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Visiting the Reichstag Dome – Amazing Berlin views and history

by Jan 9, 2020Berlin

If you are planning a trip to Berlin, then visiting the Reichstag dome is an absolute must, not only for the Berlin views, but for the amazing history. The Reichstag is where the Bundestag, or Federal Assembly of the German government, is housed. The dome and the building along with the celebrated TV tower have become iconic symbols of Germany’s capital, Berlin.

Reichstag building history

Built toward the end of the 19th century (between 1884 and 1894), the Reichstag became the seat of power for the German Empire until 1918 and the Weimar Republic from 1919 to 1933. On Feb. 27, 1933, one month after Adolf Hitler assumed the chancellorship, a fire at the Reichstag destroyed the building which effectively ended parliamentary democracy in Germany. It has been thought that the Nazis set the fire to trigger the events that led to Hitler assuming dictatorial powers in Germany. Further damaged by heavy Allied bombing during World War II, the Reichstag remained a ruin until the building was restored in the 1960 (minus the dome) and used as a museum of Germany history.

The day after the formal reunification of West and East Germany, Oct. 4, 1990, the Bundestag of the newly reunified German state met for the first time in the Reichstag building. In 1991 the Bundestag voted to transfer the seat of government from Bonn back to Berlin. Although not without some controversy, the Reichstag was named as the Bundestag’s future permanent home.

In 1995, the Reichstag was symbolically wrapped in fabric by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude and as soon as it was unwrapped, reconstruction of the building began. Under the direction of British architect Sir Norman Foster, the extensive restoration and renovation of the Reichstag took four years. The huge glass dome was rebuilt. Interior ramps spiraling to the top of the Reichstag dome were installed so visitors could easily appreciate sprawling Berlin views from the top of the glass dome. The massive mirrored pyramid inside the dome was installed to provide natural light for the rooms below.

Reichstag Building Berlin View From The Front Lawn

On April 19, 1999, the Bundestag took formal possession of the building and, on Sept. 6, 1999, the Bundestag opened its inaugural session in the Reichstag. The seat of German power had returned to Berlin after 66 years.

Visiting the Reichstag dome

The rooftop terrace and the dome of the Reichstag are free for anyone to visit, included guided tours run by the Bundestag. You do NOT need to pay for a guided tour although one advantage of some guided tours is access to areas of the Reichstag building not accessible to the general public. But if all you want to do is see the dome and the rooftop terrace, then do not pay for a tour.

HITT Tip: If you speak German, there is a possibility to sit in on a plenary session (or even if you do not speak German and would like to anyway) or sit in on some lectures as a part of your visit to the dome. You must access those opportunities through the German language website, however.

Reichstag Building View Of Berlin Toward The TV Tower

You will need to reserve a spot to enter the Reichstag, and those can go fast on weekends, holidays or during high seasons like summer. There are no exceptions to pre-registration, although it is sometimes possible on-site a couple of hours in advance if there are any openings. To do this, go to the visitor’s service center adjacent to the Berlin Pavilion and across the street from the Reichstag on Scheidemannstraße. You can also reserve an entry time up to two days in advance in person. The service center is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the winter and until 8 p.m. in the summer. There is a chart outside showing if there are any openings and at what time.

The dome opens at 8 a.m. and closes at midnight on most days, though it does close for cleaning and maintenance several times throughout the year for a few days at a time.  Check the closure schedule here.

Entry to the building is strictly controlled with admission times on the quarter hour until the last admission time at 9:45 p.m. You will only be allowed to enter at your booked date and time.

The Reichstag Dome Spirals With A Starburst

Reserving online to visit the Reichstag

The easiest way to reserve an entry time is in advance via the online registration form. Be sure you have all the information you need for everyone in your group before accessing the form – first and last names and dates of birth. Once you note how many people in your group, you will be shown a calendar to pick dates, picking up to three.

HITT Tip: Watch your email closely. We have found that confirmations can come back to you VERY quickly, sometimes in minutes. Be sure to save the email since you do not need to print it out but be able to open it to prove your admission booking.

When you arrive at your appointed entry time, be sure to bring an official photo ID – a passport, driver’s license, national ID card, or student ID. The ID must be an original as copies or photos are not accepted. Also be prepared to walk through screenings and have your bags inspected.

Once through security, you will be whisked to the rooftop via elevator. Once there, you can opt to check out an audio guide which, over a 20-minute period, will guide you through important facts and history regarding the Reichstag building and the dome as well as its surroundings and a few landmarks you will see. There are also brochures available there in several languages pointing out which buildings are which from different sides of the building.

The Reichstag Dome History Circle And Views

Although entry to the Reichstag is tightly controlled, once you are up on the rooftop you can stay as long as you like enjoying the Berlin views – well at least until closing time at midnight. We have seen people pulling out snacks and sitting on one of the many benches (although they would probably frown at a full dinner spread). Bathrooms are available but not a lot so expect a waiting line.

Sunset From The Reichstag Dome Terrace Toward The Victory Column

HITT Tip: Sunsets from the Reichstag Dome are amazing. But unless you can control the weather (and, if you can, we need to talk) reserving to ensure you have good light and clear skies takes a bit of planning – which may not in the end work out. Be sure to consult forecasts (knowing that in Berlin forecasts can change day to day) to try to determine if the skies will be clear and what time the sun will be setting. Be sure to schedule your entry time at least an hour or two before the sun sets so you can enjoy golden hour over Berlin. The Berlin skyline and the dome in this light are amazing. For photographers: Knowing how paranoid museums and government buildings can be about tripods, we were not convinced one would be allowed, but a guard basically shrugged and said, “Sure”, when asked.

What if you can’t make your reservation?

There is no way to cancel, as far as we could tell. You can also schedule multiple dates if you aren’t sure. Another point to realize is that the Bundestag clearly states the right to cancel any visit at any time. They don’t say why, just that the visit was canceled. Although they never say why, it is most likely due to some security reasons, for example, VIP guests, politicians or events. They may also need to reschedule cleanings, depending on weather.

Want a meal with your Berlin views?

Then reserve a table at Käfer Dachgarten-Restaurant, the only public restaurant in a parliament building anywhere in the world according to the restaurant website.  The restaurant sits directly adjacent to the dome and offers spectacular views of Berlin and what looks to be a very tasty menu. Reservations need to be made at least 48 hours in advance of your arrival, and you will still need to go through security checks to gain entrance to the Reichstag. If you are already visiting the Reichstag dome and desire a coffee and cake to satisfy a hunger craving, you can always walk in and if tables are available, you’ll be seated.

HITT Tip: From the rooftop terrace of the Reichstag building, you will be able to see the Berlin Cathedral, Potsdamer Platz, the Brandenburg Gate, the TV Tower and the ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church to name but a few landmarks. You’ll want a map, the Bundestag brochure, or an online map like Google to help you identify all the sights around as you walk the rooftop terrace perimeter taking in the amazing Berlin views.

Reichstag Building Berlin Views Toward The Brandenburg Gate

 

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Acknowledgements: Story & Photos by Michael Hodgson