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The historical old town with architectural pearls and buzzing New Town with bars and nightlife. These are just a few of so many cool things to do in Dresden, Germany.
I have been in Dresden several times: there is something magical about the city. The Saxon capital offers the perfect mix of old and new. When I first visited Dresden it was still like a university student on exchange in Germany, and I found it charming back then. Later on, I got the chance to re-visited it and spend here six amazing days. Yes, there things to do in Dresden for an entire week!
Dresden, one of the most beautiful German cities, gained its importance in 1485 when it became the seat of the Wettin dynasty. The boom came in the 18th century under the reign of Augustus the Strong (August der Starke) and his son Augustus III. The city’s landmarks (Frauenkirche and Zwinger) were built during that time. Dresden was called ‘Florence of the North’.
The 1945 bombing left the city in ruins – including the landmarks. Nowadays, all of the buildings are standing again. While the Old Town offers spectacular sights during the day, the Neustadt district really comes alive at night.
No matter whether you have a long weekend or an entire week to explore, this article I share all the best from what to do in Dresden. There coolest activities as well as places to eat or learn about history.
Are you planning a trip to Germany? Check out my other post about what to do in Berlin in 3 days.
I recommend Kiwi.com to find cheap flights. When flying to Dresden, you will arrive at Dresden-Klotzsche Airport which is located in the north of the city. For moving to the city center, the fastest way is to take the local train (S-Bahn, line S2). It only takes 20 minutes.
Arriving by train or bus, you will arrive at Dresden Hauptbahnhof or Dresden Neustadt. Check which one is closer to your accommodation.
Most of the Old Town sights are within walking distance. For getting access to more distant places (such as Panometer), the tram is the best option.
I recommend you getting Dresden City Card because it’s valid for all local buses, trams, and S-Bahn, and you get discounts to main attractions in the city as well. You can get if for 1,2 or 3 days. It’s a great money saver!
Things to do in Dresden
So, let’s focus on what to do in Dresden! Spending multiple days in Saxony capital gave me the opportunity to explore most of the city. I love cities rich on history, so you can imagine how happy I was to soak all the info and architecture of the old town. I did my visit in spring and got a sunny weekend for this. On a clear sunny day, the city is even more stunning.
What are the things you shouldn’t miss? Read my favorite Dresden sights below. Enjoy!
01 | The Old Town
The Old Town is quite compact and easy to explore just by walking. Walking around soaking up all the history and adoring the buildings is definitely one of my favorite things to do in Dresden. Dresden has several interesting areas so you could spend in Dresden a week and still see something new. If you are after the main sights, half a day is sufficient to see the old town. You can start your tour at Zwinger, a spectacular rococo palace that features a huge garden. Then you can continue towards the Elbe river and adore the historic buildings ofBrühl’s Terrace nicknamed “The Balcony of Europe”.
After you have enjoyed the views of the river, you can walk towards the Schloss and adore the Procession of Princes (Fürstenzug), the largest porcelain mural in the world consisting of 25,000 pieces. Alternatively, you might also visit the Green Vault which pays for Europe’s most splendid treasure chamber museum.
If you prefer to visit the city with the local guide who can tell you interesting things about Dresden, you can join online here. During one hour and a half, you will be taken to all major sights.
02 | Frauenkirche observation deck
Frauenkirche, is a Lutheran church with a history going back to 1743, is definitely on the top of the most iconic attractions in Dresden. The building is absolutely beautiful: both from inside and outside.
The history behind the church is pretty moving: it was used as a shelter in the during the bombing in 1945, and about 300 people were hiding in its crypt until it was destroyed it nearly all. After a war, the church was reconstructed at reopened in 2005. Some of the original pieces from the walls and altar were cleaned and incorporated into the new structure: You can still recognize there today some of the old stones which were used (they are much darker than the rest). Interestingly, they are even at approximately the original position because a special computer imaging program was used to do the three-dimensional analysis of the ruins.
The Frauenkirche and its architecture belong to what to see in Dresden, especially thanks to the unique dome. It’s actually one of the largest domes in Europe! And guess what: you can get up there and see everything from the observation platform. Do not miss it, as it is one of the best Dresden sights. By the way, it is a good idea to get your ticket to in advance, so that you save time on the place. You can get it online here. No-one likes cueing, right?
With its 150 pubs, bars and restaurants, Neustadt district is the place to be at night:) They say that Dresden is a college town and this is the place where they all go out. If you’re out late after drinking too much beer, you might enter the so-called “Bermuda triangle”. But don’t worry: there are restaurants which serve breakfast until 4 pm.
Neustadt is very lively and pretty alternative, with lots of graffiti around. In order to find them all I took a guided tour by Danilo – a Dresden native who not only knows most of the pubs but also knows much about street art. Interestingly enough, he also remembers times of the micronation that existed in Neustadt. He even showed me his former passport of Bunte Republik Neustadt. More info about his tours here: Dresden Nightwalk
When you are wondering around Dresden, make sure to visit the Kunshofpassage, one of the Dresden attractions not many tourists are able to find Its little bit hidden in the maze of backyards just off Gorlitzerstrasse in Neustadt. The best is when you go there on a rainy day: you will get to see a building that “plays music”.
05 | Saxon food (and beer!)
Running around Dresden attractions for the whole day, you are likely to get hungry, and even thirsty. And there is a huge beer tradition in Saxony. A couple of famous brands are “Radeberger” and “Wernesgrüner.” They were especially exported in the GDR times.
When searching for the best place to eat, you have several options: The most elegant and pricey restaurants are located in the Frauenkirche area. Here it is a little harder to find something worthwhile, I recommend trying PulverTurm an der Frauenkirche. I ate their juicy suckling pig from the grill with potato dumplings –which s=is actually one of the region’s specialties. The entire meal was 15 Euro.
The north bank of the river, Neustadt offers many more options. Here is the majority of restaurants along the best pubs and clubs in the city. You will easily find place to rest and celebrate your Dresden trip.
06| Day trip to Meissen
Have you ever heard of Meissen porcelain? It’s actually the first European porcelain that was developed in 1710. And the location is just 25 kilometers away from Dresden! You can plan a half-day trip there and combine it with the visit to the historical center. Meissen is pretty amazing!
If you visit the ceramic workshop, you will get to learn about different stages of making ceramics during the tour at a Meissen workshop. There is also a 4-story museum. If you have more time, you can explore the Meissen Old town including the gothic castle and cathedral. More info: Meissen ceramics workshop
07 | Riding bike or segway
This was actually my first observation about Dresden – that there are just so many people moving around on a bicycle (even in winter!). Actually, it can be quite a handy way of transportation once you get familiar with the streets. If you are not comfortable moving around the city, go for the cycling route along the Elbe. Renting a bike costs 10 Euros per day.
I also tried moving around on a Segway. At first, I felt like I was going to crash into the nearest window shop, but after a few minutes, I got used to it. It was so much quicker than walking! It’s a bit more expensive – you pay 75 Euros for a 2.5 hour guided tour, but I would definitely recommend trying out a Segway at least once. More info here: Dresden Segway Tour
08| Stunning opera house
The neo-renaissance opera building is one of the Dresden landmarks. It’s also known as Semperoper after its author Gottfried Semper who designed it two times: first in 1841 and then again in 1869 after a huge fire destroyed the building.
It’s one of the most famous opera houses in Germany. Unless you are ready to dress up and visit one of the evening performances, you can get in with a daily guided tour. It costs 11 Euro and it is pretty much the only chance to visit the legendary Semperoper during the day, so use it!
10| Old Masters Gallery
The Picture Gallery is known as one of the best art collections in Europe. The Wettin family collected their paintings from the 15th to the 18th centuries (many of them on request by Augustus the Strong and his son).
There are about 750 paintings. These include masterpieces by Dutch (Rubens, Rembrandt) and Italian (Titian, Giorgione) artists. Also, make sure to see the famous Raphael’s Sistine Madonna! More info: The Old Masters Gallery
Did you know that Dresden hosts one of the oldest suspension railways on earth! It’s located in the outskirts of Dresden. It’s fun but probably not appropriate for claustrophobics!
The railway (Schwebebahn in German) is 274 meters long. It takes only a few minutes to go up. If you wish, stop in the café atop the hill – it has a terrace with great views of the Elbe. Then you can take the train back down or take the tram.
You might not be a museum person, but believe me, the exhibition of Dresden 1945 will amaze you with strong experience! It was very emotional for me, as it’s so realistic.
It’s a panoramic painting inside the former gasometer. You climb an artificial tower (Town hall) and you can see around the projection of the city in ruins, just like it appeared the morning after the bombing raid. The entrance fee is 10 Euros. More information here: Dresden Panometer
Where to stay in Dresden
There are lots of hostels and hotels to fit nearly every budget. During my stay in Berlin, I tried both options – the budget one a fancy one. Both experiences were great, so it depends on what fits your plan the best.
Lollis Homestay – I stayed there and enjoyed it a lot. The hostel is located right at Neustadt quarter with all the bars and funky graffiti. They got very reasonable prices, starting from 15 Eur. Check the latest prices here.
Hotel Windsor – I only know it from reviews, but it looks like a great place for the medium budget. It is 3-star hotel with English design. Good if you want a private room and good service. Check the latest prices here.
Hyperion Hotel Dresden Am Schloss – this was the luxury option I mentioned before. The hotel has five starts and is located around the corner from Frauenkirche. The rooms are amazing, as well as the spa. Check the latest prices here.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE THINGS TO DO IN DRESDEN, GERMANY?
I spent a week in Dresden which I guess its good enough for everything, and I hope this post has given you an idea of what to see in Dresden and around. If you got any questions, do ask them in the comments below.
This trip was made possible with Dresden Marketing board as part in #youngDresden campaign. All opinions are, as always, my own.