Situated in the far east corner of Germany, Dresden boasts a reputation for being one of the country’s most striking cities. Before it was severely damaged in World War II, the city was known as the Jewel Box because of its lavish collection of stunning art and architecture. After many years, most of the tourist attractions in Dresden haven been fully restored, including world-famous landmarks like the magnificent Zwinger Palace and the Semper Opera House.
The baroque and rococo influences throughout the city make for a majestic and royal sensation. While wandering through the cobblestone streets, prepare yourself to be transported to an era where art, science, and culture flourished as you take in the Old German architecture.
However, the best things to do in Dresden are not all about history and architecture. Beyond the architectural splendor, you’ll also uncover a vibrant nightlife, renowned museums, and scrumptious culinary delights. Dresden, which is the capital of the Free State of Saxony, is situated along the pretty Elbe River. This remarkable city is truly a cultural and architectural wonderland.
Mao of Tourist Attractions in Dresden
In this post, we'll cover:
The catholic hofkirche was built by Saxon ruler Augustus III in the 18th century as a counterweight for the protestant Frauenkirche. The Baroque church is one of the most beautiful buildings in Dresden.
The original Dresden Cathedral was left in ruins during the Allied bombing of the city in WWII. It was restored in the 80s by the East German government. Today, visitors can once again enjoy the amazing beauty of this cathedral, which has been painted in pastel tones and trimmed in gold.
The Dresden Cathedral is also known for its unusual round shape. During the restoration, pieces of the original structure were incorporated into the construction of the new building. In addition, a twisted and burned cross that once sat atop the dome has been placed next to the alter as a remembrance of the past.
21. Golden Rider
Glistening in the mid-day sun, the Golden Rider stands tall in the middle of a large stone brick courtyard. Unlike many famous bronze statues that have since lost their shine, this gold platelet monolith of King August II shimmers on.
Also known as The Statue of Augustus the Strong, this artistic monument dates back to 1736. Located in the New Town Market, you will not only be treated to the unique view but you will also be spoiled for choice as to where to shop and what to eat.
The surrounding streets offer a look into the new and old of the city and if you are looking to enjoy some fine art then head just east of the statue to Galerie Gebr. Lehmann gallery.
20. Pillnitz Palace
The Pillnitz Castle is located on the banks of the Elbe River and was once the summer residence for the kings of Saxony. The restored royal site is actually home to three palaces — the Riverside Palace, the Upper Palace and the New Palace — and boasts lovely English gardens.
Admission is free and so these gardens are a favorite spot for the locals to enjoy a sunny afternoon or to go for a walk, and it is, of course, also a popular tourist destination, as well.
The Arts and Crafts Museum and the Dresden State Art Collections and the Palace Museum can all be found on the grounds of the Pillnitz Castle. Pillnitz was formerly a Saxony village, but it is now a district in Dresden.
19. Cruise the Elbe River
Climb aboard a paddle-wheel steamboat and take a cruise down the River Elbe. With an array of experiences to choose from, such as the Pillnitz Castle Cruse or the Saxon Wine Route Steamer Day Cruise, you are sure to find an aquatic adventure that meets your personal preferences.
If you are looking for something a bit more romantic, then an Evening River Cruise may be the way to go. With dinner included, you and your lover can enjoy a date night on the river which delivers scenery that is almost reminiscent of Le Sen in Paris as the lights glitter on the calm water.
If you are planning to visit during the Advent season then the Dresdner Striezelmarkt is a must-see! The Striezelmarkt is one of Germany’s oldest and most famous Christmas markets, dating back to the 15th century. The market itself is a festive extravaganza located in the heart of the city’s historic Old Town.
Featuring numerous decorated wooden stalls selling a wide range of goods. When walking the market street, you will find many of these stalls selling a traditional Christmas cake made with dried fruits, nuts, spices, and powdered sugar.
This cake is known as “Striezel” and is where the market gets its name. This festive fruit cake looks a bit like a homemade bread loaf all covered in snow and can be enjoyed year-round at Bäckerei Emil Reimann Eiscafé in Old Town if you can’t make the festival.
17. Transport Museum Dresden
Have you ever wondered about how a Zeppelin can fly through the sky? Or perhaps you are curious about the progression of the railway and how it spread throughout Germany?
From masterful blueprints and modern flight physics to the discoveries made during the war efforts, your curiosity is sure to be satisfied. The Transport Museum was founded in 1952 and the Renaissance exterior features design aspects that date back to 1586 when the building was being used as a stable for the Saxon court.
The interior, of course, has been completely reinvented to play host to the many multimedia learning sights and exhibitions – some permanent, some on rotation. Located in the heart of Old Town, it is an easy must-see to check off your list as you traverse the city.
16. Trip to Koenigstein Fortress
Looking to get out of the city for some time away from it all? Or should I say, above it all? Festung Königstein is a massive stronghold that looms 240 meters above the Elbe River.
Towering over the landscape perched atop a large sandstone plateau, it is no wonder that this Castle is one of the most well-defensible locations in all of Europe. People have lived in the area dating all the back to the Bronze Age and the first mentions of this impressive mountain fortress date back to 1233-1241.
You can get to the Fortress from Dresden via car, bus, or boat, but the most popular option is to take a tour train. It takes about 40 minutes from Dresden Hauptbahnhof Station to Königstein Bahnhof Station. From there you would want to take a shuttle bus up the steep climb to the entrance of Koenigstein Fortress.
Do note that this is a large area full of popular hiking routes and you should expect to do a fair bit of walking, shuttle or not.
15. Pfunds Molkerei
An elaborately hand-painted dairy shop where you can find the best cheese in the world, this is a must for any art historian with a craving for cream. Located in the Eastern part of New Town this gorgeous location was opened in 1892 by the Pfund brothers.
It has since been included in the Guinness Book of Records as the “most beautiful milk shop in the world”. Boasting an impressive 247.9 m² of hand-painted tiles along the walls, floors, and ceilings.
Right next door is the Café und Restaurant Pfunds which expands upon the selection of dairy-made products offering a place to sit and a snack bar. The only thing better than an elegant glass of perfect milk is to enjoy said milk with a cake made of the finest dairy alongside it.
14. Museum of Military History
If the nitty-gritty details of historical warfare are more your speed, then the expansive Dresden Bundeswehr Museum of Military History is a stop you won’t want to miss. Here you can explore Germany’s past and learn how machines of war led to human advancement in the world of engineering.
The main exhibit is a chronological walkthrough of German military history with the addition of Daniel Libeskind’s extension from 2011 adding a five-storey triangular rise on the left side of the exhibit floor.
The Museum sits north of New Town, in a large elegant compound of neoclassical buildings. If you take the tram uptown to visit, you will want to get off at the Stauffenbergallee Tram Stop. From there you can then walk north through the Denkmal der Roten Armee Memorial Park all the way to the outstanding museum.
On the northeast side of Old Town sits the Albertinum, a grand art museum famous for its large Renaissance building. Named after King Albert of Saxony, the building was once used as an armory before being redesigned by the regional master builder Carl Adolf Canzler in the 16th century.
Home to numerous enchanting statutes from Romanticism all the way up to present times, the connection still holds a few of its original pieces from the Albertinum’s first years of exhibiting.
After undergoing renovations, as of 2010 the museum has been reopened and is better than ever.
Boasting its recent New Masters Gallery addition, the museum has taken to supporting upcoming ace artists of our own era. You will find that the New Masters Gallery and the original Sculpture Collection complement each other in a dance between master craftsmanship.
12. Deutsches Hygiene-Museum
Interestingly enough, Dresden is home to a very unique medical museum in this, the German Hygiene Museum. Humankind’s struggle with health, wellness, and hygiene, is a tale as old as time. You would be shocked to know what it was like working in the medical field even just 200 years ago.
At one point in history, much of Europe even considered bathing to be un-clean. As you can see already, the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum may hold many more surprises upon inspection than one may think at first glance. Sitting just east of Old Town, and full of surprises for both parents and kids, it is the perfect place to bring a curious scientific mind.
11. Panometer Dresden
Get a 306-degree view of history! Get to know Dresden’s architecture and city art on an intimate level with a voice-guided tour in the most unique way. This extraordinary audio-visual experience will surround you with lights and take you to a Dresden of the past.
Discover the Dresden of 1756 as a detailed painting of the city comes to life all around you, or walk the panorama of a destroyed Dresden after World War II bombings during the Panometer’s yearly anniversary event.
Do take note that the tickets can be pricey, and the location is southeastward heading out of town. But if you want to experience something rare to find anywhere else in the world, then this is the place you need on your to-do list of things to do Dresden.
10. Hike in Saxon Switzerland National Park
One of the most popular ways to get to Saxon Switzerland National Park is to take a cruise down the River Elbe. Here you can hike the iconic fissured and rocky canyon landscape, which is quite a unique sight to see.
Featuring a vast variety of breathtaking panoramic views, the iconic jutting sandstone cliffs are a hiker’s dream! Bastei Bridge is the foremost hike to do, as you can traverse atop the River Elbe 194 meters in the sky. It is also free of charge and relatively close to the Bastei bus stop.
Other recommended Hikes include Malerweg Trail (AKA Painters’Trail), Stolpen Castle, Bielatal Trail, and Bad Schandau which is one of the most demanding hikes available. If you are looking to take your GPS out to find an adventure all your own, then is it good to do research and learn what to expect ahead of time for each section of the terrain.
9. Grosser Garten
The appropriately named Grosser Garten (Great Garden) is a relaxing refuge during the warmer months. The centerpiece of the park is the Summer Palace, a Baroque masterpiece from the 17th century.
It is one of the earliest examples of Baroque architecture in Germany. The area around the palace has been a public park since 1814. Now the biggest park in Dresden, it is home to the Zoo Dresden and the Botanical Garden where visitors can explore a variety of trees, shrubs, and flowers. From April to October a miniature train rides around the park.
A showcase of modern art, Kunsthofpassage is a colorful and imaginative neighborhood located in Dresden’s student district in Neustadt.
The passage consists of several courtyards where visitors can stroll by whimsically painted buildings. One of the most famous is known as the “Courtyard of Elements.” This bright blue painting boasts an amazing feature, “singing” drain pipes.
When the rain falls, the elaborate gutter system on this bright blue building plays “music.” There is another courtyard that is adorned with lively animals, including monkeys. Kunsthofpassage is also known for its artsy boutique shops and small cafes.
7. Bruehl’s Terrace
A terraced promenade overlooking the Elbe River, the Bruehl Terrace (Brühlsche Terrasse) is a popular gathering spot that has earned the nickname “The Balcony of Europe.”
It was once a part of Dresden’s protective ramparts. But between the years 1739 and 1748, the ramparts were turned into a beautiful garden. Today, visitors enjoy strolling the promenade and taking in the gorgeous views and seeing the impressive statues and the architecture in the area.
There are several historical buildings located along the terrace including the Academy of Fine Arts (Kunstakademie), and Saxony’s Supreme Court (Sächsisches Ständehaus). It is also a favorite spot for people viewing.
6. Royal Palace
Also known as Dresden Castle, the Residenzschloss is a grand Renaissance-style palace dating back to the 14th century. After being destroyed in the fire of 1701, it was rebuilt and is now by far one of the most impressive residences in Germany. From the white English staircase, Boulle furniture to the State rooms, and everything in between it is apparent that the kings of Dresden’s past had expensive taste.
Inside the palace, visitors will find various collections and exhibitions. The gold and gem-laden historical Green Vault is the epidemy of the extravagance here at Dresden Castle. Art enthusiasts should not miss the Copperplate Engraving Cabinet, which holds an extensive collection of prints and drawings dating back to the Renaissance era.
Another interesting area within the Royal Palace is the Turkish Chamber. This exhibition showcases splendid Ottoman-style artifacts, costumes, and textiles that were once gifts from diplomatic exchanges with the Ottoman Empire.
Exploring the Royal Palace will also lead guests to the Rüstkammer, or Armory, which contains an amazing display of weapons, armor, and Renaissance-era militaria. An especially stunning piece of this collection is the suit of armor made for Augustus II the Strong, the Elector of Saxony.
5. Green Vault
The Green Vault (Grünes Gewölbe) houses what is considered to be one of the largest collections of treasures in Europe. Located in the Dresden Castle, it contains more than 4,000 items. Visitors to this baroque castle will find magnificent works of art, including gold figurines and unusual pieces such as gilded goblets made from ostrich eggs.
It is also a showcase for an amazing collection of gems and jewels, including the 41-carat Dresden Green Diamond. This nearly flawless apple-green gem is the largest green diamond in the world.
4. Procession of Princes
The Procession of Princes (Fürstenzug) is a very large mural located on the outer wall of the beautiful Stables Courtyard of Dresden Castle.
This outdoor mural depicts a parade that includes most of the rulers of Saxony between 1127 and 1918, starting with Konrad the Great. The original painting was created by the artist Wilhelm Walther between the years 1890 and 1876.
The artist included himself in the painting and appears as the last figure in the Procession of Princes. The original was created using the sgraffito pottery technique. But when that mural faded, it was replaced with 25,000 Meissen ceramic tiles and is now the largest porcelain mural in the world.
3. Semper Opera House
Built in 1841, the Semper Opera House, or Semperoper, is an impressive example of baroque architecture and is located in Dresden’s historic center. It is named for its architect, Gottfried Semper.
The Semper Opera House is the home of the Saxon State Orchestra and the Semperoper ballet. The structure has been rebuilt several times during its history.
A fire in 1869 damaged part of the structure and Allied bombing destroyed much of the building in 1945. The Semper Opera House was rebuilt as an exact replica, with the exception of a few modern conveniences. It reopened exactly 40 years after its destruction on February 13, 1985.
In 2002, the building was once again damaged when the nearby Elbe River flooded. It was repaired and is once again open for tours.
2. Zwinger Palace
This impressive complex of buildings, which was built between the years 1710 and 1732, is located across the road from Dresden Castle.
The Zwinger is made up of six stunning pavilions and was originally used to host tournaments and was also the site of various court activities. Today, the palace is home to several museums, including one that houses a large ceramics collections as well as an armory that is a showcase of Germany’s weapons.
Then there is the wing known as the Semperbau, where visitors can feast their eyes on paintings from the Old Masters, including Van Dyck, Rubens and Raphael. One of Zwinger’s most famous and photographed features is the Crown Gate. This gate is a baroque masterpiece, as is Zwinger’s beautiful Nymphaeum fountain.
The most famous tourist attractions in Dresden, the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) is a Lutheran church that was originally built in the 18th century. The impressive dome was finished in 1738 and consists of a double shell with two casings that make up the inner and outer dome.
The church graced Dresden’s skyline for two centuries before collapsing after the February 1945 bombing. After the reunification of Germany a grassroots movement helped raise funds to rebuild the famous landmark. The church was reconstructed using original plans from the 1720s and reopened in 2005.
The city of Coventry, which was raided by the Luftwaffe donated the golden cross for the dome of the church. The dome can be climbed. From the top visitors can enjoy magnificent views of Dresden and the Elbe river.
Where to Stay in Dresden
Dresden has a myriad of excellent accommodation options that cater to different tastes and budgets.
Consider the Innere Neustadt district if you’re into historical charm and artsy vibes. This area delights with its architectural wonders. It’s also conveniently close to many of Dresden’s popular attractions.
Alternatively, you can stay in the heart of Dresden at Altstadt. This area boasts top-notch hotels and proximity to iconic landmarks, ensuring that your sightseeing trips are a mere stone’s throw away from your cozy abode. If you’re looking for more affordable accommodations without compromising on accessibility, check out Äußere Neustadt. It’s a lively hub of pubs, eateries, and artistic scenery.
A great budget option, the Leonardo Hotel has a variety of rooms perfect for both the individual traveller or the entire family. They are even pet friendly, so you can bring your furry adventuring pal along if you so choose. Located just northwest of Old Town on the edge of the Friedrichstadt district and close by to Mitte Station.
The Maritim Hotel is a well reviewed midrange hotel that sits right on the banks of the River Elbe, abut to Old Town. Only an 8-minute walk to Dresden Castle and boasting classic elegance, any traveling couple would be happy to stay at the Maritim Hotel. After some relaxation, you may want to find yourself at the hotel bar or the Restaurant Wintergarten.
How to get there
Dresden Airport (DRS) is the most common way to get into the city. The international airport has direct flights from major European cities like London, Paris, and Frankfurt. From the airport, visitors can take the S2 train or a taxi to reach the city center.
If you’re more of a train traveler, Dresden has two main railway stations: Dresden Hauptbahnhof (main station) and Dresden-Neustadt station. Both stations have direct connections to German and European cities such as Berlin, Prague, and Vienna. Grab a seat, enjoy the picturesque journey, and you’ll be in Dresden in no time.
Buses offer a budget-friendly alternative when it comes to reaching Dresden. Many long-distance bus companies, such as Flixbus and RegioJet, provide routes that connect the city with others in Germany and Europe.
Approximate travel times:
Best Time to Visit Dresden
As temperatures average around 19 to 24°C (66 to 75°F), the sun is shining and everything is incredibly green, May to September is arguably the loveliest time to visit Dresden. Although the city is at its busiest (and priciest), the warm weather means there are lots of fun events and outdoor activities to enjoy.
Highlights include the Dixieland Festival – Europe’s largest jazz festival – and the huge Bunte Republik Neustadt street party. You can also take scenic boat trips to the Saxon Switzerland National Park or hike and rock climb about its dramatic formations.
Outside of these months, April and October still see quite a few visitors though the weather is unpredictable. While temperatures hover around 13 to 14°C (55 to 57°F), its winds can also bring sudden cold spells. If warm, the city’s countless parks are nice to wander about thanks to their emerging buds or attractive autumnal colors.
While the rest of the year is very quiet, December sees thousands head to Dresden for the Striezelmarkt; one of Germany’s oldest Christmas markets. Dating to 1434, it is most famed for its tasty Stollen fruitcakes and shining candles that light almost every window in town.