Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace) was built by King Friedrich III in 1699 (on Frederick's 42nd birthday). Initially named Lietzenburg Palace, it was renamed for the beloved Queen Sophie Charlotte, as well as the surrounding neighborhood. The palace is not only the oldest, but also the largest Prussian palace in Berlin.
Throughout the centuries, the palace has been greatly expanded. The domed tower with a statue of the goddess Fortuna, several wings, Orangeries, and more were all additions. Surrounded by a baroque-style park (schlossgarten), the palace is famous for its ornate furnishings and its collection of 18th-century French paintings, the largest of its kind outside of France.
The large equestrian statue of Friedrich Wilhelm I dominates the courtyard. Designed by Andreas Schlüter and dating back to 1696, the statue has led an interesting life; first on a bridge (Langen Brücke - now Rathausbrücke), hid during WWII, sunk in the river, and finally erected in its current position in 1952.
During the Second World War, Schloss Charlottenburg has been badly damaged, but was painstakingly reconstructed to its former splendor in the 1950’s. In 2004 it was fit to be used used as the seat of the President of Germany for two years during Schloss Bellevue's (president's accommodations) renovation.
In the 18th century the kings of Prussia resided here, but the palace is now open to commoners like us.
Charlottenburg Palace Gardens
Entry to the gardens are free and offer a delightful visit throughout the year. Smell the flowers, walk the immaculate paths, and watch swans swim across the water from the bridge facing back to the palace.
There is also the lovely Belvedere Tea House in the palace gardens, which has been transformed into a ceramics museum (Keramik-Museum Berlin or KMB). The former palace theatre is also now home to a museum of prehistoric archaeology, displaying treasures of the Troy excavations carried out by Heinrich Schliemann in the 18th century. You can also visit the somber Mausoleum, which contains the graves of members of the royal family.
For a pleasant ending to your palace garden tour, head to the Orangery buildings. These used to house the thousands of citrus trees of the palace throughout the winter. Destroyed during World War II, they have been rebuilt and turned into an airy restaurant and a concert space for classical music, including favorites of Sophie Charlotte, an accomplished musician.
What to See within Schloss Charlottenburg
Various parts of the grand palace are open to the public with ticket and audioguide.
Tour the Old Palace (Altes Schloss), which is filled with baroque rooms, silverware chambers, and a Chinese and Japanese porcelain collection with thousands of porcelain objects. Look for the display of crown jewels and the royal silver, as well as the golden chapel.
The New Wing (Neuer Flügel), designed in 1746, houses the opulent private chambers of King Frederich including the rococo ballroom called the Goldene Galerie (Golden Gallery).
Sadly not included is the Amber Room (Bernsteinzimmer). Once described as "the eighth wonder of the world", Friedrich Wilhelm I gave the room to Tsar Peter the Great as a present in 1716.
Schloss Charlottenburg Christmas Market
A highlight of the crowded Berlin Christmas market season, a palace makes for a enchanted background. Pointed white tents are kissed with light and semi-permanent wood structures provide the beloved pyramid and buildings have a ski lodge feel. The smell of glühwein (mulled wine), spanferkel (roasted suckling pig) and gebrannte mandeln (roasted almonds) perfume the air as visitors cheerily walk the grounds.
In the back of the palace, the grounds are transformed into a Winterwald (winter forest) for children, complete with nostalgic carousel, swing and a small railway. A Märchenzelt (fairy tale tent) offers holiday-themed arts and crafts.
Visitor's Information for Schloss Charlottenburg
- Opening Hours: Open daily - November to March from Tuesday to Sunday 10am - 5pm; April to October from Tuesday to Sunday 10am - 6pm. The gardens are open for free daily from dawn to dusk.
- Admission: 17 euros adults, 13 reduced
- Address: Spandauer Damm 10, Charlottenburg, Berlin 2214059
- Phone: 49 (0) 331.96 94-200
- How to get to Schloss Charlottenburg: S41 and S42 trains at Westend and Jungfernheide; U7 Mierrendorfplatz and Richard-Wagner-Platz; U2 Sophie-Charlotte-Platz; limited parking
- Website of the Charlottenburg Palace: www.spsg.de/schloesser-gaerten/objekt/schloss-charlottenburg-altes-schloss/
- Nearby attractions: Bröhan Museum (art nouveau and art deco articles) and Berggruen Museum (modern art, in particular works by Picasso and Klee).