All of you have probably heard of Berlin, right, and possibly many of you ho live in Europe have also visited the city as well. But did you know that there is another awesome city just a little over 30km from Berlin, where you can see lots of castles and palaces, gardens and charming neighbourhoods, lakes and water channels? It is also very easy to just take a short train ride form Berlin center and do a day trip to this place. It is called Potsdam and it is actually one of the nicest smaller cities I have been to in Germany. This was my third visit and I guess it is finally time to write a little bit about it.
SANSSOUCI PALACE AND PARK | Prussian king Frederik´s summer residence rezidenca
THE CAPITAL CITY OF GERMANY STATE BRANDENBURG with its world known PALACES, built for the needs of Prussian empire with king FREDERIK THE GREAT, is not only a popular spot for tourists, but an important UNESCO World Heritage sight as well. Besides many other interesting historical buildings, the SANSSOUCI PALACE is the most famous of them all, therefore I am starting this post with it as well.
One of the landmarks of Potsdam and probably the best architectural example of Prussian legacy – THE SUMMER PALACE OF KING FREDERIK THE GREAT, built in Roccocco style, is of course also on UNESCO´s list and should not be missed visiting during your visit. Besides its magnificent facade and surrounding area, the interior is worth seeing too, with the most known room being the MARBLE ROOM (Marmorsaal).
While you are here make sure to also walk around the whole park (you might have to calculate several hours for this visit), because there are simply many more beautiful buildings to see. For example the CHINESE HOUSE, THE NEW PALACE, THE PICTURE GALLERY, ANTIQUE TEMPLE, WINDMILL and other. The green park with many paths, sculptures and water features is lovely also.
NEUES PALAIS | the New Palace at the other end of Sanssouci park
At the other end of park Sansssoci, there is another, bigger, BAROQUE PALACE which was built to celebrate the Prussian power at the end of a 7 year long war with France. Frederik the Great made this palace especially for the purposes of international visits, banquets and similar events – there are around 200 rooms, the most famous of them all must be the so-called GROTTENSAAL, which is decorated with over 24.000 seashells, gemstones and fossils.
CECILIENHOF CASTLE | important set of the Potsdam conference
Besides the palaces in Sanssouci park there is another interesting castle to see while in Potsdam. It is called Cecilienhof, after Cecile and Wilhelm of PRUSSIAN ROYAL FAMILY who live in the castle at the time. From the architectural aspect, this castle is much different compared to the other ones in the city – it is not showing Italian renaissance influences at all, instead it resembles the English – German style with beautiful half-timber wood structures.
Cecilienhof is especially known after the so-called POTSDAM CONFERENCE, where in 1945 very important decisions regarding the 2WW, the future of Germany and Europe, were made. In those times Harry Truman, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin all stayed in the castle.
ALEXANDROVKA MUSEUM | fairytale wooden houses from the times of a Russian colony
In Potsdam we can still today sense a great RUSSIAN INFLUENCE, particularly in the years around 1820 there was an important RUSSIAN COLONY established here, in a part of the city called ALEXANDROWKA, named after TSAR ALEXANDER. Today, you can still admire around a dozen of FAIRYTALE WOODEN HOUSES, out of which one is turned into a museum.
THE ENTRY FEE to the museum house is only a bit over 3€ and I suggest the visit mostly to the ones who understand German as I had the expression there are not many English signs. Other than this it is an interesting site to see and read about – but note that the actual museum is only 1 house. You can also sit down in a cafe which is hosted in one of the other houses, but all others are private and you can only see them from the street. Here you can also PARK FOR FREE (for 2 hrs) and it is a pleasant walk to the city center if you don´t have much time to see the city.
HÖLLANDISCHES VIERTEL | the largest Dutsch neighbourhood outside of the Netherlands
THE DUTSCH QUARTER or the “HOLLÄNDSCHES VIERTEL” on German is a wonderful part of Potsdam to walk around. It is known for being THE LARGEST DUTCH NEIGHBOURHOOD OUTSIDE THE NETHERLANDS and you can admire many cute brick houses with wonderful facades or even stop by at one of the numerous cafes, restaurants and lovely shops.
There are OVER 130 SUCH BUILDINGS, built after the architectural plans of JAN BOUMAN – you can learn more about the history of this highly interesting neighbourhood in the museum which is called the JAN BOUMAN HOUSE. In April there is even a tulip festival held here and in December you can attend a Dutch inspired Christmas market.
RATHAUS | Potsdam city hall
In Potsdam you can check out the OLD CITY HALL, which today is a CITY MUSEUM and the NEW CITY HALL, which you can see on the pictures below. This one is built on one of the main roads leading to the city center so you might pass it anyway – in case you do you can stop and see if there is a temporary exhibition inside, otherwise its facade is also quite nice.
BRANDENBURGER TOR | the famous city gates
Just like in Berlin, we also find a neoclassical BRANDENBURG GATE in Potsdam. In fact, though significantly smaller than the one in Berlin, this gate was built 20 years prior. The gates were another sign of Prussian victory after the 7 years long war. At this very same spot there used to be a MEDIEVAL CITY GATE, this is also the start of one of the best streets in the city called the BRANDENBURGERSTRAßE.
BRANDENBURGERSTRAßE | central walking zone with lots of shops and restaurants
In front of the above mentioned gate one of the most famous streets in Potsdam begins, the Brandenburgerstraße. This is a great street for strolling around if you are looking to have a cup of coffee or a bite to eat, just people watch or shop around. The whole street is a PEDESTRIAN ZONE and it´s particularly lively at the weekends. At the other end, the street ends with St. Peter and Paul´s Church, which you can see in the picture here.
ST. NIKOLAIKIRCHE | impressive church on Alter Markt square
On ALTER MARKT SQUARE we can see another one of the most recognizable monuments in Potsdam, trhe St. NICHOLAS CHURCH. It stands out with its turquoise dome and it´s hard to miss once you are in the area. Although it was heavily damaged during the war, it was nicely restored in the past 20 years and overall a nice church to visit.
SCHLOSSRUNDFAHRT | scenic boat trips on lakes and water channels around the city
Potsdam is surrounded with lakes and water channels which makes it one of those cities which are perfect for a boat trip. There are different routes available, but on most you will get to see more beautiful villas, palaces and most of all – beautiful green nature. Depending on the boat you will take, some are also offering lunches and drinks and on a sunny day this is a great thing to do.
MUSEUMS AND OTHER ATRACTIONS | what else can you do in the city
Especially on more rainy days, you might want to check out a couple of more museums – and there are a lot of these in Potsdam! I´ve already mentioned some (like ALEXANDROWKA, JAN BOUMAN´S HOUSE), and the other ones to check out would be BARBERINI MUSEUM, FILM MUSEUM, FILMPARK BABELSBERG (where lots of Hollywood movies were filmed as well) and other ART GALLERIES.
So even if Potsdam is not one of the largest cities in Germany there is so much to do that you will not get bored during a weekend visit. If you are coming for only one day you might prioritise your itinerary in advance so that you don´t lose time later. After my 3 visits I still haven´t seen everything but I think I´m on a good way. Again, the city is really nice and well worth visiting especially if you have a day extra while in Berlin.
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