Germany off the beaten track

Trier: The Unesco World Heritage Site Porta Nigra (about 180 A.D.) © Bjoern Rudek

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City of Palaces and Gardens

Extensive landscape of castles, palaces and sprawling parks are the main attraction for palatial Potsdam. From the 17th through 20th centuries, Prussian kings commissioned the best artists of their time to build elaborate palaces and gardens in Potsdam, a center of Prussia and home of the royal residence. In the 19th century, renowned landscape architect Peter Joseph Lenné unified these riches into such a harmonious landscape that UNESCO placed it on the list of World Heritage sites in 1990.

For most visitors, it is the Park Sanssouci (Sanssouci Gardens) that is the prime attraction. It covers 724 acres – compared to Central Park’s 840 – and has three palaces: Schloss Sanssouci (Sanssouci Palace), the Neues Palais (New Palace) and Schloss Charlottenhof (Charlottenhof Palace). Many visitors to the "Park Sanssouci" (Sanssouci Gardens) neglect the smaller but exquisite "Neuer Garten" (New Garden), with two charming palaces: the Marmorpalast (Marble Palace) and Schloss Cecilienhof (Cecilienhof Palace), built in 1917 in the style of an English country estate. Although Cecilienhof is the youngest of the Hohenzollern palaces, it carries perhaps the greatest direct significance for Americans and modern Europe. It was here that the victorious powers of World War II met from June 17 to August 2, 1945, for the Potsdam Conference.

Be sure to set aside some time to walk around the Baroque Old Town, especially the Holländerviertel (Dutch Quarter) with its gabled brick houses and the Brandenburgerstrasse (Brandenburg Street), a pedestrian shopping boulevard lined with antique stores and shops. Gain some of the best views of the parks and palaces from the lakes and river. Relaxing cruises are available of different lengths and routes.

Sanssouci Palace, Potsdam

Sanssouci Gardens

New Palace, Potsdam

Einstein Tower, Potsdam

Dutch Quarter, Potsdam

Charlottenhof Palace, Potsdam

Cecilienhof Palace, Potsdam

Brandenburg Street, Potsdam

Map of Germany

Top Tip: Babelsberg studios

Potsdam is also famous in the world of film. Marlene Dietrich began her rise to fame in the Babelsberg studios as the star of “The Blue Angel”.