Located about 20 miles southwest of Berlin, Potsdam served as the Prussian imperial court and home of the German kaisers. In modern times, it is more renowned for its movie production and inextricable position in the Cold War.
What We Love
Dutch Quarter: Cafés, bars, and independent boutiques fill many of the Dutch-style redbrick buildings of this funky 18th-century neighborhood near central Potsdam.
Babelsberg Studio: Discover the German version of Hollywood at this renowned film studio. Classic films like "Metropolis" and "The Blue Angel" as well as modern productions like "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "Inglorious Basterds," and "The Hunger Games" are among the hundreds of movies shot here. Public tours are on offer between March and October.
Best Known For
Sanssouci: Constructed in the 1740s as the summer palace of Prussian monarch Frederick the Great, this rococo masterpiece and its lush gardens provide a more intimate — and decidedly German — alternative to Versailles.
Glienicke Bridge: Once upon a time, the Soviets and NATO nations exchanged captured secret agents and military prisoners (like CIA U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers) on the infamous "Bridge of Spies."
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Who It's Best For
Beer Drinkers: There's nothing as quintessentially German as sipping from stein on a sunny summer day at one of the outdoor cafés strung along the Potsdam waterfront. A favorite is the Gasthausbrauerei Meierei im Neuen Garten, a new microbrewery on the shore of the Jungfernsee.
History Channel Fans: Whether you're into the Enlightenment, World War II, or the Soviet KGB, Potsdam is flush with heritage buildings, historical landmarks, and quirky stories from the past.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It's Spread Out: Bring your walking shoes or have cash on hand for taxi rides. Potsdam's main attractions — Old Town, lakes, palaces — are quite removed from one another.
Graphic Content: The old KGB prison-turned-museum, Memorial Leistikowstrasse requires a strong constitution. Tales of torture and other horrors abound, especially in the dank basement cells.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.