The Reichstagsgebäude is the seat of the German Bundestag (Parliament). Its glass dome can be seen from all over the city center, a gleaming reminded that Berlin is the capital of Bundesrepublik Deutschland. The building’s history is perhaps more exciting than its current use.
It was built to serve the Imperial Diet, a parliamentary body of the German Empire. It was opened in 1894, and was in use until 1933, when it was set on fire. The fire was used as an excuse by the Nazi party to crack down on Communists. Thereafter, it fell into disrepair until the early 1960’s when it was protected from the weather. It was not touched again until after the reunification of Germany in 1990.
Norman Foster led the full restoration of the building, including a replacement dome. Built into the dome was a ramp for visitors to the Reichstagsgebäude, where they could look down upon the floor of the Bundestag. Symbolically, this was to remind the legislators that the eyes of the German people are always upon them.
The restored building is a striking combination of Neoclassicism and modernism. The external architecture belies the modernity of the interior. Most notably, the frieze contains a dedication, “Dem deutschen Volke,” which means “To the German people”.
The night I went, there was also a light show on the Bundestag office buildings neighboring the Reichstagsgebäude, along with a video about the history of the building, subtitled in English.
Today, anyone can schedule a visit to the dome after registering online. An appointment time slot and a government issued photo ID like a driver’s license or passport are required for entry. If you neglect to book a slot, you can check a booth across the street to see if any are still available for that day. Once there, a self guided audio tour is provided for the walk up the dome. You can stay on top for as long as you wish, and can even eat at the restaurant on the terrace.