Cartographic Information System
on European Affairs   (EUROCIS)


UNESCO World Heritage
See the map of all European Sites
as a Java-Imagemap or as an Imagemap without Java

World Heritage List (1997) C 532

Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin

During the eighteenth and nineteenth century the Prussian kings and later German emperors of the house of Hohenzollern transformed the natural Havel landscape of sandy hills, pine forests, rivers and lakes into an outstanding cultural landscape, an ensemble of palaces of various styles and parks of various kinds.

Its center was the royal city palace and summer residence in Potsdam, but this cultural landscapes extended into the direction of Berlin with the royal city palace and winter residence there. Both palaces were destroyed during and after the Second World War.

Elector Friedrich Wilhelm initiated the transformation with the construction of the baroque city palace in Potsdam were he signed his famous refugee edict in 1685. In 1713 king Friedrich Wilhelm I choose Potsdam as summer residence and extended the carefully planned town with the Dutch quarter as part of it. It was king Friedrich II (1740-1786) who beautified the town through many representative buildings and in 1745 started work on his most famous creation, the park and palace of Sanssouci. On top of a desolate hill north-west of the town the small rococo palace of Sanssouci was built in 1745-1747, the hill slope terraced and a French garden and fountains set up on its base. More picturesque buildings were added like the Chinese Tea House, the Picture Gallery, grottoes and ruins. Later the park was extended, the impressive New Palace and the Communes erected in 1763-1769 at the western end of the two kilometers long main alley as well as other buildings like the Dragon House and the Belvedere.

The succeeding king Friedrich Wilhelm II transformed some farmland north of Potsdam on the shore of a lake into the New Garden in English style and had the modest Marble Palace built in it in 1787-1797. Inspired by his consort he also built a palace near the New Garden and a romantic ruined looking palace on the Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island) some eight kilometers north-east of the Marble Palace. His son Friedrich Wilhelm III altered the wilderness of the island into an English park and had the new Kavalierhaus built in neo-gothic style.

The most spectacular alterations and extensions of the parks and palaces, their composition into an intricate cultural landscape was planned and carried out by the succeeding king Friedrich Wilhelm IV (1840-1961). To the park of Sanssouci he added in the south-east the Marly garden with the Friedenskirche (Church of Peace) in the style of an early Christian basilica with campanile. In the south-west he added an estate as an English landscaped park with the Charlottenhof palace and other buildings in the style of Roman villas. Now the park covers 290 ha. At the northern edge of the park the Orangerie was rebuilt in monumental dimensions in the style of romantic classicism. On the shore of the Havel between the New Garden and the Pfaueninsel the Heilandskirche (Saviour's Church) of Sacrow was built in similar style as the Friedenskirche. West of it on a hill the Pfingstberg palace was constructed as viewpoint over the landscape composition.

On the King's Road to Berlin near a former royal hunting lodge prince Karl built the Glienicke palace in 1824-1827, a modest villa in neo-classical style within a landscaped park. Close to it prince Wilhelm, later king and emperor Wilhelm I, had the Babelsberg palace constructed in 1834-1849 in the form of a late romantic castle in Tudor gothic style. The park was laid out with other buildings in similar style like the seaman's house and the Flatow tower.

The latest royal contribution to this cultural landscape was the building of the Cecilienhof palace in the New Garden. It was designed in the unpretentious English landhouse style for emperor Wilhelm II and completed in 1916 shortly before his abdication. In summer 1945 it was a meeting place of the victorious powers of the Second World War. Here the Potsdam Accord was signed that divided Europe for decades into two seemingly antagonistic parts.

Many outstanding architects designed the palaces, like G.W. v. Knobelsdorff, L. Persius, K.F. Schinkel, F.A. Stüler and P. Schultze-Naumburg, and outstanding landscape architects created this cultural landscape, like J. P. Lenné and H. v. Pückler-Muskau.

In and around Potsdam more remarkable architectural monuments were built in connection with the royal palaces. Mention should be made of the pumping station for the Sanssouci fountains in the form of a mosque, the army barracks in neo-classical style, the wooden houses of the Russian colony, the red brick houses of the Dutch quarter, and opposite the Pfaueninsel the fine chapel of Nikolskoe.

Department of Cartography within the Department of Geographical Sciences, Freie Universität Berlin, June 1997