From the World Heritage inscription:
The ensemble of the chateaux and parks of Potsdam is an exceptional artistic achievement whose eclectic and evolutionary features reinforce its uniqueness: from Knobelsdorff to Schinkel and from Eyserbeck to Lenné, a series of architectural and landscaping masterpieces were built within a single space, illustrating opposing and reputedly irreconcilable styles without detracting from the harmony of a general composition, designed progressively over time.
Potsdam, mentioned first in the 10th century, acquired some importance when the Great Elector of Brandenburg, Frederick William (1620-88) established his residence there. Potsdam housed a small garrison from 1640 onwards; the site’s military function was strengthened by the young Prussian monarchy.
Under Frederick II the Great (1712-86) Potsdam was radically changed. The new king wished to establish next to the garrison town and settlement colony of the ‘Sergeant King’ a ‘Prussian Versailles’, which was to be his main residence. In 1744 Frederick II ordered a vineyard to be planted on six terraces on the southern side of a hill, Bald Mountain. Sanssouci, a name which reflects the king’s desire for intimacy and simplicity, translates the theme of a rustic villa into the marble, mirrors and gold of a Rococo-style palace.
One of the things which surprised me about Berlin was the number and quality of the palaces in the area, especially in Potsdam. Many of the palaces in the area surrounding Berlin did not receive heavy damage during the war.
The highlight of the world heritage site, in my opinion, was Sanssouci, the palace of Frederick The Great. One of his final request was that he be laid to rest on the grounds of Sanssouci with his favorite greyhounds. In 1991, 205 years after his death and after the reunification of Germany, his request was finally granted.
Sanssouci is about a 15-20 minute walk from the Potsdam train station. I’d recommend visiting in the summer as in the winter, all of the statues in the garden were covered and the fountains were drained when I visited in the winter.
The Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin is a cultural site recognized by UNESCO among the World Heritage Sites in Germany. It was inscribed in 1990 and extended in 1992, and then again in 1999. This world heritage site consists of a group of palaces and parks, along with extended landscaped gardens within the Havelland region of Germany (to which Potsdam and Berlin are a part of).
The site was recognized by UNESCO for its historic unity of landscape. Furthermore, it is believed to be the perfect example of a unique landscape design featuring monarchic ideas of the Prussian state.
About Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin
As mentioned above, there are three changes or updates to the world heritage site since it was inscribed in 1990. During the time of its inscription, the following properties were included in the protected area:
- Palace and Park of Sansoucci
- Neuer Garden in Potsdam
- Schloss Glienicke and Park Klein-Glienicke in Berlin
- Park Babelsberg and Schloss Babelsberg
- Bottcherberg in Berlin
- Nikolskoe log house in Berlin
- Glienicke hunting lodge in Berlin
In 1992, the World Heritage Site listing for Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin was updated. Two other sites were added to the list:
- Church of the Redeemer in Potsdam
- Palace and Park of Sacrow in Potsdam
Meanwhile, the most recent modification on this world heritage site listing was in the year 1999. A few sites were added to the protected area. They are as follows:
- Lindenallee in Potsdam
- Königliche Gärtnerlehranstalt and Kaiserbahnhof
- Village of Bornstedt (along with the church, cemetery and park landscape
- Seekoppel in Potsdam
- Entrance to Sansoucci Park
- Alexandrowka log houses
- Pfingstberg and Belvedere auf dem Pfingstberg
- Approaches and observatory in Babelsberg Park
- Area between Pfingstberg and Neuer Garten
- Jungfernsee (Southern shore portion)
- King’s forest in Potsdam (along with surrounding palace and park)
The Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin is of outstanding cultural treasure in Germany. The expansive parks, elaborately designed buildings (over 150 of them), and the majestic tree-lined avenues, combine to make this one of Potsdam’s and Berlin’s most important architectural monuments.
It all started when Frederick the Great commissioned for the Sansoucci Palace to be built in 1745. He wanted the palace to become his summer residence. Hence, it also makes the Sansoucci Palace as the oldest structure within the group of parks and palaces recognized by UNESCO in this property. The entire property that was added to the UNESCO list covers more than 2,000 hectares in land area. These palaces and parks exhibit not just a harmonious and unified architectural movement, but also an architectural heritage that makes them unique in Germany. For this reason, some of the sites included within the UNESCO site have been drawing tourists from all over the world. It has also captured the attention of filmmakers as some of these sites have been picked as film locations.
This was the tenth stop on my November 2011 Eurail trip to European UNESCO sites.
View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.