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Dresden Visitor Guide | Things to see and do in Dresden, Germany

Located around 30 miles from the Czech border is Dresden - the capital of the German state of Saxony. If you have not heard of the place or have not visited it this article, which is a guest post by Kirsty of Lost in Landmarks, tells you why you must go there and what you can do while visiting Dresden.

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Exploring Dresden's History


Dresden is a name that conjures up all sorts of images but which ones probably depends on what you know about the city already.  For some it brings up thoughts of amazing baroque architecture, for others they might be thinking that it’s a classic East German city with stark communist era buildings.  Others might know the history of the city in relation to World War 2 and the fact that it was heavily bombed and imagine that.

The Second World War history is what we were interested in when we visited.  I knew it was a city that was destroyed by us, the British, but I didn’t know much about it except from a little in a book I’d read.  Although bombing happened all over Germany through the war, the bombing of  Dresden was a little different and it certainly didn’t have a lot of support when news of it happened.  Although Dresden was of military importance and of course that was the official reason for the bombing, the main casualties of the raid were civilians - around 25,000 of them.  For this reason there was a lot of controversy after the war about whether the bombing was justified. The raids left the city completely destroyed with fire sweeping through any buildings left standing.  It took place in early 1945 just before the end of the war and would have been a devastating blow.  With the division of the country after the war and Dresden being under Soviet control in the former DDR much of the city was left in ruins for many years to come.




Places to visit in Dresden


Although I knew a little of the history and had heard the city had rebuilt itself, I wasn’t prepared for the beauty that greeted me as we explored Dresden.  I assumed there would be nothing left of the old part, but they had faithfully restored it all to its former glory and what is left now is a beautiful city that makes an excellent tourist destination.

Frauenkirche - the Church of Our Lady and Neumarkt


One of the main landmarks in the city is the Frauenkirche, the Church of Our Lady, which is the large church which dominates the Neumarkt Square in the heart of the Altstadt (the old town).  The style of the buildings in this area are Baroque, originally built in the 17th and 18th centuries but if you look closely, you’ll be able to see that they have been rebuilt quite recently.  This area was completely destroyed in the bombing of Dresden in 1945, including much of the Frauenkirche, and has only been reconstructed in very recent years.  After the war all that remained were few of the outside walls of the church and through the soviet ruled East German period that was kept as a reminder of the horrors of the war.  With the reunification of Germany in 1991 work began soon after on the rebuild of the church.  It took many years of building with what had remained and using original plans but in 2005, after 13 years, it was back and the old skyline was restored.  It’s a stunning symbol of how war is not the end of everything and that we can rebuild and restore peace.

Frauenkirche the Church of Our Lady and Neumarkt

You can visit inside the church to look around the stunning and completely restored interior and services are also held daily.  You can also climb to the top of the church and get a fabulous view of the city below.

Also of interest - Brilliant Views of Oxford from the Top of The University Church of St Mary!

Brühl's Terrace and the River Elbe


Another place to get wonderful views of the city is to head to the Brühl's Terrace which runs alongside the River Elbe. The river is prone to flooding as it did when we visited, but the walk along is stunning and gives amazing views of the surrounding areas.  Cross over one of the bridges to get photos of the city from the other side of the river - it’s especially beautiful if you can see it at night time too.


Zwinger


There are many palaces in Dresden if you like to revel in the beauty of these buildings - our favourite one to wander around, which you could do for free if sticking to the exterior and the inner courtyard, was the Zwinger.  Again, this was completely destroyed in the Second World War but unlike the Neumarkt area this was actually rebuilt soon after the war while it was under Soviet control.  It’s a stunning space and is used to hold concerts year round.  We were on a strict budget and it was such a treat to be able to explore here without needing to buy an entrance ticket.  If you do want to explore more and look inside it does cost.


Dresden Castle


If you’re not tired of wonderful buildings and history Dresden Castle could also be worth some time to explore.  It’s the old seat of Royalty from 1485 and again completely rebuilt after becoming a shell after the bombings - thankfully many of the contents had been moved at the beginning of the war so not everything was lost.  It’s now home to many of the art collections in the city.

Below are some interesting tours you could try in Dresden.


Museums and Art galleries


There are a few worthy museums in the town, some dedicated to the history of the city like the Stadtmusem Dresden and some that aren’t like the Transport museum which we explored. I definitely recommend this one if you’re travelling with kids or just have an interest in vehicles planes and trains.  Other museums are a little more quirky like the German Hygiene museum!

If art is your thing you’ll find so much to see in Dresden.  It’s not something we personally visited, but many of the palaces are home to them and the Old Masters Picture gallery contains pieces by Vermeer and Raphael amongst others.   The Dresden State Art collections are housed in about 12 different buildings throughout the city with pieces to cater for every taste.  You’ll definitely not be bored if you like art!


Neustadt


While the old town is the main area with attractions for tourists there are some worthy places of note in the Neustadt as well.  On the opposite side of the River Elbe you get your stunning photo opportunities of the city but there’s also the Japanese palace which is home to a museum and more art works.

Dresden Neustadt

If you want to do a little shopping you can head to the Neustadt market hall which is a beautiful old building that’s been recently restored and has some small food stalls as well as other items to browse as well.  The area as a whole is also a good place to eat away from the very touristy restaurants in the old town.

The Neustadt has a distinctly different feel to it so if you want to get away from the crowds and tourists I’d recommend heading here.  You do get some of the old communist style buildings here and it’s much more of a lived in area so a definite contrast to the gilded tourist centre.


Day trips from Dresden


While there’s plenty to keep you occupied in Dresden itself, but if you want to head out of the city there are some nice day trips to be had.  If Second World War history is your thing, I can highly recommend a trip to Colditz Castle which is around an hour away and has an amazing history which includes daring escapes from the prisoners held there.  Leipzig is another beautiful city nearby (1 hour by train) and of course you could take a trip to Berlin as well which is around 2 hours by train.  Dresden is also very close to borders of the Czech Republic and to Poland if you want to add some other countries to your itinerary.

Has Kirsty's post got you interested in visiting Dresden? Check out where you could stay in Dresden.




10 comments:

  1. We've been planning on going to Germany for a while, Dresden seems to be the perfect choice. I didn't realise how close it is to other places aswell, so could easily fit a lot into a small time.

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    1. Germany is one of my favourite countries - you'll love it!

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  2. That's interesting that there is a German Hygiene museum in Dresden! I always enjoy random specialty museums around the world. Neumarkt Square looks like to walk around in.

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    1. it definitely makes a change to go to some of these quirky museums!

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  3. Very nice! The architecture of the old churches and buildings is stunning. So much detail.

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    1. it's such a beautiful place - I had no idea it would be so nice!

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  4. I am in love with the Baroque architecture of Dresden! A walk along the river (even if a bit flooded) sounds right up my alley. And, as an art appreciator, I would definitely want to include the Old Masters Picture gallery in my itinerary; I'll take any opportunity to see works by Vermeer, Raphael and other masters. Thanks for these insights!

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    1. It's really a stunning city - sounds like it would be perfect for you!

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  5. Made it to Drezden before Christmas and loved it! Outstanding Christmas markets and a lot of fun orverall!

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    1. Oh I'd love to visit the Christmas market - one for the next visit I think!

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