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As beautiful as Prague is, I couldn’t cope with the drunkenness so prevalent in the city during my visit. So I left the Czech capital one day early, visiting Dresden on my way to Berlin for my flight home.
Dresden is the half-way point between Berlin and Prague, approximately 2 hours from each city by train. Having passed through Dresden on the Berlin to Prague train journey a few days earlier, I knew the approximate layout of the city.
For further information on Germany, have a look at my Germany Travel Tips post.
WHERE TO STAY IN DRESDEN
With only one day in Dresden, I had to figure out what to see in order to maximise my time there. Close access to the sights of interest would dictate my accommodation choice. Thankfully most of the landmarks were located in the Altstadt (Old Town) on the south bank of the River Elbe.
Dresden Hauptbahnhof (main railway station) is located immediately south of the Altstadt so I chose to stay in the IBIS Budget Dresden City Hotel, convenient for both the Altstadt and the railway station. It comes recommended for its quality and helpful staff.
For other accommodation choices in Dresden, have a look at Booking.com.
To put the sites into context, here’s a brief history of Dresden.
For centuries, Dresden was the seat of royalty up to the end of World War I in 1918. After 1918, it continued to be the capital city of the German state of Saxony.
Dresden was pretty much destroyed by Allied bombing in 1945. The city ended up in communist East Germany after World War II. Re-construction began on much of the Old Town and continues to this day, with architects sticking to the baroque and classic styles of the original buildings.
VISITING DRESDEN: TOP SITES
The Zwinger is a royal palace and gardens built by Augustus II, monarch of Saxony, in the 18th century. It is one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in Germany. It includes a museum dedicated to scientific instruments, art, sculptures and porcelain. Dresden is well-known for porcelain as Augustus II set up Europe’s first porcelain factory in Meissen, a town located near Dresden.
- OPERA HOUSE (SEMPEROPER)
Immediately to the north of the Zwinger lies Dresden’s ornate opera house. A 19th century construct, it also stages ballet performances in its palatial interior. Outside is a statue of King Johann.
- CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL (HOFKIRCHE)
A couple of steps to the east of the Opera House lies the Hofkirche. When it was built in the 18th century, Saxony was a predominantly Protestant state. In order for Augustus II to claim the Polish crown, he needed to convert to Catholicism, building a fine Baroque-style cathedral for himself. The organ inside the cathedral is to be seen to be believed.
The Schlossplatz is a square immediately to the east of the Hofkirche and is a popular meeting point. Most of the buildings in the Schlossplatz are government administrative buildings but are incredibly ornate. The Georgentor Gate leading into the Schlossplatz’s south-side is also worthy of your camera’s attention.
- BRUHL’S TERRACE
Bruhl’s Terrace is a raised platform to the east of Schlossplatz that overlooks the River Elbe. Also known as the Balcony of Europe, it’s a wonderful place for a stroll and leads to the picturesque Bruhl’s Gardens.
There are some exquisite buildings dotted along Bruhl’s Terrace some of which contain eateries. If you find yourself in Dresden on a warm, sunny day, then this is the place to chill with the drink of your choice.
The imposing building directly across the River Elbe from Bruhl’s Terrace is the Saxony State Ministry of Culture.
- FURSTENZUG (PROCESSSION OF PRINCE’S MURAL)
On Augustusstrasse, off Schlossplatz, one will find the Furstenzug mural. It is 102 metres in length and depicts the Saxony rulers from 1127 onwards. It was originally painted in the late 19th century but replaced in the early 20th century by porcelain tiles from Meissen for durability. It is an extraordinary piece of work, all of which will not fit into one camera frame!
- DRESDEN CASTLE/ROYAL PALACE (RESIDENZSCHLOSS)
Dresden Castle, south of the Hofkirche, is a large complex spread out over a number of buildings that were constructed during different eras, hence the differing architectural styles. The complex houses a number of museums including the Green Vault, site of the largest collection of treasures in Europe.
The Green Vault was also the site of the largest jewellery heist in history when an estimated €1bn worth of treasures were stolen in 2019.
The Neumarkt area was completely destroyed in the 1945 bombing including the Lutheran Frauenkirche church. For decades the remains were left idle until the 1990s when a reunified Germany brought a new impetus to re-build.
Reconstruction started in 1992 using the original 18th century plans. The re-build was completed in 2005 and is one of the finest churches in Europe I’ve seen. The Frauenkirche is an unmissable site when visiting Dresden.
Like the Frauenkirche, the other Neumarkt buildings are also re-builds but in the Baroque style. Cafes and restaurants are dotted around the area, making it a pleasant stop on a trip to Dresden.
SHOPPING IN DRESDEN
While the sightseeing part of my unplanned trip to Dresden was a pleasant activity, it was the city’s plethora of shops that were the real discovery. The Altmarkt-Galerie and Centrum-Galerie shopping centres were very close to my accommodation, along with the department store of Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof.
HOW MANY DAYS IN DRESDEN?
It’s possible to skim all of the above sites in one long day. If you want to look at the sites in more detail and have time for shopping, two days is ideal for visiting Dresden.
DRESDEN PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Getting to Dresden
Germany is one of the best countries in Europe for public transport. I travelled to Dresden from Prague by train with Czech Railways. You can also buy tickets from the Deutsche Bahn website but they are more expensive than the Czech Railways website. Further information on German rail travel can be found in my Germany by Train post.
I travelled onwards to Berlin by Flixbus, picking up the bus on the street directly south of Dresden’s Hauptbahnhof. The bus stopped at a number of places in Berlin including the airport. I exited the bus at Alexanderplatz in central Berlin.
Getting around Dresden
If you stay in the Altstadt area, you will be able to walk to all of the above sites. If you want to explore the outskirts of the city, Dresden has a comprehensive tram and bus system. The overview of routes is on the DVB website.