The restored Dome of the Reichstags building is one of its key attractions. It is possible to visit just the dome, without the tour of the remaining building we had. There is also a rooftop restaurant next to the dome, although only open to those with a table reservation on the day we visited.
The original design of the building also included a glass and steel dome, an engineering feat of its time. It was not as round as the current one, having a square base that rose up to a central point with 4 corner struts. A picture published by the German government shows it quite well.
Unfortunately, its construction materials meant that it was severely damaged by the fire in 1933. It remained in the same damaged state until 1954 when in a controlled explosion it was destroyed to make the building safe. That didn’t stop other parts of the building from being used in the Second World War, the maternity and other wards of the Charité hospital used the basement.
With the restoration by Norman Foster, the dome was redesigned to accommodate multiple purposes. Its primary one, like that of its predecessor, is to allow natural light into the debating chamber.
Its design, with the column of moving mirrors in the centre, maximises the light being captured and ensures there is never any glare from the sun.
The second purpose is as a visitor attraction. It is both beautiful to behold from the outside,
but also allows visitors to view the whole city of Berlin from an elevated position. Paths wind up and down the side of the glass structure and handy guides explain what it is that can be viewed from the different positions.
EU-philes will be pleased to know that although a German flag flies from three of the four corners, the last corner is home to an EU flag.