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One of Berlin’s most popular destinations, the Reichstag, is open for the public to visit free of charge. For many years the monumental construction didn’t serve the purpose for which it was built, but since the German reunification it is once again the seat of parliament. And what a spectacular building! After a massive restoration by architect Norman Foster, the famous glass dome offers a stunning 360 degree view of the city. A column of mirrors casts light into the parliament’s assembly hall.
When the Reichstag reopened in 1999, the design of its 8,000 ton glass dome with a 40-metre diameter was quite controversial. Foster recreated the original dome, which was destroyed in a fire in 1933, in glass as a metaphor for the transparency of democracy. Through the glass dome you can see into the lower assembly hall. Today, the German people can keep a close eye on their elected representatives. One can no longer just walk into the building but the Reichstag still draws approximately 10,000 visitors a day.
The famous fire of 27 February 1933 that destroyed the Reichstag marked the beginning of a period during which the German parliament was no longer seated in the Reichstag – a period that would last for 6 decades. Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe was accused of setting the fire; he was later convicted and decapitated for this act. However, doubts about his guilt soon began to emerge. The case continued for decades after his death, and in 2007 Van der Lubbe was finally acquitted of the charges and pardoned.
The identity of the real arsonist is still a mystery but various conspiracy theories exist. One says that the fire was ordered by Nazi minister and Reichstag president Hermann Göring. The fact is that the fire greatly benefited the Nazis who had just come to power. Hitler blamed the communists, declared a state of emergency, and ordered the arrest and imprisonment of members of the opposition around the country. New elections were called and the NSDAP obtained a majority of the votes. Hitler changed the constitution, granting him absolute power – the beginning of the Third Reich. For Hitler, the fire of the Reichstag was heaven-sent.
“Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe was convicted of burning down the Reichstag”
After World War II, the ruined Reichstag stood right next to the Wall, in West-Berlin. Bonn served as the new capital of West-Germany and for more than half a century the building did not serve its original purpose. After the German reunification in 1990, Berlin would be reinstated as the country’s capital. Of course the Reichstag would also be restored as the seat of parliament.
To visit the Reichstag, you must register beforehand. You may register up to 2 days prior to your visit online viawww.bundestag.de
or up to 2 hours prior at the service centre located at Scheidemanstraße. Guided tours may be booked online at the same website. To reserve a table in the restaurant next to the dome, call +49 30 2262 9933 or send an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
. The dome and rooftop terrace are open daily from 8:00 am-midnight, last admission is at 10:00 pm. Admission is free.