- For other places with the same name, see Potsdam (disambiguation).
Potsdam is the capital of Brandenburg and borders Berlin. The town has population of approx. 159,400. It is widely known for its castles and landscape as a World Heritage Site. Potsdam is more than 1000 years old. Many historic buildings are under re-construction after World War II and the period of the GDR.
Potsdam was the capital of Brandeburg and later Prussia, until it was replaced by Berlin. It was still used as a residence for the kings of Prussia when they wanted to get away from the big-city trouble (and potential rabble-rousers) in Berlin, and in a way it still has a similar function, as many well-to-do people from Berlin have either moved here or have bought a second residence here since reunification in 1990. Potsdam also serves as the capital of the Bundesland of Brandenburg, after an attempt to reunite Berlin and Brandenburg in a single Bundesland failed in the early 90s.
For most of its recent history Potsdam has not been accessible from the former West Berlin. The last station before the former GDR was Wannsee. Many of the buildings that are visible today have been reconstructed after the bombings of the Second World War and after the lax care of the East German Government. The city as we see it today is the work of five architects (After the Great Elector said: "Das ganze Eyland muß ein Paradies werden" [The whole island must become a paradise]): Peter Joseph Lenné, Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, Carl Phillipp Christian von Gontard, Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Friedrich Ludwig Persius, and of course King Frederick the Great and Emperor Wilhelm II.
Most of attractions in the city are UNESCO World Heritage sites:
- Sanssouci Park and the Crown estate of Bornstedt
- The New Garden (including the Pfingstberg and the Russian colony of Alxandrowka)
- Babelsberg Park
- Sacrow Park
By suburban rail
Potsdam is in the Berlin metropolitan area and served by both inner and outer suburban trains, called S-Bahn and Regionalexpress respectively. Several lines serve Potsdam, but not the same parts. Almost all trains that go from Berlin to Potsdam can be used with an ABC or BC zone card for Berlin, so if you are staying in Berlin and buy a day card ask yourself whether you want to go to Potsdam (then buy ABC, valid for all of Berlin and many towns in the surroundings, most notably Potsdam) or not (then buy AB, valid for all of Berlin).
For central Potsdam, you should travel to 1 Potsdam Hauptbahnhof, which is the terminus for S-Bahn S7 and also served by Regionalexpress RE1 towards Brandenburg or Magdeburg. From the most centrally located station, Berlin Friedrichstraße, it takes 47 min to Potsdam Hbf by S1 (40 min: S7+S1) and 28 min by RE1, the latter making limited stops in inner areas.
For the Schloss Sanssouci, Park Sanssouci and Krongut Bornstedt, you should take an RE1 train direction Brandenburg (not Magdeburg) and get off at Charlottenhof, the station following Potsdam Hbf. From there the mentioned attractions are 10 minutes away on foot.
For Babelsberg, you should take the S-Bahn S7 to Babelsberg, the station preceding Potsdam Hbf.
For the Medienstadt (film studios), you should take an RE7 train direction Bad Belzig or Dessau and get off at Medienstadt Babelsberg.
Your ticket must be valid for at least Berlin zones BC in order to travel to Potsdam; however, tickets and travelcards valid for the entire metropolitan area are of course also valid. For more information on this, visit the local transport website of the Berlin metropolitan area.
While Berlin has had intercity bus service even before the deregulation of the market the fact that buses can't sell ticket for trips shorter than 50 km makes Potsdam somewhat underserved. There are several stops in Berlin however and ZOB (the central bus station) is served by the S-Bahn
- highway A10 or A115
Berlin has two airports which are not far away from Potsdam. From Tegel bus X9 connects to Jungfernheide S-Bahn station, from where you can take S42 to Westkreuz and then S7 and S1 to Potsdam (for passengers to Charlottendorf or Medienstadt RE trains connect to the S7 at Wannsee).
From Schönefeld, suburban train line RB22 connects to Potsdam Hbf via Charlottendorf (passengers for Medienstadt should change to RE7 or MR33 at Michendorf, while passengers for Babelsberg should change to S-Bahn S7 at Potsdam Hbf)
By tram and bus
The tram and bus system in Potsdam is very modern and overall excellent though confusing. Potsdam is, together with Berlin and the rest of Brandenburg, part of the VBB transportation network. That enables you to change trams and buses pretty much at will, as long as your ticket is valid for the zone you're in. The inner city of Potsdam is in Zone A, the outer parts are in Zone B, and the hinterland is Zone C. Be aware though, as Potsdam itself lies in Berlin's Zone C - Berlin's outer parts are Berlin Zone B and so on.
Tickets can be bought at ticket machines in every tram and bus. Unfortunately they're of no big help when it comes to choosing the right ticket, and furthermore they only accept coins and rechargeable "Geldkarten", but no bills. It's best to get detailed information about prices and zones at Potsdam's central station or on the VBB website.
The transport, although confusing at first, is pretty logically laid out - each tourist attraction has its own bus / tram stop (with the appropriate name) and the staff of the VBB are extremely helpful, although language barriers can exist.
For tourists there are five main lines in and around Potsdam:
- Schlösser-Linie (Palaces Line): Bus No 695 from Potsdam Hauptbahnhof - Bahnhof Pirschheide. With stops for: The Historic Steam Engine House, Sanssouci Palace and Park, The Orangery, the Dragon House, the Belvedere, The New Palace and a path to the Charlottenhof Park.
- Krongut-Linie (Crown Estate Line): Tram No 92 from Potsdam Hauptbahnhof - Bornstedt Kirschallee. With stops for: The Dutch Quarter, The Russian Colony (Alexandrowka), the Pfingstberg, the Potsdam Biosphere and the Volkspark.
- Tropen-Linie (Tropics Line): From Potsdam Hauptbahnhof - Viereckremise. With stops for: The Historic City Centre, the Russian Colony (Alexandrowka),the Pfingstberg, the Potsdam Biosphere and the Volkspark.
- Cecilienhof-Linie (Cecilienhof Line): From Potsdam Hauptbahnhof take Tram Nos 90/92 to Reiterweg / Alleestraße, then Bus No 692 - Höhenstraße. With stops for: The Russian colony (Alexandrowka), the New Garden, the Marble Palace, Celcilienhof Palace and the Pfingstberg.
- Filmstadt-Linie (Film City Line): From Potsdam Hauptbahnhof - Stern-Center / Gerlachstraße. With stops for: Babelsberg palace and park, Flatow Tower, the Arcaded Court House, the Neubabelsberg Villa Colony, Babelsberg Media City and the Film Park.
Park Sanssouci. This immense park outside Berlin in the city of Potsdam is on the UNESCO World Heritage list, along with all its outbuildings. Get there early: there is a 2000 person/day entry limit at Schloss (Castle) Sanssouci, a fabulous rococo palace with amazing interiors. The Neues Plais is also worth a visit, one of the most noteworthy rooms in the palace is the Konzertsaal (concert hall) - dripping in rococo glory.
1 Former KGB Prison Potsdam (Gedenk- und Begegnungsstätte Ehemaliges KGB-Gefängnis Potsdam), Leistikowstr. 1. Tue-Sun 14:00-18:00, Mon closed. Memorial and meeting place at the former KGB prison. From August 1945 it was occupied by soviet forces. It has been reconstructed as a prison for the counterintelligence. Today it's been left standing to remind people of the depressing reality of dictatorships. Free entry.
2 Holländisches Viertel. Right in the middle of Potsdam are the "Dutch Quarters", built in the 18th century by Dutch master builder Johann Boumann to attract other Dutch artisans. The quarters consist of 134 red brick houses, divided into four blocks. The history of the Dutch Quarters can be seen in the Jan Bouman house in Mittelstraße 8.
Alter Markt. The old market is the historic city center, the Stadtschloss (city castle) is under re-construction. You can visit the Nikolaikirche there.
New Market. The new market is an original preserved market square from the 18th century.
3 Park Babelsberg. A beautiful park with a gothic-style castle. It is also part of the World Heritage site. One part of the university is placed here, so expect some students.
Potsdam has several interesting museums to offer:
9 Filmpark Babelsberg, Großbeerenstraße 200, ☎ . Movie theme park. Well worth a visit, the first German expressionist film in the world was made at these studios. The next-door studios are home to Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten, a famous German soap opera. Day tickets: €21 adults, €17 students, €14 children (4-16).
Altes Rathaus. Changing exhibitions at the old town hall.
Gemäldegaleria. The beautiful collection of paintings at the Sanssouci Palace.
- Schloss und Schlosspark Glienicke (Glienicke Palace, Casino and Garden) in Berlin-Wannsee
- The Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island) in Berlin-Wannsee is a small island with free living peacocks.
- Take a cycling tour of the city
- Walk around Sanssouci Park, with its many castles, follies, cascading terraces, mini-gardens, and romantic ruins.
- Climb the Babelsberg
- Stroll around New Garden (part of the UNESCO world heritage ensemble), on the banks of the river Havel. It was here that Churchill, Stalin and Truman met for the Potsdam Conference, at the end of World War II.
- Visit the Dutch quarter, the Russian Colony, and the Weberviertel in Babelsberg (the 'weaver's quarter', built to accommodate artisans from Bohemia) - three architectural oddities commissioned by the Prussian kings to attract foreign craftsmen to Potsdam.
- Just north of the city, in the woods overlooking the river, is a historic Russian church and lodge by the name of Nikolskoe. Now a popular cafe, it makes for a good pit stop on the way to nearby Peacock Island.
- Walk around the picturesque south bank of lake Griebnitz, and into the streets of Neubabelsberg - a typical German 'Villenkolonie' of the Belle Epoque. Many of the grand homes' Jewish occupants were evicted by the Nazis, who then moved in themselves.
Studio Babelsberg. The Babelsberg film studios - Germany's Cinecitta. The centre of German celluloid expressionism, Marlene Dietrich, Fritz Lang and so many others worked here in the 1920s; more recently, Quentin Tarantino shot Inglourious Basterds on the premises. Studio tours are offered (in German only) on request at least 10 days in advance (phone: +49 331 7212132) and cost €25 per person (minimum 2 people).
- The Dutch Quarter (Holländisches Viertel) has over 70 antique shops.
- Fruit Wines are made in the Potsdam-Werder area with flavours such as sour cherry, strawberry, blackberry. There is a store at the central station (opposite of the S-Bahn information center) where you can buy them, although if you have time, the nearby Kaufland (where the Sanssouci buses leave, also in the train station) has the same wines at far cheaper rates.
Potsdams nightlife is a bit dominated by the near Berlin. But there are some good clubs and pubs worth visiting. Interesting pubs you find in the Holländer Viertel around Mittelstraße or in the city.
KuZe, Hermann-Elflein-Straße 10, ☎ . Cultural Centre and pub.
Olga, Charlottenstraße 28. Alternative pub. Very basic furniture. The pub is operated by basic democratic club.
Hafthorn, Friedrich-Ebert-Straße 90, ☎ . Famous pub with a really nice Biergarten in summer and it is famous for it's handmade burger.
Waschbar, Geschwister-Scholl-Straße 82. Szenekneipe. Here you have a lot of different beers, menus and you can wash your clothes.
On the Rocks. Rockbar in the Lindenstraße.
Rückholz, Sellostraße. Gemütliche Kneipe in the Sellostraße. You can sit on sofa or easy chairs while you have a talk or watch the art that you find on the walls. Eating is recommended because the hosts have a lot of good ideas and all the dishes are handmade and with good ingredients.
Club Charlotte, Charlottenstraße (located directly in the city). Here you find nice concerts and parties.
Waschhaus, Schiffbauergasse 6 (near the Hans-Otto-theatre), ☎ . Here you find parties, concerts, cinema, art exhibitions etc.
Lindenpark. The traditional address in Babelsberg - concerts, parties, skater park and more.
Palmenzelt. This club is only open in autumn, winter and early spring. The parties take place between a lot of palmes in summer the club organises regularly parties on a ship. Located at the harbour (near main station
Stilbruch - Lounge.
Many visitors come to Potsdam on a day trip from Berlin, where the extensive accommodation base caters to every taste and budget, and staying there is a commendable option. That said, there are ample choices for travellers in Potsdam itself as well.
Quartier (Hostel Pension Backpackers), Ribbeckstraße 41, ☎ . Check-in: 16:00 - 20:00, check-out: 11:00. Directly on the border of the park. For breakfast, the Potsdam Hostel offers a wide range of option everyday from 7:00. Gender exclusive shared rooms come with 4 beds and include access to bathrooms and showers. Community room offers complete kitchen facilities, TV, free wireless access, as well as a PC. 19 €/bed/night.
dedicated to workers: Monteurzimmer / Wohnen auf Zeit, Heidereiterweg 59, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Potsdam-Pension, Karl - Liebknecht - Str. 92, (Attention use the postcode, because the street ist twice in Potsdam) 14482 Potsdam. single room form 30 €.
Youth Hostel Potsdam - Haus der Jugend. single room from 21 €.
Pension Scheffler, Grenzstr. 11, 14482 Potsdam, ☎ . from 15 €.
Gästehaus Urban. Website in German. single room from 30 €.
Pension Stropp, ☎ . dubble room from 17 € / person (two weeks).
Youth Hostel: Jugendgästehaus „Siebenschläfer“ Potsdam, Lotte-Pulewka-Straße 43, 14473 Potsdam, ☎ . from €17.
Haus Katharina, Katharinastr. 23, 14480 Potsdam, ☎ . singleroom from 20 €.
Avendi - Hotel am Griebnitzsee, Rudolf-Breitscheid-Str. 190-192, ☎ .
Seminaris SeeHotel Potsdam, An der Pirschheide 40 14471 Potsdam, ☎ . Single from €91.
Steigenberger Hotel Sanssouci.
1 Mercure Potsdam, Lange Brücke. The socialist-era concrete tower has grown to be a notorious eyesore, with ongoing public discussions whether to have it removed for spoiling the view and harmony of the gradually-rebuilt historic city centre. That said, to a traveller it provides both central location and unparalleled views, also given the Maupassantesque patency that it is the only place from where you cannot see it. Inside, it has been refurbished to a modern standards, even if lacking a bit on the service front.
Potsdam is a safe city for tourists. During daylight the city is full of tourists that visit the amazing castles and gardens.
- Going to Berlin is the most obvious thing to do, unless you already came from there
- Werder (Havel) is a small town just west of Potsdam. Every year it is the home of the Baumblutenfest, to celebrate the large amount of fruit trees blooming in spring (especially sour cherry trees, of which they make wine).
- Brandenburg an der Havel is less than 30 minutes away by train
- The same train continues to Magdeburg, the historic capital of Saxony-Anhalt, taking an hour from Potsdam to cover the distance
- The Potsdam railway station is on a bit of a side line, so for high-speed connections to German cities farther afield, one has to go back to Berlin#Go next