Since the end of the Cold War, from 1989, Dresden’s cityscape has radically evolved and it has regained something approaching its former prestige as a world-class destination for tourists. As well as glorious baroque architecture, numerous galleries and exhibition locations, it now has around 48 museums. With so many to choose from we have chosen the very best.
New Masters Gallery (Galerie Neue Meister – at the Albertinum)
Floods in 20012 severely damaged the Albertinum, but subsequent restoration and renovation has created a fantastic space to showcase one of Dresden’s most significant art collections. Dating from the Romantic period to 21st century, the New Masters Gallery holds contemporary classics by Dresden-born Gerhard Richter, superb examples from Dresden’s renowned Die Brücke group, Impressionists such as Monet and Degas, and the greatest German Romantic artist, Caspar David Friedrich.
Old Masters Gallery (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister – at the Sempergalerie, Zwinger)
The natural partner for the Albertinum’s New Masters Gallery is the Old Masters Gallery, which is situated in the Semperbau, part of the magnificent baroque Zwinger complex. Most of the big names from art history are showcased at the Old Masters Gallery, including Vermeer’s Girl Reading, Raphael’s Sistine Madonna and numerous notable works by the likes of Correggio, Bellotto, Dürer, Rubens and Rembrandt.
Despite its clumsy name, the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum presents a superb family day out, and one with an interesting scientific bent. Firstly, the wonderful Functionalist architecture, created in the 1930s, has been extensively restored and updated to create a modern museum. The permanent Human Adventure follows its science focus so visitors better understand bodies and feelings, for example – check out the Transparent Woman, a fantastic talking point for kids and adults alike. There is also a terrifically interactive Children’s Museum, a language exhibition and various special exhibitions.
Originally built in the 1870s, the Bundeswehr Museum of Military History was renovated and extended in 2011 by US architect Daniel Liebeskind. The addition of Liebeskind’s transparent arrowhead wonderfully transformed the narrative of its neoclassical façade. The exhibition in Liebeskind’s extension is thematic rather than chronological, and it explores subjects such as ‘war and memory’ and ‘animals and military’. The old building explores the hugely challenging theme of German military history chronologically, from the Middle Ages to the present day, including the two World Wars.
The Dresden Residenzschloss was not only the Royal Palace but also the centre of power for the Wettin royal family from 1485. The palace was vacated in the post-First World War revolutionary period and was severely damaged in the February 1945 Allied bombing. Reconstructed over decades, today its exhibitions reflect the life and times of the palace and royal family. The historic Green Vault (Grünes Gewölbe) is a veritable treasure trove of art and jewellery, the Kupferstich-Kabinett holds a major collection of prints and the Rüstkammer is the former armoury presenting weapons from various historical periods.
Throughout Germany, a visit to a local Stadtmuseum (city museum) is often the best way to get a grasp on the local people, culture and history. Though around 40 per cent of Dresden’s City Museum artefacts were lost during the Second World War, thousands of photos, clothing, furniture and other long-standing or newly acquired artefacts take visitors through Dresden’s history – from its early settlement 800 years ago, through royal domination, industrialisation, dictatorships and the 1989 revolution.
Die Welt der DDR (The World of GDR – German Democratic Republic)
The accusation of ‘Ostalgie’ refers to residents of the former East Germany getting nostalgic about the former East (‘Ost’) Germany period, which ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. True or not, visitors can’t seem to get enough of museums dedicated to life during the period. Dresden’s Die Welt der DDR uses thousands of artefacts (Trabant cars, bikes, kitchen utensils, radios, TVs, furniture, flags and uniforms) to present a fascinating glimpse into life behind the Iron Curtain in Dresden up to 1989.