Prior to 1871, parliament had been meeting in several buildings throughout Berlin, all considered too small. So, in 1872, an architectural competition was held to design a new building. The site chosen for the new parliament building originally housed the palace of a Polish-Prussian aristocrat. However, construction did not begin for ten years because of problems with the purchase of the land. The model for the winning design was reportedly based on Philadelphia’s Memorial Hall (the main building of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition).
The words “Dem Deutschen Volke” (“To the German People”) were inscribed on the building’s facade in 1916, much to the displeasure of Wilhelmi II because of its democratic symbolism. Following Wirld War I, and the end of the German monarchy, the building became the seat of the Weimar Republic until 1933, when a suspicious fire on February 27, destroyed a large portion of the building. With the rise of the Third Reich, the Nazi Party suspended most of the rights of the Weimar Constitution. As a result, parliament surrendered its power to Hitler and the building was used for propaganda purposes. During World War II, the Allies targeted the building, leaving it heavily damaged. Throughout the Cold War, the Reichstag was physically located within West Berlin, but only a few feet from the East Berlin border.
Between 1961 and 1964, the building was the scene for the official “Reunification of Germany” ceremony. Today, the building is the second most visited attraction in the country. Its iconic glass dome, the only part of the building open for public tours (at least when we were there), offers a 369 degree view of Berlin.