Although Potsdam is not the most famous name in the list of popular German cities, it is certainly worth a visit. Since 1990, for example, many palaces, parks and monuments have been registered on the list of Unesco’s World Heritage Sites. When you enter Potsdam from the Netherlands via the east, you immediately pass some beautiful palaces, parks and gardens. Potsdam is known as a city where electors and other dignitaries liked to pass their days. For example, the Elector of Brandenburg, Fredrik Willem, liked to stay there during the summer months and had Honselaarsdijk Castle built for this purpose. The link with the Netherlands was immediately established in the architecture. His predilection for Dutch architecture arose through his studies in Leiden. He also married a Dutch woman, namely Louise Henriette van Nassau, daughter of Frederik Hendrik van Oranje. The Hohenzollern royal family subsequently built more palaces in Potsdam. Their heritage can be found in palaces like Sanssouci, and Neues Palace. The historic center of Potsdam begins at the city gate, the Brandenburg Gate. On this atmospheric square you will find a fountain, cozy terraces and nice hotels. The city’s shopping area also begins here. During the Second World War, the bombs also caused a lot of damage in Potsdam. The present Stadschloss, for example, has been completely rebuilt. And so more empty holes have been rebuilt. The city has now restored its atmospheric and characteristic appearance and now receives many tourists who want to admire it with their own eyes. It is recommended to buy a ticket for the palaces in advance. Time slots are often used, so some planning in advance is necessary if you want to see a lot.
Top 10 Things to Do in Potsdam
#1. Sanssouci Palace
From the center of Potsdam you can walk through the park to Sanssouci Castle in half an hour. Once you arrive at the palace you will be overwhelmed by the beauty of the fountain and the terrace with a number of stairs in front of it. Many call Schloss Sanssouci the ‘Versailles of Prussia’. Next to the stairs you will find floors with bunches of grapes. The wine must have flowed abundantly here. And that’s right. Sanssouci Castle was built around the eighteenth century by order of Frederick the Great. After some disagreement about the design, Dutch architect Jan Bouman was eventually commissioned to build a summer residence. In the nineteenth century, the palace was expanded as a pleasure center under the direction of Fredrik Willem IV of Prussia. His predilection for nature, wine, music and philosophy is visible in various places in the palace. The decorations and images in particular leave little to the imagination.
#2. Hollandisches Viertel
In the historic center of Potsdam, a clear reference to Dutch architecture can be found. The Holländisches Viertel is a street block with typical Dutch houses. The characteristic red brick and gabled facades immediately evoke recognition. The design comes from Jan Bouwman, an Amsterdam architect who was also involved in the construction of Schloss Sanssouci and the old Town Hall of Potsdam. The Holländisches Viertel was built between 1733 and 1742 by order of Frederik Willem I and later Frederik II. The buildings now house nice specialty shops, catering establishments and other independent entrepreneurs.
#3. Schloss Charlottenhof
According to NEXTICLE, several palaces are located in the park of Schloss Sanssouci. The same goes for the neoclassical Charlottenhof Palace. This palace was donated in the nineteenth century to the young crown prince who we later know as Frederik Willem IV. The design, based on an idea of a Roman villa, comes from Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Ludwig Persius. Each room is decorated according to its own theme, material and color. Charlottenhof Palace is open to the public.
#4. Babelsberg Park
The Babelsberg Park, spanning over one hundred and fourteen hectares, is located in the northeast of Postdam. In the nineteenth century, Frederick William I commissioned landscape architect Peter Joseph Lenné to create a park. Schloss Babelsberg was also built here later. The Babelsberg Park is ideal for taking beautiful walks along the monumental buildings such as the steam engine house, the Gerichtslaube from 1871, the Flatowturm and the garden house Het Kleine Slot. Since 1990, the Babelsberg Park has been registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
The Lutheran Friedenskirche is located in the park of Sanssouci. It is also the final resting place of Frederick William IV and his wife Elisabeth Ludovika. The design comes from Ludwig Persius, a Prussian architect. After his death in 1845, this was taken over by Friedrich August Stüler. In the fairly austere Friedenskirche you can admire religious works of art and a thirteenth century mosaic. In the courtyard is a statue of Christ.
#6. Belvédère on the Pfingstberg
The impressive Belvédère castle on the Pfingstberg is of a decent size. It was partly built around 1847 and then finished thirteen years later. The design was also assisted by Ludwig Persius, Friedrich August Stüler and Ludwig Ferdinand Hesse. The palace was commissioned by Frederik Willem Iv to be built on this location because of the phenomenal view. During World War II, it was forbidden to visit Belvédère on the Pfingstberg, because you could see in the direction of West Berlin from here.
#7. Brandenburg Gate
Potsdam’s city gate is the Brandenburg Gate on Luisenplatz. As early as 1770, the gate was built under the supervision of the architects Carl von Gontard and Georg Unger. It should therefore certainly not be compared with the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, since it was only built in 1788. The design of Potsdam’s Brandenburg Gate clearly shows Roman influences. Another special detail is the different front and rear. The large entrance was only intended for horse and carriages. The small entrances on the side were intended for pedestrians.
#8. New Palace
It is wise to allow sufficient time for a visit to the Neues Palace of Potsdam. The Neues Palace is about half an hour’s walk from Schloss Sanssouci. The walk is easy to follow through the castle park. Around 1763, the go-ahead was given for the construction of the Neues Paleis. Originally Frederick II had it designed not as a royal palace, but as a party venue and guest house. But Wilhelm II thought otherwise about 1888. He made the palace one of his residences. The Neues Paleis has its own theatre, with gold-decorated ceilings, beautiful galleries, luxurious royal apartments and no fewer than four ballrooms.
#9. Orangery Palace
As part of the palaces, there was also an Orangery Palace in Sanssouci Park. This last-built palace on the north side was mainly used to accommodate guests. The Italian-looking design comes from Friedrich August Stüler and Ludwig Ferndinand Hesse. During the winter months, spaces and greenhouses were also used to house potted plants and other vulnerabilities of Sanssouci Palace. The Raffael Hall houses exceptionally beautiful copies of works by the Italian artist Raphael.
#10. KGB prison
During the cold war, the KGB prison was hell on earth. Anyone suspected of espionage was tortured and tyrannized here at 1 Leistikowstrasse by order of Stalin in the most gruesome manner. Various texts written by prisoners can be seen and read in the cells. During a tour of this former prison, all kinds of details from this eventful history are told. The walls still exude the fetid odor of fear and despair. In the end, it is made clear through a permanent exhibition that a repetition of the communist dictatorship should never have a repetition.