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Dresden’s Inner Altstadt is the perfect place to get familiar with the city’s history, culture and architecture. Starting at Theaterplatz and ending at the oldest place in the city’s history, the Altmarkt, a morning or afternoon walking tour takes visitors swiftly to some of Europe’s most beautiful buildings: sensational Baroque architecture, a riverside stroll and a classic communist-era landmark.
Theaterplatz, located a short distance from the River Elbe, is a central gathering point for locals and visitors alike. It opens onto the Zwinger complex of buildings, a must-visit for any traveler. Labeled as a Gesamtkunstwerk – “complete work of art” – it was rebuilt after the destruction of the Second World War, similar to most of the Altstadt buildings that exist today. This Baroque jewel is home to the Old Masters Gallery at the Sempergalerie, the Mathematics-Physics Museum and Porcelain Collection. The Nymphenbad is a beautiful example of a Baroque fountain. Exit the Zwinger and on the left is the world-renowned Semper Opera House, originating in 1878 and reopened after a rebuild in 1985 restored it to all its High Renaissance splendor.
Semper Opera House, Theaterplatz 2, Dresden, Germany, +49 351 491 1705
Zwinger, Sophienstraße, Dresden, Germany, +49 351 491 4 2000
At the end of the Brühlsche Terrasse is the Albertinum, which was once the location for the Armoury of the Dresden Fortress, and since the 19th-century home to city art collections. One of the few buildings to escape almost total destruction in the February 1945 Allied bombing raids, it had to be restored and refurbished after catastrophic flooding in 2002. Constructed between in 1884–1887, it now houses the fabulous New Masters Gallery and the Sculpture Gallery – and, sensibly, it features flood-safe storage areas.
Albertinum, (entrance Brühlsche Terrasse and Georg-Treu-Platz) Dresden, Germany, +49 351 491 4 2000
After leaving the Albertinum, a minute across the Brühlsche Garten, still just a few feet away from the Elbe, is the city’s New Synagogue. The new series of structures here for the city’s Jewish community was finished in 2001 and they are hugely symbolic. The Semper Synagogue, named after its designer and dating back to 1840, was one of thousands of Jewish buildings destroyed across Germany in 1938’s notorious Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass).
New Synagogue, Hasenberg 1, Dresden, Germany, +49 351 656 071 0
At the end of the Stallhof, walk along Schlosstraße, which leads on to Seestraße, to the Altmarkt. On the way, you’ll walk past the Kulturpalast, a fantastic communist-era structure that reopened in early 2017 and is now home to the Dresden Philharmonic and the city library. The Altmarkt is arguably the heart of Dresden’s Altstadt, a place first recorded being used in 1370, making it the oldest part of the city. A former location for city festivals and tournaments, at the end of the Second World War the whole area was little but rubble. Slowly rebuilt over many decades, it is now packed with cafés, restaurants, hotels and apartments, often with Baroque-era façades. With a history going back to 1434, the Altmarkt’s Dresdener Striezelmarkt is the oldest Christmas market in Germany.
Kulturpalast, Schloßstr. 2, Dresden, Germany, +49 351 494 7390