In Potsdam, just outside Berlin, Frederick the Great built Prussia’s answer to Versailles: Sanssouci, or “Without a Care.” The main palace, built in the mid-18th century and undamaged in the war, stands atop terraces of vineyards overlooking formal gardens. Timed entry tickets (reserve in advance) ensure that the surprisingly small palace’s 12 sumptuous rooms remain crowded but not unbearable. Many visitors skip the other remarkable palaces and pavilions scattered around the vast palace park, leaving many almost empty. We contemplated the paintings in the impressive Bildergalerie (Picture Gallery) in near solitude, and we had the fanciful Chinese House entirely to ourselves.
Best of all was the Neue Kammern (New Chambers), an orangerie converted into additional guest rooms, completed in 1775. It looks relatively unimpressive from the outside, but the interior rivaled that of Sanssouci Palace itself, including a jasper-clad ballroom, a concert hall surrounded by gold bas-reliefs of mythological scenes, and guest chambers paneled in inlaid wood. So few people visit this gem of a palace, the ticket-taker offered to arrange a free private tour for us when we arrived. Our delightful guide, Bianca, was as knowledgeable about the history and décor of the palace as she was passionate about it.