If you were to rank German cities by their splendour and grandeur, Dresden would no doubt make the top three. Often dubbed the Florence of the North, the Saxon capital never fails to charm visitors with masterpieces of Baroque architecture, artistic treasures and romantic Elbe River views. The Church of Our Lady, Zwinger and Semperoper opera house are must-sees when you’re in town. At the same time, Dresden has seen a multitude of modern galleries and boutiques and trendy cafés and bars appear in the Äußere Neustadt quarter, creating a fascinating blend of old and new.
Skiing, Christmas tree ornaments, traditional wood carvings and castle-crowned hilltops sum up the essence of the Ore Mountains which run along the German-Czech border. Spectacular hikes, captivating museums and tranquil village make the Erzgebirge a year-round destination but the winter months, December, in particular, are the most magical. The entire region is dipped beneath metres of snow while festivals, and Christmas markets are on the agenda.
There’s no point denying that Leipzig has seen an unbelievable boost in popularity over the last five years or so, some people even claim it’s the new Berlin. With cutting-edge art galleries and workshops moving into the disused industrial complex Baumwollspinnerei; the techno clubs in Plagwitz and Südvorstadt; and imposing landmarks which bore witness to the turbulent and intriguing history – Leipzig offers a countless of opportunities to delve into the city’s past and experience the local student life.
Wedged against the German-Polish border 110 kilometres east of Dresden lies one of the most underrated towns in Germany. Görlitz lures with its preserved medieval charm and stunning architectural landmarks, such as the Reichenbach tower which stands as a remnant of the ancient city fortification, the Renaissance Schönhof house and the St Marienthal Abbey.
If you’re after outdoorsy adventures, you’ll be delighted to hear that Saxony offers more than just one spot to explore the wondrous German landscapes. What’s probably one of the most beautiful national parks in Germany, lures with mythical, finger-like rock formations, gorgeous valleys, waterfalls and an array of hiking trails and climbing routes. The highlights of a trip to the Saxon Switzerland park are the Bastei bridge, Lilienstein table mountain and the jagged Schrammstein rocks.
One of Europe’s largest fortresses towers on a plateau which rises over the Elbe River near Dresden. The complex encompasses more than 50 individual buildings which are encircled by massive sandstone walls soaring 42 metres high. Over the course of its 400-year-long existence, the Königstein Festung was used as a fort and prison and today functions as an open-air military history museum.
If you’re headed to Bautzen or Görlitz, it’s worth planning for a detour via the magical Kromlau Park. The lush landscape gardens are known for the mesmerising sea of blooming azalea and rhododendron flowers in spring and the arched Devil’s Bridge, or Rakotzbrücke. The structure was purposely designed to create a perfect circle when the bridge is reflected on the surface of the lake below.
Saxony’s most beautiful gardens are found just outside of Dresden and see thousands of visitors flock to the beautifully designed park every year. Pillnitz Castle served as the summer residence for previous noblemen and is composed of several Baroque-style buildings, surrounded by more than 23 hectares of parklands. Today, the palace is home to the Arts and Crafts Museum and the Palace Museum.
While Meissen is first and foremost associated with the delicate tableware and figurines produced by the 300-year-old Meissen porcelain manufactory, the city offers more than just high-end china. The city clasps to the Elbe riverbanks and is surrounded by miles and miles of vine-clad hills with endless views, and the old town is studded with historic sights, all crowned with the hilltop 930 AD Albrechtsburg Castle.
Bautzen is perched on the Spree river banks in eastern Saxony, its skyline dominated by the medieval Ortenburg Castle and the Alte Wasserkunst tower. You can easily spend a day or two exploring this little gem of a town and its other attractions. St Peter’s Cathedral is another not-to-miss sight alongside the Reichenturm Tower and the Sorb National Museum which is dedicated to the life and culture of the ethnic minority.