Inside the German Reichstag dome by Norman Foster

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hey hey – some architecture for you:

German Reichstag

The German Reichstag building houses the German parliament (Bundestag), equivalent of the U.S. Congress. The building is open to the public and it’s fairly simple to arrange a visit to the dome (designed by Norman Foster). You just have to register online in advance with your personal information and go through security (on par with an airport) to get inside the Reichstag.

Wrapped Reichstag/Verhüllter ReichstagQuick history of the Reichstag

You may be familiar with the fact that Germany was only re-unified in 1990 and seeing how the Reichstag was in West Berlin, it only became the official capital building of all of Germany again in 1999. During the interim period of reunification in 1990 and the German government moving the capital from Bonn to Berlin in 1999, the building had to be renovated and repaired.

Until the Bundestag reconvened for the first time inside the Reichstag, Norman Foster won an architectural award to modernize the building by creating a glass dome atop the Reichstag’s roof. The dome symbolizes Germany’s reunification (don’t ask me how).

Also interesting, in 1995, Jean-Claude & Christo actually wrapped the Reichstag building in a white cloth fabric. Pretty cool. I saw their art project of saffron-colored cloth gates in NYC’s central park in 2005.

Photos from inside the Reichstag dome

I visited the inside of the Reichstag dome in January, so, uh, it was very very cold. During the summer it’s supposed to be much nicer and you can actually walk around the Reichstag’s roof. I barely could stand being inside the dome (it’s open-air, by the way, because of the open cupola at the top).

After going through security at the welcome center outside the Reichstag, you’ll be escorted with a small group through the main entrance and into an elevator up to the roof. There, you’re given an audio tour which will start immediately as you start to ascend the ramp inside the dome. As you walk up and up the ramp which twirls around the dome’s interior, you’re given a brief history and overview of the Reichstag. The audio guide also focuses your attention onto the view outside, pointing out all the major buildings and monuments visible from the dome.

Once you reach the top of the dome (where, in January, it will be completely and totally freezing cold), there is a viewing platform with a panoramic view of Berlin. Of course I couldn’t enjoy it so I quickly made my way down the ramp again to the bottom of the dome. Underneath the dome is the main chamber for the German parliament, or Bundestag, and you can actually see parts of the chamber from up inside the dome.

View from inside the Berlin Reichstag (Germany's flag)

The view from inside the Reichstag’s dome gives you a 360 panoramic view of Berlin. In this shot, the city’s central train station, hauptbahnhof, is visible in the distance.

Inside the German Reichstag dome

In the center of the Reichstag dome is this giant contraption of mirrors which is used to provide natural lighting to the Bundestag chamber below. It also makes the building eco-friendly.

Inside the German Reichstag dome

Check out those mirrors!

Inside the Reichstag dome

A clear winter sky. This was actually just a few days of Berlin’s first snowfall for the winter.

Inside the Reichstag dome

At the center of the base of the dome is an exhibit of photographs and information about the Reichstag’s history. One of the more interesting moments from the Reichstag’s history is when it was set fire just before WWII to fuel the paranoia which eventually lead to the Nazi control of Germany.

Inside the Reichstag dome

Up, up, up the ramp. Each of the four columns atop the dome had a German flag, except for one which was the European Union (EU) flag.

View from inside the Reichstag dome

A view from inside the Reichstag dome—of the park just in front. A message for the legislators, perhaps? This park was also the site of the Occupy Berlin demonstrations in the Fall.

German Reichstag

The front of the Reichstag building.

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If you’re planning to visit the Bundestag, the dome of the Reichstag or the cafe up on the roof, you can use this link to register in advance: https://visite.bundestag.de/BAPWeb/pages/createBookingRequest.jsf?lang=en All visitors to the dome must register in advance for security reasons. It’s even possible to sit in on a session of the Bundestag (if you have a tour group of 25 and arrange it in advance). However, the easiest and most popular thing to do as a Berlin tourist is visit the inside of the Reichstag dome.

Interested in more travel photos? View my collection of travel photos in BIG picture format here: http://travelsofadam.com/photos

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15 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. I think Berlin is amazing! so much history there i just got back from a semester there. definitely going back soon :-)

  2. I will be going here soon. It’s on my very loooong list of things to do in Berlin. :) 

  3. I had a picture of this dome on one of my textbooks in school long before I ever knew what it was but was just so enamored by it. When I finally got to see it, I was blown away – so beautiful.

    • Yeah, it was surprisingly beautiful from the inside too. Thanks for commenting, John!

  4. I love the Reichstag (and Berlin!)! I’m actually posting some of my photos from the dome in a post this weekend :-)

    • Oh, awesome Heather! Were you here in the summer? I think visiting the dome would be much better during summertime…

      And let me know when your post is live and I’ll be sure to link to it!

      •  Thanks for checking out my post :-) Yeah, it was in May and absolutely beautiful!

  5. I loved my visit to Berlin, even though I didn’t make it into the Reichstag itself. Great place to wander around though :)

    • Yeah I love this whole area of Berlin – the Holocaust Memorial is just down the street, and Brandenburg Tor. And even if Potsdamer Platz is incredibly touristic, it’s still a nice area to walk around. And the big parks and plazas near all the government buildings are great open spaces!

  6. I love Berlin and I loved visiting the Reichstag – I think it’s a pretty cool piece of modern architecture set against the more historic pieces.

    • That’s so true, Gillian. I love the play on modern/history with the building. Especially how Norman Foster’s dome isn’t even visible from some angles.

  7. One of our favourite memories of our time in Berlin. We loved the Norman Foster dome. And at that time, you didn’t need to register, just queue up for hours. How times are changing! Would love to go back to Berlin in the future. 
    Julia

    • Yeah, the registration is a new thing (I think it’s been a year now that you’ve had to do it). Comes as quite a surprise to a lot of tourists but hopefully people are catching on. Usually you only need 3 days notice to be able to register and visit the dome, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for most tourists if they do it when they first arrive.

  8. hmmm, Berlin. Interesting place to visit.

    •  Yup – very cool building though I think I’d prefer to visit it during the summer!

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