In 5 words: Spectacular river front and more.
For your first visit you need no less than two full days to be able to fully appreciate the major sights of the city and visit its major collections.
Distances are walkable in all cases.
Love its stunning and grandiose architecture along the river front.
Don’t miss: Taking the river cruise for the floating view of the central city architecture.
On the other hand: The city may be even more resplendent now that the majority of renovation ahead of its 800th jubilee in 2006 is finished.
Worthy attractions: Zwinger, with its several museums, the foremost of which is Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister; Residenzschloss and Hausmannsturm; Kreuzkirche.
Recommended Half-Day Trips: Meißen; Festung Königstein.
Left for another visit: Hofkirche [did not tour inside]; Johanneum; Frauenkirche [under long reconstruction during our visit]; Schloss Pillnitz.
Wise to skip: Albertinum, which houses a number of Modern Arts collections, – its impressionist display is underwhelming, and the rest does not stir a feeling with me.
Last visit: May 2005.

I often mention Dresden as a candidate for a place on the list of most beautiful cities. That is entirely due to the fact that the compact central area on Elbe’s waterfront is likely one of the greatest aggregations of monumental architecture anywhere in Europe. Viewed from the river, it is singularly astonishing, a sight so mesmerising that it is hard to look away from it.

Of course, Dresden offers much more than just one breathtaking view.

Things to See

With splendid views over River Elbe, Brühlsche Terrasse ♥♥♥ was once known as “the balcony of Europe”. There are several great buildings alongside, including the Saxon parliament and the art academy.

Schlossplatz ♥♥♥ and especially the spacious Theaterplatz ♥♥♥ are remarkable squares surrounded by architectural masterpieces restored after the World War II. Theaterplatz is home to the imposing Neo-Renaissance Sächsische Staatsoper ♥♥. It is possible to arrange for a tour of the Opera house, which we did not do.

Also facing Theaterplatz is the Zwinger ♥♥♥, one of the most magnificent museum complexes in all of the Western world. Its beautiful courtyard that was used in the past to stage tournaments and festivals is completely surrounded by galleries which house various collections. Even if you do not plan to visit any of these museums, checking out the stunning Wallpavillon ♥♥ or lingering in smaller courtyard that houses Nymphenbad ♥♥♥, an enchanting Baroque fountain, is worth the effort.

The most important museum at the Zwinger is that of Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister ♥♥♥. It is one of the world’s best collections of paintings, with Raphael’s incomparable Sistine Madonna among its treasures that also include an assemblage of Canaletto’s Dresden landscapes and works by Rembrandt, Titian, Velázquez and others.

Also at the Zwinger you can tour Rüstkammer ♥, a grand armoury, Porzellansammlung ♥♥, an excellent porcelain collection, and Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon ♥♥, a small but fascinating exhibition of scientific instruments. A walk around the perimeter of the complex via rooftop galleries is quite interesting as well.

We only looked from the outside at two of the most monumental churches in Dresden – Hofkirche ♥♥♥ and Frauenkirche ♥. The latter has been under extensive reconstruction since mid-90’s, while the former was closed for services when we aimed to get in. We did step into Kreuzkirche ♥♥, which is located on the edge of the central area. Its interior is quite unusual, with plaster decorations and trees planted by the altar; the church is very light inside and seemingly devoid of chapels; the organ is quite impressive as well.

The former residence of the local rules, Residenzschloss ♥, is a complex of buildings in various stages of restoration. Some of its wings are beautifully decorated with sgraffito – a fascinating sight all by itself.

The palace normally houses temporary exhibitions in its various wings, but two of its attractions are of special interest. Grünes Gewölbe ♥♥♥ (the Green Vault) is a truly unparalleled collection of jewelry, artworks of precious stones, porcelain, etc., spread across two separate exhibition spaces. Unlike in many other German museums, the exhibit signs are given in English as well as in German. One of the most fascinating exhibits was the jewelled porcelain miniature court of the Great Moghul, with hundreds of little pieces representing people, animals, furniture and so on.

The “New” Green Vault can be visited at any time, while the “Historic” portion of the display requires a timed ticket. The latter was not yet opened to public when we were in Dresden, so we are very much looking forward to returning.

The other must at the palace is Hausmannsturm ♥♥♥, a high tower that offers majestic views over the town and the river.

Not far from Residenzschloss can be found Fürstenzug ♥, a 102 meters long frieze on the wall of the building known as Langer Gang (Long Walk), depicting the procession of many of Saxon rulers. Originally, this was a sgraffito artwork, but in 1907 it was replaced by porcelain tiles, of which there are 24,000.

Albertinum was a disappointment to us. We do not especially admire modern art, but we were intrigued by the guidebook description of a collection of European impressionists. That turned out to be a very minimal selection (two by Monet, three by Degas, one by each Manet, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautréc), with the rest being the type of art that normally leaves us cold. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

We wandered into the New Town on the right bank of the river only a little. The tree-lined Hauptstraße that runs away from the river is a pleasant enough boulevard, with shops and eateries, but there is little to see in this part of town beyond the gilded equestrian stature of Augustus the Strong, Goldener Reiter ♥. However, if you find yourself on this side of the river after dark, you will be able to enjoy the spectacular night lights of the main city sights from across the Elbe.

Somewhat further afield is the Baroque Schloss Pillnitz, a visit to which we could not fit into our available time. Another museum that may be worth looking into is Johanneum (also known as Verkehrsmuseum), a potentially interesting transport exhibition.

Getting on a boat for a tour on the Elbe ♥♥♥ is one of not-to-miss activities in Dresden. It should be noted that as the boat leaves the city behind, there are not many fascinating views to be taken in (although, Blaues Wunder suspension bridge deserves its name, on balance) and 90 minutes is probably a bit much for an excursion of this kind. But it is when the boat returns to the city, slowly gliding in front of all of those monumental edifices along Dresden’s waterfront, that you get your money’s worth and more. The view is simply indescribable. We were unlucky to have steady rain accompany our tour, but even that did not diminish the impression much.

We also greatly enjoyed browsing the stalls at Altmarkt ♥♥.

Museum Visit note

We visited all museums in Dresden on a “day” combination ticket, which at €10 per person allowed us access to every museum in town. We managed to use these tickets at 7 attractions in one day. I suppose that if you plan to visit more than a couple museums on any given day, this type of ticket would be a worthwhile choice.

Places to Eat

All places last visited in Spring of 2005 and all were random walking-by selections.

Restaurant Barococo on Altmarkt was selected primarily due to its proximity to our hotel. The records show that it was reasonable but not exceptional in any way. Our damage: €45.

Almost exactly the same records appear in our diaries for Der Fliegende Hollaender, on Weiße Gasse. Again, we were returning to our hotel after a busy day and wanted to have a dinner nearby, and again, we ended up with a so-so meal. Our damage: €40.

Restaurant Löwe ♥, on Hauptstraße in the New Town, did not prompt much in the way of records, except for a note that the food was tasty. Our damage: €45.


As in any popular tourist location, the options for a hotel or an apartment are plentiful on major online platforms. Any location in Altstadt or Innere Neustadt will put you within 10 minutes of walking to most of the points of interest.

Festung Königstein

This tremendous hilltop fortress is mainly worth the visit for spectacular views ♥♥ over the Elbe and the area known as Sächsische Schweiz (Saxon Switzerland). Within the fortress walls, there are different buildings and exhibitions that illustrate the life of a military garrison.

Other day-tripping

Meißen, the erstwhile capital of European porcelain industry, is within easy reach from Dresden.

Other notes for Germany