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Potsdam ( ) is the capital city of the Germanmarker federal state of Brandenburgmarker and is part of the Metropolitan area of Berlin/Brandenburg. It is situated on the River Havelmarker, some 25 kilometres southwest of the centre of Berlinmarker.

Potsdam has several claims to national and international notability. In Germany, it has the status Windsormarker has in England. It was the residence of the Prussian kings until 1918. Around the city there are a series of interconnected lakes and unique cultural landscapes, in particular the parks and palaces of Sanssoucimarker, the largest World Heritage Site in Germany. The Potsdam Conference, the major post-war conference between the victorious Allies, was held at another palace in the area, the Cecilienhofmarker.

Babelsbergmarker, in Potsdam, is one of the leading centres of European film production. The Filmstudio Babelsbergmarker is historically significant as the oldest large-scale film studio in the world. The Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg frequently records soundtracks for domestic and foreign-based film productions.

Potsdam developed into a centre of science in Germanymarker from the 19th century. Today, there are three public colleges and more than 30 research institutes in the city.


Templiner See in south Potsdam
The area was formed from a series of large moraines left after the last ice age. Today, the city is three-quarters green space, with just a quarter as urban area. There are about 20 lakes and rivers in Potsdam, for example the Havelmarker, the Griebnitzseemarker, Templiner Seemarker, Tiefer Seemarker, Jungfernseemarker, Teltowkanal, Heiliger Seemarker and the Sacrower Seemarker. The highest point is the high Kleiner Ravensberg.

Potsdam is divided into seven historic city districts and nine new Ortsteile (village parts), which joined the city in 2003. The appearance of the city districts is quite different. The districts in the north and in the centre consist mainly of historical buildings, the south of the city is dominated by larger areas of newer buildings.


The area around Potsdam shows occupancy since the Bronze Age and was part of Magna Germania as described by Tacitus. After the migrations Slavs moved in and Potsdam was probably founded after the 7th century as a settlement of the Heveller centred on a castle. It was first mentioned in a document in 993AD as Poztupimi, when Emperor Otto III gifted the territory to the Quedlinburg Abbeymarker, then led by his aunt Matilda. A possible translation of the name might be beneath the oaks. By 1317 it was mentioned as a small town. It gained its town charter in 1345. In 1573 it was still a small market town of 2,000 inhabitants. After the Thirty Years' War (1618 - 1648), Potsdam had lost nearly half of its population.

Potsdam's fortunes changed dramatically when it was chosen in 1660 as the hunting residence of Frederick William I, Elector of Brandenburg, the core of the powerful state that later became the Kingdom of Prussiamarker. It also housed a Prussian barracks.

After the Edict of Potsdam in 1685, Potsdam became a centre of European immigration. Its religious freedom attracted people from Francemarker (Huguenots), Russiamarker, the Netherlandsmarker and Bohemia. The edict accelerated population growth and economic recovery.

Later, the city became a full residence of the Prussian royal family. The majestic buildings of the royal residences were built mainly during the reign of Frederick the Great. One of these is the Sanssouci Palacemarker (French: "without cares", by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, 1744), famed for its formal gardens and Rococo interiors. Other royal residencesinclude the Neues Palaismarker and the Orangerymarker.

In the 19th century the city of Potsdam was the capital of the province of Potsdam. The province encompassed the former districts of Uckermarker Mark, the Mark of Priegnitz, and the greater part of the Middle Mark. It was situated between Pomerania and West Prussia on the north, and the province of Saxonymarker on the south and west (Berlinmarker, with a small surrounding district, was an enclave within the province of Potsdam, and had its own distinct government). Towards the north west the province was bounded by the River Elbe and the Havel, and on the north east by the River Oder. About 500,000 inhabitants lived in the province which covered an area of about 20,700 square kilometers, divided into thirteen circles:Thomas Curtis (1839). The London encyclopaedia, or, Universal dictionary of science, art, literature, and practical mechanics, by the orig. ed. of the Encyclopaedia metropolitana Volume XVIII, p. 11
Lower Barnim West Havelland Upper Barnim East Priegnitz
Teltow-Storkow West Priegnitz Zauch-Belzig Ruppin
Templin Prenzlow East Havelland New Angermunde
The towns in the province were small, the principal ones being, Brandenburg, Potsdam, Prenzlow, Spandaumarker and Ruppinmarker.

Berlinmarker was the official capital of Prussia and later of the German Empiremarker, but the court remained in Potsdam, where many government officials settled. In 1914, the Emperor Wilhelm II signed the Declaration of War in the Neues Palais. The city lost its status as a second capital in 1918, when Wilhelm II abdicated at the end of World War I.

At the start of the Third Reich in 1933 there was a ceremonial handshake between President Paul von Hindenburg and the new Chancellor Adolf Hitler on 21 March, 1933 in Potsdam's Garnisonkirche (Garrison Church). This symbolised a coalition of the military (Reichswehr) and Nazism. Potsdam was severely damaged in bombing raids during World War II.

The Cecilienhof Palacemarker was the scene of the Potsdam Conference from 17 July, to 2 August, 1945, at which the victorious Allied leaders (Harry S. Truman; Winston Churchill and his successor, Clement Attlee; and Joseph Stalin) met to decide the future of Germany and postwar Europe in general. The conference ended with the Potsdam Agreement and the Potsdam Declaration.

The government of East Germanymarker (formally known as the German Democratic Republicmarker (German: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR)) tried to remove symbols of Prussian militarism. Many historic buildings, some of them badly damaged in the war, were demolished.

Potsdam, south west of Berlin, lay just outside West Berlin after the construction of the Berlin Wallmarker. The walling off of West Berlin not only isolated Potsdam from West Berlin, but also doubled commuting times to East Berlin. The Glienicke Bridgemarker across the Havel connected the city to West Berlin and was the scene of some Cold War exchanges of spies.

After German reunification, Potsdam became the capital of the newly re-established state of Brandenburgmarker. There are many ideas and efforts to reconstruct the original appearance of the city, most remarkably the Potsdam City Palacemarker and the Garrison Church.



The Old Town Hall
Potsdam has had a mayor (Bürgermeister) and city council since the 15th century. From 1809 the city council was elected, with a mayor (Oberbürgermeister) at its head. During the Third Reich the mayor was selected by the NSDAP and the city council was dissolved; it was reconstituted in token form after the Second World War, but free elections did not take place until after reunification.

Today, the city council is the city's central administrative authority. Local elections took place on 26 October, 2003 and again in 2008. Between 1990 and 1999, the Chairman of the City Council was known as the "Town President" but today the post is the "Chairman of the City Council". The mayor is elected directly by the population. In the mayoral election on 22 September, 2002, no candidate gained an overall majority, and a run-off election was held between Jann Jakobs (SPD) and Hans-Jürgen Scharfenberg (PDS), with Jann Jakobs gaining the narrowest of victories, with 50.1%.

The Landtag Brandenburgmarker, the parliament of the federal state of Brandenburg is in Potsdam. It is planned to move into the Potsdam City Palacemarker in 2011, after its reconstruction.

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Potsdam is twinned with the following cities:
Opolemarker Polandmarker 1973 Perugiamarker Italymarker 1990
Bobigny Francemarker 1974 Sioux Fallsmarker South Dakotamarker, USAmarker 1990
Jyväskylämarker Finlandmarker 1985 Bonnmarker North Rhine-Westphaliamarker 1988
Lucernemarker Switzerlandmarker 2002

Education and research

Potsdam is a university town. The University of Potsdammarker was founded in 1991 as a university of the State of Brandenburg. Its predecessor was the Akademie für Staats- und Rechtswissenschaften der DDR "Walter Ulbricht", a college of education founded in 1948 which was one of the GDR's most important colleges. There are about 21,000 students today in the university.

In 1991 the Fachhochschule was founded as the second college; it now has 2,400 students.

In addition there is a College of Film and Television (Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen "Konrad Wolf" HFF), founded in 1954 in Babelsbergmarker, the foremost centre of the German film industry since its birth, with 600 students today.

There are also several research foundations, including Fraunhofer Institutes for Applied Polymer Research and Biomedical Engineering, Max Planck Institutes for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institutemarker), Colloids and Interfaces, and Molecular Plant Physiology, the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences, the Potsdam Astrophysical Institute and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, which employs 140 people in researching climate change.

As well as universities, Potsdam is home to reputable secondary schools. Montessori Gesamtschule Potsdammarker, in western Potsdam, attracts 400 students from the Brandenburg and Berlin region.

Main sights

Potsdam was historically a centre of European immigration. Its religious tolerance attracted people from France, Russia, the Netherlands and Bohemia. This is still visible in the culture and architecture of the city.

The most popular attraction in Potsdam is Sanssouci Parkmarker, 2 km west of the city centre. In 1744 King Frederick the Great ordered the construction of a residence here, where he could live sans souci ("without worries", in the French spoken at the court). The park hosts a botanical garden (Botanischer Garten Potsdam) and many magnificent buildings:

  • The Sanssouci Palacemarker (Schloss Sanssouci), a relatively modest palace of the Prussian royal and German imperial family
  • The Orangery Palacemarker (Orangerieschloss), former palace for foreign royal guests
  • The New Palacemarker (Neues Palais), built between 1763 and 1769 to celebrate the end of the Seven Years' War, in which Prussia ousted Austriamarker from its centuries-long role as the dominant power in German affairs. It is a much larger and grander palace than Sanssouci, having over 200 rooms and 400 statues as decoration. It served as a guest house for numerous royal visitors.
  • The Charlottenhof Palacemarker (Schloss Charlottenhof), a Neoclassical palace by Karl Friedrich Schinkel built in 1826
  • The Roman Bathsmarker (Römische Bäder), built by Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Ludwig Persius in 1829-1840. It is a complex of buildings including a tea pavilion, a Renaissance-style villa, and a Roman bathhouse (from which the whole complex takes its name).
  • The Chinese Tea Housemarker (Chinesisches Teehaus), an 18th century pavilion built in a Chinesemarker style, the fashion of the time.

Fortunaportal and Nikolaikirche at Alter Markt
The Old Market Square (Alter Markt) is Potsdam's historical centre. For three centuries this was the site of the City Palacemarker (Stadtschloß), a royal palace built in 1662. Under Frederick the Great, the palace became the winter residence of the Prussian kings. The palace was severely damaged by bombing in 1945 and demolished in 1961 by the Communist authorities. In 2002 the Gate of Fortune (Fortunaportal) was rebuilt in its original historic position, which marks the first step in the reconstruction of the palace. The Old Market Square is dominated today by the dome of the Nicolas Church (Nikolaikirche), built in 1837 in the classical style. It was the last work of Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who designed the building but did not live to see its completion. It was finished by his disciples Friedrich August Stüler and Ludwig Persius. The eastern side of the Market Square is dominated by the Old City Hall (Altes Rathaus), built in 1755 by the Dutchmarker architect Jan Bouman (1706-1776). It has a characteristic circular tower, crowned with a gilded Atlas bearing the world on his shoulders.

Potsdam's Brandenburg Gate
Dutch Quarter
North of the Old Market Square is the oval French Church (Französische Kirche), erected in the 1750s by Boumann for the Huguenot community, and the Brandenburg Gate (built in 1770, not to be confused with the Brandenburg Gatemarker in Berlin).

Another landmark of Potsdam is the two-street Dutch Quarter (Holländisches Viertel), an ensemble of buildings that is unique in Europe, with about 150 houses built of red bricks in the Dutch style. It was built between 1734 and 1742 under the direction of Jan Bouman to be used by Dutch craftsmen who had been invited to settle here by King Frederick Wilhelm I. Today this area is one of Potsdam's most visited districts.

North of the city centre is the Russianmarker colony of Alexandrowka, a small enclave of Russian architecture (including an Orthodox chapel) built in 1825 for a group of Russian immigrants. Since 1999 the colony has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

East of the Alexandrowka colony is a large park, the New Garden (Neuer Garten), which was laid out from 1786 in the Englishmarker style. The site contains two palaces; one of them, the Palace Cecilienhofmarker, was where the Potsdam Conference was held in July and August, 1945. The Marble Palace was built in 1789 in the style of classicism. Nearby is the Biosphäre Potsdammarker, a tropical botanical garden.

Another interesting area of Potsdam is Babelsbergmarker, a quarter east of the centre, housing the UFA film studios (Babelsberg Studiosmarker), and an extensive park with some interesting buildings, including the Babelsberg Palace (Schloß Babelsberg, a neo-Gothic palace designed by Schinkel). The Einstein Towermarker was built between 1920 and 1924 by architect Erich Mendelsohn on the top of the Telegraphenberg.

There are many parks in Potsdam, most of them included in UNESCOmarker World Heritage Sites. Some of them are:

 Image:Potsdam BelvedereKlausberg1.jpg|The Belvederemarker near Sanssouci Parkmarker
 Image:Hunting_Lodge_Glienicke_2.jpg|View from Babelsberg Parkmarker to Berlin.
 Image:Chinesisches Teehaus Potsdam Sanssouci.jpg|The Chinese Housemarker
 Image:Brandenburger Straße.jpg|The Old Town

Potsdam also includes a memorial centre in the former KGBmarker prison in Leistikowstrasse.


Famous People


  1. List of twinned city from the Official website


  • Paul Sigel, Silke Dähmlow, Frank Seehausen und Lucas Elmenhorst, Architekturführer Potsdam Architectural Guide, Dietrich Reimer Verlag, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-496-01325-7.

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