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A trip to Berlin wouldn't be complete without paying a visit to Potsdam, known for its 18th-century baroque architecture, especially Sanssouci Park, the former residence of the Prussian royals. The town center offers historical landmarks, charming boutiques, and café-lined cobblestone streets. The bonus is that it's only a half-hour trip from Berlin.

Potsdam is the state capital of Brandenburg (the region surrounding Berlin), and although it was severely damaged by bombing during World War II, much of the city has been restored to its former glory and still retains the imperial character it accrued during the many years it served as a royal residence and garrison quarters. The city center has stately Prussian architecture as well as a charming Dutch quarter, while Sansoucci Park, the city's main tourist attraction and sometimes called the Versailles of Potsdam, is a short bus ride away. Just north of Sanssouci Park is Neuer Garten, where the Schloss Cecilienhof was the site of the Potsdam Conference in 1945. Both are home to manicured gardens, stunning architecture, lakes and fountains, and several palaces, galleries, and former royal buildings. An enthusiastic history buff could happily spend several days exploring the palaces and landmarks of Sanssouci Park and Neuer Garten, but considering that most of the palace interiors are quite similar, and that the city is quite compact and well connected with public transport, one day is generally sufficient for a visit.

Potsdam is on the Havel River, and its small harbor area showing off modern and vintage-style boats is a casting-off point for boat tours around the area or back to Berlin.

Potsdam also plays a central role in the history of film. The world’s first major movie studio opened in 1911 in Babelsberg, just east of Potsdam, and turned the area into a prewar Hollywood. Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and The Blue Angel with Marlene Dietrich were both filmed here, and many modern filmmakers continue to use the studios. The historic Filmmuseum Potsdam will interest film buffs.

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