Dresden Sightseeing and Tours
From: Dresden, Germany
Dresden Tourism's English-language City Guide map will point you in the right direction when you're ready to explore the Altstadt. Its suggested walking tour begins at the Rathaus, or City Hall, where you can see a model of the city in the atrium. Next, head for the Kreuzkirche, where the tower viewing platform is worth the easy climb.
Just beyond the Kreuzkirche and the Altmarkt is the Kulturpalast, which was built in 1969 and is the home of the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra.
Not far away, along Wilsdruffer Strasse (a modern street from the GDR era) is the Landhaus, home of Saxony's parliament in the 18th Century and now the Dresden City Museum.
To the east is Neumarkt, where you'll find the Frauenkirche, a massive domed church that was built as a Lutheran rival to St. Peter's Basilica in the early 1700s. (You can visit the dome and its viewing platform if you don't mind narrow stairs, curving ramps, and dizzying views.)
Also nearby is the Brühlsche Terrasse, a former rampart with attractive views that you can reach via a flight of steps. The Kunstakademie or Academy of Arts is located here; look for its distinctive glass dome with a golden angel on top.
The New Synagogue was built to replace the old Semper Synagogue, which was destroyed in 1938 under the Nazi regime. It opened in 2001 and incorporates fragments of its predecessor.
Dresden is most famous for its Baroque architecture, but the Stallhof makes it clear that the Renaissance wasn't an era to be sneezed at--even in the city of the August the Strong. The 16th Century building, with its Italian-style arcade, was built for courtly tournaments.
The Fürstenzug, or Procession of Princes, is a 20th Century addition to the Stallhof's exterior. It shows all the rulers of Saxony from 1123 to 1904 on a Meissen tile mural that measures 102 meters or 335 feet long. (The current Fürstenzug dates back to 1907; it replaces a painted version from 1876 that began chipping off after several decades.)
The former Hofkirche or Court Church (now the Cathedral), Residenz-Schloss (a reconstructed royal palace, now the home to several museums), and the Schinkelwache (a Greek Revival building that houses the ticket office of the nearby Semper Opera) are other essential stops on any walking tour of the Altstadt.
The Zwinger (Dresden's most famous building, which houses the Porcelain Collection and 10 other museums) is also a "must-see." Don't miss the Glockenspiel, a carillon with 40 Meissen porcelain bells that survived World War II's bombing raids.
Dresden also has one building that nearly always confuses visitors: The Yenidze looks like a mosque but is actually a cigarette factory (built from 1907-1909) that was designed to evoke the atmosphere--architecturally and culturally, if not literally--of Turkey's Yenidze tobacco-growing region. Today it's an office building with a 360° panoramic restaurant.
Venture outside the city center, and you'll find examples of 19th Century architecture (especially across the river in the Dresden-Neustadt district) and modern buildings from the GDR era and since German reunification.
If you have time, drive or--better yet--take a tram and ferry or bus to Pillnitz Palace and Park, the summer residence of the Wettin dynasty, which is across the Elbe at the eastern edge of the city.
For more advice on what to see in Dresden, visit the tourist office's Places of Interest page, which where you can drill down into sections about the Altstadt (Old City), the Neustadt quarter, the Elbe and its meadows, and viewing towers. You can also download the Dresden City Guide in Adobe PDF format.
Tours and excursions
The Dresden tourist office can help you book local sightseeing tours. Another possibility is a double-deck "hop on, hop off" bus, which comes in two flavors: a red bus or a two-tone bus, with slightly different itineraries. If you don't read German, use Google Translate to compare the tours (or, better yet, discuss your options at the tourist office.)
If buses are too mundane for your tastes, you can pedal with friends or strangers on a Conferencebike tour, drive a vintage Trabant automobile in a Trabi Safari convoy, or book an English-language "In the Footsteps of Kurt Vonnegut - Slaughterhouse 5 Tour" with Nightwalk - Dresden.
In nice weather, don't miss a chance to cruise on the Elbe by paddle steamer. (Some boats offer scheduled service to Meissen, where tours of the porcelain factory are available; you can also reach Meissen by S-Bahn suburban train.)
Finally, Volkswagen's "Transparent Factory" is a remarkable marriage of architecture and industry where luxurious VW Phaetons are assembled by small teams of technicians in a spotless factory that resembles a modern-art museum with cars. (Fun fact: Phaeton parts are delivered to the factory in specially-designed trams, using Dresden's public streetcar tracks.)
Next page: Museums, parks
Top photo copyright © Sebastian Rost.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Durant Imboden and Cheryl Imboden. All rights reserved.