The Reichstag Building has had a turbulent history but has risen once again to become one of Berlin’s and Germany’s most recognised and iconic buildings.
It was on 9th June 1884 that Kaiser Wilhelm I laid the first foundation stone, it took hime three attempts and it is said that the tool he was using cracked, not the best start. In 1894, ten years after the start of construction the building was complete. Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was now in power, thought the building was the “pinnacle of bad taste” and referred to the Reichstag as the “Reich’s monkey house”. He also prevented the inscription “To the German People” (Dem Deutschen Volke) being inscribed on it only later being added in 1916.
The Reichstag has been the backdrop to many other historical events in German history. It was from a window in this building that Deputy Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed on 9th November 1918 the creation of a German Republic, and most famously of all on 27th February 1933 the fire that destroyed the chamber and the dome of the building and gave rise to the Nazi Third Reich.
Having been destroyed during the war, it was rebuilt between 1961 and 1971 in a simplified form but was never used as the seat of parliament again until German re-unification. Between 1994 and 1999, the Reichstag was redesigned and expanded by the British architect Sir Norman Foster into the modern parliament building you see today. The glass dome, which initially generated a lot of controversy, has since become one of the city’s most well known landmarks. It is once again the seat of the German Parliament.
The Reichstag dome is a large glass dome with a 360 degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. The debating chamber of the Bundestag, the German parliament, can be seen down below.
In the centre of the dome is a mirrored cone that directs sunlight into the building. At the base of the cone is a brief history of the building.
The dome is open to the public and free to enter but you must book in advance through the website or at a registration office near the Reichstag. My advice would be to book online, it’s really easy and you’re more likely to get your preferred date and time.
After clearing security you are led up to the main entrance of the Reichstag building and taken straight in to the lift up to the dome, once there you are given a audio guide which tells you all about the dome and what you can see from it.
You climb the dome using one of two steel spiralling ramps that are reminiscent of a double helix, the other ramp bringing you back down again. The dome symbolises that the people are above the government, as was not the case during National Socialism.
The top of the dome is actually open to the outside and the views are quite something across Berlin and beyond.
Back at the bottom of the dome it’s worth taking a walk outside on to the terrace to the city from a different perspective. There’s also a public restaurant here although it is advisable to book if you’d like to eat.
There didn’t seem to be any time restrictions so you could spend as long as you need up there. If you are visiting Berlin then make sure you get booked as this is one attraction that you definitely should not miss.