22 Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

elbe river reflection sunset, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

Dresden is a city of music and the arts.

With a long tradition of fostering the arts that stretches back for centuries, Dresden is a baroque city with a rich cultural history.

Through it all, it has remained an artistically enlightened city with people who cherish and preserve its musical and theatrical tradition.

History and the present come together here in a juxtaposed way that poses questions about the future of the urban community, like a shape-shifting hologram.

elbe river reflection sunset bridge, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

Walk through Dresden’s historic centre that will take you past the landmarks, passing through the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

Read on for places to see and points of interests on your city tour around Dresden!

Dresden Old Town

1. Theaterplatz

Theaterplatz, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

A city square that is pure Baroque, framed by the Residenzschloss (Dresden’s Royal Palace), the Zwinger, the Semperoper Opera House and the Hofkirche (Catholic Cathedral), Theaterplatz is the best place to survey the splendor of Old Dresden at a glance. On this historic walking tour, this square will soon be your familiar grounds.

2. Semperoper

Semperoper, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

Opera is musical theatre – telling stories of social and political relevance.

For more than 150 years, musical theatre of great significance has been staged here. One of Dresden’s primary landmarks, the Semperoper is also where Richard Wagner conducted his operas from 1842 to 1849.

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Be enchanted by the impressive architecture and the uniquely decorated rooms in this opera house. The highlight of the Semperoper tour was viewing the auditorium in its grandeur with its 1300 seats.

Truly a magnificent piece of heritage.

3. Zwinger

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Since 1714, the Crown Gate has been guarding the entrance to the famous Zwinger Palace, less of a building complex than a baroque Gesamtkunstwerk, the musical aspect of which is the carillon made from Meissen porcelain.

Built in Rococo style and designed by court architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann, the Zwinger is an exemplary Baroque piece of architecture dating from the beginning of the 19th century.

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Formerly used as a festival arena and an orangery, today the Zwinger serves as a complex of art, pavilions, galleries, museums and courtyards.

Discover in your own time the Old Masters Picture Gallery (where you can admire Raphael’s Sistine Madonna up close), the Dresden Porcelain Collection (Porzellansammlung) and the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon, a museum of mathematical and physical instruments.

It’s free to explore the beautiful grounds of the Zwinger and admire the fountains and courtyards that make the complex, but entrance to the museums come at a fee.

4. Café Schinkelwache

A classic coffee house in Dresden, pop by for an afternoon cuppa to experience the authentic, traditional coffee of Dresden.

5. Katholische Hofkirche and Napoleonstein

Katholische Hofkirche, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany
Katholische Hofkirche (Catholic Cathedral)

Built in 1756, the Katholische Hofkirche (Catholic Cathedral) is one of the tallest buildings in Dresden. The Napoleonstein (Napoleon’s Stone) in front of its main entrance marks the spot where the French emperor stood to review a march-past of his army in 1813.

6. Fürstenzug (Procession of the Princes)

Fürstenzug, Procession of the Princes 2, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany
Fürstenzug (Procession of the Princes)

There is no better way to start learning about the history of Saxony than through this mural.

Fürstenzug is a mural depicting a mounted procession of the rulers of Saxony through 750 years of Dresden history. Fürstenzug records all 35 rulers of the House of Wettin, from the margraves in the 12th century through the Dukes and Imperial Electors and ending with the Kings in the 19th century.

This iconic artwork was originally painted in the first half of the 1870s, but was later replaced by hand painted Meißen porcelain tiles in the 1900s to protect it from wear and tear. At 102 metres in length and made of 24,000 tiles, it is the world’s largest single work of art in porcelain.

7. Residenzschloss (Royal Palace)

residenzschloss 1, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

The former Royal Palace of the Saxon Prince-Electors contains some of the city’s most famous museums, in particular the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault) and the Kupferstich-kabinett (Cabinet of Prints, Drawings and Photographs) with its collection of drawings and prints.

The Green Vault is a unique combination of sumptuous architecture and 2,500 precious objects. August the Strong’s treasure chamber, located in opulent rooms dating from 1730 and now restored to its original glory, is like a walk-in safe.

residenzschloss horseback, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

See a whole host of wonders at the Royal Palace, from the most dazzling treasure chamber and biggest collection of Ottoman exhibits in Europe, to the world’s largest green diamond, and ceremonial weaponry and costume collections that are amongst the finest ever assembled.

8. Verkehrsmuseum (Transport Museum)

Housed in the Johanneum, a renaissance building from 1586, the Transport Museum, quite evidently, tells the history and evolution of transport, including the first vehicles that were used for transportation across history. Expect to find anything from steam engine trains to aircrafts, ships, motorbikes and even unicycles.

9. Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady)

church of our lady, Frauenkirche Dresden, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

The original church was completed in 1743, following designs by the architect George Bähr who unfortunately did not live to see it completed.

Frauenkirche was totally destroyed in 1945 in the World War. At first its rubble was left in Neumarkt as a war memorial, but it was eventually reconstructed.

Reconstruction begun in 1994, using a lot of the preserved material (3,500 individual stones), and work was finally completed in 2005, restored to its former glory. The damaged former cross can now be found to the right of the church’s new altar.

church of our lady, Frauenkirche Dresden interior, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

Frauenkirche today is the pride of Dresden, and regarded as one of the most beautiful churches in Germany. It is not hard to see why this majestic Protestant church demands your attention on Neumarkt if you just step in and look closely at the dome, cupolas and frescoes.

Fun fact: The church has the largest stone dome north of the Alps.

10. Brühl’s Terrace

It was named after the statesman Heinrich von Brühl in the 18th century, who constructed a series of lavish buildings here when the walls were pulled down.

Located on the left bank of the Elbe and known as the ‘Balcony of Europe,’ Brühl’s Terrace is a 500-metre panoramic panoramic architectural terrace that towers above the river and is a picturesque viewing spot of the Elbe river, favoured by both locals and visitors alike.

The great entrance in the Schlossplatz, or the Castle Square, is home to four magnificent sculptures, including a statue of Gottfried Semper and a monument to Caspar David Friedrich.

11. Albertinum

Built in the 16th century as an arsenal, the Albertinum today houses the Museum der Moderne (House of Modern Art), as well as sculptures and paintings.

12. Hochschule Für Bildende Künste Dresden (Academy of Fine Arts Dresden)

Among the famous names who taught at the tradition-steeped HfBK were Oskar Kokoschka, Caspar David Friedrich and Otto Dix.

13. Stadtmuseum Dresden

The Landhaus now houses the Städtische Galerie (City Art Gallery) and Stadtmuseum (City Museum). Look out for the 60m2 aerial photo of the city of Dresden embedded in the floor!

14. Rathausturm

The 100-metre-tall tower of the New Town Hall, opened in 1910, affords a splendid view of the Elbsandsteingebirge mountains.

15. Kreuzkirche (Church of the Holy Cross)

The largest church building in Saxony, it was first mentioned in the 14th century and is the seat of the Bishop of Saxony.

If you’re in Dresden for the 9:30am Sunday service, you can have the honourable chance to listen to one of the world’s oldest boys choirs (700 years old) for free!

Not many know this, but the Church of the Holy Cross also offers an equally impressive view of the city from the church tower.

16. Altmarkt (Old Market Square)

The first documentary record of the oldest public space in Dresden dates back to 1370.

17. Altmarktgalerie (Old Market Gallery)

This shopping mall is more than 40,000m2 in size and accommodates 200 retail outlets. Shopping time, anyone?

18. Cafe Kreutzkamm

By appointment to King Albert, who personally chose Cafe Kreutzkamm as his ‘Confectioner to the Royal Court’.

19. Kulturpalast (Palace of Culture)

Impressive for its modern architecture and for the great acoustics in its state-of-the-art concert hall, it is home to the Dresden Philharmonic, the Herkuleskeule cabaret and Dresden’s Central Library.

20. Elbe river

elbe river reflection sunset, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

You can explore the city of Dresden from the water by taking a boat trip along the Elbe river on one of the historic paddle steamers of the Sächsische Dampfschifffahrt (Saxon Steamship Company), passing picturesque vineyards on the way downstream.

Fun fact: Dresden has the world’s largest and oldest paddle steamer fleet with its nine historical steamers.

steamship, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

steam ship engine, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany
Engine of a steam ship!

The river is sandwiched by both the old and new towns of Dresden, with grandiose bridges arching from it and plenty of green spaces for barbecues, sports, and relaxation.

elbe river reflection sunset bridge architecture, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

elbe river bridge, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

I’d done my regular runs on these grassy embankments. Used for fishing, al fresco theatre performances and more, the Elbe river banks are certainly worth an evening stroll.

Dresden Neustadt (New Town)

Dresden Neustadt streets, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

When the history of Dresden seems too overwhelming, take a break from all the Baroque and architecture, into another realm of Dresden on the right side of the Elbe river.

The Neustadt district was reconstructed after a fire in the 1730s, which is why it is named “new”. In fact, it is actually the oldest part of Dresden, more than 800 years old.

 

Dresden Neustadt street art, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

The inner part fell within Dresden’s old fortifications and since 1989, it has been recognised by its street art and counter-culture, home to the young, creative and multicultural scene.

This ‘alternative quarter’ is juxtaposed with architectural landmarks like the Japanisches Palais, an early 18th-century mansion with Japanese details converted into a museum of natural history & ethnology today.

Dresden Neustadt Kunsthofpassage 1, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

Here, in the district of Neustadt, a neighbourhood filled with character opens in front of you. Boutiques, art studios and galleries, countless pubs, bars, cafes, restaurants and clubs with live music line the streets. Think grungy.

With some 150 restaurants and bars, the outer Neustadt is one of best places to hang out in Germany.

1. Kunsthofpassage

Dresden Neustadt Kunsthofpassage entrance, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany
Kunsthofpassage entrance

The Kunshofpassage, just off Gorlitzerstrasse in Neustadt, is a hidden little backyard behind the main streets, filled with whimsical artistic finds.

Entering a little alleyway that can be mistaken for an entrance to a residential building, it is transformed into a hipster street, containing handicraft shops, a garden store, art galleries, and also a number of cool cafés and wine bars.

Dresden Neustadt Kunsthofpassage pipe music, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

The Hof der Elemente (Courtyard of the Elements) is quite the highlight. It is a whole wall made of a tangle of drainpipes shaped like musical instruments on the facade. The idea is that when it rains, the water cascades down the drainpipes, creating its own music.

Hof des Lichts (Courtyard of Light) has projection screens for multimedia performances, as well as well as metallic mirrors that illuminate the courtyard and throw artistic patterns on the walls. While I didn’t see any performances in the two times I visited, the metallic mirrors are an artistic representation on its own.

Kunshofpassage, Hof der Fabelwesen (Courtyard of Mythical Creatures), Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

Look up to find the wall of Hof der Fabelwesen (Courtyard of Mythical Creatures). The artist Viola Schöpe has adorned the walls with paintings and 3-dimensional ceramic mosaics of animals. What animals do you spot?

Dresden Neustadt street local, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany
Playing table tennis with a local while cruising along the streets of Dresden Neustadt!

Dresden Neustadt Kunsthofpassage 1, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

Dresden Neustadt Kunsthofpassage, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

2. Bundeswehr Museum of Military History

Bundeswehr Museum of Military History, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

The Museum of Military History is primarily concerned with the destruction wrought by war and the inhumanity of man to man.

There are 12 areas of the thematic exhibition which focus on different aspects of military history. Some of the interesting sections include “Animals and the Military”, “War and Play”. All in all, some 10,000 exhibits are presented in the exhibition. You can see exhibits ranging from medieval halberds and suits of armour to a V2 rocket.

Bundeswehr Museum of Military History animal war, Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

The museum ranks as one of the four main museums in Germany dealing with the history of the country, the rest being in Berlin, Nuremberg and Bonn.

The other interesting part of the museum is the new extension designed by star architect Daniel Libeskind who extended the museum by literally driving a steel wedge through the old arsenal. The elevated location offers a panoramic view of Dresden.

Fun fact: the Libeskind wedge points towards Ostragehege park, which was the first district in Dresden to be hit during the air raids of 13 February 1945.

Both the architecture and the permanent exhibition seek to avoid biased presentations and to challenge traditional perspectives.


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Special thanks to GNTB for this experience! All opinions remain my own.


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