Potsdam, the capital of the state of Brandenburg, is located just 40 kilometers southwest of Berlin in a beautiful area with forests and lakes. This former residence of the Prussian rulers is a city of palaces and gardens in a style that even got its own name: Potsdam Rococo. It has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, but it was under Frederick the Great that it really grew in importance, and by 1774 there were 139 barracks and other military buildings in Potsdam. To further fortify the capital, new palaces were built and entire parts of the city were replaced with baroque houses. Today, much of this beautiful city is protected under UNESCO Palaces and Parks of Berlin and Potsdam World Heritagestatus and, perhaps fittingly, Frederick the Great’s remains were brought home in 1990.
1 Sanssouci Park
Sanssouci Park is the site of many beautiful gardens, buildings and works of art and is a joy to walk around. The oldest part of the park dates back to 1744 and, together with the many buildings and works of art, is considered the best example of the Potsdam Rococo and reflects the influence of Frederick the Great. The entrance to the park is on the east side of Hauptallee, the property’s main street, and is easy to find; just look for the tall obelisk at the main entrance. Highlights include the beautiful Neptune’s Grotto, one of a series of roundels in the park, this one featuring the busts of four Moors; the beautiful picture gallery on the Orange Roundel with its many excellent 17th century paintings, including works by Rubens, van Dyck and Caravaggio; and the Great Fountain with its depictions of the four elements and of mythological figures.
Address: Zur Historischen Mühle 1, 14469 Potsdam
Official site: www.potsdam-park-sanssouci.de/home.html
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Potsdam
2 Sanssouci Palace and the new rooms
Sanssouci Palace was built in 1745 based on sketches by Frederick the Great. The result, a beautiful one-story Rococo building with an elliptical dome in the center and circular chambers at each end, is spectacular. The garden is richly decorated with plaster and at the rear is the large courtyard, enclosed by colonnades of Corinthian columns. The most striking features of the interior are the oval marble hall with its twin Corinthian columns; the Little Gallery, with its elaborate decorations; the concert hall with its large murals; the bedroom and the study; the library, with many antique busts; and the Voltaire room. Audio guides are available for self-guided tours of approximately 40 minutes. Also worth seeing are the beautiful New Rooms of Neue Kammern. Built in 1747 as an orangery and later converted into a gardener’s house, the interior is lavishly decorated.
Address: Maulbeerallee, 14469 Potsdam
Official site: https://www.spsg.de/en/home/
3 The New Palace at Sanssouci
The New Palace, or Neues Palais, was built between 1763 and 69 in red brick, replaced by sandstone, with a copper dome. The interior of the palace is lavishly decorated, particularly in the Marble Hall, the Upper and Lower State Apartments, the Marble Gallery and Theater. The palace contains valuable furniture, photographs, porcelain and works of art and is best viewed as part of a comprehensive tour that visits the King’s Apartment. Walk around New Palace and head to the back where you’ll find Communs of Domestic Offices, two baroque-style brick buildings with colonnades and curving exterior staircases. Between the two buildings are Corinthian colonnades and a triumphal arch. In front of the new palace, the old temple and the temple of friendship were built based on sketches by Frederick the Great.
Address: Sanssouci, Am Neuen Palais, 14469 Potsdam
4 The old town hall
In Potsdam’s Alter Markt – the old market square – is the former town hall, or Altes Rathaus. Now better known as a center for cultural events and activities, this beautiful baroque building was built in 1753 with three-quarter tall Corinthian columns; a tower with a stepped dome; and a gilded figure of Atlas with the world on its back, the only original trait to survive the vagaries of weather and war. Extensively rebuilt after World War II, the building is used for exhibitions and concerts and houses the Potsdam Museum with its fine collections related to local art, culture and history. The old town hall is connected via an intermediate wing to the baroque Knobelsdorff-Haus from 1750, also used for cultural programs.
5 Editor’s Pick The Dutch Quarter
North of Bassinplatz is the famous Dutch quarter, the Holländisches Viertel, with 134 beautiful red brick houses, decorated with shutters, gables and white trim. Built by Dutch artisans between 1737 and 1742, the community is the largest collection of Dutch-style houses outside the Netherlands. At four city blocks, it’s just as popular with tourists as it is with locals, who flock here for its many boutiques, cozy cafes, and restaurants. Anticipate spending a few hours exploring the area, especially if you include the Johann Boumann House , a museum dedicated to the architect who spearheaded this remarkable 18th-century construction project. An easy walk leads to Brandenburger Strassepedestrian area with its houses built between 1733-39 for the incorporation of troops.
Address: Dutch Quarter 1, 14467 Potsdam
6 Cecilienhof Palace, New Garden
One of the more interesting of the many other buildings in Neuer Garten is Schloss Cecilienhof. Built between 1914 and 17 in the style of an English Tudor manor house, Cecilienhof is most famous as the meeting place of the July-August 1945 Potsdam Conference , between the US (Truman), UK (Churchill) and the USSR ( Stalin) at the end of World War II. The building has been beautifully preserved in the condition it was in during the conference – including the main conference room itself – and many artifacts remain, along with displays describing the event and its significance. Other highlights include the obelisk in the courtyard and the property’s beautiful gardens.
Address: In the new garden, D-14469 Potsdam
7 New Garden in Marble Palace
Potsdam’s other large park, the Neuer Garten (New Garden), is located on the shores of the Heiliger See and covers an area of 253 hectares. Beautifully laid out in the sentimental style of the late 18th century and laid down in 1789, it was intended to reflect the style of a rural English estate. The gardens are now a little more formal, but certainly retain their original splendour. A highlight of your visit is the beautiful Marble Palace (Marmorpalais), a neoclassical brick building built between 1787-91. Notable features are the colonnade on the lake side and a unique pyramid-shaped cold store or ice house.
Address: Am Neuen Garten, 14467 Potsdam
8 Chinese House, Sanssouci Park
A highlight of a visit to Sanssouci Park is the elegant Chinese house. Although listed as a garden pavilion, it’s a description that doesn’t really do this lavishly decorated building justice. Completed for Frederick the Great in 1763 as a focal point of his extensive flower and vegetable gardens, it incorporates many elements associated with the Asian design so popular at the time, with a sprinkling of Rococo influences. The interior contains many interesting features, from the stucco marble walls to the musical monkeys and fine collections of porcelain and wall paintings. Also of interest are nearby Chinese cuisine and Dragon House , the conservatorywith its Raphael Room with copies of 47 works by the artist and the Sicilian Garden with its Mediterranean plants and sculptures.
9 The Church of Peace, Sanssouci Park
On the east side of Sanssouci Park is the Church of Peace, or Friedenskirche, built in 1844. Modeled on the early Christian Basilica of San Clemente in Rome, its greatest treasure is its apse mosaic dating from 1108 from the Church of San Cipriano, Murano, purchased and installed here in 1834. Also of interest is the Kaiser Friedrich Mausoleum , added between 1888 and 1890. On the avenue leading to the Grünes Gitter, the park’s exit, are the Villa Illaire, built in 1846, and the Villa Liegnitz dating from 1841, both built in the style of an Italian villa.
Address: Am Grünengitter 3, 14469 Potsdam
10 St. Nicholas Church
Opposite the Old Town Hall in Potsdam, the Nikolaikirche is a neoclassical church built between 1830 and 1937. The most striking feature of this impressive structure is its 77-meter-high dome. Although not rededicated until 1981 due to extensive damage during World War II, it is a testament to the city’s rich architectural history, a pleasant structure open to visitors and sightseeing. In front of the church is an obelisk built in 1753 with the likeness of Potsdam’s most important architects. Also of interest is nearby Friendship Island with its beautiful gardens laid out in 1953.
Address: Am Alten Markt, 14467 Potsdam
11 Potsdam Film Museum
In the beautiful 17th-century baroque Marstall, the former Court Stables, Filmmuseum Potsdam is an excellent resource for film fans. With a global focus, the museum regularly screens international and German films and has many fascinating exhibits related to the country’s rich cinematic history, including the Babelsberg studio where many of the country’s films have been made over the last 100 years. Potsdam’s many parks and palaces can be reached by tram or bus from here Filmpark Babelsberg , the world’s oldest film studio and home to a fun movie-based theme park. Another nearby attraction is the French Church , a baroque church renovated in neoclassical style in 1833.
Address: Breite Straße 1 A, 14467 Potsdam
12 Got steam pump house, Sanssouci
Built in 1841 to provide water for the many fountains in Sanssouci Park, the Steam Pump House resembles a Moorish mosque with a chimney cleverly disguised as a minaret. Visitors can explore the facility, on the edge of the Neustädter Havelbucht, during the warmer months through guided tours of the old steam engines, permanent exhibitions on the facility’s history and architecture.
Address: Breite Straße 28, 14467 Potsdam
13 Russian Colony Alexandrovka
Russian Colony Alexandrovka
The houses in the small settlement of Alexandrowka in Potsdam were built to show the close friendship that existed between the rulers of Germany and Russia, Frederick William III and the Tsar Alexander. The houses were based on Russian models and the settlement was laid out in the shape of a Saint Andrew’s Cross. Other highlights of this unusual community include the Alexander Nevsky Church , a Russian Orthodox church built in 1829 with rich furnishings from St. Petersburg, as well as the Jewish cemetery started in 1743.
The Babelsberg district, Potsdam’s largest area, was famous in the early days of film as the home of UFA film studios. Originally developed around Nowawes, an ancient colony of spinners and weavers, the heritage of the district can still be detected near the church at Weberplatz, a humble building built in 1753. Other highlights of this beautiful area include: Babelsberg Park , the third – largest in Potsdam, put up in 1832 and enlarged from 1843, and Schloss Babelsberg , an English-style neo-Gothic palace built in 1834.
Adres: Park Babelsberg 10, D-14482 Potsdam-Babelsberg
Where to Stay in Potsdam for Sightseeing
We recommend these great hotels in Potsdam, close to the top attractions in the city:
- Steigenberger Hotel Sanssouci: affordable 4-star hotel, friendly staff, classic movie theme, wellness services, Finnish sauna.
- NH Potsdam: budget prices, great location, near restaurants and shops, excellent breakfast.
- Hotel Villa Monte Vino: mid-range boutique hotel, historic landmark building, walking distance from Sanssouci Palace.
- Mercure Hotel Potsdam City: economical rates, modern rooms, convenient location, extensive breakfast.