Things we did in Dresden, Germany | Dresden is a perfect choice if you consider visiting Berlin and Prague. Simply because it’s just a 2 hour ride either way, up north to Germany’s Capital or down south to the Capital of the Czech Republic. And on top of all that, Dresden is beautiful – at least those parts of the city that were rebuilt after the 2nd World War.
Church of Our Lady
No doubt, Dresden’s most iconic landmark is the Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche). This Baroque style building is not just impressive. It also has a moving history. After a mega massive carpet bombing raid on February 13, 1945 by US and British Air Force, the church was the only structure still standing the next day. What looked like a miracle did finally implode on February 15, 10am in the morning due to an ongoing brutal heat at approx. 1,000 degrees celsius (1,830 degrees Fahrenheit). The heat was caused by 650,000 incendiary bombs that were dropped on Dresden. The building vanished from the skyline until 2005. Reconstruction began in 1995. It cost 180 million Euros. Interesting side note: The golden tower cross up high on top of the reconstructed church was made by British craftsman Alan Smith. His father was one of the air force pilots who were in charge of destroying Dresden in 1945.
Church of the Holy Cross
From the Frauenkirche it is just a 7-minute walk to our next site: the Church of the Holy Cross (Kreuzkirche). For sure, this church is by far not as impressive as the Frauenkirche, but it is the home turf of a world famous choir: the Dresdner Kreuzchor. This choir has a 700-years old history and a world-wide reputation. The 150 members of the choir – young boys aged 9 to 19 – are indeed singing in this building from time to time. Of roughly 100 performances per year, 10 really take place right in this church.
Bruehl’s Terrace and Dresden Castle
Taking a walk at Bruehl’s Terrace (Brühlsche Terrasse) is another must-do in Saxony’s Capital. But you will need good weather. It is sometimes referred as “Balcony of Europe”. The terrace stretches above the western shore of the Elbe river. You’ll get a rough idea of the historic Dresden when passing by the Baerenzwinger, Albertinum and the Dresden Castle (Schloss Dresden). Once you reached the castle, we suggest to visit the Green Vault (Grünes Gewoelbe) on the 1st and 2nd floor of the western section of the castle. Some say, the “Green Vault” is the oldest museum in the world. It opened in 1723. Others claim it has the biggest collection of treasures worldwide and the largest green diamond on display. We can’t prove it, but yeah, it was indeed an impressive collection of elaborate artworks made of gold, silver, gems, ivory, bronze, amber, and whatnot.
Zwinger and Semperoper
There is no historic Dresden tour without Zwinger and Semperoper. Both buildings stand next to each other – opposite of the Dresden Castle. The Zwinger was once part of the city’s fortress. The Semperoper is home of several high class orchestras and ballets. You need to book tickets for a performance inside the Semperoper years in advance. And be prepared: it will be expensive. Still, guided tours thru an empty opera house come at affordable 10 Euros (US$12.50) per person.
Elbe Paddle Steamers
Exploring Dresden and nearby Saxon Switzerland by boat: An afternoon on a vintage paddlewheeler will do. The Saxon Steamship Company has been cruising the Elbe river since 1836. You have several options. The shortest steamboat tour is the roundtrip (90 minutes, no stops). Others take half a day with stops in Meissen, Bad Schandau and many picturesque places in between.
Saxon Switzerland NP
Nature is never too far away when you stay in Dresden. Within 50 minutes by car you can reach the heart of Saxon Switzerland, one of Germany’s National Parks (Saechsische Schweiz). It adjoins Bohemian Switzerland National Park in the Czech Republic. Together, both NPs provide 710 km² (274 mi²) of protected nature.
Most popular landmark on the German side: the Bastei Bridge – a tourist attraction since 1824. By then it was just a wooden bridge linking several rocks. The timber was replaced in by a sandstone bridge in 1851. The rock formations and vistas near this bridge have inspired Caspar David Friedrich to paint his “Felsenschlucht”.
Dresden by Bicycle
For those of you hopping on a bicycle, Dresden’s Elbe river will be the perfect stage to explore sites that are off the beaten path. Blaues Wunder and Schiller-Garten are now in your reach. You simply cycle up the Elbe river in the direction of Saxon Switzerland and the Czech Republic. The bridge “Blaues Wunder” looks like a 1:24 model of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Next to it you’ll find the Schiller-Garten. For us this was the best spot coming at the right time for our first break.
For the lazy bikers we have alternative proposal. Stuff your bicycle into a local train from Dresden to either Pirna or Bad Schandau and cycle the Elbe river downwards. It’s easier ;) From Pirna to Dresden you will need approx. 1 to 1.5 hours depending on your stamina. A bicycle tour from Bad Schandau to Dresden is a different animal of course. Plan with 3 to 4 hours.
At both shorelines of the Elbe river you will always meet many cyclists. This constant cyclemania starts in Melnik in the Czech Republic and ends in Meissen – some 30 km north of Dresden. Meissen is a beautiful medieval town with castle and cathedral. It is also famous of its porcelain manufacture.
Hotels in Dresden
Where to stay in Dresden? We did choose a real castle: Schloss Eckberg in Dresden Loschwitz. In September it cost us 100 Euros per night (approx. US$120). From the outside the hotel still looks like a castle. From the inside not so much. But it was definitely worth the money. Because this elegant hotel is surrounded by 15 hectars of parkland, overlooking the Elbe river.
Things we did in Dresden, Germany. By Chili & Chirp | © International Destinations | Read more about Germany here -> German Gems.