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Dresden, Germany

Where is Dresden?

Dresden is a charming city on the Elbe river in eastern Germany. It is famed for its stunning architecture.

It is the capital of the state of Saxony, itself once an independent kingdom. Before German reunification, it was part of East Germany.

Dresden is also only a stone's throw away from the Czech Republic border, making it an excellent destination for exploring both countries.

A magnet for art lovers, it boasts treasures such as the Zwinger Museum complex and the Semper Opera House.

However, Dresden also has a sobering side. Much of the city was destroyed during World War II. The rebuilt Frauenkirche is the city's poignant symbol of resilience.

A view of the Old Town of Dresden
A view of Dresden Altstadt

Advantages? Top-notch cultural attractions, a historic vibe with modern appeal, and easy access to other European cities.

Disadvantages? Large crowds during peak season, a sombre World War II history that isn't to everyone's liking, and winter can be quite cold.

Overall, Dresden's charm comes from this mix of history and modernity, culture and nature. It's a place where the fascinating past coexists with bustling life of a contemporary hub.

Why is Dresden worth visiting?

Here are a few reasons why Dresden is worth a visit:

  • Baroque beauty: Experience Dresden's stunning architectural landscape, featuring centuries-old churches and palaces that tell their stories of the city's rich history.
  • A green oasis: Wander through Dresden's lush parks and gardens, offering natural escapes within the city for picnics with families and friends or peaceful solitude.
  • Art lover's delight: Dive into the world of masterpieces at renowned galleries like the Old Masters Picture Gallery, housing over 700 European works of art.
  • Saxon Switzerland: Unleash your inner adventurer with a day trip to the breathtaking Saxon Switzerland National Park, where you'll witness outstanding rock formations, awe-inspiring vantage points, and idyllic scenery.

How to get to Dresden

Dresden International Airport

Dresden International Airport (DRS) serves as the primary airport for the city. Conveniently located just nine kilometres north of the city centre, it offers direct connections to destinations across Europe, such as the United Kingdom.

From the airport, you can easily take the S2 train line to Dresden Hauptbahnhof, the city's central train station.

Other airports near Dresden

Although the local airport is just outside the city, other more distant options may well prove to be more convenient.

Distance to Leipzig/Halle Airport: 124km
Distance to Václav Havel Airport Prague: 136km
Distance to Berlin Brandenburg Airport: 166km

Although the airports at Dresden and Leipzig do offer some European city destinations and carriers, the largest choice is going to be either at the airport in Prague or at the new airport at Berlin Brandenburg.

Train station in Dresden

Dresden Hauptbahnhof serves as the city's central train station. This well-connected hub will be your gateway to exploring the beautiful city. With frequent train services, you can:

  • Travel to surrounding areas, such as Meissen, where the exquisite blue and white porcelain known as "Meissenware" is produced.
  • Connect to major German cities like Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg.
  • Enjoy convenient access to international destinations such as Prague, Vienna, and Budapest.

Dresden Hauptbahnhof is located near Prager Strasse, a bustling shopping district that makes for a great starting point for your Dresden adventure.

Where to stay in Dresden

When visiting Dresden, choosing the right area to stay in can significantly enhance your experience.

Dresden Altstadt is an excellent choice for first-time visitors. It's the historic centre of the city. You'll find yourself surrounded by beautiful architecture and popular tourist attractions.

Staying in Altstadt means you're within walking distance of key attractions, such as the Dresden Frauenkirche and Zwinger Palace. However, be aware that accommodation costs in this district tend to be higher.

Dresden Neustadt, on the north bank of the river Elbe, is the place for those in search of a lively atmosphere and local culture.

This hip neighbourhood is a haven for foodies and shoppers alike. Neustadt is an exciting place to be with its bustling nightlife, trendy bars and eclectic mix of shops.

Accommodation options range from budget hostels to boutique hotels, and public transport is easily accessible for exploring the rest of the city.

If you're interested in historic sites and walking access to attractions, Dresden Altstadt is the perfect base for you.

On the other hand, if you want to experience local culture, nightlife, and unique shopping opportunities, Dresden Neustadt is the ideal choice.

Dresden accommodation map

If you know when you are planning to go but haven't decided on accommodation, then use the map below to get an idea of which properties are available and to compare prices during the period you wish to travel.

Enter your proposed dates and use the '+' to zoom in on a location and reveal more properties. Click on the price above a property to see more information.

(Please note that this selection will also include some guesthouses, pensions and self-catering apartments for those who are interested in that form of accommodation!)

Check Dresden accommodation availability

If you know when you are planning to go but haven't decided on accommodation, then use the searchbox below to get an idea of which properties are available and to compare prices during the period you wish to travel.

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History of Dresden

Dresden became a centre of culture and art under the rule of Augustus II and Augustus III in the 18th century.

As you walk through the cobbled streets of this beautiful baroque city, you'll notice the influence these rulers had on shaping its artistic landscape.

The legacy of Augustus II, also known as August the Strong, is reflected in Dresden's architectural gems.

He laid the foundations for a glorious era of artistic development with a keen eye and ambition to make his city an architectural marvel.

During the reign of Augustus III, the enlargement and enrichment of Dresden's art collections played a significant role in enhancing the city's reputation.

Many of the masterpieces now in the museums and galleries found their way into the hands of the Saxon monarch during this period.

The Zwinger palace complex in Dresden
The Zwinger palace complex in Dresden

One prominent figure of this era was Gottfried Semper. The famous architect left an everlasting mark on Dresden.

Semper contributed extensively to the design of iconic city landmarks, such as the Semperoper – Dresden's exquisite opera house – and the Zwinger – a stunning baroque palace and museum complex.

Dresden's Frauenkirche is another outstanding example of 18th-century architecture.

Destroyed during wartime, the reconstruction of the church stands as a testament to Dresden's love of its cultural heritage.

What to do in Dresden

Once known as the "Florence on the Elbe" for its striking baroque and rococo architecture, Dresden has gradually rebuilt itself since its devastation during World War II.

Now, the restored historical landmarks and breath-taking scenery give you a sense of the elegance and beauty that have been synonymous with this city for centuries.

Connecting Dresden to its neighbours, a well-developed transport network enables you to reach various cities and landmarks with ease. Don't be surprised if you're inspired to explore further afield; the spectacular rock formations of the nearby Saxon Switzerland National Park make for an exhilarating day trip.

In this section, we'll take a look at some of the must-see attractions and cover the Dresden Welcome Card programme that provides discounts and free or reduced access to various attractions.

Dresden Welcome Cards

Investing in a Dresden Welcome Card can enhance your visit to this beautiful city. These cards are available in three different types: Museums Card, City Card, and Regio Card. Each card provides unique benefits to make your tour more enjoyable and budget-friendly.

  • Museums Card: This card grants you free admission to numerous museums and exhibitions, allowing you to explore the city's rich history and culture, including the famous Dresden State Art Collection.
  • City Card: The City Card offers free admission to certain attractions and also includes the local public transport, ensuring that you can easily travel between the stunning landmarks throughout your visit.
  • Regio Card: The Regio Card offers the same benefits as the City Card, with the added bonus of extending the discounts and free access to attractions in the surrounding area.

Attractions in Dresden

Zwinger Palace and Dresden Castle

A visit to Dresden would be incomplete without exploring the magnificent Zwinger Palace and Dresden Castle (also known as the Royal Palace). These architectural marvels are home to several museums, including the Old Masters Picture Gallery and the renowned Green Vault (Grünes Gewölbe), where you can admire a vast collection of precious art and artefacts.

Dresden Cathedral and Semper Opera House

As you wander through the city, be sure to stop by the imposing Dresden Cathedral and marvel at its intricate detailing. Also, take a moment to appreciate the Semper Opera House, an architectural masterpiece that hosts outstanding performances throughout the year.

The Zwinger palace complex in Dresden
The spectacular old town of Dresden

Brühl's Terrace, Augustus Bridge and the Japanese Palace

From Brühl's Terrace, you can enjoy breathtaking views across the Elbe River and the Old Town, while the Augustus Bridge offers a fantastic photographic vantage point. Nearby, you'll find the Japanese Palace, housing the exquisite Dresden Porcelain Collection, a testament to the city's artistic heritage.

Grosser Garten

Take a break from the hubbub of city life and spend some time in the tranquil Grand Garden. The palace park is the perfect setting for an unhurried stroll.

Nearby Attractions and Activities

The Regio Card is a help for some of the local day trips near Dresden, but visitors who are planning to travel a little further afield might want to look at the Sachsen-Ticket from the German rail service (www.bahn.de). This offers a whole day's travel on regional rail services for up to five adults.

One of the top attractions near Dresden is the Saxon Switzerland National Park. This incredible park features unique rock formations, dense forests, and picturesque valleys. You can spend an entire day discovering the beauty of this national park, taking in its natural wonders.

A view of the Old Town of Dresden
A view of the Elbe river from the Bastei Bridge

Within the Saxon Switzerland National Park, the Bastei Bridge is a must-visit landmark. This impressive sandstone bridge connects two rocky cliffs and offers astonishing views of the surrounding landscapes. Be sure to have your camera ready, as you'll want to capture the magical scenery from this vantage point.

Downstream along the Elbe is the town of Meissen, world-famous for its porcelain. Visitors can also sample local wine from the vineyards along the river, while Meissen Cathedral and Albrechtsburg castle are impressive historic sights.

A little further away, visitors can take a trip to the Polish border and the historic town of Görlitz, featured in the Wes Anderson film 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'.

Events and Festivals

While visiting Dresden, you're in for a treat with its calendar of cultural events and festivals.

In spring, the International Dixieland Festival Dresden is a must-see, typically occurring between 14th and 21st of May. This jazz-centred event fills the city with vibrant tunes and performances, offering a unique experience for all ages.

Summer months bring the Film Nights on the banks of the Elbe, allowing you to catch exciting screenings under the open sky. Additionally, the Dresden Stadtfest city festival or “Canaletto” takes place on the third weekend of August, celebrating the city's foundation. Expect to see thousands of artists and attracting over half a million visitors with this lively event.

A view of the Old Town of Dresden
A view of Dresden Christmas Market

As the winter season approaches, you'll find the Dresden Striezel Market. Regarded by many as the oldest Christmas market in Germany, it dates back almost 600 years.

Beyond festivals, you'll want to pay a visit to a performance at the stunning Semper Opera House. As part of the Zwinger complex, this magnificent opera house offers a glimpse into Saxony's rich artistic heritage.

Other towns and cities on the Elbe river

Meissen Germany

Meissen

Meissen is a small town in eastern Germany, known for its porcelain production. The Meissen Porcelain Manufactory remains one of its main attractions. The Albrechtsburg castle overlooking the Elbe river is another major historical sight. Meissen is the centre of a winegrowing area with the vineyards along the Elbe valley.

Wittenberg Germany

Wittenberg

Lutherstadt Wittenberg is a town in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, about 90 kilometers southwest of Berlin. The town is famous for its association with the Protestant Reformation, as Martin Luther lived and taught here for much of his life. Lutherstadt Wittenberg is home to numerous historic sites, including Luther's House.

Dresden Tourist Office

The Dresden Tourist Office is centrally located near the Frauenkirche in the old town. The office is open seven days a week, with slightly shorter opening times on Sundays.

There is also a tourist office branch in Dresden central train station.
Website: www.dresden.de