Pillnitz Palace & Park
From: Dresden, Germany
S is more than the single Schloss, or castle, that its name would suggest: The former royal estate on the outskirts of Dresden includes two palaces, an orangery, a "Lion's Head" Bastion, a a Vineyard Church, a glass-walled Palm House, fake Gothic ruins, and an extensive network of formal and English-style gardens. It may not be Versailles, but it's an impressive testament to the artistic taste and financial extravagance of Saxony's Electors during the 17th and early 18th Centuries. The Pillnitz estate is well worth visiting, especially since you can get there easily by public transportation.
A bit of history
The original palace, a.k.a. the "Old Palace," was a medieval manor house from the early 1300s-- or possibly even earlier. It was enlarged over the next two centuries and purchased by Elector Johann Georg IV in 1694. When Georg died, his brother and successor--Augustus the Strong--added new features to the palace, along with a "Temple of Venus" in 1725.
The Old Palace and its attached buildings were destroyed by fire in 1818. Fortunately for the owners--and for today's tourists-two other palaces had been built in the meantime: Theor Waterside Palace of 1720-1722 (see photo at top of page) and the or Hillside Palace from 1723-1724.
The English Garden and Pavilion also date from the 1700s. In the following century, more buildings were added, including the or New Palace (1818-1826), the (1861), and various guardhouses. The park was also updated and expanded, with the most recent plantings--the long twin rows of chestnut trees in the promenade--being added in 1965, during the GDR era.
Today, citizens of Dresden flock to Pillnitz on sunny afternoons and weekends. It's a pleasant place for sitting, strolling, having a meal in the restaurant, enjoying an ice-cream cone, or visiting the Palace Museum and Dresden's Museum of Decorative Arts in the palace complex.
The gardens are open daily from 5 a.m. to nightfall. Admission is free.
Pick up a free map in the Alte Wache, or Old Guardhouse, where you'll also find a gift shop and bookstore. (Another shop is in the Neues Palais.) The office is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from May to October and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from November through April. Toilets and a restaurant are in separate buildings nearby.
The most enjoyable way to reach Pillnitz from Dresden is by vintage paddlewheel steamer. (See our Elbe River Steamboat Cruises article.) Alternatively, you can take a bus or tram and connect to a local ferry, or you can bicycle from Dresden on an Elbe riverfront path. (See directions.)
To view more captioned photos of Park & Palace Pillnitz, go to page 2 of this article.
Next page: More Pillnitz photos
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