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Explore Dresden, Germany

Explore Dresden, Germany

Explore Dresden, the capital of the German federal state of Saxony. Dresden is located on the Elbe River and is an industrial, governmental and cultural centre, known worldwide for Bruehl’s Terrace and its historic landmarks in the Old Town (Altstadt).

Dresden became a city in 1206 and celebrated its 800th birthday in 2006.

It was home to many Saxon princes and kings, the most famous of them being August der Starke (Augustus the Strong), whose kingdom included Poland as well. They appertained to the family of the Wettiner and were closely related to many other European royal families. Many buildings date from their reign. The rich art collections are testimony of their extreme wealth. The “Madonna Sixtina,” for instance, was bought by the son of August the Strong.

Dresden has about ten million tourists a year, most of them from Germany. The Zwinger was rebuilt in 1964, the Semper Opera house in 1985, and the now most famous landmark of Dresden, the Frauenkirche, in 2005.

The level of international tourism is growing, especially from the US and China since Dresden is a stop between Prague and Berlin. Architecturally, Loschwitz is the most interesting living quarter, despite it being a hilly landscape.

Dresden can be reached without problems by car from the rest of Germany. It is well connected with the German highway system and a new Autobahn to Prague has been finished recently. The street network is very good and many roads have been refurbished recently, especially in the city centre.

Get around

On foot

In the centre, especially in the historic part in Old Town (Altstadt), everything is easily accessible by foot. Note that the city center is not the geographical centre of the city.

Dresden has a lot of pedicabs (bike taxis), mostly operating around the Old Town. They offer the typical (short distance) taxi service as well as guided city tours. Since 2007 there are also horse carriages that offer tourist sightseeing.

One can also make use of the many bus tour operators. Tickets for these tours can be bought around the old town from various points.

What to see. Best top attractions in Dresden, Germany

Dresden is a very beautiful, light spirited city, especially in summer, when you can appreciate the serene setting of the historic centre. Although Dresden is larger than Munich when measured by area, the historic centre is quite compact and walk able. Be sure to check out these places while in Dresden.

Frauenkirche. The original Church of Our Lady was completely destroyed during WWII; however, it has been reconstructed. The City of Coventry, which was raided by the Luftwaffe in WWII, donated the golden cross for the dome of the church. Open church most days from 10:00-12:00 and 1:00-6:00. Entry is free. Check out some ruins in the basement. Do not miss the tower visit and bring good shoes to climb in (otherwise you will not be admitted!) Same hours as open church.

Zwinger Palace. 10:00-18:00. Closed on Mondays. The baroque palace features a nympheum, many sculptures of Permoser, a bell pavilion and famous art collections. Do not miss the “Alte Meister” – you’ll find the famous Madonna Sistina of Rafael there including the well-known angels. There is also a very nice museum on the arms of Saxon kings, the “Rüstkammer”. Entry is free to the palace but some collections such as the porcelain exhibition have an entry fee.

Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery) Porzellansammlung (Porcelain Collection)

Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon (Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments)

Schloss und Grünes Gewölbe. The Green Vault is Europe’s most splendid treasure chamber museum. You can see the biggest green diamond and the court of Aurengzeb and its precious crown jewels. Note that it is actually two museums, each requiring a separate ticket: The Historic Green Vault (Historisches Grünes Gewölbe) is famous for its splendors of the historic treasure chamber as it existed in 1733, while the New Green Vault (Neues Grünes Gewölbe) focuses the attention on each individual object in neutral rooms.

SemperOper. English tours at 3pm; German tours throughout the day. One of the most beautiful opera houses in the world. The acoustics and the orchestra, the Staatskapelle, are marvelous. Its history saw many operas of Wagner and Strauss having their first nights there. Make sure to book tickets in advance. Some last-minute tickets are available from the box office shortly before the performance starts. Seats which do not have a good view are very cheap, and you can sit on benches behind the seats, right at the top of the auditorium, for free.

Elbe Valley. This used to be on the UNESCO World Heritage List, until the government decided to build a four-lane highway Waldschlösschen Bridge through the heart of it. So now it is known as “one of only two un-UNESCO’d sites in the world” still a tourist attraction.

Dresden Neustadt. Very nice, lively neighborhood. Part alternative, part “pseudo-exclusive” and expensive. Check out the Bunte Republik Neustadt festival in June. But you shouldn’t leave your bicycle unattended without a good lock, as there can be a serious risk of damage to your bicycle as well as your car, especially on weekend nights.

Dresden Baroque Quarter. Real baroque houses. The quarter reaches from the “Neustaedter Markt place” up to the “Albert Platz place”. On the Heinrichstrasse street, Obergraben street and Koenigstrasse street you will find a lot of antique stores, galleries, cafés, restaurants, bars, fashion, design & jewelry stores . It is the quarter where you will find different nice and extraordinary furnished shops where the owner will serve you. It is the quarter of individuality.

Elbwiesen (River Banks). Go to the (mostly) green river banks, especially in hot summer evenings/nights for a very nice view of the old parts and lot of people playing sports, having barbecues and parties. There are often big concerts and a huge movie screen offers “outdoor cinema.”

Großer Garten (Big Garden). Recommended for relaxing and sports (rollerblades are very common). It is Dresden’s “green lung” and can be reached easily by tram. You can also go on a ride on a miniature train through the park. 

Kunsthofpassage. It is a passage in the middle of Neustadt where you may find buildings with a very creative architecture, many little stores and some bars. A nice complex of inner courtyards artistically decorated. The complex offers art galleries as well as coffee shops. You can find here a very famous building that “plays music” when it rains. 

Fürstenzug. This biggest porcelain painting of the world shows (almost) all Saxon princesses and kings on their horses and splendid parade uniforms. It leads to the “Stallhof” – the last preserved tournament place contained in a European castle. In Winter, Fürstenzug is the location of a very romantic Christmas market with a big fireplace.

Schwebebahn Dresden. A unique aerial tramway.

Gläserne Manufaktur (Transparent Factory), Lennestr. 1. M-F 08:00-20:00. The transparent factory is the site where Volkswagen built its luxury sedan Phaeton and now its e-Golf. There is a tour (English language) offered by Volkswagen.

Pfunds Molkerei, Bautzner Straße 79. A milk store which is in the Guinness Book as the most beautiful milk store in the world. Decorated with 247.90 square meters of handmade tiles. 

Dresden Zoo, Tiergartenstraße 1. One of Germany’s oldest  zoos.

Museums and Galleries

Albertinum Museum. The collections of “Neue Meister” feature a wonderful collection ranging from romantic painters (Caspar David Friedrich etc.) up to Rotloff and Van Gogh.

Japanisches Palais, (on the north bank of the Elbe between Augusbrücke and Marienbrücke). The palace was bombed out, and in its partially restored state holds several small museums, including the museum of natural history of the region, museum of prehistory and a display of assorted exotic garments (ethnological collection).

Museum Der Stadt Dresden (Dresden City Museum), Wilsdruffer Straße 2.

Kasematten, (under the Brühlsche Terrasse (the terrace at the Elbe river)). Apr-Oct M-Su 10:00-18:00; Nov-Mar10:00-17:00. The remains of the old fort. Gives you a glimpse of what a fort in a medieval European town was like.

Senckenberg Museum of Mineralogy.

Erich-Kästner-Museum. Dedicated to Erich Käster who was born and grew up in Dresden.

Military History Museum. 10 am – 6 pm (Mo 9 pm); Wednesdays closed. Has many items and machines regarding military history of Germany – and the country’s complicated relationship with its armed forces and warfare. 20,000m2. of indoor and outdoor exhibition place and a stock of 1.2 million exhibits. Mondays 6 – 9 pm free. 

Carl Maria von Weber Museum, Dresdner Straße 44. Wed-Sun 1pm-6pm. Dedicated to Dresden’s most famous composer.

German Hygiene Museum, Lingnerplatz 1 (Near the Big Garden.). A comprehensive museum dedicated to hygiene in various times and cultures. 

Kunsthaus Dresden, Rähnitzgasse 8. An exhibition hall for contemporary art.

Leonhardi Museum

Leonhardi Museum, Grundstraße 26. A private art collection of DDR art including works by the collector himself.

City Gallery of Dresden, Wilsdruffer Straße 2. Art from the 16th Century to the present day.

Kunsthof Dresden, Görlitzer Straße 23. Assortment of public artworks, galleries, shops selling art.

What to do in Dresden, Germany

Ride one of the many paddle steamers operating on the river Elbe

Rollerblading or Rowing in small boats on the Carolasee in the Großer Garten.

Paddle-Steamer Tour. Best start your tour from the main pier at the castle and go down to Meissen or up to Pillnitz or the Saxon Switzerland.

Semper Opera – Be sure to book in advance.

Villas and Villages – stroll arround through the many villa neighbourhoods like Blasewitz, Loschwitz, Kleinzschachwitz or Radeberger Vorstadt. They often have an village-style centre, eg: Strehlen very near to Großer Garden.

Bunte Republik Neustadt (BRN) (‘Colorful Republic Neustadt’) – a massive yearly street festival that consumes the Neustadt part of Dresden in June. The festival consists of many stages featuring local musicians of different styles. The festivities run very late into the night with plenty booths offering a wide variety of food and drink. If you plan to sleep, then it is advisable to book accommodations outside of the Neustadt area during BRN.

Dixieland Festival – Europe’s biggest Jazz Festival. It normally takes place within the second week of May (from May 10-14 in 2006) and attracts bands and visitors from all over Europe, America and the world. A great deal of the music is played on the top decks of paddle boats in front of the Old Stadt.

Filmnächte (Film nights) (Jun-Aug) – on the banks of the Elbe, just across the castle on the other side of the river. A huge movie screen offers cinema in a beautiful setting and there are also many concerts with popular stars. Again, it is the biggest event of its kind in Europe!

Christmas Markets – The Christmas markets lighten up an otherwise gloomy winter in Dresden. Starting on the weekend of the first Advent, the Christmas markets are open every day until Christmas. During this period, many Christmas markets open up throughout the whole city. Striezelmarkt, located at Altmarkt in Altstadt, is Germany’s oldest Christmas market and is the largest in Dresden. Be sure to check out the booths offering various trinkets, including the famous wood figures (Räuchermännchen) made in the nearby Erzgebirge. Warm up with delicious mulled wine from the Glühwein Buden. But this market is crowded with tourist and the things they sell there are “0815” (boring) things.

What to buy

The main shopping district in Dresden extends from Ferdinandplatz to the west of Sankt-Petersburger Straße northwest to about Wilsdruffer Straße (search for Altmarkt). At the south end (Ferdinandplatz) is a cinema, a couple of restaurants, and a huge Karstadt department store (which also sells groceries). On the north end is a covered mall.

In the Äußere Neustadt area (north/east of Albertplatz), many small shops provide books, vinyl records and clothing.

The Innere Neustadt (between Albertplatz and Elbe, mainly Haupstraße and Königstraße) is rather on a medium-to-fancy level.

What to eat

Within the historic centre and especially around the Frauenkirche are a number of restaurants, serving many different tastes. Be aware, most of these are overpriced, and the quality is often low. On the north bank of the Elbe River is the Neustadt, which accounts for most of the trendy pubs, bars and clubs, and the majority of the restaurants in the city. You will generally have better luck finding decent food for a reasonable price north of Albertplatz in Neustadt.

The eastern part of the city, toward the Blaues Wunder, has a lower density of restaurants than Neustadt, and they tend to also serve as cafés, and the food is generally tasteful and cheap.

When in Germany make sure to try a specialty that is not regarded particularly as German at first sight. Today, doner kebab is typically served as a kind of sandwich in pita (flat bread). This type of doner kebab has been available in Istanbul since about 1960. The doner kebab with salad and sauce served in pita, which is predominant in Germany and the rest of the world, was invented in Berlin Kreuzberg in the early 1970s, because the original preparation was not appealing enough to the German taste. Therefore, as the “modern” kebab is very dissimilar to the traditional dish except by name, it can be argued that the kebab as most people know it is a “traditional” German dish.

The next step above doner kebab is generally Italian. There are a certain number of ethnic restaurants scattered through the city, and if you go out to the eastern part of town, you will find lots of charming cafés and Volkshäuser that serve good food.

What to drink

The Neustadt is a very popular destination, especially for younger people. It has a high number of bars and clubs, with many different styles. Especially the area around Alberplatz is filled with places to go.

The area around the Frauenkirche and Dresden Castle is very popular with tourists. Some fine restaurants are located there.

Stay safe

Dresden is very safe in general. You can walk around the city center and most other parts late at night without having any worries.

Contact

Local telephone code is 0351. There are some Internet Cafés in the city center. One is at the Altmarkt, next to Subway and another is at the back of the “Altmarktgallerie” shopping center at the Altmarkt.

Get out

Bautzen (Budyšin), beautiful old city to the east (approx. 45 minutes with car via Autobahn and 1 hour by train)

Saxon Ore Mountains, hiking and craft works (toy making, especially Christmas toys)

Glashütte is the center of eastern German watch manufacturing, with various watch factories and a nice watch museum. It is about 1 hour from Dresden by train, and part of the journey is beautiful, following a river through the mountains.

Königstein Fortress. One of the largest and best preserved late medeival fortresses in Europe. The fortress is situated about 30 km from Dresden and can be reached by almost all means of transportation. A trip on the river Elbe in one of the historic paddle-steamers of “Sächsische Dampfschifffahrt” is also highly recommended.

Leipzig is little more than one hour away by train

Meißen – medieval cathedral and castle and home to the first European porcelain factory.

Moritzburg – Beautiful castle that was once used when the kings went hunting

Pillnitz – the old garden and summer castle of the former Saxon kings. Follow the road along the Elbe eastwards or take a city bus to get there. Beautiful atmosphere. You might have pay in order to get in, but this issue is not yet fully resolved, as there are many people against it.

Prague is about two hours away

Radebeul – City west of Dresden with the world famous Karl May Museum and the four floor GDR museum.

Radeberg – a small town a short S-Bahn ride away from Dresden. Home of the Radeberger Brewery. They offer tours all day, including tasting at the end.

Saxon Switzerland (Sächsische Schweiz) upstream along the river Elbe is a national park for hiking and rock-climbing.

Bastei – Footbridge and fortress ruins high above the Elbe river valley with beautiful views of the valley, rock formations and towns below. The Bastei bridge is approximately 40km from Dresden. A good day trip can include the Bastei and the Königstein Fortress

Tharandt and Forest of Tharandt – a small town 30min west of Dresden, with the direct train from the main station, where the forestry faculty of the Dresden University is located. You can walk up the ruins of an old castle from the 13th century to have a picturesque view, take a long, pleasant walk in the huge botanical gardens that belong to the university and get lost on long hikes in the outstandingly beautiful, calm and well signed forest of Tharandt surrounding the city, beat accessed from the small village of Kurort Hartha. Wanting to explore Dresden is a nice adventure to escape from everyday life.

Official tourism websites of Dresden

For more information please visit the official government website: 

https://www.dresden.de/en/tourism/tourism.php

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