Sanssouci Palace, King Frederick the Great's favorite summer escape, is a top destination just outside of Berlin. Retreat to Sanssouci for the grandeur often lost in the city with its immaculate gardens and terraced vineyard leading up to the elegant yellow palace. This Rococo masterpiece and massive grounds are internationally recognized as a top UNESCO World Heritage site.
Plan your visit to this extraordinary palace in Potsdam and live like royalty for a day.
History of Sanssouci Palace
Sans souci is French for "without worries" and that is precisely what Frederick the Great (or Friedrich der Grosse), King of Prussia, wanted to feel when he spent time here. Constructed between 1745 to 1747, the King's vacation home is intentionally petite, as far as palaces go, at a grand 12 rooms. Friedrich II commissioned his architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff to build the structure modeled on France's Versailles.
That said, it is extremely beautiful. Toned down from the opulence of the Neues Palais (New Palace) on the western end of Hauptallee (the main promenade), Sanssouci Palace is where the King and his family enjoyed a space of their own. The interiors feature a unique Baroque design influenced by Frederick, which came to be known as Frederician Rococo. The Entrance Hall and Marble Hall are excellent examples of this design.
Flanking the main palace, there is the Neue Kammern (New Chambers), which functioned as a guest house and the Bildergalerie (Picture Gallery) with artworks by Rubens, Caravaggio, and Tintoretto. These wings were further expanded by Friedrich Wilhelm IV.
The gardens match the splendor of the buildings. There are 700 acres of royal gardens, including the terrace leading down to the magnificent Great Fountain, the Temple of Friendship, Chinese Tea House, Neptune Grotto, countless marble sculptures, and over 70 km of idyllic walkways. Much of this was designed by Peter Joseph Lenné, Prussia's leading landscape gardener.
In 1873, the palace was opened as a museum by Wilhelm I. This made it one of the first palace museums in Germany.
Additions have continued to be made built on the grounds like the Historische Mühle (historic mill) first established in 1738. The Orangerieschloss (Orangery Palace) was completed in 1864 by Wilhelm IV and is where plants sensitive to brutal Berlin winters wait out the cold. This whimsical Italianate architectural style can also be found in the Roman Baths and the Friedenskirche (Church of Peace). To get a view of more of the land, climb to the Norman Tower on the Ruinenberg hill, Belvedere on Klausberg hill, or Belvedere on Pfingstberg hill.
Sanssouci survived World War II mostly intact. Some of the art and furniture were relocated during the war to protect it, but they were returned. The mill and a few other buildings were destroyed but have since been rebuilt and the mill has been in operation since 1995.
Fredrick, called the "Philosopher of Sanssouci," never wished to leave. His tomb can be found, just as he asked, on the highest terrace close to the palace near the resting place for his beloved greyhounds. However, it took some time for him to settle into his final resting place. The tomb was finally relocated here after reunification in 1991. On his gravestone, it is written, "Quand je serai là, je serai sans souci" (When I shall be there, I shall be without a care).
Potsdam Palace Nights
There is hardly a wrong time to visit Sanssouci, but the highlight of every year is the two days in summer known as Potsdam Palace Nights. For this event, the entire park of buildings and gardens are illuminated, classical music is played, and actors dressed in period costume roam the grounds along with the many visitors.
Along with the magical ambiance delivered throughout the gardens, there are performances by dance and theatre groups that illustrate what life was like at the castle. There are also informative lectures that can inform visitors on society and royal structure during the 18th century.
Best visited at night to enjoy the lights, costumed actors also walk the grounds, primarily along the promenade between the Orangerie and New Palais, Chinese Tea House, and Roman Baths. The evenings end in a burst of fireworks at midnight on both Friday and Saturday.
- Potsdam Palace Nights: Friday, Aug. 14, from 6 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 15, from 5 p.m.
- Admission: Entrance starts at 41 euros, with free admission for children under 14. This event can sell out quickly, so check online for sale dates.
- Tips: Visitors may not bring their own food. Numerous food booths on-site provide a wide range of culinary refreshments.
Sanssouci Palace Admission
Visitors to Sanssouci can enjoy the ample grounds for free, but to get the most from a visit, a combination ticket is the best deal. This offers entrance to the many buildings and collections. However, if you are short on time or money, you can purchase entry to the specific site you would like to visit.
Tickets can be purchased at Besucherzentrum (visitor centers) or online. Tickets bought at the palace are valid for that day. If you buy tickets online, they will be sent by e-mail and need to be printed for admission. Also, be aware there is a 2 euro surcharge for online reservations, but the time saved can easily be worth it.
|Sanssouci Palace Ticket Prices|
|Ticket Type||Price||Discounted Price|
|Sanssouci+ (combined entrance to all buildings)||19 euros||14 euros|
|Sanssouci+ Family Ticket (valid for up to two adults and four children)||49 euros||None|
|Sanssouci Palace||12 euros||10 euros|
|New Palace||10 euros||7 euros|
|Orangery||6 euros, plus 3 euros for the observation tower||None|
|Annual Ticket||60 euros||40 euros|
Tickets are available from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. and may sell out. The buildings are closed on Mondays.
Entry ticket to Sanssouci and New Palace comes with an entry time. Once you arrive at the appointed ticket time, you can enjoy a guided tour in German or with an audio guide.
Note that combination tickets are not valid for Sacrow Palace and Stern Hunting Lodge, and special exhibitions are excluded, such as exhibition Potsdam Conference 1945.
Tips for Visiting Sanssouci Palace
- Even though the city of Potsdam and Sanssouci grounds are located outside of Berlin, they are a top-rated attraction. Buy tickets online to avoid a wait, and plan a visit before noon during the week to avoid the worst of the crowds.
- The primary sites of Sansouci Palace, New Palace, and gardens are open year-round. The other buildings, however, are generally closed between November and March with shoulder months like April offering limited opening hours. Check the website for current closures.
- All the buildings are closed on Mondays, but you can still enjoy the gardens.
- The buildings are open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. in winter and 5:30 p.m. in summer. The grounds are open from 8 a.m. until dusk. Full times can be found here.
- While riding to Potsdam from Berlin and around the city by bicycle is a lovely journey, take note that bikes should not be ridden around the Sanssouci grounds. It is comfortable to travel by bicycle, as along all the big routes there are particular bicycling roads. It is possible to rent a bike in one of the leasing centers; the most popular of them are CityRad and Potsdam per Pedales. Leasing of bicycle will cost from 8 to 12 euros for a day, depending on the model and lease's duration.
- Photography for private use is allowed inside the buildings (no flash, no tripods) but requires a fotoerlaubnis (photo permit), which can be purchased for 3 euros per day for all palaces. Personal photography on the grounds is allowed and free.
- Among the best times of year to visit are from mid-April when the cherry blossoms are in season until the turning of the autumn leaves in early October. A busy but special time is during the Potsdam Palace Nights.
- Potsdam is well-connected to Berlin by public transport. The S-Bahn trains depart from Potsdam-Sanssouci roughly every 10 minutes from the morning until 11 p.m. Several bus lines can help visitors navigate around the city of Potsdam.