I arrived in Dresden from Prague by train, because there is a direct connection and the two cities are only two and a half hours from each other. I must admit, I was not prepared for this city tour, I came here to run the half marathon, and I didn’t think I had enough time for classic sightseeing.
Since the train trip lasted a few hours, I used this time to research and take notes. What impressed me the most is that the philosopher Herder called Dresden “the Florence of the Elbe” because of its stunning baroque architecture and impressive museums.
But there is one more incredible thing. Dresden entered the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2004 and came out in 2009 because the administration started the construction of another bridge on the Elbe, aiming to reduce the traffic through the city center. The citizens approved the project with a referendum, UNESCO didn’t.
Dresden is a very charming city, easy to visit on foot, and honestly between us: I haven’t even seen the bridge mentioned above!
Dresden in a nutshell
The following interactive map includes monuments and highlights marked with blue pins.
Itinerary and must-sees
Day One (Quarter Altstadt)
The historic center includes a series of architectural ensembles, with palaces and gardens, which are the main attractions of the city.
You can visit almost everything on foot, and if you don’t have enough time, you could even take a one-day express tour. The only thing you need for this is comfortable shoes.
Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Dresden Castle, and Procession of Princes
The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (Hofkirche) is maybe the first thing you will see in Dresden. It is a splendid and majestic church built in baroque style with a single tower on the front façade.
The Royal Palace (or Castle of Dresden), is located next to the Cathedral. It is built in baroque and neo-Renaissance style and was once the residence of the kings of Saxony.
Left of the Palace and of the Georgentor door with its giant stone guardians, there is the Fürstenzug, a 100-meter mural made of 23,000 porcelain tiles and representing the Procession of Princes of Saxony.
Semper Opera House and Statue of King John
All the buildings of the historic center have been reconstructed after World War II bombs with incredible care and precision. I have been sitting for some minutes under the Horse Statue of King John of Saxony, enjoying the beauty of this square and of the Dresden Opera House.
The Opera House is called Semperoper in honor of G. Semper, the architect who designed it in neo-Renaissance and neo-baroque style.
It’s now time to walk towards the Zwinger, one of the best-known monuments in Dresden. It is an architectural complex made up of 4 connected buildings built around a garden with 4 fountains. The name Zwinger has a medieval origin and indicates a sort of intramural fortress. Today the buildings house famous museums and galleries.
Frauenkirche – Church of Our Lady
Only a few minutes on foot separate the Zwinger from the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), perhaps the most well-known monument in the city. The church miraculously survived the bombing of 1945, but a structural collapse reduced it later to rubble.
For 45 years, there was only a pile of stones in the middle of the square. The restoration plans started in 1990, and the work was completed in 2005.
I strongly recommend going up to the dome (you need to purchase a ticket) to admire the city from above.
Albertinum and Brühl’s Terrace
The last two attractions of the first day in Dresden are not far from the Frauenkirche:
- the Albertinum, a sumptuous palace now used as a museum gallery.
- The Brühl’s Terrace (in honor of the politician Heinrich von Brühl who commissioned it).
The Brühl’s Terrace is an architectural complex built directly above the shore of the river Elbe. Goethe called it the Balcony of Europe.
The New Synagogue is located between the Albertinum and the Brühlsche Terrasse. It was built in 2001 in modern style in place of the destroyed Old Synagogue.
If you have only one day for visiting Dresden, your tour ends here, but if you have at least another half-day available, you can take a tour of the new town quarter. This is exactly my plan for day two.
Day Two (Quarter Neustadt)
My second day in Dresden begins at the Kunsthofpassage, a series of 5 courtyards with different art installations (Courtyard of Elements, Courtyard of Colors, Courtyard of Animals, Courtyard of Light and Courtyard of the Metamorphoses).
The Courtyard of Elements has a unique charm because when it rains, the water flowing through the pipes transforms the installation in a musical instrument.
Fountains with water games
A few minutes walk separate the Kunsthofpassage from Albertplatz, a large square with two bronze fountains and water features.
The first sculpture Stürmische Wogen (vehement waves) shows, among other things, a triton and a fishermen’s scene. The second sculpture Stille Wasser (still water) depicts some nymphs in a peaceful and restful situation.
Golden Cavalier and Japanese Palace
My last stops of the day are:
- The statue of the Golden Cavalier (Goldener Reiter). This is the gilded equestrian sculpture of August the Strong of Poland and Saxony, one of the best-known monuments in Dresden.
- The Japanese Palace. A 1700 Baroque building with a garden, built almost above the river Elbe.
My time in Dresden is over. Well, the weather could have been a little better, but it was very enjoyable to explore this wonderful city mostly on foot. Now it’s time to go back to the railway station and travel home.
Bye Dresden, auf Wiedersehen!
Großer Garten (if you have extra time)
I suggest visiting the Großer Garten (Great Garden). This is a baroque garden that includes the Sommerpalais (Summer Palace), a botanical garden, and the Dresden Zoo.
If bad weather happens
Obviously, some of these museums are well worth a visit, even if the weather is fine. It mostly depends on your interests. Anyway, in such a situation, I honestly prefer to spend outside the (few) time that I have.
- Old Masters Gallery (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister). It is located inside the Zwinger Palace and exhibits works of Dürer, Raffaello, Tiziano, and other famous painters.
- Dresden Porcelain Collection (also located in the Zwinger Palace).
- New Masters Gallery (Galerie Neue Meister) and the Sculpture Collection (Skulpturensammlung), both located in the Albertinum.
- Transport Museum. It displays different kinds of vehicles, such as railways, cars, bicycles, etc.