After seven years of living in Berlin, I finally visited the Bundestag.
Architecture, politics & German art
The Bundestag has always been the political center of modern Germany. The German parliament members meet here on a daily basis to discuss the agenda of the state. Visiting the parliament sounds excruciatingly boring, but the Reichtstagsgebäude – that’s the name of the building – is definitely worth seeing for its incredible architecture and history.
Apart from its unique design, the building is also decorated with contemporary art pieces, thus transforming a mere political location into an exciting exhibition. Artists like Gerhard Richter and Katharina Sieverding are only two famous names on the walls of the Bundestag Berlin.
The history of the Reichstag
The Reichstagsgebäude in Berlin has had a very famous run as one of the most iconic buildings in world history. It was completed in 1894, then quickly rose to fame when it was set on fire in 1933 – the Reichstagsbrand that allowed Hitler to seize power in Germany. After WWII, the Soviets used the heavily damaged Reichstag as background setting for their propaganda: they re-enacted the capture of Berlin via photography. You can still see where the Russian soliders left their graffiti in the walls of the building. Before Berlin became the capital of Germany again, the Reichstag was in a 30 year state of hibernation..
Finally, renovations of the Bundestag were set to begin in 1995, five years after the Berlin Wall came down. The job was given to Foster + Partners, the architectural firm by famous Norman Foster. Just shortly before they began constructions, the Reichstag was also briefly a monumental art piece by Christo and Jean-Claude, who wrapped the whole building in enormous strips of fabric. You can see the exhibition of the wrapped Bundestag in its various stages on the 2nd floor of the building.
The architecture of the Reichstagsgebäude after renovations
The general structure of what was left of the German Reichstag was to be preserved, which is why today, you can still see a very old building (with very old and preserved cyrillic graffiti!) with modernized elements. The futuristic dome was added to the winning architectural concept much later, when Foster had already created an intricate design of the new Reichstag, but the Germans really wanted their dome back.
Today, the dome of the Bundestag offers some of the most spectacular views over the city for visitors. The whole construction of the dome and in general, the new Bundestag, are impressive to see. The fusion of modern elements with the old structures symbolize clearly Berlins transformation during the past 100 years.
Visit the Bundestag without registration:
On a rainy or cold day, there’s nothing better than spontaneously hopping the 100 bus line and ending up at the Bundestag for a stroll. But as so often with German bureaucracy, there’s no such thing as “spontaneous” at the Reichstagsgebäude.
Nevertheless – if you would like to visit the Bundestag Berlin but have not booked in advance, you can register to do so at the service center run by the Visitors’ Service near the Reichstag Building, next to the Berlin Pavilion on the south side of Scheidemannstraße. If any free spots are still available, you will be issued a booking confirmation entitling you to visit the dome; but you have to be there at least 2 hours prior to your visit.
Should you visit the Bundestag in Berlin?
It took me almost 10 years to visit the Bundestag. I had not expected it to be such a captivating and immersive experience – take my advice, go if you can.