Sunday 23 December 2012

Potsdam Historic Sites Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 11 km (6.8 miles), terrain flat

Pictures courtesy of the creative folks at Flickr Creative Commons. Thanks! 

Berlin Running Routes:
Best Berlin Running Routes: Overview
Historic Berlin Mitte  
Tiergarten park 
Kurfürstendamm, heart of West Berlin  
Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin's coolest neighborhood  
Grunewald West  
Grunewald East

Potsdam Royal Residences
Ode to Berlin: my long-running love affair with this great city 
For other running routes, see Route List.
If you're in the Berlin area, make sure you take some time for the old Prussian royal residence town of Potsdam. Today, the town is basically a suburb, easily reached with the S7 commuter trains from anywhere in central Berlin. If you put on your running gear and ride the train a half-hour, you'll have one of the most scenic runs in the Berlin area.

Potsdam has a nice old-town, plus it's surrounded by parks and lakes and a variety of palaces of the Prussian kings. It's a bit like Windsor is for London, except that you can easily get there from the city.
Cool collage of Potsdam's Louisenplatz, photo by Frank Kehren
There are some beautiful runs in Potsdam along the Havel River and its lakefront parks. But we'll concentrate on the old town and palace gardens in this run.

The Potsdam Historic Loop
We'll start the run at the train station, head through the old town, loop through Sanssouci palace gardens and cut back through the old town on the way back to the station again.

From the station, go through the square to the main street, Heinrich-Mann-Allee, and turn north to run over the bridge over the Havel.

NOTE: As you start running over the bridge, look to your right and you'll see a path following the south bank of the Havel. For another great run, you could head up there through Babelsberg Park and further along the water in several directions.
In Sanssouci Palace gardens, photo by hazelowendmc
When you cross the bridge, you'll see the Mercur Hotel high-rise on the left and, hopefully, a finished reconstruction of this run's first royal palace, the Stadtschloß. The palace was badly destroyed in World War II, as were the other buildings all around this spot. The communist regime decided to tear down the ruins rather than rebuild it, and they put up a big concrete bunker-like theater in its place. But after German reunification, local people pushed for a reconstruction of the palace. The simplified new version has been under construction for years (I only know it as a big construction site). It should be finished soon.

Now head north around the left side of the Schloß along Friedrich-Ebert-Straße, with the long royal stables, the Marstal, on the left, now a film museum.

Turn right to go behind the Schloß to look at the square with the old town hall and the massive Nikolai church. A few socialist-era modern buildings to either side don't fit in, but that's life.
Amazing shot of the Nikolaikirche, photo by Frank Kehren
Now run back to Ebert Straße, turn right, and continue your northward run.

After just a block, you'll come to a big square on the right, the Platz der Einheit (Unity Place) surrounded by more modern buildings. Run diagonally towards the right, through the square, and then continue running north along Am Basin towards the big church ahead on the right side.

This is the Peter-Paul catholic church. Although Prussia and the Prussian kings were protestant, the country was known for its tolerance, and for hundreds of years it was a place of refuge for many religiously persecuted groups.

At the end of the churchyard, turn right on Gutenbergstraße, and you have reached the first interesting neighborhood of the old town. The houses here have a definite Dutch style, giving this neighborhood the name "Dutch Quarter" ("Holländisches Viertel"). The Prussians invited the Dutch to imigrate to Prussia to use their expertise with raising vegetables and draining swamps. Many of the Dutch were persecuted Mennonites.
In the Dutch Quarter, photo by TCHe
At the second cross-street, Hebelstraße, turn left to run into the Dutch Quarter for a block, then turn left to run westwards through the neighborhood on Mittelstraße, with its beautiful red-brick houses and their rounded gables and wooden shutters.

When you get back to Friedrich-Ebert-Straße, look to your right to see the northern city gate, Nauener Tor, with its two round towers.

Now turn left and run south for two blocks to Brandenburger Straße.

Here you turn right to run westwards the whole length of the old town on this pedestrian shopping street.
Brandenburger Straße, photo by TCHe
After five blocks, you come out onto Louisenplatz with its arched Brandenburg Gate (right, Berlin isn't the only town with one).

Run right through the gate and to the right of the fountain, and head up the street that leaves the square at the northwest, Allee nach Sanssouci, past the Steigenberger Hotel.

The street makes a turn to the left at an italianate building with two square towers, the Friedenskirche or Peace Church. Keep running past that building, then turn right to run up the path along its back side, heading north.
Even the buskers are from another age in Potsdam, photo by topsafari
You'll go over a bridge at a pond and continue running north for a few meters until you come out into a formal gardens with geometrically laid-out paths. You are now in the famous gardens of Sanssouci Palace.

Run to the fountain on the main path, which runs east/west, and then run west the 100 meters to the next, bigger fountain.

Look to your right and you'll see terraces rising up to the yellow palace on the hill, Sanssouci
The steps up to Sanssouci, photo by HerrK
Let's take a closer look, and run up the central stairway up to the top! This low, one-storey baroque building was built by Prussia's greatest king, Frederick the Great.

Turn left to run past the facade, and continue running westwards around the back side of the palace, running towards the tall windmill across the street.
Sanssouci, photo by Jacqueline Poggi
Now keep running westward along the street, with the orange-colored New Chambers on the left, with its short, eagle-crowned clock tower.

After the New Chambers, turn left to run down into the gardens again, then turn right at the first chance.

You'll run westwards again, past the Sicilian Garden, then around some other buildings, and then come to a round pond with fountain. Look up the hill and you'll see the imposing Orangerie, where frost-sensitive plants are kept during the winters.
Moody spot in Sansscouci Park, photo by hazelowendmc
Now, turn left to head south to the main path again, Hauptallee, where you turn right and continue running westwards, towards the red palace with the copper dome in the distance.

You are running towards the Neues Palais, or New Palace. Kings back then needed a new palace about every 10 years, so this massive one was added to the far end of the park.
The New Palace, photo by Viaggiatore Fantasma
When you reach the palace, turn right to circle it counter-clockwise.

On the other side of the palace, you'll see some other classical buildings now used by the University of Potsdam.

When you've circled the palace, run south past the small group of trees and then turn left to run back eastwards on the Ökonomieweg, parallel to the Hauptallee.

After about 600 meters, the path makes a turn to the left, and you'll see a fantastic, gilded pavilion on the left side, the Chinese House, once used as a royal party house.
The Chinese House, photo by Jacqueline Poggi
In 200 more meters you'll pass some smaller classical buildings on the right side, and see Sanssouci again off to the left.

Keep running straight until the path ends behind the Peace Church again, where you turn right and run back to the Brandenburg Gate again, in Louisenplatz.

But now, to see a bit more of the old-town, turn left to run a block to Gutenbergstraße, where you turn right and run eastwards four blocks to Jägerstraße.

Now, turn right and run south, crossing the old town through the middle.

Cross Charlottenstraße and continue southwards as the street name changes to Wilhelm-Staab-Straße.

Staab-Straße ends at Yorckstraße, with a canal running down the middle. The canal is being restored after being filled-in during the socialist era. Turn left here and run back the one block to Ebert Straße, where you turn right and follow it back past the Stadtschloß and cross the Havel bridge to the train station.

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