14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Potsdam
Potsdam, the capital of the state of Brandenburg, lies just 40 kilometers southwest of Berlin in a beautiful area of woodlands and lakes. This former residence of the Prussian rulers is a city of palaces and gardens in a style that's even been given 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 enhance the capital further, new palaces were built and whole sections of the town replaced by Baroque houses. Today, much of this beautiful city is protected under UNESCO Palaces and Parks of Berlin and Potsdam World Heritage Site status and, perhaps fittingly, the remains of Frederick the Great 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 pleasure to walk around. The oldest part of the park dates back to 1744 and, along with its many buildings and works of art, is considered the best example of Potsdam Rococo, reflecting as it does the influence of Frederick the Great. The park entrance lies at the east end of Hauptallee, the property's main avenue, and is easy enough to find; just look for the tall obelisk near the main gate. Highlights include the lovely Neptune's Grotto, one of a series of roundels in the park, this one with the busts of four Moors; the splendid Picture Gallery at the Orange Roundel with its many excellent 17th-century paintings, including works by Rubens, van Dyck, and Caravaggio; and the Great Fountain with its representations of the four elements and of mythological figures.
2 Sanssouci Palace and the New Rooms
Sanssouci Palace was built in 1745 based on sketches by Frederick the Great. The result, a splendid single-story Rococo building with elliptical dome in the center and circular rooms at each end, is spectacular. The garden front has rich plaster decorations, while on the rear is the Grand Courtyard, enclosed by colonnades of Corinthian columns. The most notable interior features are the oval Marble Hall, with its double Corinthian columns; the Little Gallery, with its elaborate decorations; the Concert Room with its large murals; the Bedroom and Study; the Library, with many antique busts; and the Voltaire Room. Audio guides are available for self-guided tours lasting approximately 40 minutes. Also worth checking out are the splendid New Rooms or Neue Kammern. Built in 1747 as an orangery and later converted into a gardener's house, its interior is richly decorated.
Address: Maulbeerallee, 14469 Potsdam
3 The New Palace at Sanssouci
The New Palace, or Neues Palais, was built between 1763-69 in red brick relieved by sandstone, with a copper dome. The palace's interior is sumptuously decorated, particularly in the Marble Hall, the Upper and Lower State Apartments, the Marble Gallery, and Theater. The palace contains valuable furniture, pictures, porcelain, and works of art, and is best viewed as part of an extended tour that visits the King's Apartment. While walking around New Palace, head to its rear where you'll find the Communs or Domestic Offices, two brick buildings in Baroque style with columned porticoes and curving external staircases. Between the two buildings are Corinthian colonnades and a triumphal arch. In front of the New Palace are the Ancient Temple and the Temple of Friendship built on the basis of 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 - stands the former Town Hall, or Altes Rathaus. Now better known as a center for cultural events and activities, this splendid Baroque building was built in 1753 with three-quarter-length Corinthian columns; a tower with a stepped dome; and a gilded figure of Atlas with the world on his back, the one original feature to survive the vagaries of weather and war. Extensively rebuilt after WWII, 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 linked by an intervening wing to the Baroque Knobelsdorff-Haus dating from 1750, also used for cultural programs.
5 Editor's Pick Holländisches Viertel (The Dutch Quarter)
To the north of Bassinplatz lies the famous Dutch Quarter, the Holländisches Viertel, with 134 lovely red brick houses graced by shuttered windows, gables, and white trim. Built between 1737 and 1742 by Dutch craftsmen, the community is the largest collection of Dutch-style homes outside of the Netherlands. Covering four city blocks, it's as popular with tourists as it is locals, who flock here for its numerous boutique shops, quaint cafés, and restaurants. Anticipate spending a few hours exploring the area, especially if you take in Johann Boumann House, a museum dedicated to the architect who led this remarkable 18th-century building project. An easy stroll leads to the Brandenburger Strasse pedestrian zone with its houses built between 1733-39 for the billeting of troops.
Address: Holländisches Viertel 1, 14467 Potsdam
6 Schloss Cecilienhof, Neuer Garten
One of the more interesting of the many other buildings found in Neuer Garten is Schloss Cecilienhof. Built between 1914-17 in the style of an English Tudor country house, Cecilienhof is most famous as the meeting place of the Potsdam Conference of July-August, 1945, between the US (Truman), the UK (Churchill), and the USSR (Stalin) at the end of WWII. The building is wonderfully preserved in the state it was in during the conference - including the main conference room itself - and many artifacts remain in place, along with displays detailing the event and its significance. Other highlights include the obelisk in the courtyard and the property's lovely gardens.
Address: Im Neuen Garten, D-14469 Potsdam
7 Neuer Garten and Marmorpalais
Potsdam's other large park, the Neuer Garten (New Garden), lies on the shores of the Heiliger See and covers an area of 253 acres. Splendidly landscaped in the sentimental style of the late 18th century and laid out in 1789, it was meant to reflect the style of a rural English country estate. The gardens are now a little more formal, but certainly retain their original splendor. A highlight of your visit should be the lovely Marble Palace (Marmorpalais), a Neoclassical brick building constructed between 1787-91. Notable features are its columned portico on the lake side as well as a unique pyramid-shaped cold-storage room or icehouse.
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 really doesn't do this sumptuously decorated building justice. Completed for Frederick the Great in 1763 as a focal point of his extensive flower and vegetable gardens, it encompasses many elements associated with Asian design so popular at the time, with a sprinkling of Rococo influences. Its interior contains many interesting features, from its stucco marble walls to its musical monkeys and fine collections of porcelain and murals. Also of note are the nearby Chinese Kitchen and Dragon House, the Orangery with its Raphael Room containing copies of 47 works by the artist, and the Sicilian Garden with its Mediterranean plants and sculptures.
9 The Church of Peace, Sanssouci Park
At the east end of Sanssouci Park stands 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 importance is the Kaiser Friedrich Mausoleum, added between 1888 and 1890. On the avenue leading to the Grünes Gitter, the park's exit, are Villa Illaire, built in 1846, and the Villa Liegnitz dating from 1841, both built in the style of an Italian villa.
Address: Am Grünen Gitter 3, 14469 Potsdam
10 St. Nicholas Church
Opposite the Old Town Hall in Potsdam, St. Nicholas Church - the Nikolaikirche - is a Neoclassical church built between 1830-37. The most outstanding feature of this impressive structure is its 77-meter-high dome. Although not re-consecrated until 1981 due to extensive damage during WWII, it's a testament to the city's rich architectural history, a pleasing structure open to visitors for services and sightseeing. In front of the church is an obelisk built in 1753 with the likeness of the principal architects of Potsdam. Also of note is nearby Friendship Island with its lovely gardens laid out in 1953.
Address: Am Alten Markt, 14467 Potsdam
11 Film Museum Potsdam
In the stunning 17th-century Baroque Marstall, the former Court Stables, Film Museum Potsdam is an excellent resource for film fans. With a worldwide focus, the museum regularly screens international and German movies and has many fascinating exhibits relating to the country's rich cinematic history, including the Babelsberg studio where many of the country's movies have been made over the past 100 years. From here, Potsdam's many parks and palaces can be reached by tram or bus, as can Filmpark Babelsberg, the world's oldest film studio and home to a fun film-based theme park. Another nearby attraction is the French Church, a Baroque church remodeled in Neoclassical style in 1833.
Address: Breite Straße 1 A, 14467 Potsdam
12 The Steam Pump House, Sanssouci
Built in 1841 to provide water for the numerous fountains in Sanssouci Park, the Steam Pump House, or Dampfmaschinenhaus, resembles a Moorish-style mosque with its chimney cleverly disguised as a minaret. Visitors can explore the facility, on the edge of the Neustädter Havelbucht, during the warmer months via guided tours that take in the old steam machinery, permanent exhibits on the facility's history, as well as its architecture.
Address: Breite Straße 28, 14467 Potsdam
13 Russische Kolonie Alexandrowka
The houses in the little settlement of Alexandrowka in Potsdam were built to demonstrate the close friendship that existed between the rulers of Germany and Russia, Frederick William III and the Czar Alexander. The houses were based on Russian models, and the settlement was laid out in the form of a St. Andrew's cross. Other highlights of this quaint 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 district of Babelsberg, the largest area of Potsdam, was famous in the early days of cinema as the home of UFA film studios. Originally developed around Nowawes, an old colony of spinners and weavers, the district's heritage can still be detected near the church on Weberplatz, a modest building constructed in 1753. Other highlights of this delightful area include Babelsberg Park, the third largest in Potsdam, laid out in 1832 and enlarged from 1843 onwards, and Schloss Babelsberg, a Neo-Gothic English-style palace built in 1834.
Address: Park Babelsberg 10, D-14482 Potsdam-Babelsberg