Washington, D.C. is the capital of the United States, situated within the District of Columbia (abbreviated as "D.C."). The city and the district are located on the banks of the Potomac River and bordered by the states of Virginia (to the west) and Maryland (to the north, east and south). The city was planned and developed in the late 18th century to serve as the permanent national capital; the federal district was formed to keep the national capital distinct from the states. The city was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States. Columbia in this context is an early poetic name for the United States, a reference to Christopher Columbus, an early European explorer of the Americas. The city is commonly referred to as Washington, The District, or simply D.C. In the 19th century, it was called the Federal City or Washington City.
The centers of all three branches of the U.S. government are in the District. Also situated in the city are the headquarters for the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Development Bank, and other national and international institutions including labor unions and professional associations. Washington is the frequent location of political demonstrations and protests, large and small, particularly on the National Mall. Washington is a popular destination for tourists, the site of numerous national landmarks and monuments. A center of American history and culture, the world's largest museum complex (the Smithsonian Institution), galleries, universities, cathedrals, performing arts centers and institutions, and native music scenes.