Originally just a small village on the outskirts of Berlin, the entire centre of Potsdam is now Germany's largest UNESCO World Heritage site. Throughout much of its history, Potsdam was just a small settlement of relatively little note. It was separated from Berlin by the Wandsee Lake and was virtually surrounded by swampy marshlands. By the time of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), the town had grown in size, but lost almost half of its population in the conflict.
Potsdam's situation changed forever in 1660, when it was
selected to be the hunting residence for the Electors of
Brandenburg, who would ultimately become the Kings of Prussia. The
surrounding land was drained and landscaped, greatly improving its
appearance - and popularity with the nobility. Potsdam soon became
a permanent residence of the Prussian monarchy, greatly increasing
its status and importance.
In 1740 Frederick the Great ascended the throne, and four years later he began building Sanssouci (from the French meaning 'without care') Palace. To complement the rococo design, Frederick also commissioned a series of other beautiful landmarks and follies in amongst the pretty, interconnected lakes. Also boasting fantastically manicured gardens, the magnificent park was celebrated by Europe's royalty, and after the German reunification of 1990 the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
One of the newest buildings in Sanssouci Park is New Palace, which was built between 1763 and 1769. Built to celebrate Prussia's success in the Seven Years' War, the breathtaking baroque structure is considered to be the last great Prussian palace. Its wonderful interior is stunningly ornate and even incudes a theatre!