The Palaces and Castles of Berlin

From Charlottenburg to Grunewald, the capital city has castles galore, but these are the must-visit estates.

With its contemporary feel, Berlin seems like no place for regal dreams, but it has plenty of Prussian castles and palaces to prove us wrong. For the imaginary princesses and princes out there, here's the list of my favorite royal retreats.

The most famous and most majestic is Charlottenburg Palace (Schloß Charlottenburg), built at the end of the 17th century as a gift and summer home for Friedrich I’s wife, Queen Sophie Charlotte. With walls covered in decorative amber and a first-rate art collection, the Schloß is testament to the era’s pomp, while the surrounding gardens provide enchanting walks and panoramic views, including a mausoleum and the Belvedere teahouse’s pottery and porcelain collection.

The Glienicke Palace
Glienicke Palace (©LienhardSchulz/Wikimedia Commons)

Lustrous gardens and waterside walks also feature at Glienicke Palace (Schloß Glienicke). Standing on an island in the middle of Wannsee Lake, the palace was commissioned by Prince Carl of Prussia in 1826 and designed with classical elements reminiscent of Italian country houses. The large fountain at the front, decorated with golden lions, recalls the Villa Medici fountain in Rome.

Located in the Grunewald forest is another noble abode, the Grunewald Hunting Palace (Jagdschloss Grunewald), built in 1540 for Electoral Prince Joachim II to practice his favorite sport of hunting. Here visitors can enjoy a romantic atmosphere and an impressive collection of paintings by Rubens, Lievens, and Cranach.

Kopenick Palace
Kopenick Palace (©Jean-Pierre Dalbera/Wikimedia Commons)

Oozing with history, the moated Baroque palace of Köpenick Palace (Schloß Köpenick) was built on a small island (Schloßinsel) and surrounded by an English-style park with fluttering elms and ginkgo trees. Originally built in 1558, it served as a summer residence and hunting lodge for the Hohenzollern electors of Brandenburg and later as the palace of Friedrich I of Prussia. Archeologists have also found the remains of graves from the Stone Age and Slavic fortifications from the eighth century on the site.

Spandau Citadel
Spandau Citadel (©JoJan/Wikimedia Commons)

One of the best-preserved Renaissance military fortifications of Europe, the Spandau Citadel (Spandau Zitadelle) was constructed at the end of the 16th century, and its appearance is very typical for this period, consisting of four bastions connected by four towering walls. Nowadays, the fortress need only fend off crowds flocking to the various music concerts held each summer.

The theater in the New Palace at Sanssouci Potsdam
The theater in the New Palace at Sanssouci (© SPSG, photo by Leo Seidel)

Technically not in Berlin, the Sanssouci Palace, just 30 minutes on the train in the neighboring city of Potsdam, is a must see when visiting the German capital. Commissioned by the Prussian King Frederick the Great (1712–86) as his summer retreat, the park and palace have been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990. Here you can take in the Baroque palace in all its glory, placed above a terraced vineyard, and roam around the expansive gardens discovering a scatter of pavilions and the New Palace (Neues Palais).