“I have chosen the plans of the most beautiful of what has been built in Europe, above all in Italy. I have been able to have them executed with small funds of my own.”-Frederick II to de Catt, his reader, 1758. These were the words of the king Fredrick II of Prussia when he described his dream project of Sanssouci Palace and Parks. Sanssouci in French means “without cares” and that was exactly the reason why the German king wanted to build his palace outside Berlin. He craved for a sanctuary, a place where he could escape the pressures of the court and indulge in arts, music, and literature. Fredrick II was a king with great taste, money, and had the best architects and artists at his fingertips. Thus, Sanssouci Palace was created from scratch and no other palace is so closely linked with the personality of its creator than Sanssouci’s connection with Frederick the Great. He decorated the palace lavishly, laid out magnificent gardens, and invited his friends and supposed lovers there. It is believed that Fredrick II was homosexual, had a violent temper, and was prone to being moody. At Sanssouci Palace, he could be himself without any cares and the gorgeous complex became his sanctuary in difficult times.

Sanssouci Palace summer retreat

Sanssouci Palace, a royal retreat “without any cares”

The task of building Sanssouci Palace and Parks was given to Georg von Knobelsdorff, who was one of the king’s most trusted architects. The project took three years to complete and the parks were laid out over the next five years. Apart from the main palace, the Sanssouci complex also contains the Neues Palais which was commissioned by Fredrick II to commemorate the end of the Seven Years’ War. Over the following hundred and fifty years, numerous other additions and restorations have been made, with Frederick’s great-great-nephew, King Friedrich Wilhelm IV adding palaces, which reflected his intense love for all things Italian. The main Sanssouci Palace is built in an unconventional wedding cake style. It sits perched atop a hilltop and has terraced gardens leading up to it. The funny thing is that the gardens were laid out way before the palace was constructed and Fredrick II wanted to cultivate figs, plums, and grapes there. Thus in 1744, terraced gardens were built at Potsdam but after their construction was complete, the view from the top was so beautiful that the king decided to build his summer residence there. Fredrick II really loved the Sanssouci Palace and Parks and till today, he lies buried there on the palace hill.

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painting inside the sanssouci palace

Details of the Sanssouci Palace and Parks

Sanssouci Palace and Parks is a big complex of palaces, gardens, woodlands, monuments, and waterworks. Fredrick II loved waterworks and he decorated his parks with artificial channels, water basins, and pools. There, also used to be a Baroque garden which was later redesigned into a landscape park by his successors. The most extensive additions were done by Frederick William IV who built the Charlottenhof Palace, the Orangery, and the Roman Baths. Sanssouci Palace and Parks can be roughly divided into the following parts. This division makes it also easy for a visitor to navigate the complex.

  • The Grünes Gitter – This is the southeastern entrance to Sanssouci Palace and Parks. It has an information kiosk. The Italian architecture inspired Friedenskirche lies north of the Grünes Gitter. Friedenskirche has a 39 meters high campanile, lakeside setting, and its design is inspired by the St Clemente Basilica in Rome. Next to the church is the domed Hohenzollern mausoleum containing the tombs of Friedrich Wilhelm IV, his wife Elizabeth, and Friedrich III and his wife Victoria.
  • Schloss Sanssouci or the Sanssouci Palace – The royal approach to Sanssouci Palace is from the eighteenth-century obelisk on Schopenhauerstrasse. The Hauptallee lies beyond and runs directly through the colonnaded Obelisk-Portal. After this, one reaches the Grosse Fontäne, the biggest of the complex’s fountains, around which a host of classical statues are clustered. The path to the Schloss goes through terraced gardens of vines that were once Fredrick II’s dream plantation plots. Sanssouci was designed by Knobelsdorff who worked closely with the king and made all his whims and fancies come true. Fredrick II wanted his palace to be a one-storey Baroque summer retreat and it is as intimately done up as a much-cherished home. Topped by an oxidized green dome and ornamental statues, Sanssouci Palace overlooks the green parks and has beautiful views of the high-rises of central Potsdam.
  • Interiors of the Sanssouci Palace – The interiors of the modest-looking Sanssouci Palace has twelve rooms done up in Rococo style. Fredrick II lived, entertained, made love, and sometimes quarreled with his guests there. The most lavishly decorated rooms are the Marmorsaal (Marble Hall) and the Konzertzimmer (Concert Room), where the music-loving king once held many soirees. Frederick’s favourite place in the palace was his library which holds nearly two thousand volumes. A west wing called the Damenflügel was added in 1840, and it used to house the ladies and gentlemen of the court.
  • Some minor attractions of the Sanssouci – The restrained Baroque style Bildergalerie is claimed to be the first building in Europe which was built for the purpose of being a museum. It overlooks the Holländischer Garten or Dutch Garden in the eastern side Sanssouci Palace. There there is the Neue Kammern which is a lavish building full of opulently decorated ceremonial halls and private suite. The Sicilian Garden or the Sizilianischer Garten lies to its immediate west and it complements the ornamental Nordischer Garten.
  • The Orangerie and around – The Orangerie, an Italian Renaissance-style structure is one of the most impressive buildings in the park. It has a series of terraces with curved retaining walls sporting waterspouts in the shape of lions’ heads. The Orangerie has the Raphaelsaal gallery which displays the copies of paintings looted by Napoleon.
  • The Belvedere – A straight path lined with lime trees takes one from the western wing to Orangerie to the Rococo style Belvedere. It was the last building built under Fredrick II and suffered severe damages during the war. It has been restored back to its former glory and has the Drachenhaus located close by.
  • The Neues Palais – This Rococo building was built between 1763 and 1769. Fredrick Ii commissioned its construction to commemorate the end of the Seven Years’ War. The entire building is adorned by sculptures of classical figures and the interior holds the startlingly beautiful Grottensaal. The equally magnificent Marmorsaal with its beautiful patterned marble floor is the other highlight of the Neues Palais.
  • Schloss Charlottenhof and around – Schloss Charlottenhof is a Roman-style building designed for Friedrich IV.
  • The Chinesisches Teehaus– This kitschy building is a kind of a Rococo pagoda housing a small museum of Chinese and Meissen porcelain. It is surrounded by Oriental statues and one of Frederick’s most celebrated house guests, Voltaire, lived here from 1750 to 1753. He was at that time employed as the private tutor to the king, but finally, quit when he could not tolerate Fredrick’s bossiness and mood swings. After his departure, the angry king got Voltaire’s former room decorated with carvings of apes and parrots.

Recommended Read: Potsdam, Germany Travel Guide

This is where Voltaire once lived

Sanssouci Palace and Parks travel tips

Today, Sanssouci Palace and Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered as the German rival of the Versailles. Though, I find this comparison to be absurdly far-fetched especially if you have seen the Wurzburg Residence, Sanssouci Palace and Parks is still a very pretty estate. It provides a much needed cultural relief from Berlin and is an excellent day trip from the German capital city.

  • Address – Sanssouci Palace, Maulbeerallee, Potsdam 14469 DE
  • Hours – January – March: Monday: closed, Tuesday – Sunday: 10:00 – 16:30, April – October: Monday: closed, Tuesday – Sunday: 10:00 – 17:30, November – December: Monday: closed. Tuesday – Sunday: 10:00 – 16:30. Last admission: 30 minutes before closing.
  • Entrance -Sanssouci Palace has fixed admission times. Same-day tickets are available for purchase at palace registers as of 10 am. The number of admission tickets per day is limited and you can buy a ticket online at the SPSG online ticket shop. Photo Permit for the Palaces is valid for one day for all palaces. Photography is allowed only for private use. Commercial photography is not permitted. The use of flash and tripods are not allowed. The camera ticket is Price: € 3.00
  • Ticket Prices – Sanssouci+ Ticket is Price: € 19.00 Reduced: € 14.00, Sanssouci+ Family Ticket is Price: € 49.00, Annual Pass for the Palaces is Price: € 60.00 Reduced: € 40.00.

    A lavish Prussian palace

    The Oriental statues near Sanssouci Palace

    Outside the Chinesisches Teehaus

    Beautiful details like this were supervised by Fredrick II

    His successor preferred a more Italian style

    Gilt ceilings and crystal chandelier

    Cherubs and mythical babes painted on the walls and ceilings

    Larger than life mirrors, marble busts,

    Plush furniture,

    Gilt frames, and

    And soft pastel shades,

    Sanssouci Palace and Parks

    Looked every bit

    sanssouci palace potsdam

    Of a cherished dream

    And a much loved home

    Of a powerful king

    Who had lots of money,

    Exquisite, comfortable taste,

    And the services of the

    Best artists at his fingertips.

    Apart from the lavish palaces,

    The Prussian king and his successors also

    Statues, and having

    Close proximity to Berlin.

    In fact, Potsdam is one of the best day trips from Berlin.

Featured Image Photo Credit – Shutterstock/MikeKondas

P.S – This blog post is part of the series called the Cologne Diaries, which highlights a new theme, emotion, and beauty of expat life in Cologne. For more exotic fun, check out my Cairo Chronicles in the Expat Life category.