The German Reichstag building, home to the current German parliament has had a relatively short but turbulent history. The name Reichstag refers to the building rather than the political institution which is referred to as the Bundestag.
Opened in 1894 to house the general assembly or Diet of the German Empire, the building commands an imposing presence on the south east corner of the government district.
In 1933, while being used as the parliament building by the Nazi regime, the building was destroyed in a fire. It was left in a ruined and delapidated state until refurbishment in the early 1960s.
In 1945, at the end of World War II, the new West German parliament convened at Bonn, the new capital of the Federal German Republic. The Reichstag building was only metres away from the border with East Berlin, a border closed by the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961.
Following German reunification in 1990, a memorably fierce debate in the German parliament led to the return of the government to Berlin. Over the next 8 years the building was completely refurbished and used for the first time for pariamentary sessions on 19th April 1999.
Whilst not in the original plans for the refurbishment, a dome was eventually constructed. The architects were also instructed to retain any traces of historical events. It is therefore still possible to see grafitti left on smoke blackened walls by liberating Russian soldiers in 1945.
Today the Reichstag building is the second most popular tourist attraction in Germany, quite a long way after Cologne Cathedral. A visit to the dome is free, although pre registration is required and security is obviously extremely tight. While some tickets may be available at short notice from a kiosk on the south side of Scheidemannstraße, pre booking online is strongly advised.