Free advance online reservations are the best way to see the Reichstag parliament building and cupola in Berlin — time-slot tickets and official identification are essential for all visitors.
The cupola on the Reichstag building in Berlin is the second most popular sight in Germany. Queuing for tickets is no longer necessary, or indeed possible, for free admission to the spiral walkway in the dome at the top of the German parliament. Advance online reservations for the Reichstag are free and the best way to get tickets. Currently, very few Berlin sightseeing tours also include a visit to the roof of the Reichstag. On dates that are no longer available through the direct official channel, reservations at the exclusive Käfer restaurant on the Reichstag roof get visitors into the cupola through a special elevator — breakfast and apero (late afternoon drink and snack) are cheaper than lunch or dinner.
The Reichstag German Parliamentary Building
The Reichstag building in Berlin is considered the second most popular site in Germany (only the Cologne cathedral may claim more visitors).
The Reichstag building is not particularly old – it was constructed at the end of the nineteenth century but hugely remodeled a century later with the popular Kuppel walkway designed by Sir Norman Foster added. The views from the roof and the dome are the main attractions of visiting the Reichstag.
The building originally housed the Reichstag, or lower house of the German imperial parliament — Kaiserrecih 1871-1918). Reichstag means imperial diet – Reich = empire, Tag = diet / meeting. The name stuck – with the German Reich long gone, it now houses the Bundestag or Federal Parliament of Germany.
Free Online Reservations for the Reichstag in Berlin
For about a decade after the opening of the cupola on the Reichstag building, queuing outside the building to enter for free was the norm. Clever visitors judged the line from bus 100 – if it was more than halfway down the staircase, it was more sensible to stay on the bus and try later.
However, currently, advance reservations are not only possible but also needed. The process is not surprisingly bureaucratic but surprisingly not fully automated. In addition, for a nation fairly obsessed with internet security and data protection, the German Bundestag requires quite a bit of personal information even before confirming whether tickets are available.
At the Bundestag website go to Visit the Bundestag (first find the English button if necessary), then online registration to select the type of visit – visit to the dome is the more common but free guided tours of the building or attending a plenary session followed by a visit to the roof cupola are also available (mostly in German and fairly long).
The website of the Bundestag is not particularly user-friendly and for example, currently requires visitors to scroll down manually after each “enter” to find more details.
Available dates are listed for the same day and for up to a year in advance – up to three dates or times may be specified. Then enter details, wait for an email reply, click the link in the email and provide the personal details of all people in the group.
Then wait for another email confirming that your request has been forwarded to the relevant authorities — this email is not the actual confirmation email that place is available.
The final email with pdf document confirms the date and time but reverts to personal data paranoia by not actually listing any of the names of the members of the group but be sure that names and birthdates correspond when turning up at the Reichstag. The ticket is not transferable and may be canceled at short notice if the Dome is closed for whatever official reason. The whole process may take a few hours or even days.
Reichstag Visitors’ Information
The cupola and roof of the Reichstag are open daily from 8 am to 24:00 (last admissions at 21:45) but often the hours are much more restricted.
Visitors enter in groups every 15 minutes – turn up 15 minutes earlier than the stated time at the rather scruffy temporary looking security check buildings at the far end of the lawn from the Reichtag’s stairs.
The Reichstag dome is closed on December 24, close late afternoon on December 31, and may be closed on a few other days, mostly for maintenance (usually a few days in March, July, and October).
Once inside, visitors may stay as long as they please. A free audio guide (available in 10 languages) gives a tour of the history and sights that can be seen on the walk up to the top of the dome.
Proof of identity is required at the Bundestag and expect airport-style security, although generally a lot friendlier.
Alternative Options for Visiting the Reichstag
Online reservations are the preferred method of visiting the cupola of the Reichstag and the only method that will ensure admission. Telephone reservations are not taken.
A sure way to access the cupola is a reservation at the exclusive Käfer restaurant on the Reichstag roof — breakfast and mid-afternoon apero are cheaper than lunch or dinner. A special entrance is available for visitors with Käfer reservations but it is still necessary to pass through the regular security checkpoint.
Visitors without advance reservation could enquire from the Visitors Service kiosk (often open afternoons only) in Scheidemannstraße next to the Berlin Pavilion if tickets are available. Although this service seems to not be in use at all times it may be worth trying.
A further alternative is to take a guided tour of Berlin sights with a visit to the Reichstag cupola included. Currently, almost no tours actually include a visit to the dome. Get Your Guide is a good source to check if tours have resumed. Note that tours must mention access to the roof / dome / cupola, as many tours mention the Reichstag but are just a walk by.
The Bundestag offers official tours — mostly in German but occasionally in English too — but note that these are long, may include a visit to a parliamentary debate, and usually won’t reach the dome where tour members are released for around two hours. Great for students of politics but no quick way to the cupola.
Getting to the Reichstag is easiest using public transportation. Bus 100 stops right in front of the side of the building in Scheidemannstraße at bus stop Reichstag / Bundestag. From the Hauptbahnhof, it is also possible to use U-Bahn U5 to the Bundestag, or from the reverse direction from e.g. Alexander Platz, Museum Island, Unter den Linden. S & U Bahn station Brandenburger Tor is also just a short walk from the Bundestag building.
Berlin Guidebook Recommendation:
Rick Steves Berlin Guide is a great choice for a first or short visit to Berlin. He does a good job of narrowing the huge city and wealth of attractions down to those generally of most interest to foreign travelers. The guide is easy to read, well organized, full of time and money saving tips with useful walking routes and self-guided tours to some of the top museums and best attractions.