30 years ago a visit to Dresden would have been impossible. After the WWII the city became part of Eastern Germany (DDR) and was closed to the outside world. In 1990 with Germany’s reunification, the process of reintegration of the city to the rest of Germany began, and so did its restoration. One thing is certain, way before the war started until today, the capital of Saxony has always been an important center for culture and beloved by artists from all over Europe.
When visiting Dresden, it’s impossible not to notice how much the city suffered with the consequences of the WWII. From being one of the cities most damaged by bombings in the country, to becoming part of the USSR until being reunified with Germany once again. In the meantime, the city of culture lost many lives and had buildings and important landmarks destroyed, including its so famous Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady).
Visiting the city was like seeing a different Germany, just like it was for me when I visited Berlin for the first time. You can perceive the strong feeling of a difficult past, and at the same time, the persistence and the strength to try to recover what was lost. I was also impressed by how art and culture is everywhere, from the small to the big things.
Dresden is a small town, and most of its attractions can be seen in 1 or 2 days without any hurry. As I always do with a new place I visit, I put together my list of 10 must do’s in Dresden and I hope it will be useful to you when planning your trip to the city:
A walk around Altstadt (old town)
If you had the chance to visit only one area of Dresden, that would be the old town, which in reality is pretty small and you can see it all in a few hours. Here you will see the famous Frauenkirche, the Opera House, Zwinger Palace, many art galleries and museums like the Albertinum, the Brühl’s Terrace, pretty streets like Münzgasse, and many other points of interest including the Dresden Castle.
One of the most stunning churches you will ever see in your life, with one of the largest domes in Europe and with a history like no other. The Frauenkirche was completely destroyed during the WWII, after the city was bombed by the U.S. It was only after the reunification, that it was rebuilt, work which started in 1994 and finished in 2005.
To enter the church is free, but if you plan on climbing up for a great view over town, it costs 8 Euros. Most of the way up is with an elevator, then you will find a ramp and stairs.
This stunning palace of Rococo style, used to be the orangery, exhibition gallery and festival arena for the Dresden court. It’s park and fountains are beautiful and it’s possible to visit its porcelain collection. There is a cafe on the top floor with a beautiful view over the park, where you can sip coffee or tea and try one of the cakes.
Semperoper (Semper Opera House)
Right next to the Zwinger Palace, there is the Semperoper, where it is possible to take a guided tour on the inside. If you are passionate for music, try to get a ticket for one of the performances.
Albertinum Museum & Brühl’s Terrace
If you are an art lover, you just can’t miss the Albertinum Museum. Here you will find paintings by Monet, Lautrec and Van Gogh, to name a few. Even normally finding museums boring, I just had to see these paintings with my own eyes.
Just outside the museum you can enjoy the time to walk along the Brühl’s Terrace and catch your breath overlooking the Elbe River.
Watch the sunset by the Elbe
Another must do in Dresden is to see the sun set by the Elbe. Especially from the Staudengarten, which gives you a stunning view over the old town. The cool thing is that during the summer, there is an open-air cinema there!
A walk around Neustadt (New City)
Even though called new city, Neustadt is actually the original old town of Dresden. Nowadays it is the perfect place to find a nice pub, bar, restaurants and a good place for a brunch. Not to mention, here is filled with street art, pretty original buildings of every colour and passages. I loved wandering here with W and Enzzo.
If you are a fan of Pinterest and likes to pin from the travel category, I’m sure you have seen this place before. The Kunsthofpassage, is a small passage that leads you to very interesting buildings, including the one above, normally called the Funnel Wall, which has a system that when it rains, it becomes a music instrument. Sadly (or fortunately, depends on your point of view) the day we went there wasn’t raining.
The Großer Garten (Great Garden)
I’m always keen to make a stop at a park, especially if Enzzo is coming along with us. So we made a stop at the Großer Garten for a morning stroll, and I must say I found it impressive. Worth a stop, especially on warmer days.
Take a day or a half-day trip
There are a few places where you can visit while in Dresden, like the Moritzburg Castle and the so famous Bastei Bridge, located in the Saxon Switzerland National Park. We took an afternoon to visit the latter, and I found it pretty impressive, though very popular among tourists, so arrive early!
Take the sightseeing tour bus. It’s a hop-on hop-off bus, which gives you a great overview of the city in 1,5 hour. The tour is offered in other languages, including English, Spanish and Italian (with an audio guide).
Where to stay
We stayed at the Motel 1 in Neustadt and we were very happy with our choice. The location was great, easy to walk to the city center, with restaurants and supermarkets nearby. Also easy to park (if you are driving, like us), they accept dogs (Enzzo is grateful), not to mention the value for money!
A special thank you to the Dresden tourism board for providing us the city tours, public transportation tickets and discounts in some of the attractions.