Dresden is such an easily forgotten Baroque gem when it comes to exploring Germany. Often overshadowed by the showier Munich and and edgier Berlin, so many don’t realise the city offers a whole new side to the country. Dresden is a city steeped in history, heritage and beauty. It was the first place I have been in Germany where I truly felt like I had stepped back in time with some of the most beautiful architecture and streets I have found in Europe. Comparable to Vienna and Prague, the city is a perfect weekend escape, or even a day trip from another nearby city.
While we decided to drive through and spend an afternoon in the city on our way from Saxon Switzerland National Park to Prague, it would be a great place to visit if you were staying in any of the nearby cities, or to head for a whole weekend. Dresden was everything I had been missing about Europe while living in Australia, its streets are filled with stories from times gone by and it is a great place to indulge your love of the arts, music and theatre. While it was gorgeous in the summer sunshine, now is actually the perfect time to visit with it being the German capital of Christmas and boasting some of the most beautiful Christmas markets designed to make your winter sparkle.
How to get to Dresden
With easy access by plane, train, bus and even by car, there’s honestly no reason not to pay the city a visit. As I’ve said, it’s a great place to spend a day while passing through to your next destination. Or you could spend a whole weekend there exploring at your own pace and enjoying the Christmas markets. If you’ve been exploring the nearby countries, there is also great international rail connections to Aarhus, Budapest, Bratislava, Prague, Vienna and Zurich. Once you arrive, you have your pick of exploring on foot or by bike, or using the public transport network by using buses, trains, trams and ferries. You can find out more about this, plus timetables and prepaid travel cards here.
What to see in Dresden
If you love cities bursting with history and beauty, prepare to be wowed by Dresden. One of the few cities in Germany that wasn’t destroyed or devastated by the wars, it rose majestically from the ashes and remains beautifully preserved today. Previously the seat of the Saxon rulers, it is clear that they lavished their attention on the city and blessed it with amazing architectural treasures in glittering palaces and stunning gardens and soaring churches that dominate the skyline. My best advice for exploring the city? Take your time. Don’t rush and really take it all in. It’s an amazing city and one worth appreciating.
This one was spectacular in the sunshine and perfect for walking around in the afternoon. Enjoy magnificent Baroque architecture at this 18th century palace on the banks of the river Elbe. Designed by court architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann, it is considered one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in Germany. With grounds filled with trickling fountains and statues of mythological figures, it’s worth walking around the outside of the palace to really appreciate it’s beauty. It served as the orangery, exhibition gallery and festival arena of the Dresden Court, but now houses the Dresden State Art Collections.
My favourite building in Dresden and one that will honestly take your breath away. I’m so sad I didn’t get more photos there, but I managed to capture the stunning ceiling. This incredible reconstruction project saw the Dresden Frauenkirche transform from a Catholic to Protestant church during the Reformation, before being replaced in the 18th century by a larger Baroque Lutheran building.
Destroyed during Allied bombing in 1945,the ruins were kept and stored to be reconstructed following the reunification of Germany in 1990, with the church eventually reopening in 2005. Whether you’re interested in history and architecture or not, this one will blow you away by it’s fine embellishment and decoration, with gold and pink adorning the walls and the most intricately painted ceilings.
For fans of the arts, the Semperoper is a must-see in the historic centre of Dresden. Nestled on the west side of Dresden’s Theaterplatz, one of Germany’s finest public squares, is the city’s opera house which is also home to the Semperoper Ballett. Built in the style of the Italian High Renaissance, explore the gardens at your leisure, or, to experience the magnificent interiors, attend a performance or take a tour.
One of the oldest buildings in Dresden, the Royal Palace was the seat of the kings of Saxony of the Albertine line of the House of Wettin. With over 800 years of history lying in its walls, it is known for the different architectural styles employed, from Baroque to Neo-renaissance and is beautiful to explore, especially in the evening.
Perfect for sunny afternoon stroll, “The Balcony of Europe” stretches alongside the city and high above the banks of the river Elbe. We were amazed that we were overlooking the same river as we do back in Hamburg, but I will say that Dresden’s Brühls Terrace is a touch prettier than Hamburg’s more industrial style. This historic architectural ensemble begins at the Schlossplatz on the site of the old city ramparts where you head up the steps.
Stroll along the promenade to find the Dolphin Fountain, the College of Art, The Moritz Monument, and below find the Terrassenufer, the main landing stage for cruise boats. If I can give you one tip for exploring this section, make sure you go into the College of Art and explore, cut straight through the entrance hall and go out the opposite doors to the courtyard. It was one of my favourite secret finds when exploring Dresden, like a secret garden time forgot and some seriously beautiful hidden archtecture.
This Baroque palace in Moritzburg, is about 13km northwest of the Saxon capital, Dresden, and makes a perfect day trip from the city. This stunning palace features an island, lakes and an 18th-century hunting lodge in the grounds. All feature the stunning designs, detail and luxe interiors.
Another spectacular sight, Dresden Cathedral, or the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, is another building with an imposing character. Looming across the square, it makes an impression as you wander down from Brühls Terrace. We couldn’t go inside straight away due to a service ongoing, but we’re so glad we went back later on because honestly, the building was breathtaking from the inside. So detailed and so much interesting history.
The Georgentor and the Procession of Princes
This amazing wall is quite a sight and luckily we stumbled across it when exploring the city. It was the original city exit to the Elbe Bridge and the first of the city’s many Renaissance buildings. The famous Fürstenzug, the Procession of Princes, is a 102-meter-long portrait of the Dukes, Electors, and Kings of the house of Wettin, together with leading German figures from the arts and sciences.
Are you planning a visit to Germany? Dresden is such a great city for exploring history, heritage and the true beauty of Europe. Plus it’s much quieter and smaller, so perfect for exploring on foot and for a more relaxed visit. After seeing how good the Christmas Markets are up in Hamburg, I can’t even imagine how amazing they are over in the “home of Christmas”.
Have you been to Dresden? How was your experience? What is your favourite European city?