For most visitors POTSDAM means Sanssouci, Frederick the Great’s splendid landscaped park of architectural treasures, which once completed Berlin as the grand Prussian capital. However, Potsdam dates back to the tenth-century Slavonic settlement Poztupimi, and predates Berlin by a couple of hundred years. The castle built here in 1160 marked the first step in the town’s gradual transformation from sleepy fishing backwater to royal residence and garrison town, a role it enjoyed under the Hohenzollerns until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.

World War II left Potsdam badly damaged: on April 14, 1945, a bombing raid killed four thousand people, destroyed many fine Baroque buildings and reduced its centre to ruins. Less than four months later – on August 2 – the victorious Allies converged on Potsdam’s Schloss Cecilienhof to hammer out the details of a divided Germany and Europe. Potsdam ended up in the Soviet zone, where modern “socialist” building programmes steadily erased many architectural memories of the town’s uncomfortably prosperous imperial past. Yet this past still provides its most popular sights.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Germany features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Going underground in Hamburg: 6 ways to see the city's alternative side

Going underground in Hamburg: 6 ways to see the city's alternative side

Hamburg is perpetually on the brink of falling out with itself. On the one hand, it’s a city of convention and millionaires – Hamburg has the highest concen…

18 Jul 2017 • Neil McQuillian insert_drive_file Article
An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in Berlin

An expert’s guide: the best area to stay in Berlin

Of all Europe’s capitals, Berlin carries the biggest buzz. In the two decades or so since it was reunified, the city has developed into a heady meld of grit a…

04 Apr 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
The best places to go in spring

The best places to go in spring

Springtime is beautiful, with its big blue skies and flowers in bloom, so there may be no better time to travel. If you're thinking about getting away, here are…

14 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month