In comparison to many constructions of the same political purpose, the Reichstag, seat of the German Bundestag, is a mysterious building. The only building to tower higher than the City Castle in 1894, Keiser Wilhelm II refused to inscribe it ‘To the German People’ in line with the architect and the parliaments wishes. This was not long before it became the haunted chambers of the Third Reich, mysteriously catching fire in 1933, a few short years prior to its famed dome would be eviscerated by Allied bombing in World War II.
It is a building suffused with living history, now topped by a great glass dome that speaks to the transparency of government and the transcendence of governing. Admission to the dome and rooftop terrace is free, though registration is required beforehand (open between 8am and 11pm). If you fail to register beforehand, you can still visit by registering at the Visitors’ Service near the Reichstag Building. A 20 minute audio tour will guide you through the history of the building, the work and function of the Parliament and the surrounding sites, in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Turkish, Polish, Russian and Dutch.
As well as being a piece of living political history, many people come to the Reichstag simply for the view. A lift will take you from the very base of the building to its glass summit, where a large viewing chamber affords breath-taking panoramas of some of Berlin’s most important landmarks.