August 10, 2019
We had seen most of the highlights of Potsdam on our first visit a few years ago: see my blogpost: We had seen the Sanssouci park with the Chinese teahouse, Charlottenhof palace, the Roman baths, and the Friedenskirche. We visited the Sanssouci palace, the picture gallery and the Neues Palace on the inside, biked passed the Russian quarter and through the Neuer Garten to see the Cecilienhof and the Marble palace, visited Glienicker bridge, walked through the Dutch quarter and past the Brandenburger Tor and the Nauerer Tor. So you might think, what else is there to see? Well there is a lot more to discover in Potsdam aside from these highlights most tourists see.
This time around we stayed from Saturday around noon till Tuesday around 4 PM at the edge of Potsdam, in Potsdam West in the Kongresshotel am Templiner See, since my husband had to attend a congres there. The hotel is about 5 km from Potsdam centre, so a bit out of the way if you want to visit Potsdam. The rooms here are basic but convenient, you have everything you need, a comfy bed, a desk, a TV, a bathroom with toiletries and a small balcony. The rooms have no airconditioning. The hotel has two restaurants, a bar and a second bar at the shore of the lake Templiner See.
We decided to rent bikes from the hotel to visit Potsdam, which was a 5 km bike ride away. You can follow a beautiful bike path (R1 bike track) next to the water for the most part, up until the mosque style Dampfmachinenhaus (steam engine building), a building that was built to pump water to the Sanssouci park fountains. (You cannot visit it on the inside) From there you continue for some 500 meters following the Zeppelinstreet up to Brandenburger Tor. Renting a bike costs 8 euro for 4 hours and 12 euros per day. ( till 11 PM) The water taxi also makes a stop at the hotel, but is not budget fiendly.
The first afternoon we drove to Potsdam centre to buy some toiletries and underwear because our luggage was delayed due to a technical problem on Brussels airport. (our luggage would never arrive during our four day stay, but that is whole different story) We took a drink at Backstoltz café, a place we had visited on our previous stay. They have a range of cakes and pastries, and a great outdoor terrace on the sidewalk. It is located in one of the sidestreets (Dortustrasse) of the main shopping street: Brandenburger street, a pedestrian only street, which runs between Brandenburger Tor and the Saint Peter and Paul church. I had a very refreshing birkensaft (Birch juice), and tried a rubarbshorle after. Shorle is a drink they serve everywhere and where they mix juices, wine or beer with soda; very refreshing on a hot summers day. We indulged in a two scoop ice-cream from Eismanufaktur in the Brandenburger street, close to the Brandenburger Tor. One of the best ice-cream parlors in Potsdam, the line in front will show you where it is. Be aware,the scoops are huge but cost only 1,5 euro per scoop.
To digest the overload of sugar, we made a bike tour through the Sanssouci park, enjoying the views of the Sanssouci palace and its terraced gardens, the Chinese teahouse, the orangery, the botanical garden, de New Palace, the Charlottenhof palace and the Roman baths.
We went for dinner to Chi Keng, on Luisenplatz, a fusion Asian restaurant, where you can choose from a large menu featuring all kinds of noodle soups, sushi platters, curries and more. I took the lemongrass tea I enjoyed last time, the dishes are generously served on beautiful platters. The waiting time is minimal. They have a large terrace with wooden tables and benches, with umbrellas that keep you in the shade. Perfect on every occasion. We biked the 5 km back to the hotel.
The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel, a buffet with a large choice of bread, cereals, eggs, fruit, harty dishes, yoghurts, coffees, teas, juices and an gluten free corner. We took our bikes around noon, and made a large bike tour around Potsdam. We started in Potsdam West from the hotel, followed the bike road R1 along Templiner See, to the Brandenburger Tor. From there we continued around the centre of Potsdam, on Schoppenhauerstreet and Hegelallee to the Jagertor and further to the Nauener Tor. From there we continued on Kurfurstenstreet and at the end entered the park Neuer Garten. Drive through the park and marvel at the Marble palace, and make a stop at Cecilienhof palace built in English Tudor style. It was the location of the Postdam conference, in which the leaders of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States made important decisions affecting the shape of post World War II Europe and Asia.
We were getting thirsty and took a left behind the Cecilienhof palace to the Brauerei Meierei, a place that brews its own beer, where you can enjoy a drink overlooking the Jungfernsee You can also have small snacks at the self service counter or a meal at the area where they serve you at the table. It is a popular stop for people on a bike in the weekend.
From here continue via Schwanenallee in the direction of Glienicke Bridge, also known as the bridge of spies or the Tom Hanks bridge.
Cross the bridge, and continue. On your left you pass Volkspark Glienicke and Glienicke palace. A bit further you can turn right. Either take the road through the park and take a small gate in the wall on your left, or take the road just behind the park. You pass the Klein Glienicker Kapelle, a small church. The road turns left and crosses a bridge. Look out for the little road on the right that leads to a bridge over the river. If you miss it, look out for the little Wartmann’s Eiscafé on the right, where you can stop for ice-cream, a cake or a light snack and a drink. This also leads to the bridge over a small connection between Tiefer see and Griebnitzsee. Immediately go right into Babelsberg park, and follow the bike road next to the water. You first pass a structure that is also a steam engine building. A bit further you see Babelsberg palace on you left. Park your bike and climb up to the palace. Continue on the same path and you will pass the small Babelsberg palace that is turned into a small café. Further on you pass several small beaches where people from Potsdam come to relax and have a swim in the lake when the weather allows. When you exit the park you can cross the Humboldtbridge on either side with your bike to return to Potsdam centre.
We biked to café Kieselstein for a drink and a light meal. They serve organic, vegetarian and vegan dishes. We took the house limonade, a home made Chai Latte, a quiche and a tomato-feta pastry with both served with a fresh salad. If you are in a hurry do not stop here, they take their time to take you order and serve you food. The atmosphere is quite nice.
In the evening we took a light dinner at Kombüse N°22 next to the little harbour on Templiner see, good quality food for a very reasonable price, and welcoming service. They are open till 9 PM.
The next day I was on my own, since my husband had to work. I had booked a bike at 10 AM. I first had to do some shopping for me and my husband who had to give a presentation in the afternoon. Our bags had not arrived yet ( third day already!), so we urgently needed some change of clothes. So I biked the 5 km to the centre and did some shopping. All the shops are centralized on Brandenburger street and its side streets, very convenient. Once I found what we needed, I drove the 5 km back to bring my husband a badly needed fresh shirt, changed into something fresh myself, and we I had a small snack at the hotel.
In the afternoon, I drove the 5 km back to the centre of Potsdam, to the Alten Markt. On Monday most palaces and sights are closed, but the Neue Palace is open ( we saw it last time, also on a Monday), as well as the the Barberini museum. This museum only opened in 2017 and is housed in the Barberini palace, modeled on the baroque Palazzo Barberini in Rome, commissioned by Pope Urban VIII to Italian architect Carlo Maderno, who was also responsible for the design of the St. Peter’s Basilica façade. I first took a piece of quiche and a fresh ginger tea in the Barberini café in the back of the museum on the border of the Havel river where people pass in colorful pedalos. The museum has a café in the front and in the back of the museum, both called café Barberini, both with the same menu.
A beautiful exhibition ‘The pathway of Baroque’ was shown here, featuring works by Bellini and Carravagio and painters of their time in Rome, under the pontificat of Pope Urban VIII, a member of the influential Barberini family. 54 works were borrowed from the collections of the National Galleries Barberini Corsini in Rome.
The Alten Markt is surrounded by beautiful baroque buildings: the Barberini museum, the Nikolai church, the Parliament building and the film museum. The church is also closed on Monday. This is a part of Potsdam we did not see on our first visit and is often overlooked by tourists who only have time to visit the Sanssouci park and the centre of Potsdam with the Brandenburger Tor and the Dutch quarter. I took a quick look at the Neuen Markt, which is just a few streets away from the Alten Markt.
I wanted to see the Belvedere at the Pfingstberg. To get there you pass the Russian colony Alexandrovka, built in commemoration of Fredricks William II’s friend Czar Alexander. It consists of 12 Russian style small wooden farmsteads, a chapel and a royal cottage. Originally the colony was the home of the Russian singers of the First Prussian Regiment of the Guards. One of the houses holds a small museum and has a café at the back in the middle of a garden with fruit trees. Then it is a steep climb to the Alexander Newski chapel on Chapel Hill. A second steep climb brings you on the top of the Pfingstberg where an impressive building, the Belvedere awaits commissioned by Frederick William IV, intended to manifest an Italian dream in Potsdam. It was influenced and inspired by the Villa Medici in Rome with its soaring towers, the Villa D’Este in Tivoli with its playful water fountains and terraces, and the Villa Farnese in Caprarola with cascading waterfalls and rounded flights of stairs. You have to buy a ticket to climb to the top for the no doubt spectacular view over Potsdam.
I slowly drove back down, and returned to the hotel. I had done quite the distance on the bike that day, and fell soundly asleep that night.
On our last day, we had breakfast at the hotel, I took some time to relax, and we checked out at 11 AM, after which we took the bike for half a day. We drove to Potsdam to Sanssouci park, where we first visited the Orangery palace. This is the youngest building in the park and the largest: 300 m long and designed in the style of an Italian renaissance villa. Part of it is the large orangery where in winter exotic potted plants are kept. The entrance is 6 euro that includes a climb up the tower where you have a great view over Potsdam. Here you see how green the whole area is. Because we visited on a weekday, you had to visit the palace with a tour, which unfortunately is only in German. If you do not understand German, you can take a written leaflet with you on the tour, they have it in about 10 different languages. You have to put large felt slippers over your shoes to protect the wooden floors of the palace. The visit is rather short, half an hour or not even, but you get to see some really nice chambers that were the royal appartments for King Friedrich Wilhelm IV and his wife Elisabeth of Bavaria, and were later used as a guest house. Impressive is the Raphael room, an exhibition room with the largest collection of copies of paintings by Raphael, and some beautiful 19th century sculptures by German sculptors of that time.
We then visited the botanical gardens beloning to the Potsdam University, just next to the Orangery. A beautiful greenhouse with all kinds of tropical plants, divided into several greenhouses each in a different theme. Entrance is 2 euro or 1 euro for students.
We were really thirsty by now and drove to Dortustrasse where we had a drink in café Der Weisse Schwane, a second hand bookstore with a terrace out front. Large choice of drinks. Rehydrated we took our bikes and drove for the last time the 5 km back, and took a taxi to Tegel airport. A taxi from Tegel airport to Potsdam costs between 50 and 60 euro.