The way we plan our trips goes a little something like this – five or six weeks before we want to go somewhere, we start talking about where we want to go. After we choose a destination, we spend a weekend researching flights, trains, and hotels and book them. After that, we completely forget about the trip until around one to two weeks before we’re set to go – that’s when we start the actual researching/planning phase. Because of our late-stage planning tendencies, we almost, almost missed getting to do something really cool on this trip – visit the Reichstag dome in Berlin at night.
It was two weeks before we were scheduled to go, and we were planning our Berlin itinerary for our first day. I’d had ‘visit the Reichstag dome’ pinned on my Pinterest board for months, so I clicked on the website to check closing times only to discover that, although the visit is free, it must be booked in advance. Like, well in advance if you have a very specific date and time you’d like to visit. My heart sank. I really wanted to be there to see the sunset, and the only day where it fit in our schedule was our first day. I went ahead and sent our request anyway, but without a lot of hope that we’d actually get in. Then two days later, what appears in our inbox, but our tickets to the Reichstag dome! We were actually going to make it!
Visiting the Reichstag Dome
So what is the Reichstag dome in Berlin? Technically, the building itself is called the Bundestag since Germany now has a federal government, versus the imperial government that was in power when the building was first named, but old habits die hard and most people still refer to this building as the Reichstag. Names aside, the purpose of this building is as a meeting place for Parliament. Since this is a secure government building, when you enter, you’ll need to bring with you your tickets, plus identification. (Not being residents of Germany, we had to bring our passports.) You’ll also have to go through a security check, just like at an airport, so the less you bring with you, the quicker you’ll get through. When Parliament is not sitting, free guided tours are available in the building, but on our visit, we were there for one purpose – to see Berlin from the dome on top of the building!
Since daylight savings time was set to kick in the morning we planned to visit, moving sunset up a whole hour, we had scheduled our time at the Reichstag for 4:30pm and, on the day, arrived a half hour early. (Very glad we did this. Sunset is a popular time, so there was a line stretching out of the building to go through security.) It had been a very cloudy, almost entirely overcast day. As we got closer and closer to our scheduled time, I began to realize it would be very unlikely we’d get to see that sunset I was hoping for. Nevertheless, I knew it would still be a cool experience to get to be inside the dome, regardless of the weather.
We made it to the top about fifteen minutes before sunset, but just as I’d expected, there was no sun to be seen. We walked around the platforms surrounding the dome where usually you can get a decent view of the Spree River and some of Berlin’s most famous landmarks, but it was so hard to see much of anything through the clouds that we gave up and went inside.
Being inside the Reichstag dome on an overcast day, surrounded by clouds, was like being inside a real-life version of the Jetson’s house, sans the robot maid. (If you’re too young to remember that cartoon, don’t tell me.) The dome is all windows and futuristic-looking architecture, and if it doesn’t make you feel like you’re in a spaceship, then you probably watch less sci-fi movies than I do. It really is a cool place, but I was still feeling a little bummed that my photos were lacking the wow factor that comes with good lighting. And then I thought, what if we just wait awhile? Maybe just until it gets dark and see if the light gets any more interesting. And oh, it did.
The Reichstag Dome at Night
When they turned the lights on in the dome, we definitely felt like stowaways on an alien spacecraft! And even better, the combination of the early evening blue skies and the lights reflecting off the metal inside the dome created much more colorful photos. I highly recommend scheduling your visit for sunset, but also sticking around just a bit longer for that deep blue, just-after-sunset light that always looks so great in photos. (At night, when there isn’t as much light reflecting onto the bottom of the dome, it’s also much easier to see down into the actual room where Parliament meets!)
With it now being the new year and the logical time to make resolutions, I’ve resolved to start our travel planning much, much earlier than we have been. We got lucky making it into the Reichstag dome – I know that – and I never want to risk missing something like that again just because I’m a travel procrastinator. Cory rolled his eyes at me when I told him I was going to be more organized (because I say it after every single trip), but this time I’m serious. Like, already have our entire Sweden trip planned out five weeks in advance serious. How’s that for New Year’s resolution follow-through?!
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