Although there is a lot to do, Potsdam is a relatively small city and sometimes we would like to take a break and go somewhere else. There is a lot to do around Potsdam, and it mostly depends on your preferences. Whether you are a lover of nature, entertainment or history, you can find something to do as part of a day trip.
Such day trips are suitable for those who come to Potsdam for several days to a week, or for those who are staying in nearby Berlin, and are looking to diversify the trip, either with a less urban experience or with a change of scenery and atmosphere.
Chances are you came to Potsdam from Berlin itself, but if that’s not the case, don’t miss Germany’s vibrant capital with an international (some would say too international) atmosphere. Here you will find an abundance of historical sites from all eras, some of the most famous clubs in Europe, art galleries in numbers you cannot fathom, immigrants from every country on the globe and many other experiences that are difficult to summarize here. We will recommend here three central sites that are a must-visit, but this is not even the tip of the iceberg of the huge amount of sites and points of interest scattered throughout the city.
It was a real symbol of the cold war between the Soviet Union in the East and the United States and its partners in the West. The length of the wall in the past was about 170 kilometers, and its width sometimes reached up to 500 meters. Its overthrow (in 1989) symbolized the unification of Germany, and was one of the most important symbols of the end of the Cold War. Today there are three sites left where the remains of the wall stand, and they are preserved in order to be a monument to history and the many people who sacrificed their lives along the wall.
The seat of the German parliament (the Bundestag), and one of the most important monuments in Berlin. Although it is a relatively young building, as its construction only began at the end of the 19th century, the history it holds inside makes it one of the most important buildings in the country. At the time of its construction, its dome, made of steel and glass, was considered a real architectural milestone. It was used by the German nobles and the last kings of the Prussian dynasty until they were deposed after the First World War and the German parliament until the rise of the Nazi party to power, and was the place where the unification of Germany was held after the fall of the wall.
The Memorial to the Murder of the Jews of Europe (Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas)
One of the most important memorials to the memory of the Holocaust, and one of the most important sites to visit in Berlin. It sits where Hitler’s office used to be, near the Brandenburg Gate. The monument consists of 2,711 concrete blocks of varying heights, sitting on a sloping and uneven plane. The whole purpose of the monument is to create confusion and disorientation, as well as to simulate the design of a cemetery. Its central location and its size ensure that no one can ignore it. Below the monument is an exhibition about the Holocaust, and the names of all the known victims of the Holocaust are also displayed.
Day tour of Villa Am Großen Wannsee and the Sachsenhausen concentration camp (KZ Sachsenhausen)
Even when visiting Germany for vacation and travel purposes, it is very important to take the time to learn about the atrocities committed by this country during World War II and the Holocaust. Today’s Germany strikes at sin, and invests a lot of effort in preserving the important sites for commemorating these acts. The travelers in Potsdam will be able to create for themselves a day of tour following the Holocaust and the horrific actions of the Nazis, a tour that is a first-rate educational experience, especially if traveling with children or students.
Wannsee is a southern district of Berlin, located very close to Potsdam. The journey between these two destinations takes about half an hour by public transport, although it is also possible to reach Wanza by boat. Anze is today a prestigious suburb, and its lake shore is considered one of the most popular in Berlin. However, there is also the Villa Wannsee, the one where the conference was held that led to the formulation of the final solution, the purpose of which was the extermination of the Jews. The room where the discussions of the conference took place is open for tours, and there you will also find an educational museum and a library dealing with the subject. Next to the villa is a park where there is a memorial site for that cursed conference.
From there you can go to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, located north of Berlin, in the suburb of Oranienburg (Oranienburg, which was known as the “city of the SS”). The trip from Uenza to Sachsenhausen takes about an hour by car, and close to two hours by public transport. This concentration camp is one of the first to be established by the Nazi regime, and was defined by Himmler as “an ideal prototype of a concentration camp”. Throughout the years of the camp’s activity, about two hundred thousand prisoners were imprisoned there, of which about one hundred thousand were murdered. It was also the central camp where Operation Bernhard was carried out, the aim of which was to collapse the British economy. Since 1961, there has been a memorial site in the camp, and the famous words Arbeit Macht Frei (work sets you free) are still emblazoned on the camp gate (despite what one tends to think, these were not unique to Auschwitz).
Peacock Island (Pfaueninsel)
This is a very unusual pastime near Potsdam, one that will both fill your day and make your children jump to the sky. Despite the modest size of the island, whose maximum length is only 1.5 kilometers, it presents quite a selection of buildings, and of course a huge amount of peacocks. The island itself is a nature reserve and a world heritage site, as well as a special protection area for wild birds. You will find the Peacock Island Castle (Pfaueninsel Schloss), a knight’s house (Kavaliershaus) and more. It can be reached by ferry, and due to its accessibility it is a very popular tourist site.
Spreewald Biosphere Reserve (Biosphärenreservat Spreewald)
In the channel of the Sapri river is this forest, which, despite its beauty and uniqueness, seems to have disappeared from the tourist maps. It is one of the best places for river cruises, hiking trails and bike singles, all of which are held in the spectacular setting of the forest and water.
Additionally, this beautiful reserve is home to approximately 50,000 people, many of whom are descendants of the first settlers in the area. One of the unique phenomena of the place is the network of more than 200 traditional irrigation canals, which lead water from the river to the fields of the residents. This is a perfect place to experience original German culture. An example of ideal places are the village of Lahde (Lahde) which is located in a lagoon in the river, and the fishing village of Leipe (Leipe). It’s hard to find more peaceful places than these, and you’d be hard-pressed to believe that this peaceful reserve is where the last major battles between the Red Army and that of Nazi Germany took place.
The Automobile Museum in Wolfsburg (Autostadt Wolfsburg)
This is a perfect day trip if you want to get out of Berlin’s surroundings, especially if you are traveling with small children. The city of Wolfsburg is the home city of the giant car manufacturer Volkswagen, and its car museum (known as the “City of Cars” – Autostadt) is one of the best attractions, both if you are a car enthusiast and if you are under the age of 12. Here you will find a huge park with a variety of models on display The company, including models of its subsidiaries (including Porsche, Lamborghini and more). In addition, there are driving simulators, a museum with car models produced throughout history, a cinema where car movies are shown, and many other attractions.
The trip between Potsdam and Wolfsburg takes about two hours by public transport, and you can make the round trip in one day. Alternatively, you can combine a stop in Wolfsburg as part of a trip from the Berlin area to the west, for example to Hanover, Cologne or even southern Frankfurt.