One of the most well-known facts about Dresden is that it was massively bombed during the Second World War – so much so in fact, that 80% of its historic centre was destroyed. The majority of the most important landmarks have since been restored to their former glory though, and Dresden is once again an attractive and interesting city to visit – especially at Christmas, when it plays host to one of the best Christmas markets in Germany!
Here are our recommendations for the top ten things to do in and around the city.
1. Visit the Albertinum Museum
One of Dresden’s best fine art museums, the Albertinum was built in the nineteenth century by Carl Adolf Canzler to serve as a public museum and archive. It was destroyed in February 1945 and subsequently rebuilt, and was then renovated in 2006. It re-opened in June this year (2010).
Until 2004 the Albertinum was the postwar home of the Green Vault (Grünes Gewölbe), often called Germany’s most meaningful collection of royal treasures, however this is now back in the innercity Residence castle in Dresden. Today the museum hosts the Gemäldegalerie Neue Meister (New Masters Gallery) that features masterpieces from the 19th and 20th century including works by Degas, Dix, Manet, Monet, Richter, Van Gogh, and others. The Sculpture Collection holds masterpieces from the classical antiquity to today, with an emphasis on artists from the former GDR.
2. Take a stroll along Brühl’s Terrace (Brühlsche Terrasse)
Brühl’s Terrace (Brühlsche Terrasse) is nestled between the river Elbe and the Old Town in Dresden. Known as “The Balcony of Europe”, the terraced promenade was part of Dresden’s original rampart, until it became the garden of the Royal Palace. The promenade is lined by some of Dresden’s most beautiful historic buildings, including the Albertinum Museum and Royal Art Academy.
3. Head down the river on a paddle steamer
Visitors to Dresden can take a trip down the river Elbe on one of the many historic paddle steamers in operation. You can choose from a variety of trips, including a cruise through the region’s stunning scenery, or a ride down to the Schloss Pillnitz, a pretty summer palace on the leafy outskirts of the city, built by Matthaus Pöppelmann.
4. Visit the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady)
In World War II, when bombing raids destroyed the city centre, this beautiful church was turned to rubble. The ruins were left untouched until 1994, when work to rebuild the church finally began. The project was finally completed in 2005 and today it is well worth a look.
5. Visit the Green Vault (Grünes Gewölbe)
As previously mentioned, Dresden’s Green Vault (Grünes Gewölbe) can now be found in the Dresden Palace. It is home to one of the finest royal treasures collections in Europe, including elaborate artworks of gold, silver, gems, enamel, ivory, bronze, and amber. It also houses the largest green diamond in the world.
6. Enjoy sensory overload at Pfund’s Dairy (Pfund Molkerei)
Opened in 1880 by the Pfund brothers in the Neustadt quarter of Dresden, this unique dairy is beautifully decorated with hand-painted porcelain tiles from the neo-Renaissance period. The Dairy is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most beautiful milk shop in the world. Products to enjoy whilst you’re there include cheeses, home made ice cream, and fresh buttermilk.
7. Take a trip to the Zwinger Palace
Dresden’s Zwinger Palace is known internationally one of the finest examples of late Baroque architecture in Germany. Built in the 18th century, it sits on the site of the former Dresden fortress and has the feel of a mini-city within the city. Inside, there are beautiful gardens and courtyards with lovely sculptures and fountains.
The Palace also houses the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery), with works by such artists as Titian, Rembrandt, Botticelli and Raphael.
8. Sit by the Elbe and watch the world go by
The river Elbe, which flows right past Dresden’s Old Town, is lined with grassy riverbanks, offering beautiful views of the Old Town. It’s a great place to sit or stroll, no matter what the time of year, but especially in the summer when films are shown al fresco in one of the largest outdoor theatres in Germany.
9. Take in an Opera at the Semperoper
Since the Dresden State Opera moved back into the beautiful Semper building, which was completely destroyed in 1945, it has become even more popular than before. The building is awesome, and the experience of watching an opera there will be unforgettable.
10. Go to see the Fürstenzug (Procession of Princes)
Located on Augustusstrasse, at the back side of the Royal Mews, the Fürstenzug is a 102 meter long mural. Known as the Procession of Princes in English, it depicts a long line of rulers of the House of Wettin. The mural was originally painted between 1870 and 1876 by Wilhelm Walter, although when it started to deteriorate it was replaced with almost 25,000 ceramic tiles. The tiles all survived the bombing of 1945, and remain in good condition to this day.