Potsdam in two days
Start your first day in Potsdam with a short stroll through the Russian Colony Alexandrovka. The fairy tale-like wooden blockhouses were originally built in honour of the Russian Tsar Alexander who was a good friend of Friedrich Wilhelm III. Thanks to the spacious apple orchards, a lot of days start foggy creating a quiet and cosy mood.
Passing the gorgeous Russian Orthodox Church on Kapellenberg Hill your next stop is the Belvedere Pfingstberg. This romantic lookout place is the cities highest elevation. Seeing the historical city centre, pompous palaces glimmering in orange morning light as well as the vast river landscape, this is just the right spot to make plans for the next two decelerating days in Potsdam. The hectic and loud metropolis of Berlin is visible only by its skyline on the eastern horizon.
A walk through a green area planned by Peter Joseph Lenné will bring you to a neighbourhood with big, historic mansions. This area wasn’t always as inviting as it is today. During Cold War Years, only residents who lived here and agents were allowed to enter this part of Potsdam as it domiciled the German Headquarter of the Russian secret service KGB. In those days it was called the Forbidden City. The former Central Remand Prison of the Soviet Military Counterintelligence Service in Leistikowstrasse still has numerous inscriptions on its cell walls. The permanent exhibition tells you about the fates of former prisoners.
Cecilienhof Country House in the New Garden is just a 5 minutes’ walk away. Here, the “Big Three”, the American President Harry S. Truman, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Soviet Head of State Joseph Stalin decided, with the “Potsdam Agreement”, to divide Germany into four occupation zones after World War II. In the end this led to the division of Europe. Take a look inside. The permanent exhibition shows the rooms were the Potsdam conference took place as well as the big, round table where Stalin, Truman and Churchill made decisions that influenced the world’s political map for decades.
Not far from Cecilienhof Palace is the Meierei craft brewery & restaurant. The views from the beer garden over the river Havel invite you to let your thoughts roam free.
After a nice refreshment, the walk to the southern end of the New Garden will lead you to a green painted truss bridge – The Glienicke Bridge. Connecting Potsdam and West-Berlin in Cold War Years, the Glienicke Bridge was the place used to exchange captured spies. This gave the bridge its second name “The Bridge of Spies”. Despite its historical importance, Glienicke Bridge is also a great spot to take pictures of the English-styled Babelsberg Palace on the other side of the river Havel.
From Glienicke Bridge you can easily take tram line 93 back to the city centre. It is less than 10 minutes away. Far more enjoyable though, is a ride on the water taxi. A ferry that offers a regular service to tourists and passes waterscape views of culturally important places along the riverbanks between April and October. The relaxing trip across the waves of the river Havel offers you ideal views of Babelsberg Park as well as Potsdam’s Hans-Otto-Theater - the sail-like architecture similar to the world-famous Sydney Opera House. Seeing yachts, sailing boats, rafts and canoes crossing your way, there is no doubt that locals and their visitors know that Potsdam is perfect to be explored by water.
20 Minutes later you will reach the jetty at Potsdam Main Station. Walking down the bridge Lange Brücke you can see a pink coloured palace right in front of you. In fact, it isn’t a palace at all. It is the Brandenburg State Parliament encased in the façade of the almost 1-to-1 reconstruction of the City Palace that stood here until 1960.
The Parliament building is also the western border of the Old Market. With enclosing buildings of the huge St. Nicholas’ Church, the Old Town Hall and the Museum Barberini, you can imagine why this place used to be called Europe’s most beautiful place. The additional ongoing reconstruction of the Old Market until 2025, the square has a great chance to regain its showpiece splendour. There are plenty museums surrounding the plaza already, which make the area one of the most visited in Potsdam. Below are just a few examples of what to see and do here:
- Immerse into the more than 1025 year-old history of Potsdam at the Potsdam Museum inside the Old Town Hall
- Admire world famous works of art at the Museum Barberini
- Get involved in nteractive filmmaking at the permanent exhibition “The Dream Factory – 100 years of Film in Babelsberg” at the Filmmuseum Potsdam
- Wander through the perennial gardens on the island Freundschaftsinsel
For even more ideas and tips, the Potsdam experts at the Tourist Information Center, Old Market will be happy to help.
Enjoy your evening strolling the streets of the Dutch Quarter. Walking on cobblestone lanes between these red brick buildings you may think, you have just travelled directly to the Netherlands. Actually, the Dutch Quarter is considered to be the greatest collection of Dutch-style houses outside the Netherlands. Originally built for Dutch craftsmen, nowadays, the streets are filled with cafes, bars and restaurants. In summer, you can savour the best city spirit sitting outside a restaurant around the gate Nauener Tor, with street musicians playing almost every evening. Just the perfect set for your dinner followed by one or two drinks.
With the walk through the New Garden and the water taxi ride passing Babelsberg Park, you have already seen two of the historic park areas that are UNESCO World Heritage. So, this day is all about Sanssouci Park, the most famous of all the parks in Potsdam. 300 hectares of garden art await with more than 11 palaces and historic buildings. To see Sanssouci Palace from the inside, please get to the visitor centre at the historic windmill as early as possible. This way, your chances are higher to purchase a ticket for the inside visit within the next hour. But even if you buy a ticket for the entrance time slot a couple of hours later, there is plenty to explore in this beautiful park area.
You want it all planned ahead? Get a sanssouci+ ticket at with the following benefits:
- One-time entrance to all palaces in Potsdam
- Choose your fixed time to enter Sanssouci Palace (advance booking possible)
- Get the ticket at the visitor centres in Sanssouci Park, the Tourist Information Centers at Old Market and Potsdam Main Station
From the Historic Windmill, travel further west to walk along the 300m long Orangery Palace. Its huge halls are used as a winter residence for all the orange trees and other not native
plants you find in the park area during summer.
If you are into arts, please visit the palace interior. The imposing Raphael Hall displays a great collection of about 50 copies of Rafael’s paintings such as the Sistine Madonna and the Transfiguration. The hall’s deep red walls accentuate the paintings in a beautiful way. Also, the Orangery Palace has two lookout towers from which you have a great vista over the park and its historic buildings.
Further west, you will find an avenue with four tree rows leading to the Belvedere Klausberg. This building is another proof of Frederic the Great’s love for Italy and its architecture.
Another 5 minute-walk, and you feel like you’ve just switched continents. With its curved roofs topped with golden dragon statues, the Dragon House looks just like a Chinese pagoda. Originally built as the royal winegrowers’ house, the Dragon House is now a well-visited café and restaurant in the middle of idyllic Sanssouci Park. Take a rest here to recharge your batteries with a lunch made with local ingredients. The house sommelier will happily recommend the perfect choice out of a selection of 100 wines for each dish.
Crossing the Maulbeerallee you will see a huge red bricked palace – the New Palace. It’s by far the biggest palace in Potsdam and a strong contrast to the intimate and rather modest Sanssouci Palace.
The building, which Friedrich himself referred to as Prussia's "boast", became famous for its impressive interiors: the Grotto Hall, the Marble Hall, the Concert Room and the palace's own theatre. The 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.
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 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 are breath-taking settings for events such as
- The Music Festival Potsdam Sanssouci. Several music performances from Rennaissance, Baroque, Classic and romantic taking place in June.
- The Potsdamer Schlössernacht. The 2-day festival taking place in August with music, literature and plays in the illuminated Sanssouci Park.
- The Winteroper taking place for several days in November/December in the newly renovated Palace theatre at the New Palace
From the eastern end of the park you will re-enter the city via the square Luisenplatz with its gate Brandenburger Tor. Please do not mistake it for the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. They only share the name. Actually, the monument in Potsdam was built 20 years before its bigger brother in Berlin.
The gate is the entrance to Potsdam’s shopping promenade the Brandenburger Strasse. Lovely backyards along the busy pedestrian area with regional shops, boutiques and cafés invite you to linger. Maybe you will find the perfect souvenir for your loved ones at home.
After so much input for the eyes, your palate may already be jealous. There is a great fine dining scene in Potsdam waiting for you to be explored. The following restaurants are, or have been awarded by Michellin, Gault & Millau or received regional labels: