High on the list of Berlin’s iconic buildings, the Reichstag is also home to a fascinating history. I was captivated by its mix of 19th-century imposing stone and modern glass-work, which reminded me of the Louvre’s pyramid. While most of the building is home to the German parliament and thus off-limits, you can visit the dome to marvel at this beautiful architecture and gaze over the city.
Now first things first, for the love of little puppies please register online and well in advance to visit the Dome, rather than following my example. I decided fairly late in my visit (i.e. my last full day) that I couldn’t leave without seeing it, and rather optimistically turned up around 9am on the Saturday to the ticket-office. If you haven’t registered online at least 3 days in advance, you have to queue for a ticket – entrance is free but numbers are limited. The line in the morning was horrifically long, so rather than waste a sight-seeing day I came back at 4:30pm that evening. Given the ticket office didn’t close til 6, I thought this would be loads of time – but the line moved at glacial pace and I ended up being second-to-last through the door! Even the charming company of an Italian tourist in the queue couldn’t keep my mind off the freezing cold, and I’m surprised my fingers could function enough to take the above photographs after I secured my ticket. SO, lesson here: register online via this link. Totally worth it, unless you are really into queuing until you can’t feel your toes. I don’t even want to imagine how long that line must get in summer.
I was especially lucky, given how close I was cutting it, that I still managed to secure my perfect time-slot for the next day, at 8:30am. Not only did this give me juuuuust enough time to visit and make it back to my hostel in time for my early-afternoon flight, but I was hoping to catch a bit of the sunrise over the city.
So, just like the East Side Gallery, a little bit of history for you first up. Opened in 1894, the Reichstag served as the home of the German imperial parliament until it was badly damaged by fire in 1933. After World War II it fell into disuse, as it was never properly repaired and had been further hit by air-raids. The building was not fully reconstructed until after 1995, and unveiled complete with glass dome in 1999 when the parliament moved back in.
With my fellow visitors, I was sped through security and whisked up to the base of the dome by lift. Complimentary audio-guides awaited, and then I stepped in to be awestruck by the incredible mirrored cone that takes centre-stage and the walkways that wrap both up and down.
Got my sunrise, even if it was a little rainy!
Although it was a rainy morning, the views were still fantastic over the city – and I did get to see that sunrise! I’m not always a huge fan of audio-guides, but here it was invaluable, popping up every few minutes to detail what I was looking at and add some history.
This is my ‘It’s freaken early but this is awesome!’ face
Looking towards the west and the Tiergarten
The Reichstag restoration architect, Norman Foster, incorporated a number of interesting features to make the building environmentally friendly. The mirrored panels bring natural light into the heart of the Reichstag, and the gap of fresh air in the top of the dome aids with circulation. There is also the symbolism of bringing light and air to bear on the decisions of the Parliament!
Fortunately for me, my visit to the Dome of the Reichstag was well worth both the long wait and the early start. But say it with me… “Book online to save time!”
Have you ever queued for an exceptionally long time for an attraction? Was it worth it?