"Dresden" Dresden by EasyMalc
Dresden Travel Guide: 1,347 reviews and 4,051 photos
Dresden, the capital of Saxony with a population of just over half a million, is situated on the banks of the River Elbe not far from the Czech border. It has been called ‘The Florence on the Elbe’ because of its wealth of cultural treasures.
Much of that disappeared during the contentious allied bombing raids in February 1945 when, not only did its artistic treasures come under attack, but also its people, and the estimates vary from between 20,000 and 100,000 fatalities. The true figure will probably never be known.
At the end of the 2nd World War Dresden found itself behind the Iron Curtain, but now that the wall has come down there’s been a renaissance that is turning it into a great destination for visitors.
Dresden is a cultural city but its not just culture. There’s more to it than that and if you make it here I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. I certainly wasn’t. I loved it.
Dresden’s first permanent settlers were slavs from Bohemia who arrived on the banks of the Elbe around 600AD. They called the village Drezdzany meaning ‘Forest Dwellers on the Plain’.
By the Middle Ages they had been supplanted by various German rulers, most notably members of the Wettin dynasty who ruled over Saxony for some 800 years.
The most influential of these was Augustus the Strong, a native of Dresden who ruled as Elector between 1694 and 1733.
Although Saxony and Dresden eventually became protestant after the Reformation, Augustus the Strong changed his faith to Catholicism so that he could become King of Poland.
Even though he didn’t remain King of Poland for too long it was long enough for him to exert some of his power onto the European stage. He held his court in Dresden and the city blossomed into a city of culture and arts.
In 1806 Saxony became a monarchy and remained so until 1918 when it became a Free State. During the 19th cent the city’s prosperity grew and by the beginning of the 20th cent it was regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
The rise of Nazi Germany changed its fortunes abruptly. Firstly by the heavy handed tactics on the local population, particularly the Jews, by the Nazis themselves - and then by the heavy bombardment of the city by Allied bombers in 1945. From 13th to 15th February of that year the beautiful buildings were reduced to rubble and tens of thousands of people killed and injured.
Dresden was on the losing side in WW2 and on the Russian side of the Iron Curtain after it ended. On 7th Oct 1949 the GDR was founded and Dresden became one of the regional capitals of Saxony (along with Leipzig and Chemnitz).
A demonstration against the communist authorities on 17th June 1953 was ruthlessly put down but it didn’t stop the people trying again in 1989. This time though the puppet government was on the back foot with unrest throughout the Eastern Bloc and the Berlin Wall came down in November of that year. On 14th Oct 1990 the state of Saxony was restored and Dresden became its capital.
Since then the city has been getting back on its feet with many of its iconic buildings re-constructed and restored and it reaped its rewards in 2004 when UNESCO designated the Elbe Valley around Dresden a World Heritage Site.
Many of Dresden’s ‘must see’ sights are located in the Altstadt. These include Theaterplatz with its Semper Opera, the nearby Hofkirche, Royal Palace, and Zwinger and the recently restored Marienkirche.
The Bruhlsche Terrasse is a wonderful promenade overlooking the Elbe where you can relax for a coffee and take in the views across to the Neustadt.
The Neustadt, (called this since 1370) has two parts to it. The Inner Neustadt is mainly a shopping area and the Outer Neustadt is an alternative area with quirky buildings, plenty of bars and places to eat. The banks on this side of the river offer the best views of the Altstadt.
Dresden’s highlights are not confined to the city centre either. Back on the other side of the river under the Bruhlsche Terrasse paddle steamers leave for trips along the river. They’ll take you upstream towards Saxon Switzerland with some worthwhile places to visit such as Pilnitz and Konigstein or if you prefer to go downstream you can visit Meissen, famous for its porcelain.
I spent two full days in Dresden and although I covered a fair bit of ground in that time I would recommend longer if you can, especially if you want to visit the museums and places outside of the city. A week wouldn’t be too long if you wanted to see most things but probably about 3-5 days would have suited me better.
- Pros:Superb restoration has brought the city back to its former glory
- Cons:Rubbish left lying around by (mainly) students
- In a nutshell:A great example of re-construction and renovation
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