One of Berlin’s most famous landmarks is the Reichstag.
This iconic building has helped the German Bundestag become the most visited parliament in the world, partly because of its architecture, partly because of its accessibility, but mainly because of its history.
Kaiser Wilhelm II laid the final stone of this neoclassical building in 1894 and it has continued to play a pivotal role in German history ever since. Initially the parliament was really that in name only and the Kaiser was the man who dictated the terms, but in November 1918 Phillip Scheidemann announced from a window here at the Reichstag that the country was now to become a republic and the Weimar Republic was formed.
The republic was just fourteen years old when the Nazis came to power and the dubious Reichstag fire of 1933 helped change the course of history. The events that followed are obviously well documented elsewhere, but as World War II came to its final moments, one of the most memorable images of the conflict show the victorious Russian army raising the Soviet flag on top of the Reichstag. Even today it’s still possible to see bullet holes if you care to look for them.
It took another 25 years for the building to be restored and when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 it was decided to make it the new parliament for a united Germany.
€300m was spent bringing the building into the modern world, with the cupola designed by Sir Norman Foster taking centre stage.
To visit the cupola and roof terrace you have to register in advance which can be done at the ticket office nearby, but you can do it online before you even get to Berlin.
Being a parliament building there are so many anomalies about when you can and can’t visit that it’s much better to check out their website than for me to try and explain it all.
Having said that the good news is that the cupola is open to visitors from 08.00 until midnight most of the time (22.00 last entry).
There are also guided tours of the other working parts of the Reichstag which, from what I can see of it, will benefit mostly German or German speaking people, unless there’s a group of you.
Politics and parliaments may not be to everyone’s taste, but The Reichstag has had more than 34 million visitors since the German parliament relocated from Bonn – and if you don’t add to the numbers when you’re in Berlin then you will have undoubtedly missed one of the most influential and important buildings in German history. Even if you haven’t the time to go inside just come here and take a look.