When you consider that Dresden was almost wiped off the map by Allied bombing in 1945, the city’s remarkable renaissance is all the more impressive. In fact, Dresden is today nicknamed Florence on the Elbe, a city that combines baroque architecture with a thriving modern arts scene and lively nightlife. On top of this, you’re just a hop, skip and a jump away from some of Germany’s most stunning wilderness. Here are some of the top things to see and do while you’re there.
Visit the Zwinger Palace
Immerse yourself in a world of festivals and historical drama when you try out Zwinger Palace’s virtual experience, which takes you back to 1709 the minute you don your headset. Then it’s time to really explore this magnificent baroque palace. Don’t miss The Crown Gate, topped with a huge replica of the Polish Crown worn by Augustus the Strong, and the beautiful Nymph’s bath fountain. The royal mansion also boasts an impressive collection of Old Masters, including Raphael’s Sistine Madonna.
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Symbolising the city of Dresden itself, the Frauenkirche, or Lady’s Church, rose from the ashes when it was rebuilt after it was bombed in 1945. However, it’s an exact replica of the original Lutheran church and visitors love the splendour of the octagonal hall and ornate altar. Climb up to the 67m (220ft) high viewing platform of the stone dome – it is well worth the effort as it offers unrivalled views over Dresden. Maria, one of the original bells from 1734, also lives up there.
Marvel at the treasures of the Green Vault
Prepared to be dazzled by gold, crystal and diamonds when you visit The Royal Treasury. Back in 1724, only those wearing clean clothes were able to view the priceless treasures of Augustus the Strong. Now, visitors from far and wide come to admire this collection of 3,000 pieces. The ornate, gold and mirrored rooms are works of art themselves, but the real jewel in the crown is the famous Mohr mit Smaragdstufe (Moor with Emerald Cluster) statuette. Be warned, visitor numbers are limited.
Walk along the bank of the Elbe River
Take in Dresden’s many spires and domes as you stroll along the northern banks of the Elbe river, a must for visitors to the city. The banks are a hive of activity, from families barbecuing and fishing boats bobbing past to al fresco cinema nights. Start at the Augustus Brücke and make your way down to the Albert Brücke before crossing to complete your loop. Tired legs? Hop on one of the numerous river tours available to view the city from the water.
Take a ride on the Schwebebahn
The Schebebahn or ‘floating train’ of Dresden is the oldest suspension railway in the world. It was first used in 1901 and hangs on a single rail from above. But don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe and it’s a fun, affordable way to explore the area. Catch the monorail from Loschwitz on the River Elbe and travel to the district of Oberloschwitz. Soak up the views of the countryside as you ascend 84m (276ft) up the steep mountainside.
Head to the Theaterplatz and Semperoper
Dresden’s iconic Old Town Square is surrounded by the city’s landmarks – from the Zwinger to the Cathedral as well as several galleries and museums. Sit by the statue of the 19th-century ruler, King John of Saxony, and enjoy an ice cream before taking a guided tour of the neo-renaissance Semper Opera House. It’s known for its lavish auditorium and world-beating acoustics. Time it right and you can enjoy a performance from the Saxon State Opera.
Admire the view from Brühl’s Terrace
Nicknamed the Balcony of Europe, Brühl’s Terrace was once the ramparts of a fort built to protect the city. Now, the fortification has been replaced by a beautiful garden and the terrace serves as a promenade, offering incredible views of the river. Four sculpture groups on the staircase represent morning, noon and night. From here, you can see over to the New Town. Look out for local artists peddling their wares along the terrace.
Shop at the beautiful Pfunds Molkerei
The Dresdner Molkerei Gebrüder Pfund calls itself ‘the most beautiful milk shop in the world’ and it’s easy to see why. Decked out in ornate hand-painted ceramic tiles, it certainly isn’t like any other dairy we’ve ever seen. Locals and tourists visit for the milk, liquor, wine, cheese and yoghurt on offer. If you’re after an unusual gift, the speciality milk soap promises to leave your skin silky smooth. There’s also a restaurant serving traditional Eierschecke (similar to cheesecake), ice cream and shakes.
Hike through the Sächsische Schweiz
With its strange rock formations, sandstone cliffs and towering peaks, the Saxon Switzerland Mountains are the only rock national park in Germany. Loved by climbers, the 700sqm (7534sqft) area is also a huge draw for hikers, cyclists or those just hoping to lose themselves in the wilderness. Look out for otters, eagle owls and even the odd dormouse or two. Trains leave Dresden every 30 minutes to Bad Schandau on the edge of the park.
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