Historical old town with architectural pearls and buzzing New Town with bars and nightlife. These are just few of so many cool things to do in Dresden, Germany.
This wasn’t my first time in Dresden. During my studies I got the chance to spend half a year on exchange in Germany and I visited some of the major cities then. I would have a hard time naming a city that would be more charming than Dresden. You can imagine how exited I was when I got the invitation from Dresden Marketing board to visit the city again!
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.
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 getting 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 best option.
I recommend you getting Dresden City Card because it 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!
So, let’s focus on what you shouldn’t miss when visiting Dresden. Enjoy!
The Old Town is quite compact and easy to explore just by walking. Half a day is enough to visit the main sights. 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 of Brühl’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 this tour. During one hour and half, you will be taken to all major sights.
The observation platform of Frauenkirche, Dresden’s most famous landmark, is a great place to see the city from above. The views are just breathtaking!
The church was destroyed during the 1945 bombings and opened in 2005 after the renovation. You can still recognize some of the original stones which were used (they are much darker than the rest). Interestingly, they are even at approximately the original position because a computer imaging program was used to three dimensionality analyze the ruins.
It is a good idea to get your ticket to the observation deck in advance, so that you save time on the place. You can get it online here. No-one likes cueing, right?
You might not be a museum person, but believe me, the exhibition of Dresden 1945 will amaze you with a 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
With its 150 pubs, bars and restaurants, Neustadt district is the place to be at night:) 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.
I took a guided tour by Danilo – a Dresden native who not only knows most of the pubs but also knows much about the street art. Interestingly enough, he also remembers times of the micro nation that existed in Neustadt. He even showed me his former passport! More info here: Dresden Nightwalk
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.
Speaking of food, a good place to try some of the local dishes is Pulverturm, a restaurant just behind the Frauenkirche. I ate their juicy suckling pig from the grill. Their side dish – potato dumplings – is actually one of the region’s specialties. The entire meal was 15 Euro. More info: PulverTurm an der Frauenkirche
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!
Take a half day trip there and learn about the different stages of making ceramics during the tour at a Meissen workshop. There is also a 4-storey museum. If you have more time, you can explore the Meissen Old town including the gothic castle and cathedral. More info: Meissen ceramics workshop
This was actually my first observation about Dresden – that there are just so many people moving around on 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
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!
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.
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. 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 great place for the medium budget. It is 3-star hotel with English design. Good if you want 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 latest prices here.
I spent a week in Dresden which I guess is good enough for the main sights. If I had more time, I would have liked to visit Saxon Switzerland National Park. If you have been to Dresden, I would love to hear from you! Which places did you visit?
This trip was made possible with Dresden Marketing board as part in #youngDresden campaign. All opinions are, as always, my own.