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24 Hours in Potsdam

24 Hours in Potsdam

Famously described by its former mayor as “poor but sexy”, Berlin is one of the coolest cities on the continent and the birthplace of some the world’s most creative musical, artistic and sartorial projects.

But with its formidable Plattenbau housing, wide graffitied streets, ongoing construction, and intense underground party scene, it’s an energy-sapping city that can leave one feeling as grey and hardened as its Eastern Bloc architecture.

But only a 30 minute train ride away there’s antidote to the hardcore, hard luck German capital: the tiny Prussian town of Potsdam.

A mélange of lakes, forests and sprawling parks scattered with palaces and castles, Potsdam has been described as The Hamptons of Berlin, and was basically designed as a summer playground for King Frederick The Great.  With 500 hectares of parks, these days, most of Potsdam is made up of UNESCO heritage sites – in fact, three quarters of the city is made up of green space.

It’s the perfect spot for an injection of tranquility after a week of playing hard in the capital.

SATURDAY

Just like Berlin, the best way to explore Potsdam is by bike. Pick up some wheels at Potsdam Hauptbanhopf and cycle over the canal into the cobblestoned old town, passing some of the city’s finest 17th century architecture on your way - the ancient St. Nikolaikirche church and Old City Hall – and dismount at the markets just under the ancient city gates of Nauen Tor.  It’s the perfect place to acquire a picnic of local German cheeses, dried sausages and, most authentically, doughnuts.

Thus fortified, steer your bike in the direction of the Holy Lake, Heiliger See, where you can follow a bike path along the entire western shoreline.  Between the majestic Marmo Palais and Grunes Haus, that overlook the lake, there are private picnic and swimming spots a-plenty. 

After a dip and tour of one of the ornate palaces, should you be so inclined, continue your journey around Neue Garten until you hit the Meierei – a beer garden in the old “dairy”, originally constructed in 1790, which overlooks the Heiliger See. Bratwursts and beer are served late into the night and you’ll be taken care of until the sun sets – and beyond.

SUNDAY

Just like Berlin, most of Potsdam shuts down on a Sunday, which means it’s the best time to explore the city’s biggest drawcard: Sanssouci. 

Before you do, hit up What Do You Fancy Love? The Potsdam outpost of this bagel-and-juice joint is far more low key than its Mitte and Charlottenburg counterparts – there are no queues and the service is snappy.

Originally built as King Frederick the Great’s summer palace, Sanssouci is a sprawling park filled with ornate palaces, and orangery, greenhouse, fountains and, naturally, vineyards, that the king primarily enjoyed exploring with his dogs.  After taking coffee at the Dragon House pagoda you can spend a full day enjoying it by bike.

As the sun sets, ride back into the city and take up a table in the sun at Hotcafe Madame Recamier, the café next to Wolfgang Joop’s boutique Wunderkind, and then finish the day in the outdoor courtyard at Ristorante Villa, where the waiters obstinately speak Italian and the pasta is made by hand every day and sprinkled with rich, local cheeses. 

 

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Potsdam Hauptbahnhof is served by S-Bahn and Regional Bahn, about 45 minutes from Mitte.