Do you want to go back in time and have a glance at how the German and Prussian monarchs once lived? If yes, then welcome to Potsdam. It is a city that records the long history and culture of the Prussian Empire, with each palace telling us something about its rulers. So if you are someone who enjoys admiring stunning palaces and exploring intricately crafted gardens, then you will love Potsdam.
Today, Potsdam is Brandenburg’s capital city and one of the leading UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Germany. With its rich history, picturesque brilliance, and authentic charm, Potsdam is an excellent option for all kinds of travelers. It is around 16 miles from the capital city—Berlin, which means a day trip from Berlin.
But if you are new to this destination, you must be wondering what to do in Potsdam. This guide presents the 20 best things to do in Potsdam, Germany. Continue reading this write-up if you want to make the most of what Potsdam had to offer.
Alexandrowka is the Russian colony built between 1826 and 1827 to demonstrate the close friendship between the Prussian (King Frederick William) and Russian (Czar Alexander) rulers. This kinship’s origin between the two rulers goes back to 1812 when captured Russian soldiers settled in Potsdam.
This Russian colony is 20 minutes walk from the Brandenburg Gate. In total, there are 13 residences, made of wood and designed in Russian style. However, there were certain limitations imposed by the Prussian ruler. The inhabitants cannot rent or sell the land or properties.
Another essential highlight of this picturesque colony is the Alexander Nevsky Church. The Prussian ruler built this Russian Orthodox Church in 1829. Additionally, there are several farms. So when you visit this place, you will feel like you are in a small village.
An interesting fact about the Alexandrowka is that some descendants of the former inhabitants live to this day. Besides, you can learn more about the Russian colony by visiting the recently built museum.
19. Norman Tower on the Ruinenberg
Another place to visit when traveling to Potsdam is the Norman Tower on the Ruinenberg. It is one of Potsdam’s historical lookout points designed based on a medieval watchtower. One of the Norman Tower’s essential highlights is that it has a viewing room on its top floor. Here you can have a 360-degrees view of the landscape.
The Norman Tower’s history goes back to Frederick the Great’s rule when he erected a 7600 cubic meters water tank for supplying water to the Sanssouci Park. The tower measures 23 meters in height and consists of four floors. The top floor provides a panorama view. Besides, the Norman Tower looks very much like the Colosseum in Rome, Italy.
18. Church of the Redeemer
This Romanesque revival architecture is one of the most striking churches in Germany, located in Sacrow. In 1844, Ludwig Persius designed the Church of the Redeemer based on Frederick William IV’s drawings. However, it underwent significant restoration and renovation in 1995.
When you visit this place, the first thing you will notice is its spectacular architecture. One of them is the separate 20 meters bell tower, which enhances the beauty of the Church. If you love peace and serenity places, then you should consider the Church of the Redeemer.
Besides, UNESCO has classified the castles, parks, forests, and lakes around the Church as a World Heritage Site during the 1990s.
17. Marmorpalais (Marble Palace)
One of the essential highlights of your visit to the New Garden is the exquisite Marble Palace or Marmorpalais, a neoclassical brick building. King Friedrich Wilhelm II ordered the construction of this exquisite place, and it was a royal residence for the Hohenzollern family until the early 20th century. In 1990, the Marble Palace became one of the UNESCO sites in Germany.
An essential highlight of this place is that you can view the entire surroundings from the cubical structure’s flat roof. Some other highlights of the Marmorpalais include Grotto Hall and an extensive collection of Wedgwood china.
16. Einstein Tower
There will be hardly anyone who is not familiar with the world’s famous theoretical physicist Albert Einstein. Einstein tower is another top-rated place to visit when traveling to Potsdam, especially if you are a science nerd. The construction of this astrophysical observatory began in 1919 by Erich Mendelsohn. The Einstein tower’s main purpose was to house a large solar telescope to study and validate Einstein’s theory of relativity. Besides, it came into operation in 1924.
An essential highlight of the Einstein tower is the bronze bust of Albert Einstein, located in the tower’s entrance. However, the institute lost its independence in 1933 during the Nazis’ anti-Semitic dictatorship. Additionally, the government destroyed Einstein’s pictures and sculptures. Another worth-mentioning highlight of the Einstein tower is the small bronze brain sculpture, created by Volker Marz. This brain sculpture refers to Ernst Poppel’s scientific thesis.
15. Glienicke Bridge
Another destination to visit when traveling to Potsdam is the Glienicke Bridge. For some people, it might look like an ordinary bridge. However, it severed an important role before the fall of the Berlin Wall. During this time, the west and the east used the Glienicke Bridge for exchanging secret spies and agents. And it is for this reason that many people call the Glienicke Bridge the Bridge of Spies.
An essential highlight of this place is that it acts as a lookout point in Potsdam. Here, you will experience a breathtaking view over the Babelsberg Castle, Glienicke Castle, Heilandskirche Church, and Havel River. So the Glienicke Bridge is not only for history lovers but for all types of visitors.
14. Belvedere on the Pfingstberg
Another top-visited place in Potsdam is the Belvedere Castle, situated on the highest point of the city. In 1847, King Friedrich Wilhelm IV commissioned the construction of Belvedere Castle as a viewing platform. Despite being an incomplete building, it has become one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Germany.
An essential highlight of the Belvedere Castle is that it provides the best views over Potsdam. Annually, this place receives more than 10000 tourists to enjoy the view. Apart from exploring Belvedere Castle’s interior, you can also hire this place to host special occasions.
13. St. Peter and Paul Kirche
Another best place to visit while traveling to Potsdam is St. Peter and Paul, located in the city center. It became the first Catholic Church in Potsdam. A distinguishing feature of this Church is the 60 meters bell tower designed in Italian style. The design also reflects the elements of the Byzantine style. When it comes to interior features, the Church consists of three paintings of Antoine Pesne
Another place that grabs your attention for its portico and dome when traveling to Potsdam is the Nikolaikirche or St. Nicholas Church, located on the Old Market Square. This Potsdam’s landmark has become one of the best examples of German architecture and classicism. The construction of Nikolaikirche started in 1830 following the plans of Karl Friedrich Schinkel.
The last structure to build was the tambour or dome that raises 77 meters above the city’s roofs. It took its inspiration from St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. But Ludwig Persius and Friedrich August Stuller took over the construction for this structure. The Nikolaikirche has become one of Potsdam’s important landmarks, with the dome being visible from far and wide.
However, during World War II, the Church encountered two significant destructions. First, it was during the British air raid on Potsdam. The second considerable damage came from Soviet artillery fire. It was only in 1981 that St. Nicholas re-consecrated the Church, and today it is open to all tourists and visitors. Apart from church services, the Church also organizes various concert events.
11. Filmpark Babelsberg
If you want to familiarize yourself with the history of Germany’s golden age of film, then you should include this place in your tour itinerary. The Filmpark Babelsberg is one of the largest and oldest film studios worldwide. Visiting this place will allow you to get an insight behind the scenes of filmmaking.
An exciting highlight of this place is that you can explore everything related to the film industry. You can explore the exhibitions to discover the different tricks used by television experts. Besides, you will also learn about how make-up artists and costume designers make the perfect illusions for a particular film.
Tickets: From 10.80 EUR
10. Museum Barberini
Initially, Barberini was a mansion for Frederick the Great, who was the King of Prussia. However, the bombing during World War II destroyed the palace. It was only in 2013 that Potsdam began its construction, and by 2017 it gained a new art venue called Museum Barberini.
Today, the Barberini holds a significant collection of artwork ranging from the Old Masters to modern art. There is also an emphasis on an impressionist painting. You will find several artworks by notable artists, such as Rodin, Edvard Munch, and Monet.
One good thing about the Museum Barberini is that English guided tours are available. So if you do not know the German language, you need not worry about it. Additionally, you need not pack any food or snacks when visiting this place. There is a restaurant located on-site to meet hungry visitors.
9. Biosphäre Potsdam
The Biosphäre Potsdam is mainly for those who are looking for a place that offers a complete holiday atmosphere. It is an indoor botanical garden with a total area of 7000 square meters, and it lies between the New Garden and Sanssouci Park. Although it runs daily, you will need to pay some amount as an admission fee.
An essential highlight of this garden is that it holds several plants and animal species. If you are someone who loves enjoying nature and wildlife, then you should consider visiting this place.
The garden contains around 350 plant species and 30 butterfly species. Some of the exotic animals include pheasants, iguanas, geckos, and spiders. Besides, it consists of two lakes, a waterfall, and several tropical crops.
8. Holländisches Viertel
Holländisches Viertel or Dutch Quarter is another exciting place to visit when traveling to Potsdam, Germany. Here you will feel like you are in the Netherlands. King Frederick William-I ordered the Dutch Quarter’s construction between 1733 and 1740, and it consists of 134 Dutch-style houses made of red brick. Many people refer to this vibrant area as Little Amsterdam.
If you like visiting cozy cafes, galleries, small boutique shops, and pubs, then you will love this place. Additionally, it organizes three different festivals every year. One of them is the Tulip Festival, which falls in April. The second festival is the Potters’ Market, held in September. The third is the Dutch Christmas. Today, this place has become a popular destination for both tourists and locals.
7. New Garden
Another best place to visit when traveling to Potsdam, Germany, is the New Garden, which imitates a rustic English country estate design. It covers an area of 102.5 hectares and lies on the shores of the Heiliger See. In 1789, King Frederick William II arranged to lay out the New Garden in the late 18th century’s sentimental style. Although it has retained its original splendor, the New Garden has undergone some minor changes.
One of the essential highlights of your visit to this place is the exquisite Marble Palace, a neoclassical brick building. Other remarkable features include a uniquely designed icehouse, columned entrance, and many others.
Today, the New Garden is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Germany.
6. Babelsberg Castle and Park
If you want to explore Europe’s oldest and most prominent film studio, this destination in Potsdam must be on your tour itinerary. Potsdam’s largest area Babelsberg was a famous place during the early days of cinema. It is a place where thousands of German films had produced. Some of the most famous films produced in Babelsberg include “The Blue Angel (1930) and Metropolis (1927). However, film production declined considerably after the Nazis came to power.
Another highlight of this place is the Babelsberg Park laid out for King Frederick William IV in 1832. Many celebrated architects, namely, Peter Joseph Lenne, Hermann, and Puckler-Muskau, designed the Babelsberg Park. You can also find a palace, designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel in Neo-Gothic English style.
5. Brandenburg Gate
This 18th-century neoclassical monument is another worth visiting when exploring Potsdam, Germany. In 1770, King Frederick William II ordered the Brandenburg Gate construction after claiming victory in the Seven Years’ War. It replaced the medieval gate and marked the entrance into Potsdam as well as Brandenburg.
Before constructing the Brandenburg Gate, Germany and Europe were in unrest and division brought about by the Cold War. It has become a symbol of peace and unity since its completion in 1791. On December 22, 1989, the government officially opened to traffic.
A unique thing about the Brandenburg Gate comes with the design. Unlike other historical monuments, the Brandenburg Gate has varying designs on the sides. The reason is separate architects designed this monument. Georg Christian Unger designed the field side, while Carl von Gontard designed the city side and its pilasters
4. Sanssouci Park and Chinese house
Another stunning place to visit when traveling to Potsdam is Sanssouci Park, which dates back to 1744. This site holds several exquisite buildings, gardens, and works of art. One of its worth mentioning highlights is the grand picture gallery that holds many 17th century paintings by famous painters such as Caravaggio and Rubens. The Neptune’s Grotto and the Great Fountain are other essential highlights of Sanssouci Park.
Besides, you will not have a hard time locating the park entrance. All you need to do is to look for the tall obelisk.
However, one of the best highlights of Sanssouci Park is the well-designed Chinese House or Chinese Teahouse. Frederick the Great ordered the construction of this house to adorn his extensive flower and vegetable gardens. Besides, the design of the house reflects Asian elements along with a touch of Rococo influences.
When it comes to interior design, it consists of several interesting elements, such as musical monkeys, marble walls, and a fine collection of murals and porcelain.
3. Neues Palais
Unlike the humble and modest Sanssouci Palace, the Neues Palais or New Palace is a perfect depiction of Prussian’s undiminished wealth and power. The construction began after the Seven Years’ War in 1763 during the rule of King Fredrick II. Today, many scholars consider it as the last outstanding Prussian Baroque palace.
A unique thing about the Neues Palais is the Grottensaal. Unlike other historical buildings, the New Palace walls feature fossils, gemstones, minerals, and seashells instead of bricks.
The ruler designed the Neues Palais to impress foreign guests at banquets. When you visit this top-rated tourist place, you get to enjoy its majestic galleries and luxuriously decorated interior design. It holds several valuable pieces of porcelain, pictures, furniture, and works of art. It further consists of 200 rooms and four galleries. Although it was a royal residence, King Frederick the Great never stayed in the New Palace. However, the palace became a venue for hosting celebrations and the rooms for accommodating guests.
Additionally, we recommend taking a walk around the Neues Palais, especially towards its rear. Here, you will find two brick buildings in Baroque design and the domestic offices or Communs.
2. Cecilienhof Potsdam
If you are looking for a palace that has a modern touch and holds historical significance, then you should consider visiting Cecilienhof. It is the final palace built by the House of Hohenzollern between 1914 and 1917.
An interesting fact about the design of this palace is that it features an English Tudor mansion. It took its inspiration from the Hill Bark on Merseyside. For this reason, you will find that this palace has a half-timbered design with attractive turreted chimney stacks. Further, this design provides a modern appearance to this palace.
However, the most historically significant about the Cecilienhof is that it was the Potsdam Conference’s meeting place. In 1945, the leaders of the UK (Winston Churchill), the USA (Truman), and the USSR (Josef Stalin) met at this palace to discuss the future of Germany and Europe after the end of World War II. So if you want to learn more about this historical event, then be sure to include this destination in your Potsdam itinerary.
1. Sanssouci Palace
One cannot afford not to visit Sanssouci Palace when exploring Potsdam. It is a top-rated tourist spot that will take you back to another era with its spectacular structures and breathtaking greenery.
This historical building acted as a summer residence for Frederick the Great, the King of Prussia. Even the name emphasizes this purpose. King Frederick the Great gave the name “Sanssouci,” which means “without concerns.” So the Sanssouci Palace was a place to relax rather than a seat of power.
This historical Rococo-style castle has much stunning art to enjoy. Some of the most outstanding interior features of the Sanssouci Palace are the Little Gallery, oval Marble Hall, Concert Room, Library, and others. You can also spend hours exploring the vineyard terraces and magnificent gardens or relax by the central fountain. Besides, audio guides are available.
The place also hosts a unique two-day event annually called the Potsdam Palace Night. If you are visiting during this time, you will experience a breathtaking firework display along with jazz and classical music. Make sure to check out the dates for the event.
To sum up, Potsdam is one of the best year-round destinations for all types of visitors. However, if you are traveling to Potsdam for the first time, you must be wondering what to do there. As such, you should do some researches before arriving at Potsdam or any other places. Apart from the 20 best things to do in Potsdam, Germany, you should note that the city hosts different events. Make sure to check them out to ensure a memorable holiday experience.
The above-listed points are some of the best destinations to visit when traveling to Potsdam and are by no means an exhaustive list.