10 things to see and do in Dresden
Dresden wasn’t what we expected. We were actually blown away by this pretty city.
First of all, it is much smaller than expected. The population is just over 500,000, that’s around the same population as Quebec City (just to put itin perspective for our Canadian readers). The center is also very compact with all the major sites concentrated in quite a small area. It’s a very easy city to visit. We spent 4 days there but could, had we pressed ourselves, seen Dresden in 2 full days. We were happy to spend the extra few day however as we found the city enjoyable and relaxing.
Accommodation Tip: On this (our 2nd trip to Dresden) we stayed at Aparthotels Münzgasse An der Frauenkirche. Perfect location, excellent value. Recommended.
There are many things to see and do in Dresden. But here are our favorites.
10 things to see and do in Dresden:
Originally built in 1726-34, this church is considered the most important protestant Baroque church in Germany. The sandstone dome is the largest stone dome north of the Alps (approx 12 tons). Like most of Dresden, the church was destroyed in 1945 by Allied bombings. In 2005 (after 11 years of work) the reconstruction project was finished. Note that there is a tower that you can climb; but it will cost you 8 Euros (which I found expensive. Tip: you can climb the nearby Kreuzkirche for 3 Euros and have equally impressive views).
2. Brühl’s Terrace
Brühl’s Terrace (Brühlsche Terrasse) is nicknamed “The Balcony of Europe”. The promenade is lined by some of Dresden’s most beautiful buildings including the Royal Art Academy and the Albertinum Museum. You get great views of the river on one side (including where the steamers moor) as well as the Frauenkirche on the Old town side. Go to the western end of the Terrace for some incredible sunset views (see under 6 Schlossplatz).
3. Zwinger Palace
The Zwinger Palace is one of the finest examples of late Baroque architecture in Germany. Built between 1710 and 1728, the Zwinger was used for court festivities and tournaments. Today, the Baroque complex of pavilions, galleries and inner courtyards is home to museums, including the Old Masters Gallery, the Mathematical-Physical Salon (featuring historical clocks and astronomical instruments) and the Porcelain Collection (it holds the largest collection of Japanese porcelain outside Japan).
4. Semper Opera and Theatreplatz
Originally built in 1838, restoration of the Semper Opera was completed in 1985. It is known as one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world. Outside, in the Theatreplatz (Theater Square) is the statue of King Johann who was a fan of the arts and who translated Dante’s “Divine Comedy” into German. The Square has great views over of Dresden Cathedral (Cathedral of the Holy Trinity) as well as the Residenzschloss (Royal Palace) which are on the opposite site of the square from the opera house.
The Procession of Princes (Fürstenzug) depicts a parade of Saxonian princes, dukes, queens, scientists and soldiers and was commissioned to commemorate the 1000-year long reign of the Wettin dynasty. It is 330 feet long and is made out of 25,000 tiles. It is the largest porcelain picture in the world. The Fürstenzug might actually have been our highlight of the city, it is that impressive.
6. Schlossplatz (ie. “Castle” Square)
The Castle Square (Schlossplatz) is, in our opinion, Dresden’s most attractive square. It overlooks the Dresden Cathedral (Cathedral of the Holy Trinity) and the Residenzschloss (Royal Palace) on one side and leads to the Augustus Bridge on the other. The stairs on the eastern end of the square lead up to Brühl’s Terrace and a great viewpoint, especially as the sun is setting. Also leading off from the Schlossplatz is the Fürstenzug corridor.
7. Cross the Augustus Bridge
The Augustus Bridge is the most famous bridge across the River Elbe and connects the Old Town to the New Town. It was first mentioned in 1287 and is thus the oldest stone bridge north of the Alps. The Bridge located here today was built in 1907-1910 and was constructed to allow for shipping traffic (the original had 17 arches. Unless you had a canoe you might have had a hard time getting your boat through).
8. Walk through the Newtown (“Neustadt’)
The Neustadt does not have the architectural highlights of the Old Town – it is however peaceful, with a large tree-lined pedestrian street (Hauptsresse) with many small cafes and shops. You won’t see too many other tourists. See the Dreikönigskirche (church with another tower you can climb) and have a beer in the pretty biergarten below. Head back towards the river along Königstrasse (the most prestigious business address in Dresden) to the Japanese Palace (which has the State Museum of Ethnology). The Japanese Palace has an attractive promenade along the banks of the Elbe (continuation below).
9. Walk the banks of the Elbe
The Banks of the Elbe are very pretty from the Japanese Palace up to the Augustus Bridge. Residents of Dresden walk, have picnics, or ride their bikes along the path on this side of the river. There is also a Biergarten with great views on the river and the Old Town on the other side.
10. Take a river boat cruise
Take a boat trip on one of the historic paddle steamers on the river Elbe. There are all kinds of itineraries available including evening tours or tours down the river to the town of Meissen (where the porcelain for the Fürstenzug came from). They even go as far as Bad Schandau (about 6.5 hours one way).
Related: Which city to Visit: Leipzig or Dresden?
Accommodation: We stayed at the Aparthotels Münzgasse An der Frauenkirche on our 2nd trip and we recommend it highly. Try to stay there if you can. On our first stay we were at Maritim Hotel Dresden: also nice with competitive pricing.
Getting here from Prague: 2 1/2 hours by train. Trains go Prague – Dresden every 2 hours.
Car Rental. There’s lots to see in the area including the famous Bastei Bridge near the Czech border. We use Rentalcars.com, they give you the best rates on car rentals.
Tours: This 3 hour tour covers all the Historic Highlights and includes a tour in the opera house. Recommended.
Eating: Restaurants/bars at par with North American prices (ie. about double what we pay in Prague). Dresden is quite an upscale destination and there are a lot of expensive food options. The basement floor of the Altstadt-Galerie has some great cheap eats as well as a large market where you can pick up wine/food supplies. We often made ourselves sandwiches in the room. Sometimes you just get tired of always eating out.
Flying in: Dresden airport (code: DRS) is 9 km from the city center.
Have you been to Dresden?
Related: Which city to Visit: Leipzig or Dresden?
Related: 24 Hours in Munich
Related: What’s Heidelberg (Germany) like? Our thoughts
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I love Dresden! I just returned from an unforgettable trip. Love Frauenkirche and the museum linked to my ancestors in Neustadt. See you soon!
With the exception of the river cruise, we experienced everything on your list. Dresden is a lovely little city and well-worth visiting – as I mentioned in your other post. 🙂
Amazing information about this city I do not know much about quite frankly
I enjoyed your information very much and felt that I was the one who went 🙂
Thanks so much for the awesome tips and suggestions. I am heading there on Friday to take some pictures of the Christmas Markets and explore a little. I can’t wait! 🙂
Must be a great time to visit. I think you’ll love Dresden 😉
Dresden is one of the cities I’ve earmarked (together with Vienna, Budapest and Krakow, but I have the gut feeling Prague is too touristy and overpriced)) Ihave to visit in central Europe before I die! Back the I event sent a donation for the restorationof the Frauenkirche. The fact that I speak German I guess will go a long way in my future travels in central Europe!
Lucky you! I wish I had an EU passport!
Actually we’re BIG fans in Eastern Europe and have spent a total of 4 months in Prague and 3 in Budapest. We could live in Prague and no, it’s actually quite inexpensive. When we started travelling full time Prague was our first stop and we saved a lot of money. Loved it. True about the tourists but they’re always in the same places. It’s a place we could live.
Krakow is on our list.
Very generous about the donation. Dresden is a small city but very attractive.
I’ve just been to Dresden for the first time and loved it too. We actually stayed on an old boat moored on the river and hired bikes to cycle along the Elbe to some outlying castles and vineyards which was lovely, as well as visiting the old town.
Hey, that’s a great idea! How did you swing that? Do you have a link? Saw quite a lot of boats along the river and it’s for sure prime location.
Dee (Dee's Butterfly Garden)
I was really impressed with the architecture! I love the squares where people can walk and there aren’t any cars. The photos you took are absolutely amazing!!! This is a definitely a city I’d like to visit one day!!
Looking back, Dresden was one of the most impressive places we visited last year. We’d go back in a heartbeat!
Sand In My Suitcase
We visited Dresden during an annual SATW convention a few years ago – and were also very impressed by this pretty little city. Did you see the Green Vault? (housing Europe’s largest collection of treasures and amazing jewelry)? We were blown away by that. And one of the nicest afternoons we spent was bicycling along the Elbe River. Dresden is a place we could return to :-).
Amazing pictures Frank! I really loved my time in Dresden; we only spent a day, but I would love to get back to spend some more quality time exploring the city.
Once again your beautiful pictures drew me in! I had to look at them all before reading. The Zwinger Palace was especially interesting to me, I would love to walk the grounds but the Mathematical-Physical Salon would be my favorite. I love clocks!
Thank you for your comment Daidri! Have you seen the Astronomical clock in Prague?
Looks like a beautiful city. Germany is so underrated and Germans still suffer from a negative stereotype. But I love the country, it’s probably my favorite in all of Europe.
Agree with you Jack! Have had nothing but good experiences in Germany.
Valen-Your Own Life
These all look like fun things to do. The river boat cruise would be my favorite!!