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Germany A-Z: Schloß Charlottenburg, Berlin

Berlin’s biggest palace precinct grew up along Spandauer Damm near what was in the late 17th century known as Lützow. It began as the summer home of a woman who did not love her husband and lord, but she managed to live her short life there, where she could decide who came and went.

The main wing was begun in 1695 for Sophie Charlotte, a cultured princess who was a younger sister of Britain’s first Hanoverian king, George I.

She became consort of the Brandenburg elector and later first Prussian king Friedrich I at only 15. Despite her gifts, she was less than happy in her marriage, and Sophie Charlotte set about creating her own court of arts, science and philosophy.

She entrusted the building work to the architect Johann Arnold Nering, but Nering died only months later and the project passed to Martin Grünberg, who worked on the building for about five years.

At the centre was an unusual oval central hall, the Ovaler Saal, with five arches, which projected into the rear garden. It was matched on the upper level by a mirrored chamber with ornate ceiling cornices. The Eichengalerie, a Baroque banquet chamber with oaken interior, and the spectacularly ornate and mirrored porcelain cabinet for the royal collection of blue and white pieces – recently reopened – are other must-see rooms. A portrait of the queen hangs in the old wing.

Andreas Schlüter then built two more buildings around the present honour court. The palace was named Schloß Lützenburg (or Lietzenburg) after the location. Schlüter also sculpted the Baroque equestrian statue of Friedrich’s father the ‘Great Elector’ Friedrich Wilhelm (1703), which formerly stood near the Stadtschloß in inner Berlin, now at home in the palace forecourt. The story goes that between these sites, during World War II, the statue had been hidden in a Berlin lake to prevent it being melted down.

The residence did not start to attain palatial proportions until 1701, when work began on the addition of a central tower, rising 48m, and expansions– extensively to the west – by Johann Friedrich Eosander von Göthe. The complex, with its side wings, was beginning to develop along the lines of Versailles. Sophie Charlotte herself once remarked drily on her husband’s inclination to magnificence.

The palace did not acquire the queen’s name until after her tragic early death, at 36, in 1705. From then, the name Charlottenburg was also applied to the district, which was later absorbed by the rapid 19th and 20th century growth of Berlin.

After the queen’s death Friedrich I had further expansions completed, including the dome on the centrepiece, and extensions on the west side including an orangerie and a chapel. The orangerie was the wintering place for the fruit trees that spent the summer in the Baroque gardens. Today it stages concerts. But Friedrich’s successor Friedrich Wilhelm I had a sense of austerity that meant he had little to do with the palace after taking the throne in 1713.

Frederick the Great made the palace his home after his accession to the Prussian throne in 1740. Frederick preferred the location to Berlin and it was congenial for his masonic activities. He commissioned the court architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff with Rococo extensions including an extended east wing, known as the new wing. This included the prized green marble Rococo ballroom Goldene Galerie and the throne room and banqueting hall Weißer Saal. The royal music chamber is of more intimate proportions.

The two royal apartments showed the king’s love of French Baroque and today house a large collection of 18th-century French painting. His treasured library – also French – was installed upstairs. A statue of the king stands in front of his new wing and a portrait in the palace by Anton Graff is considered the most accurate of several.

But Frederick soon set his heart on building Schloß Sanssouci in Potsdam as the preferred royal summer residence. The vestibule of the new wing today displays Classical and Romantic sculpture or Berlin and French 18th century painting includes works by Jean-Antoine Watteau, one of Frederick’s favourite painters.

The castle took its present shape under Friedrich Wilhelm II, with the addition of a Neoclassical palace theatre at the far end of the western new wing and a smaller orangerie to its south side by Carl Gotthard Langhans, architect of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. The theatre later was used for public performances, but its fittings and interiors have gone with time. The building housed collections of ancient and Classical archaeology until 1999.

King Friedrich Wilhelm III and his queen Luise used the new wing but made no major changes. Luise’s bedchamber is a feature of a palace visit today but she, like Sophie Charlotte, died in her mid-30s. A reclining figure of the queen by Christian Daniel Rauch is part of the vestibule statuary.

During the reign of Friedrich Wilhelm IV there were Classical redesigns of first floor chambers. His widow later used the palace. The last monarch to use Charlottenburg, the dying emperor Friedrich III, acceded and died in 1888.

Extensive rebuilding was required after the damage caused by World War II bombing. The so-called new wing, especially badly damaged, was restored in recent years.

The older parts of the palace and gardens are open (Jan-Mar Tu-Su 10-16.30, Apr-Oct Tu-Su 10-17.30, Nov-Dec Tu-Su 10-17) but ongoing work has closed the second floor of the old palace. The new wing (Jan-Mar W-M 10-17, Apr-Oct W-M 10-18) is largely separate.

The Schloßpark or Schloßgarten extends north behind the palace with its west boundary on the river Spree. The open area with sculpted gardens stretches from the north facade of the palace and walking paths through extended parkland bordered to the east by the Spree. Here, Peter Jospeh Lenné, finest of German landscape gardeners, laid out gardens in his preferred English style.

The features include the fountain Schloßbrunnen and the rare garden mausoleum (1810, by Heinrich Gentz) near the Teichgraben, part of the interconnecting small ornamental lakes fed by the river. The mausoleum (Apr-Oct Tu-Su 10-17.30), with a copy of the Classical granite facade probably designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, is the resting place of Friedrich Wilhelm III and Luise and their sarcophaguses (1846, sculpted by Rauch), as well as the graves of the later imperial couple Wilhelm I and Augusta.

Schinkel also created the Neuer Pavillon (mid Jan-Mar & Nov-Dec Tu-Su 10-17, Apr-Oct Tu-Su 10-18) by the Spree as a summer house for Friedrich Wilhelm III’s second queen Auguste in Italianesque style. Paintings by Caspar David Friedrich and sculpture by Rauch are part of the exhibits, along with paintings and designs by Schinkel.

Langhans’ three-storey Belvedere (1788) teahouse was built near the Spree bank as a vantage point to enjoy the grounds. Originally it was on an island.

Extensive wartime damage to the palace and pavilions has been faithfully made good, in spite of post-war opinions favouring demolition.

Take bus 109 to Luisenplatz, 309 to Schloß Charlottenburg, S41, 42 or 46 to Westend or U7 to Richard-Wagner-Platz and walk 400m north-west.

For more on Berlin for travellers, consult the budget PDF guide, downloadable free below. The Raven Berlin guide is being updated this year.

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Culture Encounters

Jewels of the Past


Great Cities of Germany


The tiny town at the foot of the Alps has its own medieval castle and Baroque monastery as well as being the jumping-off point for visits to the nearby Romantic castles of Schloß Neuschwanstein and Schloß Hohenschwangau. A short ride from Füssen is the Wieskirche, a UNESCO-listed Rococo pilgrimage church. This concise guide includes all castles, sites, churches and museums as well as the essential services and transport information necessary to visit these treasures. Hyperlink access to accommodation websites included.


The 2018 Raven Guide to Aachen, city of Charlemagne, is available for free download now. Even earlier than the Romans, the local hot springs was highly valued, but 1200 years ago the Frankish king who set up his court there, leaving buildings that still stand and making Aachen eventually the centre of an empire. Charlemagne's church, which grew to become the present cathedral, was one of the first world heritage sites.


The new Raven guide to the Thuringian town, birthplace of Bach, with its museum of the life of the great composer, history of car manufacture and one of Germany's best preserved medieval castles, is now available for travellers for free download. Eisenach, as a hiding place of Martin Luther early in his revolt against the established church, also played a key role in the Reformation.

Lutherstadt Wittenberg

More than 500 years after Martin Luther's Reformation, Raven Guides presents its free guide to the place where it all began. The town now known as Lutherstadt Wittenberg was the cradle of the religious movement that threw off the the structures of the Catholic church and shaped now ideas and ways of worship, but also more than a century of bitter conflict that shaped Germany forever. Key sites associated with this revolution have become listed world heritage monuments, including Luther's house, the church where his revolt began, and the place he preached.


The layout of the UNESCO heritage-listed old town and a range of Baroque and medieval architecture makes Bamberg one of Germany’s most beautiful cities. The 5-page guide covers the Romanesque cathedral, the opulent episcopal palace the Residenz and the old town hall in the middle of the river – summaries of 35 historic sites and museums in all. Information on essentials for travellers, tours, parks and musical performances. Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites.


The Roman Trier was at one time second only to Rome. It was home to one of the most powerful Roman emperors, Constantine the Great, as well as Karl Marx. Signs of its past greatness remain, including the ancient city gate Porta Nigra, Roman baths, an amphitheatre and Constantine’s former imperial palace, plus the buildings of the medieval city. This guide of 7 pages includes more than 30 sites and museums, with essential services, transport links, transit services, tours and hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites.


Completely walled with more than 40 towers, the cobbled pedestrian streets of the Romantic Road town above the Tauber valley are little changed since the 17th century. The 4-page guide includes 17 sites and museums and an excursion to the Franconian open-air museum at nearby Bad Windsheim. Essential services, transport links, food and tours with hyperlink access to further tourist information and websites for many of the town’s small accommodation houses.


The Stadtschloß palace was the first Prussian royal residence and palaces and pavilions eventually multiplied in extensive parklands. This guide of 8 pages covers the many sites, chiefly the Rococo palace Schloß Sanssouci, the Dutch quarter Holländisches Viertel, the Russian colony Siedlung Alexandrowka and its Orthodox church, 10 museums, the Nikolaikirche, the surviving ornate city gates and the Baroque streetscapes. Essential services, transport links and fares, accommodation, food and tours with hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites.


The medieval streets, archways and buildings of this former Roman camp remain. One of Germany’s classic Gothic cathedrals, several medieval churches, rare Gothic tower houses and one of Germany’s oldest bridges combined to justify the city’s world heritage listing. Information on essential services, transport links and urban transit services and fares plus listings of travel essentials are part of this 6-page guide. Almost 30 sites and museums, including the nearby Walhalla gallery of great Germanic figures of history, with hyperlink access to accommodation websites and further tourist information.


The prince-bishops who controlled Würzburg for centuries built wealth, power and influence expressed in Baroque by their huge palace the Residenz. Their medieval castle still commands the city, reached by an ancient stone bridge. This 7-page guide includes more than 30 grand residences, churches, museums and galleries, including one of Europe’s prominent Jewish museums. Essential services, transport links, transit services and fares, food and tours plus hyperlink access to accommodation and further tourist information websites.


This 4-page guide to the city of three rivers includes the Baroque cathedral of St Stephan, with one of the world’s largest organs, the fortress Veste Oberhaus and the well preserved old town. In all there are 13 sites and museums, including the exhibits of Passau’s Roman past and glass manufacture. Details of essential services, transport links and urban transit services including fares, accommodation, food, tours and views. Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites.


This short guide covers a tiny medieval walled town, left in its unchanged state by a royal decree and now a favourite of artists and a small number of travellers. Dinkelsbühl’s walls and many Gothic and Renaissance buildings keep its historical atmosphere alive and its small hotels, pensions and restaurants complement this scene. Essential services and transport information are included with hyperlinks to most accommodation.


The wealth and influence of the city’s powerful families brought the Renaissance to Germany at a time when Augsburg was also the centre of key events of the Reformation. First a Roman settlement, it also has some of Germany’s oldest remains and is known for its many onion-domed towers and magnificent works of art. This 6-page guide includes more than 30 sites and museums plus essentials, transport links and fares, accommodation, food and tours with hyperlink access to further information websites.


The most common description for Heidelberg is Romantic. This comes from its valley location, half-ruined castle, and the towered stone bridge across the Neckar. But this 8-page guide also explores the city’s cobbled streets in search of the essence of the city – Germany’s oldest university, the churches that are monuments to its religious struggles, and its restaurants and cafes. Find out about the funicular railway that makes the climb to the castle – and vantage points above the city – much easier, and several of the budget hotels and private hostels that help make accommodation in Heidelberg affordable. The 2017 Raven Guide to the Romantic charms of Heidelberg is downloadable free here now.


The medieval town has a colourful array of half-timbered houses, Romanesque churches and the Kaiserpfalz, one of Germany’s oldest palaces. Its ancient Rammelsberg mines are partly responsible for the town’s world heritage status. The 5-page guide covers 19 sites and museums, a town walk, Rammelsberg tour and an excursion to the nearby half-timbered Harz town Wernigerode. Information on transport links plus listings of travel essentials and hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites.


Trade made Lübeck the centre of the Baltic and the red-brick Gothic old town its merchant wealth built is now UNESCO world heritage-listed. Its churches, town houses and civic institutions are preserved and restored. In 7 pages this guide describes the commercial and civic culture of the city through summaries of 30 sites, museums and galleries. Information on travel essentials, transport links and transit services including fares, tours, parks, views and food. Hyperlinks to further tourist information and to websites for city accommodation.


A concise but detailed Berlin travel guide of 31 pages including separate sections for the districts Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (with Neukölln), Schöneberg-Tempelhof, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and Spandau, with local food and accommodation and quick guides to essential services. A summary of all transport links with Berlin and urban transit services including fares. Summaries of more than 50 museums of history, art and culture, more than 60 historic sites and information on all major performance groups including orchestras, opera and theatre. Included are a short history of the city with guides to walking sections of the Berlin Wall and its memorials, the city’s historic precincts, churches and public buildings, parks, views, tours and cruises. In the text are hyperlinks to websites for accommodation houses and further information.


A guide in 6 pages to one of Germany’s oldest cities including its UNESCO world heritage monuments, the ornate Renaissance town hall and the giant Roland figure, plus 10 other sites. Among 17 Bremen museums summarised are some of Germany’s leading houses of art and the remarkable Übersee-Museum, with exhibits of the wonders of the continents touched by Bremen’s worldwide trade interests. Essential services, transport and city transit details and tours, complete with hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites.


The palaces of Baroque Dresden with their museums and galleries, highlighted by the two Green Vault museums, are among the most remarkable in Germany. This 11-page guide covers 18 palaces, monuments and other sites and 30 museums as well as information on essential services, accommodation, tours, parks and views, food and performing arts. Details of excursions to the medieval city of Meissen, centre of European porcelain, the summer palaces of Pillnitz and Moritzburg, and the fortress of Königstein are provided. Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites.


This 8-page guide to the port city includes the unique Speicherstadt, centre of the former free port, and a range of 25 sites, ships, museums, monuments and churches that reflect Hamburg’s maritime and trading traditions. Essential services are listed with a choice of tours, the city’s best views and parks. Information on transport links and urban transit services including fares plus listings of travel essentials. Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites and a guide to Hamburg music including the city’s opera.


Modern Nuremberg has preserved or restored many walled and historic areas, including the Kaiserburg, the castle of early imperial assemblies that today provides a view over the old town. The city’s leading late medieval citizens were some of the best known German personalities. This 8-page guide includes 20 buildings, streets and monuments plus 14 museums. These include the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Germany’s leading cultural history museum, and the courts of the post-World War II war crimes trials. Essential services, transport links, transit services, tours and hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites.


The city’s Roman and medieval walls, cathedral and 12 Romanesque churches are features of this 11-page guide. Walks cover the historic city centre and the remains of the Roman wall. Summaries of 25 sites and 17 museums of art, history and culture including the Römisch-Germanisches Museum of Cologne’s Roman and medieval past and its associated archaeological sites. Information on all essential services, transport links and urban transit services including fares, accommodation, tours, parks and views, food and performing arts. Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites.


This 6-page guide to the historic city contains summaries of 10 sites including Stuttgart’s castle complexes, Schloß Solitude and the magnificent palaces of nearby Ludwigsburg. A listing of 10 museums and galleries, a guide to essential services, tours and the city’s extensive parks. Information on transport links and urban transit services including fares, accommodation, food and views. Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites and a guide to performance art.


A concise Munich travel guide of 13 pages including accommodation, food and a quick guide to essential services. Germany’s largest museum, Deutsches Museum, and the city’s extensive palaces and palace gardens are featured. Information on all transport links with Munich and urban transit services including fares. Parks, a choice of tours and where to find views. Summaries of almost 30 museums of history, art and culture, 30 historic sites in and around the city and information on major performance groups including orchestras and opera. Hyperlink access to further tourist information and accommodation websites.