It had served as the seat of the German parliament from its opening in 1894 until 1933, when it was largely damaged by a fire. By then, Hitler had risen to power and the parliament did not return to the damaged building, which also suffered from air raid hits in World War II. After the war, the Reichstag was on West German grounds, but very close to the Berlin Wall. The GDR used other structures to house its parliament, while the West German capital was moved away from Berlin to Bonn. When the decision to restore the building was finally made in 1956, the architect in charge removed almost all reminiscences from before the Nazi regime period and essentially established a new construction inside the historic walls. The restoration works were finished in 1964 but afterwards, the building was only rarely used for official functions. This changed after German reunification which was officially declared at the Reichstag on 3 October 1990. When the decision was made to move the capital back to Berlin, yet another architect, Norman Foster, was in charge of reconstructing the building again. While these works continued, the Reichstag was notably wrapped by artist Christo in 1995. Foster had orders to preserve much of the history that had been going on around the building over time.
Upon the finished reconstruction, the Parliament held its first session here in April 1999 and has convened at the Reichstag ever since. When in session, visitor groups can sit in the gallery overlooking the plenary action. However, most visitors prefer a visit to the dome atop the building, providing for such a magnificent experience that the Reichstag has become Germany’s second-most visited attraction. Everyone planning on a visit should be aware that advance registration is highly recommended at the Reichstag and that scheduled visits may have to be cancelled on short notice, e.g. for security reasons. The same applies to the guided tours that depart every 20 minutes. More information and registration is available on the Bundestag’s visitor services website: http://www.bundestag.de/htdocs_e/visits/
The glass dome on topf of the building also allows for a view into the plenary area, but it also grants an amazing 360° view of Berlin. The construction is reminiscent of the original Reichstag, which also bore a glass dome until it was destroyed in the great fire of 1933. It is also intended to symbolize that the people stand above the government. It is an environment-friendly construction as it guides sunlight through a system of mirrors into the inside.