Cities & Culture

Potsdam: a land of gardens, palaces and lakes

Brandenburg: Alter Markt square in Potsdam, view from St Nicholas' Church looking out to the palace and Fortuna Gate, Brandenburg's regional assembly ©Getty Images (Westend61)

Prussian pomp and splendour, a heritage of great architects and scholars and a focal point during the Cold War: Potsdam offers breathtaking dimensions of culture and history.

300 years ago, Potsdam was transformed into one of Europe's most splendid royal cities. The Prussian kings created a Baroque dream in Potsdam and the surrounding area and commissioned great monuments to Classicism. The Palaces and Parks of Potsdam, which cover about 500 hectares of parkland and encompass 150 buildings dating from 1730 to 1916, were awarded UNESCO World Heritage status back in 1990. A good starting point for a walk is the Alter Markt square, taking in St. Nicholas Church, the Lustgarten park, the Old Town Hall, the Barberini Museum and the reconstructed former City Palace. Opposite Alter Markt, somewhat tucked away, lies the Neuer Markt square, one of the best-preserved Baroque squares in Europe.

Nauen Gate gives access to the Dutch quarter with its lovingly decorated courtyards, cafés, offbeat bars and galleries, where the ambiance and lifestyle of the city are a bit more laid back. No visit to Potsdam would be complete without a trip along the city's waterways on one of the Weisse Flotte steamboats. The vessels go as far as Glienicke Bridge, which connects Potsdam to Berlin and is where East and West exchanged secret agents and spies until into the 1980s. Over in Babelsberg, the cameras are always rolling at Europe's biggest and oldest film studios, which is no real surprise, as Potsdam was named UNESCO Creative City of Film in 2019.

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