Dresden is the capital city of the state of Saxony in Germany. We visited here for 3 days after a stay in Berlin and before heading onto the Munich and the Romantic Road. It is a city of two parts, after heavy bombing during the war most of Dresden was destroyed. The historical area of the city is small but it is beautiful and there is still plenty to see. It contrasts well with the New Town and together they make a great city to spend a few days, you won’t get bored here.
We loved Dresden and it was our favourite stop on our German road trip. Here’s our guide for spending 3 days in Dresden.
Getting to and from Dresden
This isn’t as easy as it should be from the UK. Dresden does have an airport but direct flights there are pretty much non-existent, however it is easily accessed from nearby cities that have plenty of direct connections to the UK.
Flying into Berlin
Berlin has many cheap direct flights to and from most UK airports throughout the year. If you chose this option you would then have the choice of renting a car or taking the train.
There is a direct train link from Berlin to Dresden which takes 1 hour 50minutes. Trains in Germany are notoriously punctual so you can pretty much guarantee that your journey will take the time it’s published to take.
The autobahn is very simple to navigate and you can drive from Berlin to Dresden in around 2hours 30 minutes. Although it takes longer by train it does give you more freedom to explore the surrounding area – more on that later.
Flying into Prague
Another well connected city to both the UK and Dresden is Prague in the Czech Republic. From Prague to Dresden you can take the Flixbus which takes around 2 hours, tickets can be picked up for around €6 each way.
Driving from Prague to Dresden isn’t as straightforward, not all car rental agents will let you take their cars across the border. If you can get a deal which allows this then check that the vehicle has everything you need for travelling in both countries. Vignettes are required in some European countries and not others and a car with a vignette that covers one country may not cover another, even its neighbouring country.
Where to stay
We stayed in the Motel One in Dresden, the Hotel Dresden am Zwinger, and it was great. Location was good, it had its own parking garage and it was within walking distance to all sights within the city.
Day 1 – Old Town
For your first day in Dresden start with the old in the Altstadt. It is here where you will find the remaining buildings from the Renaissance, the Baroque and the 19th century, although they weren’t intact after the war the city has worked hard to rebuild.
It’s the kind of place you can just wander round and see what you see. You will notice that there are a few select buildings dominating the skyline however. One of these is the Frauenkirche with it’s dome being a focal point of the Neumarkt quarter which surrounds the church.
After visiting the church head towards the river banks. A short walk from the Frauenkirche you will find the Brühl’s Terrace and Dresden Fortress. The Terrace is free to walk along and you will be able to take in some great views along the River Elbe.
The Dresden Fortress has been closed throughout 2017 with no opening date announced yet – check here for updates Festung Dresden. When open the Fortress definitely earns its entrance fee. Hidden beneath the Brühl’s Terrace lies the oldest Renaissance structures in the city and as you work your way around what is now a museum you will learn how Dresden came to be and it’s strategic positioning on the River Elbe.
As you walk the length of the Brühl’s Terrace away from the Fortress eventually you will arrive at the Cathedral which is a large Baroque building and also holds the title for the largest Church in Saxony.
Across the road from the Cathedral don’t miss the Zwinger Palace. The Palace is a collection of museums and galleries, it also has a huge open space in it’s centre which is great for relaxing.
As well as seeing all of these main sights don’t just hurry from one to the next. The Altstadt is made up of a lot of backstreets and you never know what you will find. When walking back to our hotel from the Neumarkt square we heard music coming from a side street which we decided to follow to check it out. We found a string ensemble who were drawing quite a crowd – they were really good! They were playing under one of the arches and the sound was fantastic.
So by now if you haven’t already stumbled across somewhere to eat you will need to find somewhere. In the Altstadt you can’t go wrong with L’Osteria, the food here is great, it’s Italian so no it’s not local cuisine but don’t let that hold you back.
Have you ever seen a pizza this big?! We didn’t know they were this big and it was slightly embarrassing they wouldn’t both fit on the table really when we ordered one each. There are plates beneath those pizzas, they just overhang by a lot! The embarrassment soon faded because they tasted amazing, and we managed to finish these – the base is actually very very thin just like real Italian pizza. Most people will manage to finish one of these to themselves but probably won’t have room for anything else, which is a shame because the desserts look just as good!
Day 2 – New Town
On your second day head across the River Elbe to the Neustadt District and get ready to see a whole different Dresden. Make your way across the Augustus Bridge which starts near the Cathedral in the Altstadt.
One of the first sights you will see in the Neustadt is a large sculpture of a golden man on a horse, this is Augustus the Strong (Elector of Saxony and King of Poland).
Augustus the Strong stands at the start of Hauptstraße which is the main walking street through the Neustadt. If you’re looking for some traditional food of Saxony today there is a restaurant overlooking Augustus the Strong called Watzke am Goldenen Reiter.
Half way up the Hauptstraße you will find the Neustädter Markthalle which is a two story market hall containing small stalls selling arts and crafts, there is also a small supermarket inside. It was not quite what we were hoping for as there wasn’t much in terms of food produce. It was good to wander round for an hour or so anyway and a great place if you’re looking for gifts to take home.
Hauptstraße pedestrian zone ends at a large road junction. You need to navigate this to the Alaunstrasse.
We liked the vibe Alaunstrasse has, it’s similar to that of Camden in London or Portland in Oregon and we love all three cities including Dresden.
You will find a lot of restaurants and bars in this area but the highlight is the Kunsthofpassage, or in English, the Art Courtyard Passage. In the Kunsthofpassage you will find quirky architecture along with cafes, restaurants, galleries and shops.
Day 3 – Day trip to Basteibrucke
Earlier I mentioned about having a car, this is where you would benefit from having your own transport. Although you will not use it in the city you can drive to one of the natural highlights of Saxony in just under an hour from Dresden – the Basteibrucke.
Basteibrucke is a 76m man made bridge which connects the rock formations of Bastei. It is free to visit but you will need to pay for parking. From the car park there is a shuttle bus which takes you to the site, park and ride style.
As with any attractions such as these, go early because it does get busy. Although we found that it was not as busy as the likes of Schloss Neuschwanstein in the south. The bridge has been a tourist attraction for over 200 years with the first bridge built in 1824 from wood. This bridge was replaced in 1851 by the current sandstone bridge.
The Basteibrucke and the rock formations tower above the River Elbe and pretty much all of the view points along the bridge give a good view of the surrounding area and the River.
Just before you walk out onto the bridge you will walk past a restaurant, some snack bars and souvenir shops, so you won’t need to bring any food or drinks with you if you don’t want to.
When planning your visit to Dresden if you have the time to extend your trip consider checking out of your hotel before heading out to Bastei. From Dresden we headed south into Bavaria to stay in Munich with a stop at Dachau on route. Dresden is so close to many other great European cities you have loads of options.
Safe Travels and Gute Reise!