Berliners don’t like being tourists in their own city. But, conveniently, there are Babelsberg and Potsdam. These towns are Disneyland for all Berliners who want to see a pretty castle up close. There are as many castles as there are lakes. And neither looks bad for a Sunday outing in the first place. A few weeks ago, we decided to find out some of the highlights for you and write a little tour for you.
We took the S-Bahn to Wannsee, then the 316 bus which took us to Lake Glienicker. From there we crossed the Klein-Glienicke park bridge to the castle. You can also reach the castle on foot from the Potsdam Babelsberg S-Bahn station.
1. Strong point: Babelsberg castle park
To avoid disappointment: Babelsberg Palace itself has been under renovation since 2013 and is far from open to the public. However, the facade and the park have already been given such a makeover that one wonders if they have simply rebuilt the whole castle again, as they did with the City Palace in Berlin. Up close, the building honestly looks a bit fake. But the playful mix of English Gothic style, medieval nostalgia, and pompous decor makes the castle an eye-catcher. It doesn’t bother too much that the building is more the size of a large country house (at least for the prince who wanted his daddy’s castle at the time). You can imagine how the architect had issues with bitchy clients and somehow the building still has a slightly bitchy touch and stylistic indecision.
A walk or bike ride in the beautifully landscaped park, which winds its way through many small winding paths, is definitely fun. The view from the palace grounds to the Glienicke Bridge and across Potsdam is also superb.
2. Highlight: Glienicke Palace Park and Casino
Back at the starting point of the tour, you can also see the Glienicke Palace Park directly. When we walked around the park and stood in front of the main building, our first feeling was: here it is like in Florence. And indeed, the architecture of Glienicke Palace is modeled on an Italian villa. Here too, the motto is: stroll through the palace grounds and marvel at the facades: no problem. Entrance to the palace: unfortunately not possible until further notice. The palace greenhouses, which now also house a courtyard garden museum, are impressive. The casino terrace with its beautiful pergolas is also truly magnificent.
photo: Warburg, CC BY-SA 3.0
photo: Susa, CC BY-SA 3.0
3. Highlight: Nikolskoe Blockhouse and St. Peter and Paul Church
Either you leave the park through the front gate again to continue walking along the banks of the Havel River, or you continue to walk through Glienicke Park until you pass a large gate and find the Havel river. There you can continue walking and take a break at the Moorlake Inn or walk to the beautiful Nikolskoe log house and eat or drink something with a view of the Wannsee. The house was built in 1819 in the style of a Russian farmhouse and really has a unique charm. In the same Russian style is the Church of St. Peter and Paul next door. From it also has a nice view of the Wannsee and it’s a bit romantic there too. Not that I want to get married religiously, but then I would hardly say no.
4. Strong point: the peacock island
The big final highlight of our tour was a visit to Peacock Island. To do this, all you have to do is walk along the Havel River to the ferry. The motto here really is: Disneyland kitsch meets Prussian extravagance. But also the name of the island should be understood literally. Male peacocks trained by testosterone draw their paths there and attract attention with their tail feathers. Personally, I find the water buffaloes, which graze the island like a natural lawn mower, a bit cuter. The island is accessible by ferry, which departs approximately every 15 minutes. In summer, the island is open until 6:00 p.m. In winter only until 4:00 p.m. The island landscape also inspires a decadent picnic. There you can play princess for a while and pretend you were born in another era.
Conclusion of the visit:
From there, you have several options to return to civilization. Either you decide to continue walking along the banks of the Havel River until you return to Wannsee S-Bahn station. It’s a pretty sporty ride from start to finish. If you want to shorten it a bit, you can walk up Nikolskoer Weg until you come back to Königstraße and take the 316 bus back.
Usually we experienced this walking tour. But you can also do the tour by bike, so it’s less tiring and it goes faster.
The road is particularly beautiful on not too hot days. So you would probably prefer to go to the lakes. You can find inspiration in our guide to lakes.
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