Dresden is called the “Florence on Elba” because of its beautiful architectural design. This charming city is the capital of German county or state of Saxony, with more than 512,000 residents.
The first communities here were founded in the Neolithic period, and the Dresden, as we know it today, was founded in the 12th century by Slavs. The name Dresden has roots in ancient Slav language that stands for residents of the swampy area – Drežd’any.
Thanks to the mine, Dresden develops very fast. At the beginning of the 18th century, Dresden has become the artistic center. This city is important for German and European culture because, Friedrich Schiller wrote here the anthem of Europe, “Ode of Joy.”
There are so many things to do in Dresden. A day or the whole weekend you are going to spend here is not going to be enough to get to know this German city.
Maybe you’ll think that all the important buildings like Zemper Opera House, Zwinger Palace, the court’s Roman Catholic Church, Protestant Church, Opera, or Theater are here for centuries.
Other than this, an important note to know is that Dresden is one of the cities that suffered a lot during its history, especially in the 20th century. During WWII, Dresden was bombed at the end of the war by the American and British Army. Twenty-five thousand people were killed, and 80 % of the city was destroyed.
After the war, the city decided to rebuild all buildings in the historical center of the city, including the private houses of citizens of Dresden. They wanted to restore the pre-war appearance of the city. And they did an amazing job! Thanks to the special kind of marble, they made the buildings look old like they were never destroyed.
UNESCO put Dresden on its World Heritage List in 2004, but the city built a modern bridge in the historical center and ruined the scenery of the old Dresden. That’s why, in 2009, this city was taken off this list.
You can visit Dresden as part of a one-day tour if you are visiting Berlin or Prague, but we suggest you pick one of the hotels in Dresden, stay there for the weekend and learn about this city, get inspired, and enjoy.
Table of Contents
- 1 Experiences and top things to do in Dresden
- 1.1 Visit Zwinger Palace
- 1.2 Visit Frauenkirche
- 1.3 Experience opera in Semper Opera House
- 1.4 Walk by and admire the Procession of Princes
- 1.5 Visit Royal Palace
- 1.6 Visit Kattolische Hofkirche
- 1.7 Learn about Royal Porcelain Collection
- 1.8 Take a photo in front of Martin Luther Monument
- 1.9 Kunsthofpassage
- 1.10 Stroll the Brühlsche Terrasse
Experiences and top things to do in Dresden
Visit Zwinger Palace
The Zwinger Palace is one of the main Dresden attractions and one of the finest examples of late Baroque architecture in Germany. It was built between 1710 and 1728. The Zwinger Palace was used for court festivities and tournaments.
Nowadays, this complex of pavilions, galleries, and inner courtyards is home to first-class museums, including the Old Masters Gallery (Alte Meister) which displays the famous Madonna Sistina of Rafael. It is the place where all Dresden sightseeing tours start.
The Zwinger Palace will make you feel like royal. You can imagine gentlemen and ladies walking around its parks. It’s one of the most picturesque places in Dresden.
One of the best places to visit in Dresden is the Frauenkirche or Church of Our Lady. George Bähr designed this Protestant baroque church. The construction started in 1726 and was finished in 1746. George Bähr died before the construction of his masterpiece was completed.
Frauenkirche is considered to be one of the most beautiful churches in Germany. As the rest of the city, during World War II, the Frauenkirche was also destroyed by bombing. This happened on the 15th of February 1945.
The reconstruction of the church started after the unification of Germany in 1990. The reconstruction lasted until 2002, and the church was reopened for visitors in 2006, during the celebration of 800 years anniversary of the founding of the city.
The reconstruction of the cross on the top of the church was funded by the British as a sign of reconciliation. Frauenkirche is settled in the center of Neumarkt.
Experience opera in Semper Opera House
Visiting the Semperoper is one of the many things to do in Dresden. Spend an evening enjoying beautiful music performed by Saxon State Opera. The building is located near the Elbe River in the historic center of Dresden, on Theater Square.
The Opera House was designed and built by the architect Gottfried Semper. The constructed started in 1841. In 1869, a huge fire burned the Semperoper, but a reconstruction of the building was finished in 1878.
Besides its cultural importance for the city, this Opera House has huge historical significance, too. Here were performed premieres of some of the major works of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss.
The Semperoper is also home to Staatskapelle Dresden (Saxon State Orchestra) and Semperoper ballet.
Walk by and admire the Procession of Princes
The Procession of Princes (Fürstenzug) is the largest porcelain mural in the world and one of the most popular Dresden’s points of interest.
It represents the parade of Saxonian princes and dukes to commemorate the 1000-year long reign of the Wettin dynasty.
It’s 102 meters long, and it is composed of 25,000 tiles from the porcelain manufacturer Meissen.
Visit Royal Palace
Dresden Castle or Dresdner Residenzschloss or Dresdner Schloss is one of the oldest buildings in Dresden and was also destroyed during the bombing in 1945.
This castle represents the mixture of different architectural styles from Baroque to Neo-renaissance. Dresden Royal Palace was the residence of Saxon kings for 400 years.
The reconstruction started in the 1960s and was finished in 2013. Today, this palace is one of the most important museum complexes in Dresden.
Visit Kattolische Hofkirche
Dresden Cathedral or the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity is one of the landmarks of Dresden. It is located near the Elbe River in the historic center of Dresden.
Although the majority of citizens of Dresden were protestant, the rulers of the Saxony were Catholic, so they decided to build a church for their use. Therefore, the Catholic Church of the Royal Court of Saxony was connected to the Royal Palace.
The church was designed by architect Gaetano Chiavari and was built from 1738 until 1751. In the royal crypt of the church, are buried the heart of King Augustus the Strong with the last King of Saxony and other 49 other members of the Wettin family.
After the destruction of WWII, the church was reconstructed during the mid-1980s.
Learn about Royal Porcelain Collection
What to do in Dresden besides sightseeing? Well, you can learn something about Dresden porcelain collection. It is part of State Art Collections, and it is located in the Zwinger Palace.
The collection was founded by the Saxon Prince-Elector Augustus the Strong in 1715. It originally housed in the Japanese Palace on the banks of the Elbe and moved to today’s place in 1962.
The large part of the collection survived World War II thanks to evacuation. Nowadays, the group has about 20,000 porcelain pieces and includes the collection of traditional Chinese and Japanese porcelain acquired by Augustus the Strong but also the blue-and-white porcelain from the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Another important part of the collection is Saxon porcelain, in particular, Meissen porcelain.
Take a photo in front of Martin Luther Monument
While you are visiting Frauenkirche, spend for a monument and admire the beautiful masterpiece of sculptor Adolf von Donndorf from 1885.
In front of the church, you’ll find a bronze statue of the reformer and theologian Martin Luther. The statue had survived the bombing in 1945, but it has also been restored as part of the restoration of Neumarkt.
Take a break for a few moments and enjoy the breathtaking landscape of the city, one of the intimate things to do in Dresden.
Kunsthofpassage is a web of courtyards designed by Dresden artists in Neustadt. This magical passage reminds me of a lot of Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna.
Each courtyard has its charm and beauty, but the most interesting ones for tourists are the Court of the Elements, where ‘music’ is created by water running down interlinked rain pipes affixed to a turquoise facade, and the Court of the Animals, where monkeys leap above the head of a giant giraffe.
These amazing artistic courtyards are becoming one of the most popular Dresden tourist attractions, and they need to be one of the things you need to see in Dresden.
Stroll the Brühlsche Terrasse
For the end of your lovely day in Dresden, enjoy the beautiful evening at the “Balcony of Europe.” Brühl’s Terrace (Brühlsche Terrasse) is located in the north part of Neumarkt between the river Elbe and the Old Town. If you climb a monumental staircase, you will see a beautiful view over Elba and enjoy the walk along the promenade.
Here you’ll see some of Dresden’s most beautiful historic buildings, including the Royal Art Academy and the Albertinum Museum. This place is one of the favorite places of both locals and tourists.