The Sanssouci Palace is the former summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, in Potsdam, near Berlin. It is often counted among the German rivals of Versailles. The king built the splendid Rococo palace as his summer retreat, where he could live without a care, or ‘sans souci’ in French. Busts of Roman emperors, decorative statues, and a Chinese teahouse dot the lavish grounds.
Originally Frederick the Great merely wanted to cultivate plums, figs and wine grapes in Potsdam. In 1744, he had a terraced garden designed in Sanssouci Park for this purpose. However, due to the exceptionally beautiful view, a year later the king built his summer residence above the terraces. The New Palace and the picture gallery were constructed in subsequent years, while the slopes of the castle were used as flower and vegetable gardens. Today, you will also find Frederick II’s tomb on the castle hill.
To the north of the castle are artificial sections of ruins that were grouped artistically as elements of an ancient world. These actually concealed a water basin, which would supply water to the lavish fountains that are a key feature of the gardens. The king was attached above all to these waterworks. However, he was only able to fully enjoy in later years, as the system only worked properly after the addition of a steam engine in the 19th century.
The Baroque garden, which had gone out of fashion, was redesigned in the style of a landscape park under Frederick the Great’s successors and was expanded by Frederick William IV, who added structures such as Charlottenhof Castle, the Orangery and the Roman Baths.
The impressive central building of the Orangery is dominated by the Raffael Hall, a two-story central hall which harbors 50 copies of paintings of the famous renaissance painter, effectively presented in golden frames over red silk damask. The hall has always been open to the public and therefore represents not only one of the most important museum spaces at Park Sanssouci or Potsdam generally, but in the whole of Germany.
The castles in Sanssouci Park now serve as a breathtaking backdrop for events such as the Potsdam court concerts, as well as musical festivals.
This is the second of an extensive series of posts on the best gardens in the world, with the first covering the classical Master of the Nets Garden (网师园), in Suzhou, China. Please return next Monday for a look at the expansive Powerscourt Gardens of Ireland.