The Ultimate Dresden Guide – This Charming City is Worth Living and Loving
September 23, 2017
Dresden, the capital of Saxony, has its name derived from the old Slavic language, literally translated to “riverside people”. This city, founded in 1206, is even older than Berlin. In the 20th century, Dresden was known only for its cathedrals and palaces, and is not of any significance to the military. However, there was a drastic turn of events between 13 and 15 February 1945. Dresden was bombed, and this devastating incident became the most controversial bombing during World War II. Even up till date, there are people investigating the extremely unexpected bombing.
Fortunately, everything in Dresden was reconstructed meticulously, and the city regained its former grandeur. It was not possible to use the same materials to rebuild the monuments, so you will notice the difference between new bricks used and the old ones which have turned black. But, it is this marriage of the old and new which makes the structures even more attractive.
Today, the city is worth living in, and I love it because there are unbelievable treasures of all kinds at this beautiful place. The uniquely harmonious blend of art, culture, and natural beauty makes up the special charm of Dresden. Here’s everything you need to know before exploring Dresden!
Top 9 Must-Visit Sights and Museums in Dresden
Discover the secrets of Dresden with her great variety of notable art treasures, architectural sights, and charming landscapes. There are 50 museums, 60 galleries, and 36 theatres and stages to keep you occupied all day long. Read on for my favourite 9 spots in Dresden!
#1 : Zwinger Palace
The Zwinger Palace was originally used by the Saxon nobility for tournaments and other courtly pursuits. The Palace contains one of the finest baroque fountains in Germany, the Nymphaeum. Today, you can find many museums inside the Palace, and the remarkable sculptures adorning the gallery walls by various artists make the Zwinger Palace one of the main attractions in Saxony’s regional capital.
The Dresden porcelain collection is one of the largest ceramics collections in the world, and I am so glad that I had a chance to visit this museum.
#2 : Royal Palace
Dresden’s Royal Palace was once the hub of power for the Saxon princes and kings. However, misfortunes happened one after another. It was destroyed by fire in 1701, and reconstructed under Augustus the Strong. Air attacks during the last few months of World War II once again burned down the palace foundations, and most of the valuable interior furnishings were lost. After reconstruction, the palace now houses museums displaying numerous treasures, many of which were not open to the public for more than 70 years.
#3 : Dresden Frauenkirche
The Dresden Frauenkirche is a masterpiece of European architecture, even after its destruction during the bombing raids in February 1945. After the war, the scarred remains dominated the atmosphere of the city centre. The reconstruction was finally completed in 2005, and the steeple of the Dresden Frauenkirche overtops the Dresden skyline again. The Dresden Frauenkirche is now an impressive symbol of international reconciliation after World War II.
#4 : Sanctissimae Trinitatis Cathedral
This cathedral is Dresden’s youngest Baroque building, but with a floor plan measuring nearly 4,800 square meters, it is the largest church in Saxony. The balustrades and niches of the Cathedral are adorned with 78 stone figures which represent the Apostles, Saints, and church dignitaries.
#5 : Stallhof and Procession of Princes
In the Middle Ages, knightly games and tournaments took place in the Stallhof. The Procession of Princes is located on the outside of the Stallhof, on Schlossplatz Square. The 101-meter-long mural represents the history of the Wettins, Saxony’s ruling family, as a larger-than-life procession of riders. The preliminary work faded due to weather conditions, hence was transferred to Meissen porcelain tiles to preserve it. More than 24,000 tiles were used to represent the 35 margraves, princes, and kings, as well as, 59 scientists, artisans, craftsmen, and farmers. So impressive!
#6 : Semper Opera House
This is the most famous opera house in Germany, and it houses the Saxon State Orchestra, one of the world’s oldest and best-known orchestras. Sadly, it was in a bombed-out condition after the World War II air attacks, and it took decades before reconstruction finally took place.
#7 : Brühl’s Terrace and Dresden Fortress
Brühl’s Terrace was given the name, “Balcony of Europe” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe due to the various beautiful buildings you can see from the terrace. Underneath the terrace, lies Dresden Fortress. Built as a ring of walls and surrounded by a water moat, they are thought to be the oldest Renaissance structures in the city. Mysterious vaults will take you back into bygone times, and there are models illustrating how Dresden once protected itself against enemies. It’s quite an interesting learning journey.
#8 : Neumarkt Square (New Town)
The Square developed its structure and its particular charm during the Renaissance, characterized by the typical gabled houses. It matured into a completed work of art during the early Baroque period. However, it had to be rebuilt after severe destructions from the Seven Years’ War. It was again, destroyed during the air attacks of World War II. But, the faithful recreations of original facades, combining elements of the traditional and the modern, create an inviting shopping and dining experience now.
#9 : Altmarkt Square (Old Town)
Markets, festivities, tournaments, and games were staged here, making this market-place the heart of the town since Dresden was first mentioned in a document in 1370. It was completely destroyed during the February bombing raids, but reconstruction has made the market-place vibrant and flourishing again. One highlight, among others, is the annual Dresden Christmas Market, which belongs to those with the longest tradition in Germany.
Arriving At and Leaving Dresden
Dresden International Airport
Dresden Airport’s current flight schedule lists destinations in Germany, Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. Its industrial architecture dates back to its former incarnation as an aircraft hanger, making the terminal one of the most attractive of its kind in Germany.
Getting from Dresden city centre to the airport, or the other way round, is quick and easy. Double-decker S-Bahn trains connect the airport with Dresden’s two biggest stations – Dresden Neustadt and Dresden Central Station. There are buses and trams which bring you to Dresden city centre too! You can either take bus route 77 to the Infineon-Nord stop, or bus route 80 to Käthe-Kollwitz-Platz, and switch to tram line 7 which takes you to Dresden Central Station. Click here for more details on the train, bus, and tram schedules, and ticketing information.
Bus and Rail Travel
The German railway network links Dresden with all major German and European destinations. There are several long-distance coaches from Dresden to other destinations in Germany and Europe too. I was holidaying in Berlin when I decided to take a day trip to Dresden. There are tour companies in Berlin which run a full day trip to Dresden. But, if you prefer exploring Dresden in your own time, you can also conveniently catch a direct train from Berlin which takes about 2 hours to Dresden, or a bus which takes approximately 3 hours, but costs a third of the train ticket price.
Getting Around Dresden City
Well, a car is always indispensable, but this Saxon capital offers its residents and visitors one of the densest local public transport networks in Germany. Whether by suburban railway, bus and tram, Elbe ferry, or cable car, you can practically reach every destination in the city quickly and inexpensively. A bicycle is probably the most flexible and economical means of transport, especially in the city traffic. You can take the Elbe Cycle Path, which winds its way through the city along the traffic-free banks of the river, which oversees the endless green Elbe meadows.
Dresden Welcome Cards
The Dresden Welcome Cards are your best travelling companions as you set off to explore the city. Imagine perks such as free use of busses and trams, free admission to the museums, and many discounts on leisure, culture, gastronomy, and excursions … What more can you ask for?! Follow this link for the different varieties of Dresden welcome cards, city cards, tour cards, and museum cards.
Best Time to Visit Dresden
Dresden experiences a relatively cold climate compared to the rest of Western Europe. Summers are warm and wet, with June and July being the wettest months. In August, it may be sunny during the day, but it quickly cools off towards the evening, so don’t be caught without at least a sweater or light jacket. Temperatures reach below freezing during December, January, and February. So, the best time to visit Dresden is in the summer, when the weather is milder, and annual festivals bring tourists to the area.
There are indeed few city silhouettes more striking than Dresden’s. Although the city was little more than rubble by 1945, its elegant restoration really returned the city to its former glory. A pity I only spent a day exploring Dresden, but this gives me a good excuse to visit the astonishingly beautiful city again!