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In Dresden, the old and new constantly clash. In the Altstadt quarter, imposing Baroque buildings stand as witnesses of the city’s turbulent history and create a fascinating contrast to the cutting-edge creative vibe of Äußere Neustadt district across the Elbe river. Two days gives you an opportunity to explore the best of both worlds. Here’s an example itinerary for 48 hours in Dresden.
A delicious breakfast is the best way to start a jam-packed day of sightseeing. Dresden’s old town quarter is dotted with cafés offering breakfast and weekend brunch. The Hyperion Hotel restaurant Wohnstube has a sumptuous buffet with everything from croissants to sushi, while the Dresdner Kaffeestübchen banks on a no-fuss traditional German breakfast and regional specialities.
You could venture out on your own and explore the historic sights, but the guided tours, whether you walk or jump on a bus give you an excellent overview of what Dresden has to offer. If you have a bit of extra money to spend, the most fun way to explore Dresden is join the Trabi Safari (€49 / €69) around town. A guide in the first car of the convoy will tell you facts and fun anecdotes while you’re zipping past Dresden’s significant landmarks.
Back in the old town, take the time to get a closer look at Dresden’s most prominent landmarks. Up first is the Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady, which has become a global symbol of peace. After Allied bomb raid destroyed the church in World War II, international organisations came together to reconstruct it from scratch.
Stop for lunch at one of the traditional coffee houses, such as the Schinkelwache or the Grand Café & Restaurant Coselpalais before continuing to the Zwinger. You can explore outer galleries and the courtyard for free, but it’s worth investing €10 to see the 15th to 18th-century paintings at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister.
Another highlight is the Semperoper opera house which is across the vast Theaterplatz from the Zwinger. If time allows and you’re keen, it’s worth checking if guided tours are available for the afternoon. They run by different themes and give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the ostentatious interior and the history.
One of the city’s oldest buildings, the Royal Palace, is only a short stroll from here. The Baroque and Neo-Renaissance facade is impressive in itself but inside the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault) waits with Europe’s most extensive collection of treasures.
Äußere Neustadt is without doubt Dresden’s hippest district. Fancy boutiques, contemporary art galleries, countless of bars, cafés and clubs dominate the cityscape of the quarter. Make your way across the river for dinner at Altes Wettbüro, a restaurant/bar/cultural event space/nightclub that embraces fantastic food, retro interior and electronic music. You can stay for drinks and a night out afterwards or explore more of Dresden’s vibrant nightlife in the neighbourhood.
Äußere Neustadt doesn’t just have loud bars and clubs – it’s also lined with cute cafés perfect to start the day at or to come back to for a coffee break later. Lloyd’s Café & Bar and Planwirtschaft offer breakfast daily.
From here, head straight to the artist hub Kunsthofpassage around the corner. The area is a complex of five brightly painted courtyards, each dedicated to a different theme. A highlight is the courtyard of music where drain pipes and funnels are attached to the house fronts. When it rains, the water runs through the metal elements and creates musical sounds.
After the quick stop, have a peek (taking photos is prohibited) at the world’s most beautiful creamery, Pfunds Molkerei, around the corner. It’s a must for fans of cheese, and of Wes Anderson films – the entire downstairs room is decorated in colourful hand-painted tiles and made an appearance as Mendl’s Patisserie in The Grand Budapest Hotel.
The World of the GDR museum near Albertplatz lets you experience what life in a divided Germany was like. Everyday objects and stories discuss what going to school or work, planning holidays, doing grocery shopping, celebrating a birthday and playing sports was like behind the iron curtain.
From here, a 15-minute tram ride brings you to Watzke’s Wurstküche in the old town. The locale serves all kinds of meat-based delights, including creative homemade sausages with spinach and cheese or asparagus, along with their signature beer.
Take a bus or tram back to the Altstadt and browse the shops and boutiques and pick up some souvenirs before you head to the Brühlsche Terrasse for more pretty views and to watch the sunset over Dresden to catch the last glimpse of the grand architecture of the old town.
Given that you might still be stuffed from the hearty lunch at Watzke’s, Lila Sosse back in the Kunsthofpassage is a great compromise. All their dishes are served in tapas-sized jars so you can order a combination depending on how hungry you feel.
Round off your Dresden experience with a couple of drinks in one of the bars around the corner from here to say goodbye.
Do you have fewer than two days to spend in Dresden? Check out our itinerary for 24 hours in the city.