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Dresden is a city of contrasts. Masterpieces of Baroque architecture are virtually littered across the old town, while hip and trendy bars, boutiques and cutting-edge art galleries have moved into the new quarter across the river. While 24 hours isn’t a lot of time to explore it all, it’s enough to get an overview. We’ve done a bit of cherry-picking for you and created a jam-packed itinerary with Dresden’s absolute highlights.
Kick off the day with a sumptuous breakfast at Café Europa. On the menu are country-themed platters, from Greek to Norwegian. The locale has somewhat reached cult status as Dresden’s only café that’s open 24/7. Don’t be surprised if you’re joined by guests who stumble in on the way home from their night out – the café sits in the heart of the city’s hippest quarter, Äußere Neustadt, known for its vibrant nightlife, but more on that later.
After the quick stop, jump on a tram towards the Altstadt, the old town of Dresden. You have the choice between a hop on/hop off bus tour of the city centre and surrounding districts, a guided walking tour around the old town or you can go and explore on your own. If you prefer to see the main sights at your own pace, then start at Postplatz and take in the grandeur of Dresden’s architectural masterpieces.
Like the rest of Dresden, the Zwinger was largely destroyed by the Allied bomb raids during the Second World War but rebuilt to its pre-war state afterwards. Admission to the exterior galleries and the beautiful courtyard is free and a great place to start. Make your way to the world-renowned Semperoper opera house afterwards and join an hour-long behind-the-scenes tour (€11) of the lavishly decorated rooms.
You’ll be pleased to hear that the old town district is home to many traditional coffee houses that serve lunch, and most importantly incredibly delicious cakes, gateaux, tarts and pralines. The Grand Café Coselpalais and Café Schinkelwache are both excellent choices, and their culinary treats will bolster you up for the afternoon.
Up next is the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault) at the Dresdner Residenzschloss. The royal treasury houses one of the world’s most significant collections of jewellery and art. The rooms are luxuriously decorated, and filigree gold art pieces, coins, gemstones, statuettes, diamonds and other items of inestimable value are laid out in glass vitrines. The entrance fee of €12 seems insignificant in comparison.
Continue your sightseeing tour with Dresden’s most famous landmark, the Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady. After being destroyed during World War II, the Frauenkirche was reconstructed from the ashes with the help of international organisations and has become a symbol of peace and reconciliation. Admission to the church is free, but you might want to spend the €8 to climb up the cupola for panoramic views over the city centre.
For more stunning views, head to the Brühlsche Terrasse, which has been dubbed the ‘Balcony of Europe’. The riverside terrace is a great spot to watch as the sun sets over Dresden’s historic skyline and the Elbe River.
After touring the historical highlights that the old town has to offer, it’s time to venture back across the river to Äußere Neustadt. Lila Sosse provides a smooth transition. The gastropub sits in the Kunsthofpassage artist hub and puts a modern twist on traditional German cuisine and serves all of its dishes in tapas-sized jelly jars.
After dinner, it’s time to dive into the buzzing nightlife of the trendy district. Numerous pubs, bars and clubs line the streets between Albertplatz and Stauffenbergallee. Pinta is good for cocktails, Gin House Dresden for gin and Altes Wettbüro if you want to dance the night away, but it’s best to just ask around for where to go and allow yourself to drift along and see where the night takes you. Who knows? You might end up at Café Europa in the early hours of the morning.