Sans Souci – Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany

A Royal Rococo Palace Promising Carefree Escape

Just outside his flourishing capital, Berlin, the enlightened Prussian ruler King Friedrich II—also known as Frederick the Great—in 1745, constructed a royal palace said to be the finest example of rococo architecture in Europe.

Here, amid the superb lake land scenery, he was free to indulge in a flurry of cultural pursuits “sans souci”—without care (and preferably without his queen, Elizabeth Christine)—and surrounded by visiting guests such as the French writer and philosopher Voltaire (who stayed on for three years as a kind of personal mentor).

Based on the king’s own impeccable designs, Sans Souci was meant to rival Versailles in detail and extrava­gance, although it is modest in size and intimate by comparison. The long one-story building, crowned by a dome and flanked by two round pavilions, is surrounded by tiered terraces and carefully landscaped gardens spread out over 1 square mile.

Other build­ings, most notably the Neues Palais (the largest, with 400 rooms) and Schlosshotel Cecilienhof, were added over the following 150 years. The latter is a rambling, mock-Elizabethan country home that was begun in 1913 as the home of Crown Prince Wilhelm of Hohenzollern and named after his daughter-in-law Cecilie.

It would go down in history as the location for the history-altering Potsdam Conference that took place here between July 17 and August 2, 1945. It was here that the Allied statesmen Churchill (replaced mid­conference by Clement Atlee), Truman, and Stalin hammered out the division of postwar Germany agreed upon earlier that year at Yalta.

Few of the visitors traipsing through the conference rooms of the 175-room house today realize that much of the manor (45 guest rooms) has been quietly functioning as a hotel and restaurant since 1960. For those checking in (lunch is a lovely option at the very least), the sense of “sans souci” is tangible once the day’s visitors taper off. Ask for the luxury Hohenzollern Suite, onetime lodging for the family of the last emperor.

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