Roughly 45 minutes away from central Berlin, Potsdam is a quiet, beautiful town that offers one of the most popular day trips from Berlin. Steeped in history, it is located on the Havel River and is the capital of the state of Brandenburg. Being a former Prussian royal seat, Potsdam is decorated with the sweeping Sanssouci Park, which is a treasure trove of the elegant architectural style of King Fredrich II (Frederick the Great). Undoubtedly, the main attraction of Potsdam, the Sanssouci is a gorgeous tapestry of parks, gardens, and Rococo mansions. There is, however, more to Potsdam than just Sanssouci and the charmingly pretty historic city has pleasant outdoor cafés, museums, photogenic ethnic quarters, and a laid-back vibe that relaxes.
How to Reach Potsdam
Potsdam is an easy 45-minutes train ride from Berlin. Use the S-Bahn, by taking the S7 from central Berlin to the main Potsdam Hauptbahnhof station. From here you can change over to the faster regional trains. They go further into town, going directly to Potsdam-Sanssouci and Potsdam-Charlottenhof stations.
Getting around Potsdam
Potsdam is a cyclist’s delight. That is why biking is the most preferred way of getting around this historic city. Many biking routes are extremely scenic and good rental bikes are easily available. Havel River boat taxis are also quite popular and a relaxing way to enjoy the city’s beauty from a unique perspective.
Where to Stay in Potsdam
If, like us, you intend to stay at Potsdam, then know, that this charming historic city has lots of interesting accommodations to offer. Do not expect lavish hospitality, Potsdam was part of East Germany, and hotel amenities are lacking, even today. There are plenty of charming guesthouses and inns in the Old City area, as well as some swish international chains on the riverfront. Choose to stay near Sanssouci gates to explore the expansive grounds of this park.
Potsdam restaurants and bars
Potsdam suits the palates of all kinds of visitors. There are numerous small eateries (called Imbiss in German) which serve good, multi-cuisine food at pocket-friendly prices. Thai, Chinese, Turkish, and Asian food places are all over Potsdam and you can even buy a beer or two there. For gastronomic delights, try the French cuisine inspired Restaurant Juliette and the historic Speckers Landhaus, which serves game based local specialties.
Potsdam in 2 days
We stayed in a quaint hotel by the Havel River for 2 days and those were during the prime of fall. Rich autumn colours surrounded us, and wild geese cackled in the water. The palaces were spanned by blue skies overhead, and the sun was delightfully nice, as we walked around the beautifully landscaped gardens. On our second day, the weather turned cloudy with light rain, but that added to the drama of the Belvedere Hunting Lodge and the historic Russian Quarter. Apple trees heavy with fruits glistened with raindrops, as late-blooming flowers sheltered the busy bees. The lovely weather made Potsdam host a colourful carnival, complete with Ferris Wheel and other rides and those were two perfectly relaxing days spent away from the urban bustle of Berlin. Presenting our Potsdam itinerary for two days.
- Sanssouci – Though Potsdam was heavily damaged during the WW II, the palaces and gardens inside the Sanssouci Park remained miraculously intact. This is the highlight of Potsdam and the main reason which lures day trippers from Berlin. The park’s Neues Palace includes many Baroque paintings and exquisite Rococo inspired interiors. These can be explored on a guided tour with the help of audio-guides. The park also has beautifully landscaped gardens, lovely statues, streams, a windmill, and a gilded Chinese Teahouse. The buttercup yellow, wedding cake style tiered Schloss Sanssouci sits snugly on one end of the park and this used to be the summer abode of the Prussian royals. Park Sanssouci was built for Frederick the Great and he added the elaborate Neues Palace to mark the end of Seven Years War. Many famous guests have stayed here including the volatile writer Voltaire.
- Potsdam Filmmuseum – This is Germany’s oldest film museum which displays 100 years of movies in Babelsberg. Movie screenings can be viewed at additional cost on selected times. The opening hours of this museum is from 10 AM to 6 PM and the entrance ticket costs around 8 Euros.
- Babelsberg Park – This 124 hectares park is excellent for relaxing walks. Many architects and landscape planners have designed it over a decade and the park is a mix of the neo-Gothic style Babelsberg Palace, and the quirky Steam Engine Building which once houses the most powerful steam engine of the 1840’s. The Babelsberg Park leads one to the famous Glienicker Brücke or the Bridge of Spies.
- Glienicker Brücke – It is the site for the movie “Bridge of Spies”, and a blood-chilling place where the West and East German regimes exchanged spies who were caught as political prisoners. Located a short drive away from central Potsdam, the Bridge of Spies makes a pleasurable place to walk and offers some poignant sunsets.
- The Dutch Quarter – This is one of the most photogenic places of Potsdam. Excellent for street photography, it was beautiful even at the time of our visit, when it was raining badly. Brimming with quaint brick red Holland vibes, the Dutch Quarter has 134 brick houses built in the 18th century for Dutch immigrants. It is also a great place to shop, eat, and people watch.
- Alexandrowka – Along with the Dutch Quarter, Potsdam has a charming Alexandrowka or the Russian Village. This little part was briefly occupied by the Russian Army after the WW II. Before that, it used to have a small Russian colony which dated back to the 18th century. Today, Alexandrowka is more like an open-air museum, comprising of a dozen quaint wooden Russian houses. Complete with fruit orchards, cabbage patches, and apple trees, it is a lovely slice of Soviet pastoral prettiness in the middle of Potsdam.
- The Belvedere – It is considered as one of the most beautiful buildings in Potsdam. Built on plans of epic proportions by King Frederick William IV, the Belvedere on the Pfingstberg is located on top of the Judenberg hill. Frederick William IV was famous for his passion for art and architecture, this grand estate is largely based on a draft made by the king himself. Reflecting an Italian Renaissance style, the building is influenced by Rome’s beautiful Villa Caprarola.
P.S – This blog post is part of the series called the Cologne Diaries, which highlights a new theme, emotion, and beauty of an expat life in Cologne. For more exotic fun, check out my Cairo Chronicles in the Expat Life category.
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