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11 Best Things to Do in Potsdam, Germany

Germany has numerous amazing cities, and Potsdam is one of them. Let’s explore the most stunning things to do in Potsdam, for an amazing trip.

One of Germany’s largest states is Brandenburg. Its capital city is Potsdam, a city that receives millions of visitors every year. As a visitor, there are many things to Potsdam that will keep you and your family entertained for the whole trip.

Potsdam earliest mention goes as far back as 1317 as a small town. Come 1345, it got its charter and became an official town in the region.

Later on, it grew into a famous market town in 1573. The city continued to grow until it became the royal residence of the Prussian empire.

In 1815, the Brandenburg province became official, with Potsdam as the second capital of the Prussian empire. WW1 saw an end to the 2nd capital city status, with the city becoming part of East Germany after WW2. Once the Berlin wall fell, the city became the capital of the new Brandenburg state.

Today, there are lots of Potsdam attractions to see and below I have compiled the list for you.

Top Things to Do in Potsdam and Surrounding Areas

1. The Neues Palais

The new palace Potsdam

As you contemplate on all the things to do in Potsdam, be sure to visit the Neues Palais. Popularly known as the New Palace, this royal residence dates to 1763, when construction began. The fascinating thing about this palace is its mastery of Baroque architecture. The decorative style was a favorite of the Prussian rulers.

Unlike other palaces built at this time, the Neues Palace wasn’t for official business. It served more like an entertainment location for visiting royal dignitaries. Architect Carl von Gontard saw the construction of the New Palace until its completion in 1769.

Be ready to feast your eyes on exceptional interior finishes that speak of wealth and splendor. The ground floor includes lots of decorative shells, semi-precious gems, quartz and marble. It’s a three-storey building that has four royal apartments.

Apart from the great architectural marvel, you can catch some shows at the theater on the ground floor. It dates back to the 18th century but still puts on amazing shows to date.

Also, step outside and enjoy a stroll in the marvelous park that surrounds the palace. It has lots of walkways, paths, fountains and flora.

2. Museum Barberini

While you might have seen better places, you can also never run out of things to see in Potsdam. For instance, check out the Museum Barberini that opened its doors in 2017. Inside is an excellent collection of classic and contemporary masterpieces.

Museum Barberini is the brainchild of Hasso Plattner, and it mainly features his work. He funded the building reconstruction of a former palace that lay in ruins.

Every year, the museum hosts three exhibitions with pieces lent to it from all across the world.  The three significant exhibitions are temporary. Additionally, it puts on smaller displays that run for short durations plus a whole host of events.

The interior and exterior of this museum give you plenty of unique backgrounds to capture memorable pictures.

3. The Babelsberg Park

The Babelsberg Park

On the list of things to do in Potsdam and surrounding areas, including a tour of Babelsberg Park isn’t a bad idea. It’s a fantastic place to be, especially once summer is in full swing and all the flora is flourishing. The park has lots to see and do for the whole family.

The park is north of the famous Babelsberg Film Studio and a short trek from Germany’s Capital city, Berlin.

The park is in a perfect location at the banks of the Havel River. Everything about this park speaks of the excellent landscaping and architecture of the area.

Inside, you can enjoy learning about classic architecture mixed with neo-gothic inspirations. That’s not all because there are plenty of other periods of architectural designs to check out.

4. Holländisches Viertel

Add to your itinerary of things to do in Potsdam a tour of the old Dutch Quarters (Holländisches Viertel). As you walk by, you’ll think you left Germany because the architecture is synonymous with many Dutch buildings. The famous Dutch Quarters are north of Bassinplatz and consist of 134 buildings.

All the buildings along the Dutch Quarters are made using red brick and contain stripes of white along with the shutter windows. The construction of this architectural marvel began in 1737 by Dutch craftsmen. It’s still intact and houses the largest community of its kind anywhere else in the world, apart from the Netherlands.

Be ready to walk for some time, and be sure to wear some comfortable shoes. The Dutch Quarters are pretty expansive, covering four city blocks in total. Here you can meet tourists from all over the world plus, mingle with the locals who love touring this area of Brandenburg.

Apart from viewing the houses, there are lots of cafes and shops with different items on sale. The good news is that this part of the city also offers some of the best things to do in Potsdam at night. Enjoy a pint while catching up with friends and locals.

Remember to allocate some time to tour the Johann Boumann House,  a museum that pays homage to the man who led the building of these grand quarters.

5. Neuer Garten

Neuer Garten

There’s no limit to the beautiful tourist attractions in Potsdam. As such, two great lakes await you in the Northern parts of the city. These are Heiliger See and Jungfernsee. Along their shore is a magnificent garden known as Neuer Garten (New Garden) that you can’t miss touring.

Fredrick William the Second, commissioned the New Garden in 1787, and it’s remained a wonderful sight ever since. Moving away from the more distinctive Prussian garden style, Fredrick opted for a more English feel. The garden has more of an English layout and landscape similar to many parks in Europe.

Bring on your walking shoes and camera as you enter one of the most beautiful places in Potsdam. The garden covers 102.4 hectares in total and includes some Dutch-style buildings. These buildings served as the servants’ quarters for the people tasked with maintaining the garden.

Additionally, there’s the Ice Palace that resembles the pyramids of Egypt, plus an orangery. The orangery is quite interesting because it looks like an Egyptian portal.

Not to mention you can tour the Library, build in the distinct Gothic style. And, an addition to your list of Potsdam tourist attractions is the spectacular marble palace.

There are many wonderful things to do in Potsdam and Cologne, Ulm, Upper Saxony, and enjoy great things to do in Mannheim and other German cities.

6. Babelsberg Film Studio

Are you still wondering what to do in Potsdam during your visit? How about a visit to the grand Babelsberg Film Studio!

Be ready to catch a glimpse of the oldest film studio globally on such a grand scale. The studio is quite expansive and has been operational since 1912. So many films have been shot here since then, and it continues to generate masterpieces each year.

The most exciting thing about this studio is that you get to learn more about film history in Germany. Go back to the beginning and learn the making of movies at the start of the 20th century. The State and studio have played a key role in making numerous top films known across the world.

But, also spend some time learning about the dark past associated with this famous film studio. During the era of Adolf Hitler, it served as a production site for anti-Semitic propaganda. You can view many of the props and other items used in making films for decades.

Regarding shows, be sure to ask about any upcoming ones you might enjoy with your family. Moreover, you can plan to catch the Halloween celebrations that happen at this studio annually.

7. St. Nicholas Church

Do not forget to check out the marvellous churches in Brandenburg. As you contemplate on what to see in Potsdam, St. Nicholas Church at the Old Market Square, is a great addition.

The most distinctive feature of this church is its German classical architecture. Both the interior and exteriors consists of the most fabulous finishes. It’s part of the Evangelical Church in Germany and dates as far back as 1830.

The structure reaches 77m high, towering above many other buildings in the whole city. You can use it as your starting point as you begin viewing Potsdam tourist attractions.

In terms of design, the church resembles a Greek cross. It suffered lots of damage during WW2 and took a long time to reconstruct.

However, services resumed in 1981 and today host a large parish in the city of Potsdam. Members of the public are welcome to attend mass and enjoy excellent music.

8. The KGB Prison

KGB Prison Potsdam

Also known as the Memorial Leistikowstrabe, the KGB Prison gives you a glimpse of life during East and West Germany. Remember to add it to your list of things to do in Potsdam and learn more about the tough times of this era.

Back in the day, the building was a base of a Christian charity group.  But later on, it changed tactics and became a notorious detention center. The prison saw lots of dissidents locked away for various crimes against the ruling Soviet government.

Adjacent to the prison was a military camp at the KGB headquarters in Germany. Russian and German prisoners were held here for suspicion of spying or collaborating with the West. Once the Soviet Union collapsed, it closed its doors as a prison and is now a Memorial.

Visitors can enter the cells that remain intact with prison graffiti. More so, you can check out the detention rooms where interrogations took place.

See related: 11 Things to Do in Nuremberg, Germany

9. The Sanssouci Park

Stepping away from the dark past of the East Germany era, bring back some sunshine to your day by touring Sanscoucci Park. It ranks high among stuff to do in Potsdam thanks to the beautiful gardens. Everywhere you look, there’s beauty and splendor that only nature can provide.

As you check out the marvellous flora, catch a glimpse of the different art pieces plus some fantastic architectural masterpieces.

The history of the park goes back to 1744 and has continuously undergone expansion ever since. It’s another idea of Fredrick the Great, who was renowned for great gardens and buildings during his era. You enter the park from the east and right away get captivated by what lies ahead of you.

Typically, the parts you don’t want to miss are Neptune Grotto and the Orangery Picture Gallery. Inside the gallery are numerous 17th-century works of art by famous artists like Caravaggio and Ruben. Also, don’t miss spending some time at the grand fountain with lots of mythological creatures around it.

Getting hungry before or after touring Sanssouci Park is not a problem there are many restaurants that served different German food as well as different types of German sausages.

10. The Sanssouci Palace

Sanssouci Palace Potsdam

The grand Sanssouci Palace was the summer residence of Fredrick the Great. Its construction began in 1745 and completed in 1747.

The summer residence was a haven for the ruler. Here he could enjoy a quitter and casual lifestyle away from the rigorous Berlin court. The name Sanssouci signifies just that, as it loosely translates to ‘without cares’.

It’s a grand building with numerous architectural marvels that you can’t miss as you walk around. It’s an intimate palace in design and size, symbolic of its purpose.

Unlike other more extensive castles, it’s only one story high and has a terraced vineyard. The ruler wanted comfort and relaxation since not many people were permitted to visit.

Don’t forget to view the Marble hall (Marmoorsal) with its columns resembling the famous Corinthian ones.

11. Alexadrowka

Did you know there’s a Russian colony in Germany? Part of the amazing things to do in Potsdam includes visits to Alexadrowka. It’s a Russian settlement that goes as far back as 1827 and consists of 13 wooden houses built like a cross.

The then Prussian king erected these as homes for Russian musicians. The musicians were part of the First Prussian Regiment of the Guards, who continued to live here until the fall of the Prussian empire.

For a brief moment, the houses were home to the WW2 Red Army. But, some descendants of the Russian musicians continued to live here until the 21st century.

Today, the homes are open to visitors who want to learn more about the history of Potsdam. They form part of Potsdam tourist attractions, complete with fantastic gardens. Additionally, you can check out the Orthodox Church and tea house.

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