The Reichstag in Berlin is the working seat of German Parliament, as well as a top tourist attraction in the city. Located steps away from the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), this is a must-see for its historical importance, as well as its panoramic views of Berlin.
Follow the complete guide to the Berlin Reichstag for a brief historical overview as well as helpful information for visitors including how to register beforehand and what to expect.
History of the Berlin Reichstag
The building known as the Reichstag was built between 1884 and 1894. Begun by Wilhelm I, it was built to house an expanding government. It cost a staggering 24 million marks (largely drawn from French war reparations) and had chambers for the Reichstag (lower house) and the Bundesrat (upper house). The now iconic words, "Dem Deutschen Volke ("To the German people"), were put above the main entrance signifying the rise of a democratic society.
The building featured modern amenities like telephones and indoor toilets with running water, but the most noticeable difference from the outside was that there was a glass and gold dome rather than its current translucent snow globe of glass.
What changed the appearance of the building and the course of the nation is the 1933 fire. For causes still officially unknown, a fire erupted in the Reichstag, allowing Hitler to use the incident to seize total control of the government in a moment of political hysteria. He blamed the fire on the communists, but there is speculation that his own supporters started the fire. This was one of the moments that directly led to World War II.
Throughout the war, the Reichstag stood in shambles, enduring heavy bombing along with the rest of the city. It was also served as a symbol for the end of the war when a Soviet soldier raised a USSR flag over the ruined Reichstag on May 2, 1945.
After the war, the parliament of the German Democratic Republic was moved to Palast der Republik in East Berlin with the parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany moving to the Bundeshaus in Bonn.
In the 1960s, attempts at saving the building were made, but a full renovation wasn't complete until reunification on October 3rd, 1990. Architect Norman Foster took on the project and in 1999 the Reichstag became the meeting place of the German parliament again. Its new modern glass dome was a realization of the theory of glasnost (new, open policy in the Soviet Union where people could freely express their opinions.)
Today, visitors can explore the dome and upper terrace,as well as tour the Bundestag chamber (with reservations and a guide). While you make your way through the site, an excellent audioguide provides context and you can enjoy one of the best views of the Berlin skyline.
How to Visit Berlin's Reichstag
Visiting the Reichstag is free and easy to arrange, but it does require advance online registration. Requests can be made in English and should only be submitted with a complete list of participants including surname, first name and date of birth.
If you do not register beforehand, it may be possible to check with security below and sign-up for a later time if you provide ID. However, note that this is not always possible.
Even with registration, there is often a line to get into the Reichstag. But don't worry, it moves fast and it is worth the wait. Be prepared to show your ID (preferably a passport) and go through a metal detector. For disabled visitors, families with small children, and visitors who have reservations for the Reichstag restaurant, guides will escort you to a special elevator entrance.
There are additional services like guided tours, exhibitions, lectures, and you can even sit in on a plenary session. You can watch the government debates live from the public gallery for about an hour (note that this is in German).
Opening Hours at the Reichstag
- Daily: 8:00 til 24:00 hrs (last admission: 21.45 hrs)
- Admission every quarter of an hour
- Admission: Free
What to do at Berlin's Reichstag
While 90-minute guided tours take place at every day at specific times (9:00, 10:30, 12:00, 1:30 pm, 3:30 pm, 5:00 pm,6:30 pm, 8:00 pm), anyone can take advantage of the comprehensive audioguide.
As soon as you exit the elevator atop the building you can pick up your set in a variety of languages. It provides insightful commentary on the city, its buildings, and history over the course of a 20 minute, 230-metre-long ascent up the dome. Special audioguides are also available for children and for people with disabilities.
The Berlin Reichstag is the only parliamentary building in the world that features a public restaurant. Restaurant Käfer at Bundestag and its roof garden are located on the top of the Reichstag, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner at reasonable prices – breathtaking views included.
Hours: 9:00 to 4:30; 6:30 pm to midnight.
Where to Stay near Berlin's Reichstag
However, it is not necessary to stay in Mitte (centeral neighborhood) to experience the highlights of Berlin. With the city's fantastic transport system, it is better to stay where the people actually live and visit these tourist hot spots during the day for better prices and a more authentic experience.
How to Get to the Reichstag
- Address: Platz der Republik 1, 10557 Berlin
- U & S-Bahn: U55 Brandenburger Tor or Friedrichstraße
- Bus Station: Unter den Linden (take Bus 100)
- Driving: While roads curve around the building, it is quite busy and there is minimal parking available. There are a few private parking garage options.
What to Do Around Berlin's Reichstag
This area is full of the top tourist sites and a visit tothe reichstag can easily be included in your itinerary.