Why Visit the Reichstag

As the on-again off-again home of the German parliament, the Reichstag building has a rich history reflecting the turbulent political climate. A perfect blend of ‘new meets old’ architecture, the Reichstag is crowned by a huge glass dome. Climbing the spiral walkway that curves around the inside of the dome, you have an impressive view of the surrounding cityscape. Through the mirrored cone in the center of the dome, you can look down on the parliamentary proceedings. Aficionados of German political can also gain entry to the legislative chamber, which is also notable for the cone’s scorpion like tail hanging over the politicians.

The views from the Dome are amazing & well worth the wait in line for tickets (free) & security (like an airport). To avoid waiting in line for tickets, go later in the day & get tickets for one of the next 3 days. Morning is best for the winter months - remember it gets dark by 3:30-4pm in the winter!

Julia.T, 01 Dec 2012, USA
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New Berlin Free Walking Tour

This 3.5 hour free walking tour is an ideal introduction to Berlin. Covering many of the main highlights it is both interesting and informative. Perfect for newcomers to the city.


Reichstag Building history

The First Years of the Reichstag

The original Reichstag building was proposed as the German parliament would assemble in several other buildings in Berlin, all of which were considered too small. An architectural contest was held and Paul Wallot’s winning design was completed in 1894, a synthesis of High Renaissance and classical motifs featuring the architectural marvel of a large glass and steel dome.

In 1916, the iconic words “Dem Deutschen Volke” (For the German people) were carved above the main entrance of the...

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The First Years of the Reichstag

The original Reichstag building was proposed as the German parliament would assemble in several other buildings in Berlin, all of which were considered too small. An architectural contest was held and Paul Wallot’s winning design was completed in 1894, a synthesis of High Renaissance and classical motifs featuring the architectural marvel of a large glass and steel dome.

In 1916, the iconic words “Dem Deutschen Volke” (For the German people) were carved above the main entrance of the building, a heavily democratic statement for the time. Two years later, the end of the monarchy would be proclaimed in this building and Germany declared a Republic.

The Reichstag Burns to Birth Nazi Germany

In February 1933, the Reichstag was severely damaged in a fire. The political motives of which are still not entirely known, however blamed on a communist plot by the Nazi’s. This proved to be a valuable excuse for Hitler to claim emergency power and was the prelude to Nazi Germany.

During the 12 years of National Socialist rule, possibly as a symbol of a new era or simply rebellion, the Reichstag building was not used for parliamentary sessions but rather for propaganda presentations and during WWII military purposes.

The Reichstag, having never been fully repaired since the fire, was further damaged by air raids. However, during the Battle of Berlin, was one of the central targets for the Soviets to capture due to its perceived symbolic significance. Today, you can still see some of the Soviet graffiti on the scorched walls over which the hammer-and-sickle flag once flew.

During The Cold War

After WWII, the Reichstag building was in ruins and fell into disuse. Physically within West Berlin borders, it was located only a few meters from East Berlin. For this and other political reasons, the capital of West Germany was established in Bonn in 1949 and the parliament moved.

After some debate in 1961, it was decided the Berlin Reichstag ruin would not be torn down, but rather restored as a museum and conference center. The dome of the original building was too heavily damaged and was removed. The restoration was completed in 1964, however both the artistic and practical value of the restored Reichstag was questioned.

German Reunification and the Reichstag Reconstruction

In October 1990, the Reichstag once again was the center of politics. It was chosen as the location for the official German reunification ceremony. The very next day, the parliament of the united Germany assembled as an act on symbolism in the Reichstag. However, it was not until June 1991, after fierce debate, that the parliament returned from Bonn to Berlin; the restored capital of reunited Germany.

The languishing Reichstag building underwent modernisation, led by internationally renowned architect Norman Foster. The building was completely gutted, removing everything except the outer walls. The Reichstag dome was rebuilt with a new, ecologically friendly guise from which the public can peer down to the parliament below, a symbol that the people are now above the government, which was not the case in the past. When the reconstruction was completed in April 1999, the Reichstag once again became the meeting place for the German parliament.

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Opening hours

Daily 8:30 - 24:00

Time to visit

2 hours

Transport

U55, S1, S2, S25 to Brandenburger Tor

Address

Platz der Republik 1, 11011 Berlin, Germany