The ferocious bombing campaigns of the second world war destroyed many palaces in and around Berlin. Luckily most of them have been rebuild and you can enjoy them once again. Potsdam has quite a few palaces to see and is a great destination for a day trip from Berlin.
Buying the sanssouci+ ticket gives you access to all the palaces Potsdam offers. But to make the most of your visit it’s important to plan ahead. The palaces are only accessible by guided tours and the guided tours work with time slots. So, when planning your visit take into consideration that you will have to wait for the guided tour to start. Also, guided tours usually take twice as long as an unguided visit. The Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin are UNESCO World heritage sites.
We took an early train from Berlin Zoologischer Garten. From there it was a 30-minute train ride through the Grunewald forest to Potsdam. We started at the far end of the Palace park, so we got off at Potsdam Park Sanssouci Bahnhof. From here it was an easy walk to the ‘Neues Palais’. Frederick the Great built the big official palace in 1769. Later it also was the residence of William II the last German emperor. This palace escaped major damage during the war and is in great original state. As is much of the interior which William II shipped to the Netherlands when he moved there after his abdication. Now this is all back in its original place, giving you a rare view into the final days of the European emperors.
From here we began making our way back to the city through the big park. The next stop were the botanical greenhouses. As it was a cold January morning, we could use some warming up. They keep a broad range of tropical and desert plants here, including a wide assortment of flesh eating plants. Warm again, we continued exploring the park and made our way to the Orangerieschloss. This is the largest palace in the park and shows Frederick William IV’s love of Italy through its design. It’s enjoyed best from the outside especially in winter when it’s closed.
Now it was a short walk to Schloss Sanssouci, the carefree palace of Frederick the Great. This was his favourite palace and he used it as a personal retreat from all his daily worries, like fighting wars with the other European powers. The design of this palace reminds us of Versailles. Although it is much smaller in scale and far less extravagant. The guided tour takes a long time and is just a supervised audio tour where you must stay in each room until the allotted time has passed. Next to the palace is the Picture Gallery, the oldest in Germany and home to a collection of mainly Dutch and Italian Baroque paintings. This gallery is only open during the summer season.
As we exit the park we pass the Friedenskirche, where Frederik IV of Prussia and the German emperor Frederik III are buried. In the town, we wait for the bus to take us to the northern part where the Schloss Cecilienhof is. This was the last palace the Hohenzollerns built, and it looks more like a country manor than a palace. It wouldn’t be worth the visit if it wasn’t for the Potsdam conference which was hosted here. This last big second world war conference determined so much of Europe’s future even till this day.
From the Cecilienhof, we walk southwards through the park in the direction of the town. We are surprised to find a small pyramid here, commemorating something. It’s an example of Europe’s fascination with antiquity. Faux antique buildings fill both parks to lend history where it is lacking and to fascinate and intrigue the visitor.
We skip the red Marmor Palais as we would have to wait 45 minutes for the supervised audiotour of the place. King Frederick William II had this marble palace built in 1787 at the shore of the lake. The palace is in the Neoclassical style which also shows in the interior decoration.
At we exit the park, we pass the Holländisches Viertel. It is the largest collection of Dutch brick houses outside of the Netherlands. Originally built for Dutch immigrants, now they house cafes and art shops and remind us of home. A little bit further lies the Altes Markt with the Nikolaikirche. Karl-Friedrich Schinkel designed it in 1837. But we come here for our last palace of the day. The rebuild Barberini Palace which houses the Museum Barberini. The museum has great modern art exhibitions. When we were there, it hosted a beautiful impressionist exhibition. Showing many otherwise private works by famous artists. It was a real treat to finish the day on this high note.
We also have other articles about other UNESCO World Heritage Sites if you are interested.