Potsdam in three days
Congratulations. You’ve truly made the right decision. With three days and more you can take your time to explore Potsdam in a decelerated way. Just like the former Prussian heads, you can let your mind drift, wander through UNESCO World Heritage and enjoy the perfect composition of garden art, baroque architecture and the romantic river landscape.
1st Day: Potsdam Tolerance – Europe’s cultural diversity jam-packed into one City
On your first day, you will see the most favourite sights of the city centre and the northern part of Potsdam. A walk through the historic centre to the north of Potsdam will take you on a journey through entire Europe. You will see why Italy, the Netherlands, France and Russia are just a couple of footsteps away.
1st Day: Morning
Start your day in Potsdam at the Old Market, which is used to be called one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Standing on the stairs to St Nicholas’ Church, looking over the Old Market, you can see that Frederic the Great and his architects created an Italian piazza in the heart of central Europe. The Obelisk, the façade of the Museum Barberini and other buildings had their archetypes in Italy. With the inauguration of the Brandenburg State Parliament behind the reconstructed façade of the City Palace, which got destroyed during World War II, the historic heart of the city started to beat again in 2014.
Around the square there are several museums to be visited:
- Filmmuseum Potsdam :Potsdam-Babelsberg is home to the modern cinema. Therefore, the permanent exhibition “The Dream Factory - 100 Years of Film in Babelsberg” takes you on an eventful time travel through 100 years of filmmaking in Babelsberg.
- Within the historic walls of the Old Town Hall the Potsdam Museum is the place to look into the history of more than 1025 years of Potsdam. The permanent exhibition “Potsdam. Eine Stadt macht Geschichte” (Potsdam. A City makes History) tells you about Potsdam’s role as a garrison city, its art and culture scene as well as the developments as a science location.
- The Museum Barberini , which opened its gates for art lovers in 2017 is a great art museum. Monet, Richter, Picasso and von Gogh are just a view names of artists whose masterpieces call this gallery their temporary home.
The historic city centre is also part of the guided walking tour “City Stroll - A Walk through Potsdam” starting at the Tourist Information Centre Old Market. You can get the tickets at the Tourist Information Centre or book online. Within only two hours you will walk across the Old Market, to the New Market and end up with lots of inspiring information and interesting stories in the Dutch Quarter. This quarter is considered to be Europe’s greatest collection of Dutch-style houses outside the Netherlands. Cosy cafés provide a delicious ranch from big brunch buffets to small bites of Dutch “Pannekoeken”. Just the perfect area to get your lunch.
1st Day: Midday
Another 20 minutes’ walk takes you from the Netherlands to Russia. Its small wooden blockhouses make you feel like you’re in a Russian fairy tale. If you’re wondering what life looked like in the Russian Colony visit the Museum Alexandrovka.
1st Day: Afternoon
Passing the gorgeous Russian Orthodox Church on Kapellenberg Hill your next aim is the Belvedere Pfingstberg.This romantic pleasure palace, built in style of an Italian renaissance-villa, is the city’s highest elevation. Green parks, pompous palaces, the historic centre all framed by the idyllic river landscape lying to your feet. This stunning panorama makes the view from its two towers considered to be Potsdam’s best. If you look further east, you can even see the skyline of Potsdam’s younger and bigger sister Berlin. Despite its great vistas, the exhibition on the first floor of the Belvedere is worth having a look. It tells you about the reconstruction the Friends Association of the Pfingstberg and well-known donors made possible from the late 1980s until today.
1st Day: Evening
There is no better way to end a day in Potsdam than sitting on the Havel River shores with a filled stomach. Recap your impressions of your journey through Europe, watch boat cruises, canoes and Stand-Up Paddle Surfers as they pass by, enjoying the day’s last sunrays.
Restaurants on the waterfront in Potsdam are for example:
- The Restaurant “Seerose” (Waterlily) and its terrace located at the Neustadt Havel Bay, only a short walk from the square Luisenplatz. Enjoy mouth-watering steaks and burgers on the terrace or inside the eastern modernism building shaped like a waterlily.
- The “Meierei” brewery. Just a footsteps from Cecilienhof Country House, this brewery provides two possibilities to enjoy their craft beer outside. Either you choose a proper meal on the lovely terrace or you may order some pretzels and French fries in the self-service section of the beer garden.
Located at the culture district of Schiffbauergasse is the restaurant boat "John Barnet". On deck you have a great view of Babelsberg Park on the opposite side of the river while choosing from one of their large selection of fish dishes.
2nd Day: Cold War Stories and Prussian Pomp
Your second day in Potsdam will take you back to the late 1940s, getting to know what world-shaping events and border-shifting decisions have been made in Potsdam. All of it set in a peaceful park environment with pompous Palaces.
2nd Day: Morning
Today’s starting point is the S-Bahn station “Griebnitzsee”. If you do not wish to walk long distances today, the bike rental right outside the station provides bikes of any size.
The walk/ride along Karl-Marx-Strasse takes you through the Mansion Colony Neubabelsberg. But as Wiliam I. told his neighbours not to build the houses too fancy facing the street, make sure to use the shore path along the other side of Lake Griebnitzsee to get the best impression of the magnificent mansions and their spacious gardens.
Due to the nearby Filmstudios Babelsberg, well-known actors and stars such as Jean Gabin and Marlene Dietrich resided in these houses temporarily during film shootings. Also, President Harry S. Truman was accommodated here when the Potsdam Conference took place in Cecilienhof Country House in summer 1945.
At the end of the Karl-Marx-Strasse you will get to Babelsberg Park . Peter Joseph Lenné and later Prince Pueckler designed this park in the 19th century. You can still see the British influences Pueckler brought to the hilly landscape of the park. Enjoy the awe-inspiring view over the busy river Havel from the grass grounds in front of Babelsberg Palace. Incidentally, this is the best spot to take in the panoramic view of famous Glienicke Bridge. Take a rest here or at the small Café in the Small Palace.
2nd Day: Midday
From Babelsberg Park the Glienicke Bridge is only a 15 minutes’ walk away. To get to the Bridge your walk takes you through the neighbourhood of Klein Glienicke. Because of its location this place belonged to East Germany but geographically was on West-Berlin grounds. The “Special Security Zone” surrounded by the Berlin Wall was also called “Appendix of the GDR”.
Crossing Glienicke Bridge, keep in mind, that 30 years ago that wasn’t even imaginable. With West-Berlin on the one side and Potsdam as an East German city on the other, capitalism and socialism were facing each other here for decades. This made Potsdam a hotspot for secret services. The film "Bridge of Spies" with Tom Hanks tells the story of the first agent exchange that took place here during the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the USA in 1962.
2nd Day: Afternoon
Another 20 minutes-walk away at Cecilienhof Country House in 1945 the Potsdam Conference was held in 1945. Here, the allies Soviet Union, United Kingdom and the United States of America agreed to divide Germany into four occupation zones, which later led to the division of Europe.
Just west of Cecilienhof Country House is a neighbourhood that wasn’t easy to access in cold war years. In fact only residents, who lived there and agents were allowed to enter this part of Potsdam as it domiciled the Soviet Military Counterintelligence Service. The former prison is now a memorial giving you deep insight of the former conditions. Numerous inscriptions on the cell walls impressively reflect the deprivation of rights and isolation of the prisoners. The permanent exhibition depicts the grim history of the building and tells you about prisoner’s fates.
For more information on the division of Germany and the peaceful revolution you can get at the Memorial Foundation in the city centre in Lindenstrasse . The exhibitions focus is on the people imprisoned during Nazi dictatorship and the SED regime.
2nd Day: Evening
For dinner the neighbourhood around Gutenbergstrasse, Lindenstrasse and Dortustrasse. From classic but good Italian pasta, fresh French kitchen with brasserie charm to Hawaiian burgers. There is a restaurant suiting several tastes.
Enjoy the end of your day in the same area as there are plenty of bars and pubs.
3rd Day: Isle of Inspiration
3rd Day: Morning
No Potsdam-visit without Sanssouci Palace, for sure! With more than 300.000 visitors each year it’s truly not just Frederick’s favourite palace anymore. It served Frederick II. as a summer residence and pleasure palace in which he wanted to enjoy his private life.
To see Sanssouci Palace from the inside, we advise you to get to the visitor’s center at the Historic Windmill as early as possible. This way your chances are higher, to buy a ticket for the inside visit within the next hour. But even if you acquire a ticket for the entrance a couple of hours later, there is a lot more to explore in this beautiful park area.
You would like it all planned ahead? Get a sanssouci+ ticket with the following benefits:
- One-time entrance to all palaces of the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg in Potsdam
- Choose your fixed time to enter Sanssouci Palace (advance booking possible)
- Buy the ticket at the visitor centers in Sanssouci Park, the Tourist Information Centres on the Old Market and Potsdam Main Station or online.
3rd Day: Midday
Looking west from Sanssouci Palace, you will definitely be surprised by a windmill. The Historic Windmill is a perfect lookout to get an overview over this huge park area. With some “windy help” its creaking wings still process grain today. You can purchase bread baked with Sanssouci flour in the museum shop right across from the mill.
The nearby Orangery Palace is a must for any art lover. Inside the palace the imposing Raphael Hall displays a great collection of about 50 copies of Raphael’s paintings such as the Sistine Madonna and the Transfiguration. Deep red walls accentuate the paintings in a fantastic way. Also, the Orangery Palace has two lookout towers from which you have a great view of the park and its historic buildings.
3rd Day: Afternoon
Crossing the road Maulbeerallee you will see a huge red bricked palace – the New Palace . It is by far the biggest palace in Potsdam and in strong contrast to the intimate and rather modest Sanssouci Palace.
The building, which Frederick himself referred to as Prussia's "boast", became famous for its impressive interiors such as the Grotto Hall, the Marble Hall and the palace's own theatre. The reconstructed Grotto Hall with the glitter of thousands of shells, quartzes and minerals was intended to impress the guests of Frederick the Great and can now be experienced again by you.
To get back to the city centre you can take the bus line 695. But if we couldn’t quench your thirst for palaces and garden art yet, you had better make your way back on foot through the park. With the Chinese House, Charlottenhof Villa and the New Chambers (just to name a few), this park is packed with culture, architecture and vistas that emanate the certain “savoir vivre”.
It goes without saying that the palaces in Sanssouci Park provide a breath-taking setting for events such as:
- The Music Festival Potsdam Sanssouci with several music performances from Renaissance, Baroque, Classic and Romantic every year in June.
- The Potsdamer Schlössernacht. Taking place for one weekend in August with music, literature and plays in the illuminated Sanssouci Park.
- The Winteroper in November. The refurbished Palace Theatre of the New Palace is home again to the opera since 2020.
At the eastern end of the park you will re-enter the city at the square Luisenplatz with the gate Brandenburger Tor. Don’t mistake it for the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. They only share the name. Actually the gate in Potsdam was built 20 years before its bigger brother in Berlin.
Surrounded by the river Havel and its lakes it’s clear, that Potsdam is perfect to be explored on water. There are a lot of different possibilities to do so:
The most comfortable way is to get on board of one of the excursion boats that depart from the harbour close to the Old Market. Enjoy refreshing German food aboard and let your feet rest. Riding the waves of the idyllic river Havel, experience the sunset immersing Babelsberg Palace in blood orange light just before you pass Glienicke Bridge.
If you like to stay private, you can also rent one of the famous wooden rafts. Don’t worry, there is no boat license needed. Enjoy the freedom to decide on your own, which way you will take. Also, you can bring your own food to BBQ on board. Overnight stays are possible as well.
- For the more active and fit visitors, there are also several possibilities to rent a canoe or a SUP board.
Whichever vehicle you choose, the friendly and helpful Potsdam experts at the Tourist Information Centers are happy to assist you with your booking.
3rd Day: Evening
Of course you can also have dinner on board of the raft or on one of the excursion boats. But, if you'd rather dine on solid grounds, here are some restaurants that have been awarded by Michellin, Gault & Millau or regional labels:
Recapitulating your days in Potsdam, you might already make plans for your next trip to Potsdam. If you don’t know which season is best to come back, we have put together some ideas.