Hipsters may be drawn to Berlin’s east side for the affordable rents and high standards of living, but the world’s super- wealthy are heading to the German capital’s south-west.
Just 24 kilometres from Berlin’s city centre, the affluent suburb of Potsdam, the former residence of the Prussian kings and the German kaiser until 1918, is again starting to attract the sort of well-heeled European elites that built their mansions there nearly a century ago.
For example, the four-bedroom, six-bathroom Villa Kampffmeyer, dating from the decadent inter-war period of Weimar Germany when it was built by a family of flour tycoons, is on the market through Savills (and its UAE affiliate Core Savills) for an eye-watering €28 million (Dh114.6m).
But for that you get 15,000 square feet of living and usable space set within two acres of waterside landscaped gardens.
You also get plenty of history. The baroque-inspired mansion is located in a Unesco world heritage site and has a direct view of Prussian imperial castle Babelsberg. The house survived the British bombing of Berlin in the Second World War and was used by the KGB during the Potsdam Conference to end the war.
As post-war Germany was divided between the Soviet Union and the western allies, the Berlin Wall was built, running partly through the villa’s extensive grounds. Villa Kampffmeyer fell into the east and was used by East German border police as a holding area for prisoners due to be exchanged with the west across the nearby Glienicke Bridge, which became infamous as the so called Bridge of Spies.
The house’s facade, with its domed cupola topped by a grand statue and imposing arched windows, lives up to such a historic past.
Inside the villa is just as imposing, with the sort of huge rooms one would expect to find in stately homes, upmarket hotels and wedding venues. The largest of these is the great hall, where a grand chandelier hangs over an elegant arrangement of shiny dark woods, silk tapestry and purple velvet which have all been restored to their pre-war splendour.
A quick wander around the ground floor reveals more imposing rooms, including a library with an ornate gold ceiling, a grand sitting room which opens on to a terrace with steps leading down to a rose garden, a formal dining room, a music room and a grand kitchen.
Up a grand oak staircase, four large bedrooms are arranged around a formal gallery as well as a master bathroom and study. Below stairs, a large apartment provides staff accommodation.
And if that wasn’t enough the house has planning consent for three more bedrooms as well as a basement cinema.
Why are there so many grand buildings in Potsdam?
Although Berlin was the capital of Prussia and later of the German empire, the city of Potsdam was considered the state’s second capital city. It was the location of the imperial court, which meant that many government officials and aristocrats settled there. The city lost its status as a second capital at the end of the First World War in 1918.
What was Potsdam like when Villa Kampffmeyer was built?
Potsdam grew into an affluent suburb of the German capital after the end of the First World War. During the 1920s the area became home to a wealthy urban elite of bankers and movie stars as well as business magnates. The Berlin villa became a hallmark of the good life in central Europe until the Second World War.
Where are the best areas for villas in Berlin?
The top villa markets during the Weimar Republic were around the Griebnitzsee lake in eastern Potsdam and the Berliner Vorstadt area, which is also in Potsdam. Large imposing villas can also be found in the affluent Berlin neighbourhoods of Dahlem, Grunewald and on the Wannsee lakes off the Havel River. Today the same areas are considered prime as wealthy purchasers renovate historic mansions.
What happened to Berlin’s poshest villas during the Cold War?
Potsdam was behind the East German border during the Cold War. Many villas in both the east and the west were turned into multifamily homes and offices, and apartment blocks went up between the mansions.
What is happening to villa prices today?
With a rise in the number of wealthy buyers flocking to Berlin, a number of villas have been converted back from offices and flats into single family homes. Local agents report that villa prices have doubled in the past decade and are continuing to rise. Villas located in the former east are particularly prized because conversions were generally made with flimsy materials, which can be reversed more easily.
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