The impressive Reichstag building rises up above Berlin, and is deservedly the most visited landmark in the city. The eclectic mix of different architectural styles has drawn both praise and criticism, but no one can deny that the building stands out. The Reichstag building has had a turbulent history, just like the rest of Berlin, and today it is the seat of the German parliament once again.
About the Reichstag
The famous glass dome atop the Reichstag. Image Andos_pics via Flickr
The Reichstag was planned in 1884 as the house of parliament by Emperor Wilhelm I, but it took ten years to be built, and his grandson, Wilhelm II, was the one who oversaw its completion. Wilhelm II wasn’t a big fan of giving power to the people, but in 1916 he finally agreed to have the iconic phrase “To the German People” carved onto the Reichstag building. the building was destroyed in the Second World War, captured by Soviet troops, and abandoned during the years when Berlin was divided. In 1991, the German parliament voted to reinstate Berlin as the German capital, and to move the parliament back to the Reichstag.
The new Reichstag building kept the historic facade, and added a glass dome instead of the steel-and-glass cupola destroyed in the war. The architect of the renovated building, Norman Foster, was instructed to protect the history of the building, and so you can find Soviet graffiti scrawled on the walls in some parts of the building, with messages such as “Hitler kaput”. As well as providing a magnificent view of the city, the dome cleverly tracks the movement of the sun, and stops the sunlight dazzling the people in the building. The whole building is extremely energy efficient, with ecological generators providing electricity and light, and heating the building in the winter and cooling it in the summer.
The impressive Reichstag Building. Image rosshuggett, via Flickr
Visiting the Reichstag
The Reichstag dome is extremely popular, and due to security concerns, there are a limited number of visitors allowed every day. Places have to be booked ahead of time. Entrance to the dome and roof terrace is free of charge. The best way to book a ticket is on the parliament’s website, at least two days ahead of time. You should print out your confirmation, or be able to show it on your phone when you arrive, and bring official ID. If you don’t want to book online, you can go to the visitor center on Scheidemannstrasse, just outside the Reichstag building, and book tickets for the next available timeslot.
Alternatively, it is possible to join certain tours and skip the line to enter. Tickets are available from 12 Euro from here.
Once inside the building, you’ll have to climb 230 meters up to the top of the dome on a staircase reminiscent of a double-helix. You can pick up a free audio guide in English at the top of the stairs, and listen to twenty minutes of explanations of the history of the Reichstag and the surrounding area. There is also a rooftop restaurant, open until midnight, which has to be booked in advance.
Daily, 8am to 11pm
Restaurant: 9am to 4.30pm and 6.30pm to midnight
Book queue jumped entrance from 12 Euro from here.