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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrBuilt in 1894 to accommodate the Imperial German Parliament (Reichstag), the Reichstag Building is, nowadays, one of the most visited landmarks in Berlin as well as one of the most historic and important edifices in all of Germany. Throughout the country’s tumultuous history, this building has stood the test of time, even as it was left in ruins during the city’s famed division era. Today, the Reichstag houses the current Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag) and is open to the public and free of charge to peruse, although prior registration is needed. Book a table at the rooftop restaurant, take a walk around the stunning glass dome, and enjoy the most magnificent views of Berlin.
Brief HistoryThe Reichstag Building housed the German Empire’s Parliament for over three decades before being catastrophically damaged in what turned out to be a very suspect fire. At the time, the Nazis blamed the fire on communist rebels and seized the opportunity to disband the German Constitution, pass the Enabling Act of 1933 , thus shifting full and complete power to then-Chancellor, Adolf Hitler . The most commonly held theory, after eight decades, is that the fire was started by the Nazis themselves.
The building became a most sought-after target during WWII, as it was always seen (and indeed still is) as a pivotal symbol of German power, authority, and independence. By the time the war was over, the Reichstag Building was left all but in ruins and, since the city was left divided and the West German government moved to Bonn, no efforts were made to restore. Although, it should be noted, no efforts were ever made to tear it down, either. It wasn’t until the unification of Berlin, and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, that the Reichstag Building was finally rebuilt and restored to its former glory. Incidentally, this was the site where the reunification ceremonies took place on the 3rd October, 1990.
It took almost a whole decade for works to be completed, with the project overseen by one of Britain’s most prominent architects. The addition of a glass dome and dramatic rooftop terrace, which was a last-minute plan, secured the building’s future popularity. The Renaissance-style architecture, and historical importance of the Reichstag Building, make this the most visited landmark in Berlin, and second in all of Germany, after the stupendous Cologne Cathedral.
How to Plan your VisitVisiting the Reichstag Building may not cost you a single Euro, yet prior planning is still necessary as visitors are only allowed in by appointment. Time slots are only available up to eight weeks in advance, and you’ll need to provide names and dates of birth of all members of your touring party. Booking requests can be made online. You have the option of booking a guided tour plus a visit to the dome (highly recommended) or booking a visit only to the dome. For last minute visits, bookings for the day (and next day only) can be made at the Reichstag Building’s Visitor Center. Please do note that a waiting time of at least two hours applies. The service center is open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. (winter) and 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. (summer). Don’t forget to bring your passport!
HighlightsThe dome of the Reichstag Building is not only stunning but also quite the architectural feat. In order to prevent enormous sun reflections, thereby blinding drivers on the road below, an automatic shield system was built which operates around the sun’s movement. Once up top, and through the glass dome, you’ll have the chance to admire the extensive hall on the ground floor and enjoy all-encompassing views of Berlin’s city center. A free and very interesting audio guide accompanies you around the dome. The Reichstag Building is open from 8 a.m. until midnight, every day bar a few rare exceptions. The lift up to the dome closes at 10pm.
The in-house Käfer Restaurant is actually rather excellent and serves great food along with amazing views and quite priceless atmosphere. It may not be Berlin’s cheapest eatery, but considering the fact that the food is above par, the views amazing AND you get to jump the visitor queues if you’ve made a booking, enjoying a sumptuous, set-menu breakfast here rates as one of the best splurges to be had in the city. Besides, this is the only Parliament House in the world which boasts a restaurant open to the public, so surely the experience alone is well worth a few Euros. Breakfast is the most popular option due to it being the cheapest meal of the day, and the fact it helps one tick off two sightseeing experiences in half a day. Prices range from €8 ($9.20) for a delicious omelet to €30 ($35) for a full feast including glass of bubbly. Table bookings can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org directly.
Best Time to VisitNo matter what time of day you visit, you can expect to see long queues. But don’t get disheartened! This is Germany after all and the line moves swiftly. Heading up to the dome and Käfer Restaurant just before sunset is the ideal time and, incidentally, a time when crowds are at their bearable best.
How to Reach the Reichstag BuildingYou’ll find the Reichstag Building on Berlin’s Platz der Republik in western part of the city, just 2kms east of Victory Monument and only 1.5km south of the city’s main train station. The closest U-Bahn station is Bundestag whilst the nearest S-Bahn station is Brandenburger Tor.
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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Jun 26, 2015