The beautiful city of Potsdam is part of an extraordinarily rich and attractive landscape: expansive parks, majestic tree-lined avenues and some 150 buildings from the 18th to the 20th century all combine to make an outstanding cultural treasure. Extended to include architectural monuments in neighbouring Berlin, they have been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990.
Today's World Heritage site dates back to 1745, when Frederick the Great commissioned Sanssouci Palace to be built as his summer residence. That makes Sanssouci the oldest feature of the palaces and parks of Potsdam and Berlin.
Back in 1989, the soon-to-be-defunct East German government had already applied for UNESCO World Heritage status for the area, which also includes Babelsberg Palace and Park, Glienicke hunting lodge, Sacrow Park and Palace, the New Gardens in northern Potsdam with the Marble Palace on the shores of Heiliger See lake, and Cecilienhof House, where the Potsdam Conference took place in 1945. Since 1999, the grounds surrounding the Art Nouveau observatory in Babelsberg have also been part of the UNESCO World Heritage site,
which occupies over 2,000 hectares. Other places worth visiting among Potsdam's historical districts include the Russian colony Alexandrowka, which is also part of the World Heritage site, the Dutch quarter with its red-brick houses, the former Bohemian Weavers' Quarter, and the famous Babelsberg Film Studio. Since 1911, when film-makers recognised the unique landscapes and buildings of Potsdam as an ideal location, films from around the world have been made here. Works such as The Blue Angel, The Pianist, Around the World in 80 Days and, more recently, Inglourious Basterds have all been shot here.
Opening times for all the palaces, houses and gardens can be found at the website of the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg: www.spsg.de Information on the Alexandrowka Russian colony is at www.alexandrowka.de.
13 to 29 June: Potsdam Sanssouci Music Festival
17 to 20 July 2014: Le Carrousel de Sanssouci: a horse-riding spectacular in its original setting outside the New Palace in Potsdam's Sanssouci Park, featuring historical costumes and live baroque music
16 August: Potsdam Palaces Night with night-time illumination of Sanssouci Park
28 November to 6 December: Potsdam Winter Opera in the Friedenskirche, Sanssouci Park