Dresden Things to Do Tips by Ekaterinburg
Dresden Things to Do: 576 reviews and 1,329 photos
Huge cobbled expanse of Theater Platz
This is indeed a good place to start your visit to Dresden and if it's not winter you might actually not freeze to death. I came to Dresden with a group from UCC and we were deposited bang slap in the middle of Theater Platz and put in the hands of a guide. I'm not great with guided tours and become fidgety after the first few minutes. This guide was particularly thorough and had a little file of 'before and after the bombing' photos of every building in sight. This is all very essential knowledge but the kind of thing I like to read up on at home rather than listen to ad infinitum when I'm dying to move on. After five minutes or so, I tuned out and just enjoyed being in Theatre Platz. This huge windswept cobbled area is bordered on one side by the mighty Elbe and on the other by a host of stunning buildings like the Zwinger, the Royal Palace and the Hofkirche. In the centre is Dresden's Opera House and a massive equestrian statue of King Johann of Saxony. At 11 in the morning there weren't many people about and it was possible to gaze and absorb without too much intrusion. At 2.30 and again at 5.00 I strolled across Theater Platz and the atmosphere was now more charged with lots of people going in and out of the Germalde Galerie and shoppers and commuters heading home. At this stage, with my need to see what lay around the corner sated, I appreciated the square more. A good place to arive in Dresden and an appropriate place to say goodbye.
Directions: Between the Zwinger and the River Elbe, dominated by the Semper Opera House
Original Baroque facades in Konigstrasse
The Epihany Church/Church of the Three Magi in photo 2, perfectly epitomises the elegance and restrained beauty of Konigstrasse. This street lies parallel with the Hauptstrasse and is lined on both sides with Baroque townhouses. It's centre is cobbled and wide pavements take the place of the tree-lined central pedestrian area in Hauptstrasse. You get a much better impression of the architecture here because there are so many houses left intact but overall I found it less vibrant and lived in than Haupstrasse. That is probably an unfair comparison given that the latter was looking like a Christmas fairy tale with all the market huts and lights but one was absolutely buzzing with life and the other was elegantly subdued. If you have time to explore the interior of the Church, it's possible to climb to the top and get yourself some impressive panoramic views and photos.
Directions: Parralel with Hauptstrasse on the eastern side of the Augustusbrucke
The square, dominated by the Frauenkirche
From August Strasse and the Procession of the Dukes we turned the corner into a massive, irregularly shaped space dominated by Dresden's most famous church. This space is the Neumarkt, still being reconstructed and looking in parts remarkably like the Old Town Square in Warsaw. The houses are painted in delicate pastel shades and are very pretty but I suspect that architectural purists will not approve. Not being an architectural purist myself, I was entranced as I always am, by large cobbled squares. This is something I feel cheated of living in Ireland and probably why I love just about every square I walk through, when travelling on mainland Europe.
In the centre of Neumarkt is a black and forbidding looking Martin Luther and behind him, Dresden's symbol of hope and re-unification, the Frauenkirche. In all the stories of destruction in Dresden, this is perhaps the most poignant, because the church actually appeared to survive the bombing, only to collapse two days later as the heat of surrounding fires, weakened the sandstone. Though looking nothing like each other, I inevitably drew comparisons between it and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin ( See my Berlin page), both being examples of the healing and reunification efforts of the different countries involved in WW2.
For details of opening hours, reconciliation ceremonies and free public concerts see the website.
Directions: The square dominated by the Frauenkirche, leading off August Strasse
West wing of the palace, viewed from Theater Platz
The main photo shows the west wing of the castle viewed from Theater Platz and it was this view that led me to consider it 'not so palatial.' From here it doesn't look very impressive but the towers and cupolas are a hint and when you actually get round to the Schloss Platz entrance you get a look at the more imposing interior courtyard. Here, all the facades have been meticulously restored and decorated with 'sgraffito', resulting in the white, plaster cast-gilding appearance of the walls. Above it all is the black cupola of the Hausmann Tower ( which can be climbed for panoramic views ) and entry is via the multi-gabled and exquisite, Renaissance Georgenbau Palace.
The outbuildings of the Palace have been restored as well and the stable yard or Johanneum is now open to the public. The Transport Museum is located here and it's also used as a market place. When we passed the Christmas Market was in full swing ( photo 2) and of the three Christmas Markets I saw in Dresden this one certainly had the most impressive location.
Directions: Enter from Schloss Platz in the Historic Centre. Close to the Zwinger and the Hofkirche
Some of the stunning architecture on Schloss Platz
For me, Schloss Platz is where everything in the Old town in Dresden comes together. Bordered on one side by my favourite Augustbrucke and the river, the other three sides compete for the title of most impressive. On the west side is the Hofkirche, the Catholic equivalent of the Frauenkirche and somewhat of a surprise in Protestant Saxony. This came about because Augustus the Strong needed to make some concession to Catholicism to become King of Poland. Today it remains a major part of the Dresden cityscape with its oval shape and 83 metre-high Bell Tower.
Directly across the sqare from the Hofkirche is the staircase leading up to Bruhl Terrace, flanked by four large bronze sculptural groups representing the times of the day. I've already described the Bruhl Terrace in some detail in another tip.
Finally, there is the Georgenbau, a Renaissance Palace at the entrance to the Residesnz Schloss and in truth much more impressive than many other parts of the Royal Palace itself.
Standing on Schloss Platz you are faced with some of the lovliest buildings and aspects of the whole city. Which direction will you take ? The choice is yours and I can promise you that whatever that choice is you will be rewarded.
Directions: Between the Hofkirche and the steps leading up to Bruhl Terrace, near Augustusbrucke
Fountain at Albertplatz
I wasn't quite sure what to expect in the Neustadt when I set off on my little voyage of exploration. I had finally escaped the constraints of the group and just wanted to get across a bridge and see what was on the other side. The bridge I chose, happened to be the Augustbrucke and as I've repeated over and over on this page, it gves the best views of the river and the city and is altogether the kind of bridge you end up spending alot of time on, rather than just crossing.
At the other side lay the Haupstrasse with the Golden statue of Augustus the Strong rearing up proudly against the sky. From there on, it was one massive Christmas Market which distracted me for quite some time. Eventually I got off the pedestrianised centre and found the street itself to be an intriguing mass of contradictions. On one side were square blocks of 60's looking concrete and glass, then further up, perfectly preserved Baroque townhouses. It was then I realised that the New Town is actually 300 years old and that it has some of the only Baroque buildings to escape the bombing of 1945.
Carrying on up the street I detoured into Ritter Strasse and sneaked some quick shopping time in the Markt Halle, then finally emerged at the busy hub of Albert Platz. Here there were two stunning fountains and lots of intriguing streets leading off in all directions.
At this point I backtracked into Konigstrasse, not realising that I was missing out on the largest preserved Victorian neighbourhod in Europe. So if you find yourself in the Neustadt, carry on from Albert Platz, turn into Alaunstrasse and enjoy the art passages of the most Bohemian quarter of Dresden.
Directions: Across the river from the Old City. Cross via AugustusBrucke in front of Bruhl Terrace
View of Bruhl terrace from Augustbrucke
Bruhl Terrace and the Elbe below it is probably the most painted and photographed view of Dresden. When you leave Neumarkt and Frauenkirche a short stroll down Mungasse will bring you out to the riverside, underneath Bruhl Terrace. At Christmas time Mungasse is thronged with people visiting the Christmas Market and this is where we had lunch then walked parallel with Bruhl Terrace to find a coach. The coach brought us to visit some of Dresden's more interesting outer suburbs but walking towards it I was absolutely furious to be walking away from Bruhl terrace, rather than walking on it.
Later in the afternoon I came back and spent quite some time here. From the end of Auguststrasse, wide steps lead up to the Terrace and suddenly you are elevated above the Old Town centre and the river and every way you look there are panoramic views. It's been described as the Balcony of Europe ( along with countless other places) but it truly is a balcony and you don't so much walk there as promenade. Lined with stately buildings such as the amazing Kunst Akademie, illuminated by ornamental lamps, everything up here seems rare and beautiful. Between buildings you get interesting views of the town centre, you look down at the traffic and people traversing the banks of the Elbe and gaze across the river to the Neustadt.
In front of the Albertinium, the Terrace peters out into Bruhl Gardens and here you will find the monument to Caspar David Friedreich. As darkness fell, returning from my trip to the Neustadt, I couldn't resist walking al round the Bruhl Terrace again. This time, with sunset flaring in the sky and lights beginning to come on across the city, it was even more magical.
Address: Bruhl Terrace
Directions: At the end of August Strasse overlooking the Elbe
Exciting wall decoration along August Strasse
The outside wall of the Langer Gang, the long passage which connects the Residenzschloss with the stables, is home to one of Dresden's most famous sights. This is the Furstenzug or Procession of The Dukes and it's the most effective way I've ever come across, to force passers-by to remember who made this city.
If Vienna is all about Habsburgs, Dresden is all about Wettins and none more so than the most colourful and infamous of them all, Augustus the Strong. This was the same Augustus whose vision of the city resulted in the Zwinger and The Hofkirche to name but a few. So even if you are really not into ruling families and couldn't care less who founded Dresden, this monumental mural will give you a potted history of the Wettin Dynasty, whether you like it or not.
The mural depicts 35 noblemen altogether, from the 12th century Konrad the Great, to Friedrich August 111, Saxony's last king, who ruled from 1904-1918. It was originally painted by Wilhelm Walter between 1870 and 1876 but eventually, the stucco began to crumble and around 1906-'07 it was replaced by 25,000 Meissen tiles. You can read the statistics about the length, height etc in any guidebook but believe me it is one monument you will not pass by without looking at very closely. The names of all the rulers are printed underneath but I admit that I had to make a guess as to which one was Augustus the Strong. My guess is the flamboyant character in photo 3 but I'm probably wrong. If you find out for sure, please let me know.
Address: August Strasse
Directions: Between the Royal Palace and the Neumarkt
Paddle Boats on the river
The Elbe flows right through the middle of Dresden and is really an integral part of the city. In front of Bruhl Terrace between Augustusbrucke and Carolabrucke, there are paddle steamers bumper to bumper waiting to bring people on the river cruises that Dresden is justly famous for. They weren't doing much business when I was there but it was easy to imagine how pleasant it would be, in different weather conditions, to cruise to Pillnitz Castle and view everything from the water. One of these river boats is a theatre, a few seemed to be offering restaurant services and all were decorated for Christmas.
The best views in town are from the Augustbrucke. This is the perfect spot to take photographs of the Old Town and to look at the skyline of the New Town on the other side. The river bank on the Neustadt side has been developed as a park with a great cycling/jogging path but the wide expanses of green look very natural , more like a field or flood pain than a park. Ducks and river birds were clucking along the verges and the whole thing reminded me more of a Dutch landscape painting than a city park.
From Augustbrucke you can see the high rise blocks in the distance and are reminded that the city is not just all about the old town. Whichever way you look, upstream or downstream, the broad curve of the river, the graceful arching of the many bridges and the city enveloping it on either side, will make you glad you came. For icing on the cake cross the Augustusbrucke at sunset and you will never want to leave
Directions: Wending its way right through the city and providing fabulous vista-vistas everywhere you look.
Ramparts Pavillion at the Zwinger.
There is so much to potentially write about the Zwinger that it's hard to know where to begin and even harder to decide when to stop. For this reason I'm not going to regurgitate hundreds of guide book facts and will just describe what impressed me most about it. For starters, this Orangery, designed with a nod to Versailles is absolutely huge. An in-depth exploration could probably take several hours and if you include the Old Master's Gallery and other museums, you would need at least a day.
We entered the complex via a small slope behind the Opera House and this brought us to the Balustrades which we strolled along and used as a vantage point for examining the principle features. I would reccomend this, as looking down from above seemed infinitely preferable to trawling through the courtyard below and straining your neck by continually looking up. In truth, the courtyard doesn't look its best in winter because the fountains are all turned off and though the formal grass patterns are striking the walkways in betwen were more than a little muddy.
This is a major monument to Baroque and I've seldom seen a building where design and sculpture blend so harmoniously together. The two pavillions facing each other at opposite ends, the Ramparts Pavillion and the Glockenspiel Pavillion are absolutely stunning, with so much sculptural and decorative detail that it's impossible to take it all in. Really striking as well is the awesome Kronentor ( Crown Gate ) which looks decidedly oriental and stands out a mile with its black and gold dome. Most of all I loved the statues which line the balustrades and these I have described seperately in the General Tips section.
Address: Sophienstrasse/ Ostra -Allee or Theater Platz
Directions: Off Theater Platz in the Historic Centre of the city but you can also enter via the Kronentur.
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