Why Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam is the ultimate retreat?

This royal haven is Germany’s largest world heritage site

If you’re racking your brains for a day-trip idea from Berlin, look no further than Potsdam, an oasis of lakes, lush fields, thick forests and unique cultural landmarks along the Havel River. Boasting of the largest World Heritage Site in Germany, Sanssouci, as its centrepiece, Potsdam is to Germany what Versailles is to France and Windsor to England. And its just a 45-minute drive from the buzzing German capital. So, die-hard lovers of sumptuous palaces and extravagant gardens, zip away on that Autobahn now!

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Courtesy: 19th-century Potsdam landscape by Stadtblick from Wikipedia

A restful aura of peace hangs in the air as you pass through the original city gates. What a dramatically different scenario from the World War bombing when 80% of Potsdam’s 300-year-old city centre succumbed to the attacks. The original City Palace, imposing St. Nicholas Church and the Pantheon-like French Church stand proud today in their carefully reconstructed reincarnations. Can you believe that during the cold war, spies were exchanged in this pristine paradise? Post-World War II Potsdam conference between the victorious Allies was staged here? Ugliness, war, death and destruction lay sprawled here? Potsdam’s current glamour quotient makes it all seem like a fantasy.

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French Church, Courtesy: Wikipedia
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St Nicholas Church, Courtesy: Wikipedia

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Potsdam city gate

Potsdam’s claim to fame has shifted from its centuries-old royal residence for Prussian kings and German Kaisers to much more. A large film park with studios, accounting for 80% of all movies in Germany, the Postdamerplatz Film Festival, and one of the oldest Prussian railways still in use in Germany, pulls many different audiences here. But Germany’s largest World Heritage Site, Sanssouci continues to be the biggest crowd-puller for most. So, without further ado…

Relive the majesty of yesterday as you stroll along a wide 2.5-km path into the heart of the 700-acre Sanssouci Park. This is nature’s lap, generously overflowing with thousands of fruit trees, life-size marble statues, tinkling fountains, baroque terraces and hidden temples. Depending on how many times you’re distracted, you’ll get lost in the great labyrinth, discover the rococo-style, blue-gold Chinese pavilion, land up at the elaborately Dragon House Pagoda, find the Turkish mosque and minaret (which is actually a water pumping station), and wander into the Roman baths. But when you finally arrive at the18-meter high Große Fontäne (Great Fountain) and stand in silence before the Sanssouci Palace, you know why this is the biggest magnet. Salute the conceptualiser and the architect. A treat for the senses.

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Chinese House, Courtesy: Wikipedia

Grand Fountain, Sanssouci Park

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In 1747, Frederick the Great created his summer palace at Sanssouci and placed Potsdam on the map forever. Not just another royal retreat this…his passion for music, philosophy, culture and art drips from every inch. Interestingly, he sketched the structure himself and named it Sanssouci, based on the French phrase ‘sans souci’ meaning ‘without worry’ (meaning a place where one can live without worries). Picture him in his personal sanctuary, where he retreated to relax in the company of his dogs. RIP Frederick, in that crypt on the uppermost terrace.

His 12-room palace is small by royal standards, and anything but modest. A beautiful rococo style shines through its soft yellow columned walls, tall arched windows and a central ballroom topped by a large green baroque dome. The unique location on top of a multi-level terraced vineyard (the Weinberg or wine mountain), is a sight for sore eyes. Standing at the bottom of the wide steps at the centre of the terraced vineyard, you feel like you are looking at a massive piano, crowned by a grand golden villa. What a life and what a home!

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Exiting the gardens, stop by a historical windmill, the last of 40 from the time of Frederick II…now an artisan museum. It stands there atop a stone pedestal about 13-meters high, its four wooden posts creating an ancient cross…a testament to the past. Visions of Holland countryside flood your mind.

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Frederick may have been the imperial, but he was certainly not the only Potsdam resident with a tranquil haven on the Havel, you will realise when you explore the surrounding neighbourhoods soaking in the serenity of the sprawling nature reserve. Endless boulevards with leafy trees, hardly any people to be seen, charming houses with private gardens, green, green and more green for miles all around, dozens of lakes and sailing boats, bobbing silently in the docks. Another world, same earth. One lucky bunch, these Potsdamers. But not just the locals.

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If you were an immigrant during the 18th-19th centuries, Frederick would have encouraged you to take up citizenship to his underpopulated Prussia with an irresistible offer. A native home, title of ‘court artisan’? Yes, please. Make sure you see the 134 historic red brick, three-storey Dutch houses and the 12 picturesque wooden houses in the ‘Russian town’ named Alexandrowka after the Tsarina. Expat life on your mind yet?

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Dutch Quarter, Courtesy: Wikipedia

 

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This royal haven is Germany’s largest world heritage site

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81 thoughts on “Why Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam is the ultimate retreat?

  1. The Palace on top of the wine mountain is surely the best part. I really liked how the steps have been treated and a lovely cascade effect is given to it. This is a great example of user-friendly architecture where instead of a long staircase, many smaller ones with intermediate landing and the total area is covered with green. Just awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The palace and it’s grounds look lovely and it does remind me a bit of the Viennese Castles, Schonbrunn and Belvedere, which both have that type of terraced garden and a similar architecture. I’d like to visit Potsdam one day, I have only been to Berlin in Germany.

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  3. I would definitely going to visit Potsdam if I get the chance to visit Berlin soon. The fact that there are so much to see here and filled with nature’s beauty have made me really excited to traipse my feet here. Aside from the nature’s wonder, what makes me more excited is the historical site like Sanssouci Palace, which would feed me enough learnings about the place and the history of culture. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This place is spectacular! It survived many wars and yet look at this beauty – it seems nothing happened. I admire the people’s dedication to make it flourish again. I’m dreaming of living here for a month!

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  5. I loved looking at all the beautiful photos you captured. Sadly, I have not yet made my way to Berlin, but I would definitely love to visit Potsdam when I do. That entrance to that Chinese House is so shiny!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I didn’t know that Potsdam was the worlds largest heritage site, that is crazy! I wanted to go here when I was in Berlin but it was freezing cold and snowing so I’ll have to go back in the summer to see the gardens in their full glory!

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  7. I would love to be a ‘court artesan’, it sounds so important! And those immigrant ‘expats’ really left a mark over the years. The diversity of architecture in Potsdam looks fascinating, very cool that they’ve all been preserved so beautifully.

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  8. We recently visited the site and enjoyed every moment of it. The park is stunning and I remember being very impressed with the building with lots of art work in it. I didnt know it is Germanys UNESCO’s largest site.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh wow! I love this. I was born in Germany, but have only been back one time since I moved to the US when I was two. We didn’t hit Potsdam, but if we go back, I will for sure. I really love that Russian village. For whatever reason, I’m fascinated with that family. I’m actually reading a book about them right now. Thank you for the introduction.

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  10. I’ve read about Potsdam, but I never knew it was home to Germany’s largest UNESCO World Heritage Site and a palace that’s no less impressive than Versailles or Windsor. Thanks for introducing me! Sanssouci has a fascinating history. The Dutch influence is especially interesting.

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  11. Sanssouci Palace is indeed magnificent.
    I live in Berlin, and a visit to Potsdam is always a delight. Not only have we got beautiful buildings, but green fields, and lots of really lovely lakes. One summer, we rented a wooden boat house and spent a few days sailing on the lake and docking at night. It was grand!

    In fact, so much so that I got married in one of the Summer Palaces in Potsdam, ‘cos I wanted to get married in a castle. And I did!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Potsdam looks like a really great town, and it would be great day trip from Berlin! Sanssouci Park looks so pretty, especially the sculptures and fountains. I love strolling around gardens like this! The architecture there is beautiful too. We need to plan a trip here next time we are in Berlin for sure!

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  13. What a wonderful place to visit! I love learning about these not-so-famous towns that have so much to offer visitors! I would love that park with the fruit trees and marble statues! So great that things are restored though they were hit in the war. Interesting to know that there is a film studio there!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Postdam in Germany not only looks great but sounds wonderful too. Who would of ever thought that is it Germanys largest World Heritage site that is one cool fact. I also find the architecture and the colour of the building interesting especially all the bright yellow. Definitely adding to my bucketlist

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I haven’t been to Potsdam yet even though I’ve been to Germany twice. I LOVE visiting World Heritage sites and I would be most excited to see the French Church and St Nicholas Church. The architecture is beautiful!! The Chinese House and the Summer Palace would also be great photos! How long would I need to adequately get good photos in Potsdam?

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  16. Sanssouci Palace is indeed stunning. It is like the place I have watched in television. It will be like I am a cast in a fairy tale movie once I visited that wonderful place. I hope someday I can visit it too.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Sanssouci Palace, never heard of it. I love reading about all these hit germs. When I am in Germany next I have to go check it out. Love the photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Some really beautiful photos you have captured here in this post. Each and every pic looks just lovely and along with your words, makes for a perfect read about Potsdam.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. The Sanssouci Palace looks pretty impressive. I love the vastness of the gardens and how perfectly maintained it is. Love how the palace was named from. Indeed the area will definitely not make you worry at all with that lovely view!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I’ve not yet been to Potsdam, but looks like the kind of place I’d definitely enjoy, with lots of history and great architecture. Sanssouci Palace looks amazing, and expansive too. So many different buildings and open spaces to explore.

    Liked by 1 person

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