The Reichstag is Germany’s parliament building, located in the center of Berlin not far from the Brandenburg Gate. During the Cold War it was part of West Berlin, the Berlin Wall ran directly behind it. Construction of the Reichstag began in 1884, to provide a state parliament for the newly unified Reich. The architect was Paul Wallot. Completed in 1894, it was adorned by a steel and glass cupola.
On 9 June 1884, Kaiser Wilhelm I needed three attempts to lay the foundation-stone. It is said that, while he was using the tool, it cracked. The Kaiser did not like the Reichstag. He only reluctantly agreed to the plans of architect Paul Wallot and barely approved of his plans for a heavy stone dome. Because the Reichstag would then be even higher than the City Castle.
On 27 February 1933 under mysterious circumstances that still have yet to be explained, the Reichstag caught on fire, destroying the chamber and the dome. The Reichstag fire served as a pretext for the Nazi regime to persecute their political opponents.
After being destroyed in the war the Reichstag lost its purpose as a national parliament. It was rebuilt between 1961 and 1971 in a simplified form without the dome, which was blown up in 1945, according to plans by Paul Baumgarten. After German reunification, the German Bundestag decided to use the building as a seat of Parliament again.
This reconstruction was quite basic, and the distinctive cupola was not reconstructed. Until 1990 the building was used only for a permanent exhibition about German history, although it did house occasional representative sessions of the West German Parliament.
Between 1994 and 1999, the Reichstag was redesigned and expanded by the British architect Sir Norman Foster as a modern Parliament building while retaining its extensive, historical dimensions. The accessible glass dome, which initially generated a lot of controversy, has since become one of the landmarks of Berlin. Since 1999, the German Bundestag has been convening in the Reichstag building.
The new cupola is open to the public and entry is free. It offers excellent views of the centre of Berlin and also an opportunity to look down on German parliamentarians when they are in session. However be prepared for long queues, and it’s worth checking ahead because sometimes it is closed for cleaning.
Platz der Republik 1
11011 Berlin Tiergarten
Tel.: +49 30 227-0