Politics are normally conducted behind closed doors – seedy deals, negotiations, handshakes, promises, and sometimes even sexual favors (aka – the blue dress). But in Berlin, a city with a dramatic political past, politics are transparent.
The Reichstag building was part of that dramatic past and paid the price in many ways including burning down at one point. But it was rebuilt in 1999 and named “The Bundestag” and serves as a meeting place for the German Parliament.
The glass dome at the top is not only provides the best view in Berlin, but it also is functional in the sense that it is the window into the German Parliament – literally. When parliament is in session, people can stand in the dome and see them at work (the floor below)providing a literal and physical window into how Germany is being run.
This dome is also a main Berlin attraction for tourists as it provides the best views of the city for free – yes free. There is no cost to visit the Reichstag, however you do have to register first and get a time assigned for your visit. I recommend doing this a 4 days to a week in advance if possible. In addition, you MUST have a photo form of identification when you arrive for your scheduled time. You can register and reserve a spot online here – Online registration.
Once inside, you have access to a free audio guide in a variety of languages. It was one of my favorite audio tours simply for the technology it employs. Put on the headphones and start to walk up the spiral ramp of the glass dome and the audio tour automatically starts and navigates you up the ramp based on your exact location on the ramp. The audio guide points out important buildings and sights in Berlin as you do the gentle climb. They get an A+ on tour technology from me!
In addition to the chance to see government at work, and the spectacular views – my main reason to go to the Reichstag was to photograph the inside. It is a composition playground for any photographer enthusiast. The lines, reflections, silhouettes are wonderful tools to play with and improve your photography. (see below for more unique places to photograph in Berlin)
So if you are a political buff or a photography buff, put the Reichstag on your list of attractions for Berlin.
Download a flyer before you visit