Dresden, known as the pearl of the baroque, is a beautiful city, picturesquely situated on the river Elbe. It is a very popular destination for a city break. No wonder, this city is located close to the Polish western border and a great alternative to Berlin. What’s more, it also charms with the nearby regions, called the poetically the Elbland.
Dresden and Elbland
Dresden with the Elbland is a perfect marriage combining what is the most beautiful in discovering new places. A monumental city with numerous historical sights, as well as the alternative Neustadt district and green landscapes, hills covered with vines, vineyards inviting to tasting and the enchanting Meissen. For active people, it is also a great travel option. Here you will find the Saxon Wine Walking Trail, you can ride bikes, and in the evening you can relax with a glass of good wine in your hand.
But wait a minute, this is just an introduction! Do you wish to know more? We invite you to read our guide to Dresden and the Elbe Region 🙂
How to get here
You can easily go to Dresden by car. This is definitely an acceptable distance for a road trip that we have just decided to take. Access from Lodz took us 5 hours, from Warsaw you will get in about 6 hours, from Gdansk in more than 7 hours, and from Poznan, it will take only about 4 hours.
Of course, you can also decide to fly, but at the moment we do not see direct flights and, during the pandemic, driving a car seemed more reliable.
In Dresden, as in other big cities, there is no shortage of good hotels. We slept in Vienna House QF located on Neumarkt and we must say that we really appreciate our stay in this hotel. The location is brilliant, close to top attractions, the rooms are spacious and the breakfasts excellent. An hour spent savouring breakfast was our daily (during our 2-night stay :D) ritual and brake from crazy sightseeing. However, if you prefer to sleep in the apartment, we always recommend you to search on Airbnb or booking.com.
You have to travel wisely 😀 We believe that if you can save some money, why not do it? Here comes the Dresden City Card, Dresden Regio Card and Dresden Museums Card, i.e. cards entitling to free admission, discounts to the most interesting attractions and/or public transport.
The Zwinger, a late-baroque architectural ensemble, is the most famous symbol of Dresden next to the Frauenkirche church. Zwinger was built in stages in the years 1709–1732 at the request of Augustus II the Strong, Elector of Saxony, who in 1697 was elected King of Poland. Initially, Zwinger served as an orangery, but over time it was used to store and display valuable exhibits.
A large part of them is a collection of historical porcelain goods, with Chinese, Japanese and Korean porcelain from many centuries ago, as well as the Meissen products famous throughout Germany. Interestingly, in Europe, the technology of porcelain production was invented in Dresden at the beginning of the 18th century by Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus and Johann Friedrich Böttger. The porcelain produced in Saxony was called the “white gold” because it replaced gold as a royal gift.
In the Zwinger, there is also the Rüstkammer – an armoury with historical armours, firearms, and an orangery, where you can admire many species of exotic plants, brought to Zwinger by King Augustus II the Strong.
Zwinger also houses the Old Masters Picture Gallery. Its creation dates back to 1560 when Augustus established a treasury here. The breakthrough period was the reign of Augustus II and August III of the Wettin dynasty, who purchased numerous works of art and brought, among others, 70 paintings from the Imperial Gallery in Prague and 268 paintings from the Dux Gallery. One of the highlights was the acquisition of the painting of the Sistine Madonna by Raphael. The Old Masters Picture Gallery also houses works by artists such as Tycjan, Rembrandt and Rubens, as well as an impressive collection of sculptures.
The oldest museum in the Zwinger area – the Mathematical and Physical Salon is today one of the most important museums in the world presenting historical scientific instruments.
The admission fee is EUR 14, and the ticket entitles you to visit all the exhibitions and the Old Masters Picture Gallery. Top tip! On Mondays, the Zwinger, like many other museums in Germany, is closed to visitors.
Near the Zwinger, there is the Residence Castle or the Residence of the Wettins in Dresden, Residenzschloss in German. It was built in the Renaissance style in the 15th century but was later rebuilt many times. Until 1918, it served as the seat of the government. This world-famous treasury made a great impression on us.
The museum is divided into two zones of the permanent exhibition of different nature: the Historical Green Vault and the New Green Vault. The collections are incredibly impressive. The works of the Dresden court jeweller Dinglinger, available for viewing in the New Green Vault, are stunning with their amount of detail, precision and shine. You can also see, for example, the “Dresden Green Diamond”. There is also the Turkish Chamber in the Castle, which is part of the Dresden armoury.
The castle is open from Monday to Sunday except for Tuesdays. A ticket to the New Green Vault, Turkish Chambers, Copperplate Cabinet, Numismatic Cabinet and current Temporary Exhibitions is EUR 14, while the entrance ticket to the Historic Green Vault is EUR 12. Tickets can also be purchased in advance here.
Ducal Retinue (Fürstenzug)
The wall mosaic outside the Royal Castle complex looks beautiful. The 330-foot panorama is the largest porcelain mural in the world! The mosaic shows the parade of Saxon princes and kings from the Wettin dynasty and about 50 other people (famous scientists, craftsmen, children, as well as animals – apart from horses, there are also two greyhounds).
The original mural was painted in 1876 by the artist Wilhelm Walther to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Wettin dynasty. However, at the end of the 19th century, the colour began to fade.
To make it weatherproof, the original painting was covered with 25,000 ceramic tiles from the famous Meissen porcelain factory. Amazingly, the mosaics survived the bombing in 1945.
As we are already writing about the gems of Dresden, we must also mention the Semper Opera. Designed by Gottfried Semper in the style of the Italian Renaissance, it burned several times and was completely destroyed in 1945. Like many Dresden buildings, it has been faithfully restored and today, in addition to seeing operas, it can also be visited with a guide.
The admission fee is EUR 10, and you can find more information here.
Church of Virgin Mary in Dresden (Frauenkirche)
As we mentioned earlier, our accommodation was located on the Neumarkt square. On the same square is one of the two most famous symbols of Dresden (apart from Zwinger), the Church of the Virgin Mary, in German Frauenkirche. This baroque church was bombed in 1945. During the GDR period, the Frauenkirche was a ruin, and its reconstruction began only after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The reconstruction in 1994–2005 was financed by Dresdner Bank, city lovers’ societies and individual donors from all over the world.
Today, the Frauenkirche is a symbol of Dresden, visible on every postcard, commemorating the tragedy of the war times and being at the same time a symbol of reconciliation. Visiting the interior is free, and after entering the dome of the church, you can admire the beautiful panorama of the city. The cost is EUR 8.
The Großer Garten
It’s a bit like a local Central Park. The Großer Garten was designed in a Baroque style and is the largest park in the city. In the centre of the park there is a palace built around 1680, designed by Johann Georg Starcke. It is a really beautiful park, perfect for walks, picnics or morning jogging.
On the edge of the park, there is a zoo and a botanical garden as well as the Volkswagen Glass Manufactory.
Boulevards and meadows on the Elbe
Dresden is not only the old town, but also is the boulevards and meadows along the Elbe. Every year a lot is happening here, and so, for example, this year on the river banks Film Nights and yoga sessions were held. Unfortunately, we did not catch good weather, and we regret it very much because we also planned to go to the Dresden Islands of Culture 2020, during which from July to September in the city centre you can watch artists’ performances on the open-air stages. It is worth following current events in the city and taking advantage of interesting activities.
Alternative Neustadt is a very cool district in the New Town. This is where you can feel a bit like in Berlin – it is inhabited by foreigners, hipsters, hippies and students. No wonder that Neustadt comes alive at night. Here You will find graffiti, street art, many clubs, pubs, but also exciting restaurants and boutiques with a creative assortment.
Once a year, the BRD festival (German: Bunte Republik Neustadt) takes place here, meaning the party of the Colorful Republic of Neustadt. You can watch live performances on the streets, meet artists and take part in a variety of activities.
If you want, you can decide to take a walk around the most interesting murals in the area.
We think it would be a bit a shame to come to Dresden and not spend at least one day exploring the nearby areas.
The Elbland is an extremely picturesque, green region ideal for sports and little indulgence at the same time. Saxony is covered with vines and there are many excellent vineyards in the neighbourhood. You can combine relaxation with physical activity and go trekking along the Saxon Wine Trail, or go on a bike trip. Here you will find 12 suggestions for cycling routes and here 10 suggestions for hiking routes.
If, on the other hand, you don’t feel like moving, just drive to one of the vineyards.
There are many good vineyards in the area, we went to the most famous vineyard, Schloss Wackerbarth. Did you know that Saxony is the only region where fine grapes of the goldriesling variety are grown? You can choose to go for a wine tasting, buy beloved wine bottles in a vineyard boutique, climb the wine terraces and admire the sunset.
You cannot miss Meissen. It’s a picture-perfect town, very close to Dresden. In Meissen, you must see the lovely old town and Albrechtsburg Castle overlooking the Elbe, and visit Europe’s oldest porcelain factory.
Where to eat
Codo is a restaurant with Vietnamese cuisine located in 3 places in Dresden, including Neustadt. They serve pho soup, banh mi bans, dim sums, curry and also sushi. Prices are reasonable and portions generous.
Russian cuisine in Dresden? Why not? Overall, we were quite surprised to find solyanka soup on the menu in many of the restaurants. Maybe some of you know why this soup is so popular in Dresden? Coming back to Aljonuschka, here you can try traditional Russian dishes served in a modern way. Pancakes, dumplings, borscht and solyanka, as well as Russian ice cream for dessert!
Vegan House is a 100% vegan, as the name suggests, a restaurant with a charming garden. They serve healthy, green bowls full of various toppings, tofu soups, curries, gyoza and salads. Everything in a zen atmosphere, with the scent of soy sauce and friendly service. We highly recommend it!
If you want to try traditional Saxon cuisine, head to the Sophienkeller. We honestly admit that although the food was well prepared, it was not our favourite. Asian and Italian cuisine is always on the 1st place with us. Nevertheless, we tried it, because how can you go to a new place and not try something local?!
Hungry in Meissen? We recommend Ratskeller situated in the old town. They serve wide varieties of dishes both for meat lovers and vegetarians. We ate risotto with poached egg and interestingly served herring.
Do you have any favourite places in Dresden and the Elbeland? Let us know in the comments!
Watch our video from Dresden and Elbland:
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