Top 20 Things to do in Dresden Germany | Best travel tips
12. November 2020 | Christian
Dresden is a city with an impressive history, full of art and culture. Sights with historical flair make a visit to the so-called "Florence on the Elbe" a real pleasure.
The heart of the city is the historic center with one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Here you can visit the Semper Opera, the gallery building of the world-famous Zwinger, the Royal Palace and the Dresden Cathedral.
All highlights for visitors, tourists and holidaymakers in this travel guide.
Overview of the sights in Dresden:
- Semper Opera
- Royal Palace
- Dresden Cathedral
- Procession of Princes
- Golden Horseman
- Pfunds Dairy
- Pillnitz Palace
- Elbe Castles
- Brühl’s Terrace
- Japanese Palace
- The Great Garden
- German Hygiene Museum
- The Blue Wonder
- Steamboat trip on the Elbe
- Dresden Suspension Railway
- Funicular Railway
In the middle of Dresden's historic center is the Frauenkirche, a monumental Protestant church building.
The Frauenkirche is the symbol of the city and an important sight for tourists and visitors.
It was built between 1726 and 1743, but was almost completely destroyed in the Second World War. After its reconstruction in the 90s, the church was reopened in 2005.
The viewing platform is at the top of the Frauenkirche at a height of 67 meters. Those who have made the ascension will be rewarded with a picturesque panoramic view of Dresden.
The Dresden Zwinger is a unique baroque holistic work of art. It was commissioned by August the Strong and build from 1709 to 1732 based on designs by the architect Pöppelmann and the sculptor Permoser.
The crown gate with an onion dome and the Polish royal crown leads into the inner courtyard of the complex. This rectangular courtyard houses numerous pavilions with fountains.
If you stroll through the parks, you will quickly notice how historic this city is.
It is a place to pleasure wander, amaze and relax.
You can get a panoramic view of the entire complex on a walk along the balustrade.
Alte Meister Gallery
The picture gallery of Old Masters in the Dresden Zwinger with its 700 masterpieces from the 15th to the 18th century is one of the most renowned collections of art in the world. This fascinating collection of European paintings includes well-known painters such as Rembrandt, Rubens and Raphael.
Especially the Sistine Madonna by Raphael with the famous angels at her feet attracts the attention of visitors.
3. Semper Opera
The Semper Opera - designed by the architect Gottfried Semper between 1838 and 1841 - is one of the most beautiful historical opera houses in the world and attracts music lovers from all continents.
The performances in the Semper Opera offer enjoyment of art at the highest level in the midst of its glamorous interiors, such as the imposing auditorium and foyer.
The Dresdner’s had to watch their opera destroyed not only once.
For the first time, the building was completely destroyed in a fire on September 21, 1869. Afterwards the building largely burned out in the 1945 airstrikes.
40 years after the opera was destroyed in World War II, the Dresdner’s celebrated its reopening in 1985.
4. Royal Palace
The Royal Palace on Theater Square is one of the most beautiful castles in Germany.
The history of this Renaissance building dates back to the 15th century. Back then it was the seat of power for the electors and kings of Saxony. The Saxon Elector Friedrich August I, known as August the Strong, rebuilt the palace complex after a fire in 1701.
At the top of the 101 meter Hausmann Tower of the Royal Palace, you can enjoy Dresden from a bird's eye view.
In the west wing of the castle, in the Green Vault, visitors are impressed by masterpieces of goldsmith art and handicraft with treasures of gold, jewels and ivory.
5. Dresden Cathedral
Hofkirche, Dresden Cathedral, or the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was built between 1739 and 1755 and was one of the most important Saxon buildings during August the Strong's lifetime. Today it is an important sight in Dresden and it is also the largest church in all of Saxony.
The baroque building is 92 meters long and, with the tower as the highest point, 86 meters high. An eye catcher of the building are the 78 saint figures placed on the facade and on the balustrade.
The name Hofkirche (translated: cathedral of the palace) is no coincidence, because Augustus the Strong decided to have a church built next to the Royal Palace. The church was then connected to the palace by a passage.
The crypt with a total of 49 members of the house Wettin is worth seeing. Eight Saxon kings have also found their last resting place here, such as Friedrich August I, Anthony of Saxony and Georg of Saxony. August the Strong is not buried here, but his heart is kept here in a gold-plated capsule.
Several bombings in World War II almost completely destroyed the church. The reconstruction, which is true to original, lasted until 1965.
Today, over 1 million people visit the Dresden Cathedral every year.
6. Procession of Princes
On a foray through the historic center you will hardly miss the 102 meter long Procession of Princes in Augustus Street near the Frauenkirche.
On around 23,000 Meissen porcelain tiles, the procession shows larger-than-life figures from earlier city history as an ancestral gallery between 1127 and 1873 in Saxony.
A total of 94 persons are depicted, including margraves, dukes, electors and kings of Saxony.
The four-meter-high representation was originally created from 1872 to 1876 by the history painter Wilhelm Walther.
Between 1904 and 1907, this was replaced with ceramic tiles from the Meissen porcelain manufactory.
Fortunately, the condition has been preserved to this day, since the wall was only minimally damaged in the Second World War.
When you are in Dresden, you can hardly miss Yenidze.
The building looks like a huge mosque, but it used to be a tobacco factory.
The so-called tobacco mosque, built in 1907 with its dome structure and a chimney disguised as a minaret, has brought an oriental flair to Dresden.
There is also a good reason why this unusual architecture was chosen to build the tobacco factory. In 1909 there was a regulation in Dresden that prohibited the building of factories in the city center which looked like factories.
By the way, the name Yenidze, as it stands on the dome, is Turkish. Yenidze was the growing area from which the factory owner imported his raw tobacco.
8. Golden Horseman
The Golden Horseman shows the Saxon Elector and Polish King August the Strong.
It is considered the most famous monument in Dresden. In the 18th century, the standing horseman statue was made in copper based on a model by Jean Joseph Vinache and fire-gilded by Ludwig Wiedemann.
The statue shows August as Roman Caesar with armor. The prince is shown in larger-than-life size.
Between 1943 and 1944, the monument was moved and relocated due to the war. From 1953 to 1956 it was reassembled and restored with leaf gold.
In this way the monument could be erected again on the occasion of the 750th anniversary of Dresden.
The Golden Rider was last restored between 2001 and 2003.
The Albertinum building was erected between 1887 and 1894 and originally served as the city's arsenal.
At the end of the 19th century, it was converted into a museum building under Carl Adolph Canzler and was named Albertinum in honor of King Albert.
Today the museum houses the sculpture collection and the gallery of the New Masters.
The gallery presents works of art from the 19th century to the present day.
A real eye catcher at the eastern end of the Brühl’s Terrace is the folded glass dome crowned by the Pheme figure, the goddess of fame and rumor. Due to the unusual shape, the dome also bears the name "lemon squeezer".
10. Pfunds Dairy
An insider tip for all visitors to Dresden is the Pfunds Dairy in New Town.
It is probably the most beautiful milk shop in the world with its more than 100 year old interior design made of colored ceramic tiles. The Pfunds dairy pampers its guests with its fascinating range of milk specialties and cheese delicacies.
The dairy was founded in 1880 by the Pfund brothers.
11. Pillnitz Palace
The Pillnitz Palace with its gardens is an enchanting example of the Chinese fashion that spread across Europe in the 18th century with exotic plants, curved roofs, golden chimney tips and Asian wall paintings.
The former summer residence of the Saxon kings stands directly on the Elbe, in the countryside remote from the city center.
The Saxon court used to celebrate its festivities here and searched for a cooling-off in the hot summer months.
Components are the Hillside and Riverside Palace with the imposing outdoor staircase, which were the first to be completed. Today the Arts and Crafts Museum of the Dresden State Art Collection is located here.
In the New Palace you will find the Pillnitz Palace Museum.
12. Elbe Castles
The Elbe Castles are among the few classical buildings in Dresden, which is largely influenced by the baroque style.
Prince Albert of Prussia had them built in the 19th century, surrounded by a landscaped garden.
These include Albrechtsberg Castle, Lingner Castle and Eckberg Castle.
The Lingner Castle is named after its former owner Karl August Lingner, who made the Odol mouthwash an international bestseller. The manufacturer bought the castle in 1906 and bequeathed it to the Dresdeners after his death.
The condition here, however, was that the parks should always be open to the people of Dresden and that everyone in Dresden could afford to come here. That's why there is always a drink for 90 cents, which you can enjoy here. You can also dine well on the Lingner Terraces and enjoy the view of Dresden and the Elbe valley.
13. Brühl’s Terrace
Brühl’s Terrace is Dresden's historic promenade along the Elbe. Also called the balcony of Europe, it is part of the famous historic center.
The promenade along the Elbe offers a wonderful view of the Elbe with its imposing steamships.
14. Japanese Palace
Between the Palace Square and Elbe you will find the building of the Japanese Palace, which was built in 1715 and rebuilt in the 1730s.
August the Strong, acquired the palace in 1717 and wanted to realize his dream of a porcelain castle. The name should be taken literally, because the entire castle, from the roof to the interior, should be made of porcelain.
Although his overall vision could not be accomplished, the Japanese palace remains a masterpiece of the Dresden Baroque.
The four-wing complex is kept in the Chinese style, which was very popular then (we remember the Pillnitz Palace). The curved roofs from the Japanese architecture make the building particularly worth seeing.
Today the Japanese Palace houses the Senckenberg Natural History Collection and the Dresden Museum of Ethnology.
15. The Great Garden
With its variety of plants and the park railway is the Great Garden a popular place of relaxation for the people of Dresden and its visitors.
The Great Garden is with its 148 hectares the largest park in Dresden. It was created on behalf of Elector Johann Georg III around 1676.
Today it is one of the most important gardens in Europe.
16. German Hygiene Museum
The German Hygiene Museum is located near the historic center. It was founded in 1912 to educate the population about body and health.
The first transparent person - presented in 1930 - is a highlight to this day.
The museum’s permanent exhibition is called “Human Adventure”. It’s covering the phases of human development, from fertilization to pregnancy and to death.
Unusual exhibitions are a hallmark of the museum and have a very good reputation. For example, the human language: how do we communicate, how do we learn to articulate ourselves and which power does the human language have. Another example is the topic of shame and why we are blushing.
Like many other sights of today, the museum was almost completely destroyed during the bombing nights of World War II. However, it was quickly rebuilt and again renovated after the reunification. Today it looks almost like in 1930 when it was opened.
17. The Blue Wonder
The Blue Wonder is Dresden’s cult and a symbol of the city.
It is so well known because it was the first bridge of this span that did not need central pillars. This was according to a wish of the shipping companies.
The bridge, officially the Loschwitz Bridge, has been connecting Loschwitz with the suburbs and the historic center of Dresden on the left side of the Elbe since 120 years.
The designer of the Elbe Bridge was the engineer Claus Koepcke. He was fascinated by iron as a new material of the time. It offered the possibility to build spectacular buildings everywhere.
For this particular type of bridge Koepcke developed the name "stiffened three-joint suspension bridge". One joint is in the middle, two above the bridge pillars.
Thousands of iron rivetings hold the steel together, the total weight is estimated at around 3,000 tons. The self-supporting middle section is 146 meters long, the total length of the bridge is 280 meters.
Construction began in 1891 and after only two years the bridge was completed and opened on July 15, 1893.
18. Steamboat trip on the Elbe
Not only can you marvel steamships on the Elbe, but you can simply ride along.
Of course it is also fun to explore Dresden on foot, but with the city trip on water you can put your feet up and enjoy the panorama of the city.
The boat trip starts on the terrace shore in the historic center and ends at the Blue Wonder, the Loschwitz Bridge.
19. Dresden Suspension Railway
The suspension railway, which has existed for over 100 years, is considered a historic landmark of German engineering.
It starts in the Loschwitz district and overcomes 80 meters in altitude in just a few minutes.
From the top you have the perfect overview of almost the entire city on the Elbe.
It’s a great starting point to get a good orientation for your visit in Dresden.
20. Funicular Railway
The funicular railway is the second way to the top besides the suspension railway. You also start in Loschwitz and overcome 100 meters in altitude.
It was opened in 1895 and is one of the oldest of its kind in the world. It has been declared a historic monument since 1984.
The railway leads you to the exclusive residential area Weißer Hirsch (translated: White Deer), where you will find the Luisenhof restaurant. It has been enthroned up here as a panoramic restaurant for over 100 years. In accordance with the good Dresden tradition the Luisenhof provides its guests with the finest cakes and pastries.
Insider Tip: Cosel Palace
A little insider tip while strolling through the historic center is the Cosel Palace on Neumarkt (translated: New Market). It is one of the most famous baroque buildings in the city and is now a popular restaurant and café.
It owes its name to its builder - Imperial Count Friedrich August of Cosel.
Later the Cosel Palace served as the royal police headquarters. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in the Second World War, but then rebuilt true to original.