Potsdam, the capital of Brandenburg in the East of Germany, makes a great day trip from Berlin; the Prussian kings have left their royal imprints on this city with lavish palaces, parks, and gardens, many of them with UNESCO World Heritage status. Most people come to Potsdam to see the rococo palace Sanssouci built for Frederick the Great, but the city has much more to offer. Here are the best things you shouldn’t miss when you visit Potsdam.
When King of Prussia Frederick the Great wanted to escape the formalities of his life in Berlin, he retreated to his summer palace in Potsdam, aptly called Sanssouci ("without worries" in French). The rococo style palace built in 1774 sits on top of a terraced vineyard, overlooking 700 acres of royal gardens; designed after Versailles in France, the ornate garden is filled with cascading terraces, fountains, marble sculptures, and a Chinese tea house. On the highest terrace close to the palace, you’ll find the tomb of Fredrick. If you want to to see the inside of the palace, you have to get a time-slotted ticket (best time to visit: before noon and during the week).
Maulbeerallee, 14469 Potsdam
Another must-see for history buffs is Cecilienhof Palace set in the beautiful park Neuer Garten. The last palace of the Hohenzoller family ever built, it was designed in the rustic English Tudor style. You can tour some of the historic rooms such as smoking salon, the music salon, and the bedroom of the royal family. But one of the most fascinating rooms is the Great Hall; it was here that the Potsdam Conference was held in 1945, and Stalin, Churchill and Truman decided to divide Germany into different occupation zones. The Great Hall with historic photos, flags and documents and the original massive round table where the future of post-war Germany was decided, is impressive.
Am Neuen Garten 8, 14469 Potsdam
Sweeping gables, red bricks, and white window shutters - set in the heart of Potsdam, the Dutch Quarter (Hollaenderviertel) was built in the 18th century for Dutch artisans and craftsmen who were invited to settle down here by Frederick the Great. The ensemble of over 130 houses built in the traditional Dutch style is unique in Europe and part of the Unesco World heritage list. Walk down the cobble-stoned streets Mittelstrasse and Benkertstrasse, which are brimming with lovely cafes, specialty shops, and restaurants.
Mittelstrasse/Benkertstrasse, 14467 Potsdam
Before the wall fell and Germany was divided in two, the Glienicke Bridge was one of the most mysterious sites of the Cold War; spanning the Havel river, the bridge connected the soviet-occupied Potsdam in the East with the US-occupied West Berlin, and the two superpowers used this checkpoint to exchange captured Cold War spies and secret agents. After the 1962 exchange of Russian agent Rudolf Abel for downed US pilot Francis Gary Powers, the Glienicke Bridge was nicknamed “Bridge of Spies”.
Glienicke Bridge 1, 14467 Potsdam
Just a little bit North of Potsdam’s city center you’ll find the Russian Colony Alexandrowka; built in 1827, the 13 wooden Russian homes were erected by the Prussian King to house the Russian singers of the First Prussian Regiment of the Guards; some of their descendants still live in the historic homes today. Surrounded by fruit and vegetables gardens, the little colony is complete with a Russian Orthodox chapel and a Russian teahouse, which is located in the former Warden’s House.
Russian Colony, Alexandrowka 1-14, 14469 Potsdam