Top historic sites in Berlin

Köpenick Palace

Schloss Köpenick is a Baroque water palace of the Hohenzollern electors of Brandenburg which stands on an island in the Dahme River surrounded by an English-style park and gives its name to Köpenick, a district of Berlin. The castle was originally built on the foundations of a Slavic castle (6th century) in 1558 as a hunting lodge by order of Elector Joachim II Hector of Brandenburg. The building in a Renaissan ...
Founded: 1677 | Location: Berlin, Germany

Märkisches Museum

Built between 1901 and 1908, the red brick cathedral-like complex of the Märkisches Museum holds a history of Berlin as distinctive as its residents. Instead of a straightforward history lesson, expect a variety of themed rooms that give visitors a glimpse of the life, work, and culture of Berlin. The museum, just steps away from the banks of the river Spree, explores the at times tumultuous evolution of this histor ...
Founded: 1901-1908 | Location: Berlin, Germany

Spandau Citadel

Spandau Citadel is one of the most important and best-preserved Renaissance fortresses in Europe. In the 16th century, developments in weaponry rendered older castles useless. Thus, Kurfürst Joachim II ordered his fortification in Spandau to be constructed as a fortress in the ‘new Italian style.’ The fortress was laid out as a rectangle of curtains (fortress walls) with bastions, entirely encircled by wa ...
Founded: 1557-1594 | Location: Berlin, Germany

Babelsberg Palace

Babelsberg Palace lies in the eponymous park and quarter of Potsdam, the capital of the German state of Brandenburg. For over 50 years it was the summer residence of Prince William, later Emperor William I and his wife, Augusta of the House of Saxe-Weimar. On 22 September 1862 in the palace and adjoining park the discussion between King William I and Bismarck took place that ended with the nomination of Bismarck as Minist ...
Founded: 1835-1849 | Location: Potsdam, Germany

Siemensstadt Housing Estate

The Siemensstadt Housing Estate (Großsiedlung Siemensstadt) is a nonprofit residential community in the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf district. It is one of the six Modernist Housing Estates in Berlin recognized in July 2008 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It was built between 1929 and 1931, under the overall master plan of German architect Hans Scharoun. Seven prominent Weimar-era architects took part: Scharoun, Fred ...
Founded: 1929-1931 | Location: Berlin, Germany

Cecilienhof Palace

Cecilienhof Palace was built from 1914 to 1917. Emperor Wilhelm II ordered the establishment of a fund for constructing this new palace at Potsdam for his oldest son, Crown Prince Wilhelm (William) and his wife, Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin on 19 December 1912. Cecilienhof was the last palace built by the House of Hohenzollern that ruled the Kingdom of Prussia and the German Empire until the end of World War I. ...
Founded: 1914-1917 | Location: Potsdam, Germany

Orangery Palace

The Orangery Palace (Orangerieschloss) was built by the Romantic on the Throne, Friedrich Wilhelm IV from 1851 to 1864. The architects Friedrich August Stüler and Ludwig Ferdinand Hesse designed it in the style of the Italian Renaissance, after the image of the Villa Medici in Rome and the Uffizi in Florence. The middle building with its twin towers is the actual castle. This building is joined to the 103 meter long and ...
Founded: 1851-1864 | Location: Potsdam, Germany

Franziskaner-Klosterkirche Ruins

The Franziskaner-Klosterkirche was founded in 1250 in the early Gothic style as a monastery church for a Franciscan house. It was a fieldstone church, 52 metres long and 16 metres wide. Its remains can be found in the north wall of the present ruins. This was replaced with a three-aisled brick basilica church, begun at the end of the 13th century and completed in the first half of the 14th century, whose ruins still survi ...
Founded: 1250 | Location: Berlin, Germany

Pfingstberg Belvedere

The Belvedere on the Pfingstberg is a palace in the northern part of the New Garden in Potsdam, atop Pfingstberg mountain. It was commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm IV and is only one part of an originally substantially more extensive building project. The twin-towered building was modeled on of Italian Renaissance architecture, and it was built between 1847 and 1863 with an interruption from 1852 to 1860. From sketches of ...
Founded: 1847-1863 | Location: Potsdam, Germany

Schönhausen Palace

Schönhausen Palace is a Baroque palace surrounded by gardens through which the Panke river runs. In 1662 Countess Sophie Theodore, a scion of the Holland-Brederode family and wife of the Brandenburg general Christian Albert of Dohna, acquired the lands Niederschönhausen and Pankow, then far north of the Berlin city gates. In 1664 she built a manor at Niederschönhausen in 'Dutch' style. Minister Jo ...
Founded: 1664 | Location: Berlin, Germany

Marmorpalais

The Marmorpalais (marble palace) was a royal residence commissioned by Frederick William II of Prussia and designed in the early classicist style by the architects Carl von Gontard and (from 1789) Carl Gotthard Langhans, designer of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. The Marmorpalais was reserved for the private use of the king, who had an artistic temperament. With this new construction the nephew and successor of Frederick the ...
Founded: 1787-1792 | Location: Potsdam, Germany

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls) is a 17th-century church and monastery in the city of Lisbon. It is one of the most important monasteries and mannerist buildings in the country. The monastery also contains the royal pantheon of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal.

The original Monastery of São Vicente de Fora was founded around 1147 by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, for the Augustinian Order. The Monastery, built in Romanesque style outside the city walls, was one of the most important monastic foundations in mediaeval Portugal. It is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, patron saint of Lisbon, whose relics were brought from the Algarve to Lisbon in the 12th century.

The present buildings are the result of a reconstruction ordered by King Philip II of Spain, who had become King of Portugal (as Philip I) after a succession crisis in 1580. The church of the monastery was built between 1582 and 1629, while other monastery buildings were finished only in the 18th century. The author of the design of the church is thought to be the Italian Jesuit Filippo Terzi and/or the Spaniard Juan de Herrera. The plans were followed and modified by Leonardo Turriano, Baltazar Álvares, Pedro Nunes Tinoco and João Nunes Tinoco.

The church of the Monastery has a majestic, austere façade that follows the later Renaissance style known as Mannerism. The façade, attributed to Baltazar Álvares, has several niches with statues of saints and is flanked by two towers (a model that would become widespread in Portugal). The lower part of the façade has three arches that lead to the galilee (entrance hall). The floorplan of the church reveals a Latin cross building with a one-aisled nave with lateral chapels. The church is covered by barrel vaulting and has a huge dome over the crossing. The general design of the church interior follows that of the prototypic church of Il Gesù, in Rome.

The beautiful main altarpiece is a Baroque work of the 18th century by one of the best Portuguese sculptors, Joaquim Machado de Castro. The altarpiece has the shape of a baldachin and is decorated with a large number of statues. The church also boasts several fine altarpieces in the lateral chapels.

The Monastery buildings are reached through a magnificent baroque portal, located beside the church façade. Inside, the entrance is decorated with blue-white 18th century tiles that tell the history of the Monastery, including scenes of the Siege of Lisbon in 1147. The ceiling of the room has an illusionistic painting executed in 1710 by the Italian Vincenzo Baccarelli. The sacristy of the Monastery is exuberantly decorated with polychromed marble and painting. The cloisters are also notable for the 18th century tiles that recount fables of La Fontaine, among other themes.

In 1834, after the religious orders were dissolved in Portugal, the monastery was transformed into a palace for the archbishops of Lisbon. Some decades later, King Ferdinand II transformed the monks' old refectory into a pantheon for the kings of the House of Braganza. Their tombs were transferred from the main chapel to this room.