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History of Reichstag | From Past to Present: Berlin's Iconic Symbol of Democracy

A symbol of democracy and a monument that’s withstood the test of time, the Reichstag has endured centuries of events that shaped both Germany’s and the world’s history. From its humble beginnings to its prominence as an iconic attraction, the Reichstag has played a crucial role in the cultural and political landscape of Berlin. Read on to find out all about the Reichstag’s history and what makes it one of the most visited landmarks in Berlin today! 

Timeline of the Reichstag

1871: Under the supervision of German architect Paul Walloy, the Reichstag’s construction begins following the unification of Germany under the German Empire.

1894: The Reichstag building’s construction is completed and it’s inaugurated. 

1918: The German Revolution leads to the abdication of the German Emperor and the establishment of the Weimar Republic. The Reichstag becomes the seat of the German government.

1933: The Reichstag suffers from a deadly fire, leading to the erosion of democracy in Germany and the rise of the Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler.

1945: The end of World War II resulted in the Reichstag building being heavily damaged during the Battle of Berlin.

1949: The establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). The Reichstag building falls within the territory of West Berlin, near the border of East Berlin.

1990: The fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of East and West Germany. The Reichstag building undergoes extensive renovations and restoration.

1999: The Reichstag building becomes the seat of the German Bundestag (Parliament) after extensive renovations and restoration under the design of British architect Norman Foster.

History of Reichstag Explained

Reichstag or Bundestag on Platz der Republik in Berlin in Germany

Inception of the Reichstag

Late 19th Century

The Reichstag, meaning "National Diet" in German, was constructed between 1884 to 1894 under the supervision of Paul Wallot. It was to serve as the parliamentary building of the then-ruling government. The original building sported a neo-Renaissance style. 

Reichstag or Bundestag on Platz der Republik in Berlin in Germany

Fire of the Reichstag

February 27, 1933

An incident that shaped the Bundestag’s history was the destructive Reichstag fire of 1933.  Marinus van der Lubbe, a young Dutch communist was dubbed the perpetrator and subsequently, the Nazi regime used the event to rise further into power. Other actions included the suspension of civil liberties and the ultimate establishment of authoritarian rule.

Reichstag or Bundestag on Platz der Republik in Berlin in Germany

World War II and Destruction of the Reichstag

1939-1945

Caught amidst the turmoil of World War II, the Reichstag was left in ruins. However, its remains were preserved to serve as a reminder of the power of resistance and resilience against Nazi tyranny. 

Reichstag or Bundestag on Platz der Republik in Berlin in Germany

Fall of the Berlin Wall and Reunification

1989-1990

A key moment in German history was the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The reunification of East and West Germany in 1990 subsequently restored the Reichstag as the seat of a reunified German government. The building underwent severe restoration and reconstruction with the addition of a glass dome. This was the vision of British architect Norman Foster who wished to make the dome a symbol of transparency and openness in the German democratic process.

Reichstag or Bundestag on Platz der Republik in Berlin in Germany

Reopening and Modern Significance

1999-Present

The Reichstag was officially reopened in 1999, becoming the meeting place of the German Bundestag (parliament). It has since become a popular tourist attraction offering panoramic views of Berlin and its rich history serving as a reminder of Germany's tumultuous past and its commitment to democracy. Today, the Reichstag serves as a symbol of political stability, openness, and democracy in Germany and the world.

Construction of Reichstag

Reichstag or Bundestag on Platz der Republik in Berlin in Germany

Perceived as a symbol of German unity, the Reichstag was first commemorated in 1894 under the vision and direction of architect Paul Wallot. The building adapted a true neo-Renaissance style, complete with grand facades, intricate details, and sculptures. The construction involved innovative techniques for the time, such as the use of steel and glass, which were cutting-edge materials of the era. Despite, a rocky start, the Reichstag was completed and inaugurated. It came to stand as a beacon of German democracy and progress.

Reichstag Today

Today, the Reichstag stands as a powerful testament to Germany's rich history and its commitment to democracy. Its intricate architecture, with the glass dome symbolizing transparency and openness, has made it a symbol of modern Berlin. As the seat of the German Bundestag, the Reichstag continues to play a significant role in the country's governance, hosting important political debates and decisions. Visiting the Reichstag is not only a chance to marvel at its grandeur and architectural significance but also an opportunity to delve into the history and culture of Berlin and Germany. 




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English or German Guided Tour of the Reichstag Building
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2 hr. 30 min.
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Berlin WelcomeCard with Potsdam: Public Transport (Zones AB) & Discounts
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Flexible Duration
Audio Guide
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Around and into the Reichstag Tour
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2 hr. 30 min.
Guided Tour
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Deluxe Berlin: Car Tour with a Meal at Reichstag, Wine & Chocolate Tastings
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5 hr.
Transfers Included
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Frequently Asked Questions about the History of the Reichstag

Q. How old is the Reichstag?

A. The Reichstag was completed in 1894, making it over 120 years old.

Q. Who designed the Reichstag?

A. The Reichstag was designed by architect Paul Wallot.

Q. What is the historical significance of the Reichstag?

A. The Reichstag has a rich historical significance as it served as the seat of the German parliament and witnessed key events in German history, including the rise of the Nazi party and the reunification of East and West Germany.

Q. Where is the Reichstag?

A. The Reichstag is located in Berlin, Germany, near the Brandenburg Gate.

Q. What is the Reichstag famous for?

A. The Reichstag is a blend of historical and modern architecture, with its original Neo-Renaissance style combined with a modern glass dome designed by architect Norman Foster.

Q. Are there guided tours explaining the Reichstag’s history?

A. Yes, there are guided tours available that provide information about the history and architecture of the Reichstag.

Q. Is it worth visiting the Reichstag?

A. Yes, visiting the Reichstag is highly recommended for its historical significance, stunning architecture, and panoramic views of Berlin from the dome.