The Bundestag (or Reichstag, if you want to use its old name) is the seat of the German parliament. It has become one of the symbols of the German capital city and a visit to the Reichstag dome is a must during a trip to Berlin. What’s even more pleasant for travelers is that the admission to the Reichstag is for free. For this reason, it is a must-see even for low-cost travelers like me.
Although the visit to the Reichstag – and its characteristic glass dome – is for free, it is necessary to book it. In this post I will explain how to book a visit to the German Parliament building.
The Reichstag building was built at the end of the 19th century and was immediately used as the seat of the Reich parliament (empire in German) and of the Weimar Republic later.
When Hitler came to power in 1933, he set the palace on fire and put the blame on the leftist opposition, which still managed to obtain consent at the elections. In this way, the communists were portrayed as criminals and excluded from political life. The Reichstag building remained a heap of rubble throughout the Nazi period and was further damaged when Berlin was heavily bombed by the Americans and the British.
In the post-war period, the Reichstag building remained a heap of rubble and it was decided to demolish entirely the dome for security reasons. The building was later rebuilt (without the dome) and used as an exhibition space.
With the reunification of Germany, Berlin was chosen as the capital and the Bundestag Palace (it changed name with the birth of the new State) was chosen as the seat of the Parliament of the new Federal State. For this reason, it was restored to bring it back to its old splendor. It was during these restoration work that the spectacular glass dome was built.
Visit to the Reichstag: useful information
A visit to the Reichstag building in Berlin is for free, but reservation is required anyway. The booking procedure is very simple. I am going to give you all the instructions to book a visit of the Reichstag dome below.
The Reichstag is open every day from 8 am to midnight. Visitors (for the visit of the terrace and the dome) enter every 15 minutes, depending on the shift chosen during the booking process. During the year, there are closing days of the dome for maintenance and cleaning (according to the website, the closing periods are 7-11 March, 11-15 July, 25-29 July and 10-14 October). It is however possible to go up the terrace even if the dome is closed.
Upon arrival on the Reichstag’s terrace, the staff will give you a 20-minute audio guide that will accompany you during the ascent and descent of the dome and will tell you about the Reichstag building, also giving information on the Berlin monuments visible from the dome itself. The audio guide is available in 11 languages. Audio guides for children are also available in a simpler language. They are not available during the closing times of the dome.
What to visit
You can choose from three types of visits:
- Lecture held in the visitors’ gallery with a view of the parliamentary plenary chamber. It lasts 45 minutes and is held in English; it also describes the function of the parliament and the history of the Reichstag building. The lecture is followed by a visit to the dome. These lectures are not held during the Parliament sessions and public holidays.
- 90-minute guided tour available in several languages. These tours do not take place when the Parliament is reunited and during public holidays.
- Visit to the terrace and the dome.
How to book
There are two ways to book a visit to the Reichstag: in advance with the online procedure at www.bundestag.de or at the booking office near the Reichstag building.
This is the recommended procedure, because it allows you to choose the time that suits you best. If you are a maniac in planning travel itineraries like me, I recommend it. The first step is to visit this page:
The opening page gives you general information about the Reichstag visit (in practice, the information I have provided you with so far). Next click on Online registration.
The opening page offers some important information to read before the actual booking phase. In short, it says that the procedure that will be carried out is only a reservation request and that confirmation takes place with the receipt of an e-mail sent by the booking office.
Another important thing is that at the time of booking you must have all the names, surnames and dates of birth of all the people, for whom you will make the reservation (for example, if you are a group of five people, you must enter the data of all five members of your group).
It is also possible to book visits only for the current month and for the following one. The visits to the dome and the terrace are not guaranteed, because they could be canceled at the last moment in case of particular parliamentary works, bad weather conditions or security reasons.
After having read this information, you can proceed with the actual reservation process. At the bottom of the page in which we find ourselves, we need to select the type of visit that we intend to do (among the three that I have described above).
Once the request is confirmed, a message with a link is sent to the e-mail address given during the booking process. By clicking on it, you access a page, where you enter the data of all the participants in the visit (as mentioned above, name, surname and date of birth). The reservation request is processed once the participants’ data have been transmitted. The reservation is confirmed when you receive the confirmation e-mail from the booking office.
Booking at the reservation office
The other way to book a visit to the Reichstag is to do it directly at the booking office, which is located near the building. This is the least convenient option, because the reservation takes place only if there are places available and, if you are lucky, at times which don’t suit you best. You can book a visit for the same day or at most for the following two.
The day of the visit
Whatever method is used to book a visit to the Reichstag, it is necessary to arrive well in advance to allow strict security checks (approximately 30 minutes before the chosen time). At the entrance, you must show the booking confirmation accompanied by an identity document, as the booking is personal and non-transferable. If you arrive late, you will not be able to join the group on the next shift, unless you have made a new reservation at the booking office.
Whatever the duration of your trip to Berlin, I advise you to include a visit to the Reichstag to your itinerary. During my three-day trip to Berlin, it was one of the experiences I enjoyed the most – and what’s more, it’s for free. So, why not take advantage of it?