demonstration,’ officials say

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COMMENTS

  1. Things To Do Harrisburg

    Enjoy everything Harrisburg has to offer with a wide range of tours & activities. Full refund available up to 24 Hours before your tour date. Quick & easy purchase process.

  2. Plan a Visit

    Plan a Visit. The Pennsylvania State Capitol building is a functional seat of government, where laws are passed and the public policy is set for over 12 million residents of Pennsylvania. ... A great place to visit when in Harrisburg. 6 years ago History, art, architecture and learning how government works combine to make a memorable and ...

  3. Pennsylvania State Capitol

    t o P A C a p i t o l . c o m Your source for information on the Pennsylvania State Capitol. Discover the beauty and architecture of the State's Capitol Complex. Plan a Visit Visit our New Interactive Welcome Center Fun for the entire family! Learn More

  4. Capitol Guided Tours

    Capitol Tour Guides are available to point out the architectural and artistic highlights, and to make the Capitol's history come alive for you. Guided tours of Pennsylvania's Capitol are offered every half hour Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Weekends and most holidays tours are offered at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., & 3:00 p.m.

  5. Book a Tour of the Capitol

    Contact Capitol Visitor Services Commonwealth Avenue, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Phone: 1-800-868-7672 E-mail: Send us a Message Twitter: @PaCapitolTours Facebook: @PaCapitolTours Gift Shop Hours: 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. regular weekdays

  6. The PA Capitol Complex

    Originally comprising 15 acres, from the lands of John Harris Jr. and U.S. Senator William Maclay, the remaining 29 acres were added when the state bought Harrisburg's Eighth Ward. Architect Arnold Brunner designed the current layout which includes the North Office Building, Irvis Office Building, Forum and Finance buildings and Soldiers' Grove.

  7. State Capitol Building

    During regular weekdays there are four public entrances to the Capitol: East Wing Entrance at the Fountain, Main Rotunda Entrance at Third and State Streets, North Office Building on North Street (closes at 3 PM) and Irvis Office Building on Walnut Street (closes at 3 PM). For more information, view the Capitol's FAQs.

  8. Secretary of the Senate

    Capitol Visitor Services Capitol Visitor Services Jill Fetter, Director B-1B Main Capitol Building Harrisburg, PA 17120 (717) 787-6810 or (800) 868-7672 www.pacapitol.com The Capitol offers tour guide services to Members, staff and visitors to our beautiful Capitol.

  9. Frequently Asked Questions

    North Office Building on North street (closes at 3:00 p.m.) Irvis Office Building off of Walnut street (closes at 3:00 p.m.) Weekends and most holidays, all visitors must use the main entrance, unless the handicapped entrance is needed. Please pre-arrange by calling 1-800-868-7672. Back to Top

  10. Visit the Capitol Complex

    Capitol Rotunda - Main Entrance 7:00 am - 6:00 pm

  11. Touring the Pennsylvania State Capitol: America's Handsomest Building

    Situated in the heart of downtown Harrisburg is a building once called by President Theodore Roosevelt the "handsomest building I ever saw": the Pennsylvania State Capitol. If you've ever visited the city, it's likely that you've seen this majestic building, or at least its green dome, standing out among the otherwise unremarkable skyline.

  12. Tips for Touring the Pennsylvania State Capital Building in Harrisburg

    Free 30-minute guided tours usually run every half hour Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. On the weekends and most holidays, tours run at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., & 3:00 p.m. Though they do close on some holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Usually, group size is limited to 80 people (during Covid it has been set to 40 people).

  13. Touring the Beautiful Pennsylvania State Capitol Building

    On regular weekdays, the PA State Capitol Building is open to the public from 8:30 am - 4:30 pm. During this time, they offer guided tours every 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can wander around the Capitol at your leisure following the self-guided tour. Since we preferred a self-guided tour, I'm glad we visited the capitol on a weekday afternoon.

  14. Pennsylvania State Capitol, Harrisburg

    Weekends and most holidays tours are offered at 9:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM. The Capitol is closed for tours New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Schedule subject to change without notice. Tour the Capitol when you are "tour'n PA" by calling the Tour Guide Office 1 - 800 - TOUR N PA (868-7672).

  15. Pennsylvania State Capitol

    N 3rd St Harrisburg, PA 17120 Welcome Center Hours: Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM Pennsylvania State Capitol Built in 1906 by Philadelphia architect Joseph Huston, the Pennsylvania State Capitol located in downtown Harrisburg is a symbol of freedom and democracy.

  16. Book a Tour

    Book a Tour Reservations are recommended The Capitol Visitor Center is open Monday-Saturday from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tours begin every 10 minutes until 3:20 p.m. All tours are led by our professional tour guides and visit the Crypt, the Rotunda and National Statuary Hall. The tour does not include the Senate and House Galleries.

  17. Pennsylvania State Capitol

    The Pennsylvania State Capitol is the seat of government for the U.S. state of Pennsylvania located in downtown Harrisburg which was designed by architect Joseph Miller Huston in 1902 and completed in 1906 in a Beaux-Arts style with decorative Renaissance themes throughout.

  18. Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex

    Sticky Preserving Artistic and Historical Treasures At the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building complex, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the 272-foot, 52 million-pound capitol dome glistens with Vermont granite. It's topped with a green-glazed terra cotta tile roof and inspired by Michelangelo's design for St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

  19. Harrisburg

    The capital of our Commonwealth, Harrisburg is situated along the banks of the Susquehanna River. The ornate dome of the Capitol dominates the skyline; when the structure was dedicated in 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt said, "It's the handsomest building I ever saw." Visitors can tour this historic structure and marvel at its sheer size: the structure covers five and a half acres. The ...

  20. The Capitol Building

    Visit The Capitol. Everything you need to know about visiting the Capitol. Book a Tour. Book a guided tour of the beautiful PA State Capitol building. Visitor Services. Just have a question? Look no further. We're here to help. ... Harrisburg, PA Pennsylvania; Phone: 1-800-868-7672 E-mail: Send us a Message

  21. Capital of Pennsylvania: 8 Reasons Harrisburg Belongs on Travelers' Lists

    8 Reasons to Visit Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 1. Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. View this post on Instagram. A post shared by Lord Mark Burkhalter (@fromanmark) Whenever you visit a capital city, one of the first things you have to do is visit its capitol building. Located in the sprawling Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex, the ...

  22. Plan a Visit

    Plan a Visit. The Pennsylvania State Capitol building is a functional seat of government, where laws are passed and the public policy is set for over 12 million residents of Pennsylvania. ... A great place to visit when in Harrisburg. 6 years ago History, art, architecture and learning how government works combine to make a memorable and ...

  23. Visit Harrisburg For Tour of Historic Capitol Building

    Guided tours of the Capitol building are offered weekdays from 8:30am-4:30pm, and in two-hour increments on the weekends from 9:00am-4:00pm. Self-guided tours are also available during weekdays.

  24. Capitol building steps vandalized during 'unauthorized ...

    HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM)- An investigation is underway after part of the Capitol Building was vandalized Tuesday, according to state officials. A spokesperson for the state wrote in a statement ...