11 things to do in Dresden
Ask any tourist which German city he would visit again, you’re sure to hear the answer: “Dresden!” This city has a special place in the hearts of thousands of travelers for a reason, because Dresden is the cultural capital of Germany, endowed with a special atmosphere of post-medieval baroque.
Despite the fact that baroque is far from modern style in architecture, Dresden is as young as ever. The fact is that during World War II it was destroyed almost to the ground. Scientists assessed the damage brought to the city as “irreparable”: 96% of everything that existed (administrative buildings, apartment houses, monuments, etc.) were lost. But despite everything, like a phoenix from the ashes, Dresden arose, impressing viewers with its wealth and splendor. At least for that, you should give it credit by visiting the Saxon capital as a curious guest.
11 things to do in Dresden
Tourists often go on trips with a checklist, some even doing special tasks devised by fellow travelers. Sometimes these tasks can be confusing, surprising or even desperate, but one thing is certain: they are sure to leave a lot of impressions. For those who don’t know what they are going to do in Dresden (and friends who are tourism fans are unfortunately not around), we suggest reading our version of the check-list.
Cross the bridge over the Elbe and dive into bohemian life
After crossing the river across the bridge, you get from the Old Town to the area they call the New Outer Town. This place is very special indeed. Almost every building attracts the attention of tourists with its unique decoration. It’s as if the neighborhood was left to the mercy (in a good sense!) of artists and young architects while it was still under construction. Here are large-scale graffiti, ready to compete with famous masterpieces of art, provocative installations, and the houses themselves as if copied from fantasy books.
Most of the first floors are devoted to numerous cafes, bars, art galleries, and mini-museums (basement exhibition halls). Going into one of the institutions, you can meet very funny companies of street artists, artists, musicians and other representatives of bohemian life.
New Outer City is an ideal place to spend time in cheerful company, make unusual acquaintances, surprise your friends back home with an unusual photo shoot, buy souvenirs and just take a leisurely stroll in the afternoon, looking around.
Gain a sense of nostalgia for the remnants of socialism
Wandering around Dresden, you might stumble upon some echoes of socialism, such as the local equivalent of the Palace of Culture, the facade of which bears a glass panel depicting typical images of that era: workers in uniform, women in robes and kerchiefs, sickle, hammer, and other trappings.
It’s also not uncommon to see Russian-language graffiti, which you definitely won’t pass by.
Get in touch with the beautiful by doing a run through the museums.
To go around all of the important museums of Dresden in one day is unreal, because this city itself is a big museum. Among the most popular institutions for tourists, you can distinguish two categories:
- Museums for lovers of the classics;
- Unusual museums for those who usually sleep at the opera.
The classical representatives include such institutions as the Military Historical Museum, the Zwinger, the Old Masters Gallery, the State Art Museum, the Armory, etc.; they are certainly worth visiting for general development, even if you are not particularly interested in classical art. But the more unusual places – the Albertinum, the Museum of Hygiene, the Museum of Transport are better to visit after the timeless classics.
In order not to waste a lot of time bypassing the key sights of the city, and to create the most complete cultural picture of Dresden in the shortest possible time, we suggest following this route:
The starting point is the Altstadt – the heart of the old city. Here begins the classic Dresden. Here the main attraction is the Frauenkirche, under the dome of which, if you wish, you can climb. From the height you can enjoy a stunning view of the city.
Next is the Academy of Art and the Zwinger Palace, which is home to the Dresden Art Gallery. Here you should definitely visit the Sistine Madonna, canvases by Vermeer, Rembrandt and other Renaissance masters.
After the classical beauty, we turn our attention to more modern art and move to the Gallery of the New Masters – Albertinum. It encompasses many branches and trends of art, so before you go there, search for exhibits of interest online.
The conclusion of the cultural route will be a visit to the Museum of Transport and the Museum of Hygiene. The latter, by the way, is very entertaining with its methods of human study. Here you can playfully pass a telekinesis test or test your body by trying to live for a few minutes as if you were ill with a serious illness.
Visit Dresden at Christmas and the famous Christmas Market
For a month (from mid-November to December 25) at the end of the year Dresden is transformed. It becomes the very city from the Christmas picture. Every year this is Germany’s oldest Christmas fair, attracting crowds of visitors not only from all over the country, but also from all over the world!
The Stiltsmarkt is the heart of the fair. This place has been pleasing residents and guests of the city every year since 1434 with the traditional festivities.
This year the fair began its work on November 24, and this holiday will last until December 24. The Stollen-fest on the eve of Christmas will be the crowning event, where according to tradition, the giant holiday pie, baked by the best bakers from all over Germany, will move through the streets of the city. The pie will be cut and every guest will get a slice.
But even if you don’t get to the center of the action, Christmas won’t pass you by. There are plenty of themed fairgrounds scattered around the city. Food lovers can visit the Residenzscholz, where they can enjoy traditional dishes and hot mulled wine while admiring the medieval architecture, and children will love skating in the Frauenkirche market area.
Grass in Grossen Garden
In your pursuit of the city’s sights, don’t forget to take a moment to relax. Head for the park! Thankfully, more than 50% of Dresden is covered by parkland, so you don’t have to look far and wide to find a place to relax.
One of the largest and most landscaped parks is the Grossen Garden. It is located in the center of the city and covers an area of 2 km 2 . It’s not uncommon to see couples on a picnic or children playing catch-up. Those who like to walk under the shade of trees in the Großen Garden also like it – the lawns flow seamlessly into the city grove and the Dresden Heide forest.
Visit the Queer Neustadt neighborhoods and “spit on your finances” for a moment
An entire state with its own branch of government, president, ideology and even state holidays that are still celebrated today was organized in the Outer New Town (or Bohemian District) from 1990 to 1993 by dissenting rebellious youths.
Among the state’s memorable sites were the “Ministry of Vandalism” and the “Ministry of Fiscal Indifference. But, as is characteristic of enthusiastic youth, the undertaking very quickly bored the organizers and they switched to other pranks, and the state gradually collapsed. Now only a few districts are left of the riot movement. Of course, all this was preserved primarily to attract tourists and does not bear a serious historical load.
Go to a soccer match with the local team (a must for Dynamo fans!)
Don’t expect anything super unusual from the skills of the local soccer team except that it proudly bears the name “Dinamo”. But if you get a chance, be sure to visit this atmospheric event: vivid impressions are guaranteed!
Take a November tour of the nightlife and have a good time
Every year at the end of November Dresden becomes the night capital of Germany. During this time, the nightclubs and bars operate nonstop and don’t open until daybreak. Young people gather in large groups and wander from bar to bar or simply walk the streets of the city until dawn, singing and dancing.
What’s surprising is that the authorities actively support this recreational format. In November, even the Dresden buses run through the city around the clock, taking noisy groups home or to intermediate stops near the bars.
The whole affair is called Unity Dresden Night.
The best places to visit at this time of year are:
- M5 is an international-class club that often hosts world-renowned DJs and club personalities. There is always ultramodern music and wild parties;
- Dance Factory is a picturesque place where the music is dominated by techno and hip-hop styles;
- Motown is a nightclub for those who like it hot. More mature party-goers tend to go there;
- Showbox – The most unconventional club in every sense. If Showbox is throwing a party, you can be sure that everything will be at the highest level. Every detail is thought out down to the last detail. Perfectionists will love it! By the way, the representatives of non-traditional sexual orientation most often gather here.
Have a famous ice cream at AltMarct
The AltMarct Gallery is located in the heart of the city and is famous not only for its delicious ice cream, but also for the abundance of shopping pavilions. It is a building with a long history (about 800 years!): The gallery was built on the site of the old city market, which, almost like everything in the city, was destroyed during the war. Work on the restoration of the entire shopping complex, consisting of 3 parts, connected to each other by glass corridors, was carried out until 2002.
If you want to buy several packages of souvenirs and gifts for grandparents, children, mother-in-law, and other dear relatives in the shortest possible time, Altmarkt is the best place for such shopping.
In addition, here you can find dozens of cool stores of cosmetics, perfumes and outerwear, tasty food, fun and interesting rest: there are cinemas, comfortable recreation areas, restaurants, cafes, entertainment rooms and much more.
P.S. And ice-cream here is really delicious!
Mode of gallery work: from 10:00 to 21:00 (weekend – Sunday).
Endless Tram rides
Fans of European tramways should allocate half a day to walk around the city. Many tourists note that they have never seen such long streetcars! In addition, to move around the city on them is very convenient. The fare is the same as a bus ride. You can buy a group ticket (for a company of up to 5 people) for the whole day, which will cost about 10 euros and enjoy a leisurely stroll through the city in a yellow box. By the way, tickets are sold in convenient vending machines right on the street. You just need to stamp it when boarding yourself or ask the controller.
Dance to a street orchestra performance
Psychologists recommend to start every morning with a dance! We recommend you to do it not only in the morning but after a long day full of impressions. Luckily in Dresden you can do it everywhere you go. In the evenings the main streets are crammed with musicians, masquerade-dressed actors and other bohemians – music pours out everywhere and you just can’t resist!
How to see Dresden in one day without any fuss!
Friends, I must warn you that seeing Dresden in one day is not an easy task. However, this is the format of exploring the beautiful city on the Elbe that most travelers practice. Tourists often choose to take a day trip to Dresden from Prague or other nearby cities, rather than specifically go for a few days to the capital of Saxony. But even in this short time you want to see if not all, then at least the main sights. And of course, everyone dreams to see with their own eyes the Sistine Madonna by Raphael, so they intend to visit the art gallery (on the photo – the east wing of the gallery).
The shortest amount of time you can devote to the Dresden Gallery is about 2 hours. This is the minimum that should be built into your tour plan. Now art lovers will bring down on me all their indignation, not even thinking that you can run through the halls filled with masterpieces for two hours. So just in case, I repeat that this is the minimum for those who want to see something else in Dresden.
Now let’s plan the trip for the whole day and make an itinerary for a walk around Dresden from 10 am to 6 or 7 pm. Let’s decide on the following questions:
- Approximate walking route through the center of Dresden on the map
- What sights to include in the itinerary
- Which museums to visit
Approximate route in Dresden.
I suggest you look at the map, where large arrows indicate where you will be heading to the historic center of Dresden.
The mark on the left is where the tourist buses most often stop, taking passengers directly to the Zwinger. The arrow at the bottom – this is how you will get from the main train station if you come to Dresden by train or Student agency bus from Prague. You can walk from the train station to the Zwinger in about 20 minutes, or you can take the streetcar number 8 to the Theaterplatz.
Note the asterisks. This way are labeled museums and churches that you want to visit. One of the stars is green and indicates the location of the world famous “Green Vaults”. This is a special museum of Dresden’s royal residence that requires advance ticket reservations. In addition, if you immerse yourself in looking at the treasures on display in the seven halls and the Amber Cabinet, then any itineraries will fall away for you and the only problem will be catching your bus or train in time to get back.
In my opinion, if you go to Dresden for 1 day you should immediately decide if you intend to see the city and visit the museums of the Zwinger, or devote 80% of the time to the Green Vaults and take a glimpse of the architecture of the historic center.
The arrows I’ve drawn on the map are more than enough for a one-day excursion.
What sights to see in Dresden in a day and what time to see them
When you arrive in Dresden, you are well on your way to the Zwinger from the Crown Gate. You can also enter the palace complex from the other side, but why deliberately ignore such an imposing gate:
One could go on and on about the Zwinger’s High Baroque. I recommend you to read and see the photos in the article dedicated to this architectural ensemble. And I will draw your attention to the signs on the map. With a semicircular arrow I direct you to the upper galleries. In the Zwinger you shouldn’t just walk around the large indoor square admiring the pavilions.
Be sure to walk upstairs through the On the Shaft or the Bell Tower pavilion. Real avenues await you there, framed by sculptures and beautiful views of the castle. I have no doubt that you will enjoy seeing Satyrs and Angels and Beauties and Monsters up close.
Do not think about museums yet, but the fountain Bathing Nymphs must visit. As a bathing fountain should be, this fountain is hidden from view, and you must go to it through the French Pavilion. A short arrow on the map points to it.
After viewing the Zwinger from all sides, we head through the arch of the art gallery to the Theaterplatz, where a rider attracts attention in the center.
A monument to King Johann of Saxony, the most learned and fond of science, rises in the center of the spacious square, which is dominated by the Dresden State Opera.
But whichever way you look around the monument’s pedestal, the square is surrounded by majestic architecture. The spires of the castle and the original tower of the Catholic church are particularly striking.
From the Theater Square head to the Palace Square – Schlossplatz, which is practically on the bank of the Elbe by the Augustus Bridge. It is a small square, but it can be considered a tourist epicenter. The St. George’s Gate of the royal residence, the ceremonial view of the Catholic cathedral, the staircase of Brühl’s terrace – it’s all there.
But before you aim for the top of the stairs, I recommend taking half an hour and visiting the cathedral. The newly rebuilt Cathedral is original not only from the outside.
An unusual layout with a circular gallery for the procession, the white-gold interiors are recreated exactly as they were once created by the court architect Permoser. See photos of the interior.
And now let’s go for a walk on Brühl’s Terrace or Balcony of Europe, as they call the upper part of the promenade in Dresden. I have already presented the walk in detail and with a video on the blog. Follow this link.
The half kilometer long terrace will end with the Dolphin Fountain and a small upper park called the Brühl Garden. It’s a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the beautiful views. Such as:
Did you recognize the dome of the Cathedral of Our Lady? Straight from Brühl’s Garden we head toward the cathedral, first descending the stairs and then looking out over the impressive facades of the Academy of Arts.
The Frauenkirche in Dresden occupies a large part of Neumarkt square. The Church of Our Lady, like the Phoenix bird, rose from the ashes very recently. Only in 2005 was the restoration completed. Be sure to visit the temple. If you manage to find time to get to the observation deck under the dome, you’ll be doubly impressed.
After that the Stables yard and the procession of the princes are still waiting for you. On the map I pictured them as almost parallel arrows. But I feel that you will be hungry by this time. So I made another designation on my map, linking Neumarkt and Brühl’s Terrace.
The arrow points to where a lot of shops are concentrated and the aroma of grilled sausages wafts overhead. Stop there for half an hour, or sit on a bench in Brühl’s garden with homemade sandwiches, and then explore the nicknames of the Saxon rulers in the Procession of Princes with new energy. If you walk along the outer wall, you will see pictures of the Electors, if you step through the arch, you will find yourself in the Stables courtyard:
This is the area of the former royal residence. The castle residence has several courtyards, one of which is covered by a glass domed roof. If you find yourself in such a courtyard, then you are one step away from the entrance to the Green Vaults Museum. But, as I noted above, you can’t visit the treasury without a reservation. So follow to the Bell Pavilion to find yourself back in the Zwinger, where other very interesting museums await you.
Let’s see how your time will be distributed in the walk:
A tour of the architecture of the Zwinger – 1 hour.
Sightseeing of Theater Square and Schlossplatz – 1 hour.
Walk on the Brühl’s Terrace – 30 minutes.
Walk to Neumarkt square and visit the Frauenkirche church – 1 hour.
Rest and snack – 30 minutes.
The picture of the Procession of the Princes and the Courtyards of the Royal Residence – 1 hour.
After starting your walk at about 10 am, by 3 pm you can return to the Zwinger to visit the museums.
By the way, I’ll point out to the skeptics that you can walk around this entire ring at a brisk pace in one hour. But… think carefully about whether you really need to see the sights of Dresden.
What museums to visit in Dresden
The Zwinger is home to three museums that can be visited with a single ticket for 10 euros: the Art Gallery, the Porcelain Collection and the Salon for Physics and Mathematics.
The museums are open until 6 p.m., so allocate the remaining three hours as you see fit. The ticket office is on the basement floor of the art gallery – see the Old Masters Gallery article for details. Also keep in mind that Monday is a day off.
If you are interested in other exhibitions, visit the Transportation Museum in the Johannia building or see the collection of sculptures and oriental applied art in the Albertinum. Or give preference to the Armory and the Numismatic Room in the St. George’s Gate Palace of the Royal Residence. By the way, they are open on Mondays, and the day off is moved to Tuesdays.
Or maybe you are more interested not in museums, but in the musical program of Dresden? Perhaps you would like to enjoy a concert in the Zwinger, a performance in the Semperoper or a concert of organ music in the Frauenkirche. Take a look at the current offer for the dates of your trip: Concerts in Dresden .
Practical suggestions for planning a trip to Dresden
If you want to see as much as possible, it’s best to bring a couple of sandwiches with you on your trip and not waste time visiting a café or restaurant. That way, you can curl up in one of the lovely gardens in downtown Dresden and grab a snack while sitting on a bench or right on the grass. Of course, this tip is only for a warm season trip.
If you want, run in for a reasonably priced cup of coffee at Café Praha, located near Altmarkt Square.
In winter, go to the restaurant for a snack and a warm meal without thinking twice. For example, in “Odessa”, located next to the Zwinger almost opposite the Crown Gate. There you can at least get through it quicker, without wasting precious minutes on conversations with the waiter in different languages.)
Fans of shopping, probably, much earlier get off the sightseeing distance and move in the direction of Altmarkt square, where large shopping centers are concentrated. But even after the full sightseeing, you can run through the Altmarkt on your way to the train station and buy souvenirs or do a little shopping. As you can see, and for one day in Dresden you can do a lot. So have a great trip, my friends!