Dresden is Steeped in Charm and Culture
Posted on 06/20/2017
Dresden, Germany, once known as the subject of a relentless bombing campaign by the Allies late in World War II, is now known more for its culture and charm as one of the top cities in Europe.
Located on both sides of the Elbe River, Dresden—one of the greenest cities on the continent—is filled with myriad things to do and certainly a must-see on any visit to Germany.
Here are 10 of our favorites (in no particular order).
Arguably Dresden’s most famous landmark, the Zwinger Palace is one of the most magnificent Baroque structures in all of Germany. With its pavilions and galleries—including the “Crown Gate” and “Nymphs Bath”—and its magnificent gardens in the courtyard, the Zwinger is an oasis within the city and should be your first stop, especially since it also houses the Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister.
GEMALDEGALERIE ALTE MEISTER
When you think art museums in Europe you think The Louvre, the world’s most-visited art museum, or maybe Museum del Prado in Madrid. Start thinking of Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister. The museum features many works from the great masters, including “Sistine Madonna” by Raphael and “Holy Night” by Correggio, among others.
The Dresden Frauenkirche is the story of redemption and reformation (no pun intended, as you’ll see in a moment). This 18th-century Baroque Lutheran church was destroyed in 1945 during the bombings. It took 50 years, but organizers in Germany took some of the charred remains, mixed it with fresh stone, and rebuilt the entire church just after the 1994 reunification of Germany. It was reconsecrated on Oct. 30, 2005 with a series of festivities that lasted until the next day – Reformation Day in Germany.
The Semperoper is the home of the Saxon State Opera and the Saxon State Orchestra. It was built in 1841, destroyed by fire in 1869 and rebuilt in 1878. The opera house has a long history of premiering major works, including, of course, Germany’s own Richard Wagner.
You don’t need to know a lick of German to understand what the Residenzschloss is. It’s a residence, or was anyway. This was the Royal Palace, another magnificent monument ultimately destroyed by the WWII bombings. It has since been rebuilt and now serves as the Palace of the Arts and Sciences.
MILITARHISTORISCHE MUSEUM DER BUNDESWEHR
This military museum contains an arsenal built in 1877 and a new wing designed by famed U.S. architect Daniel Libeskind completed in 2011. In addition to the historical aspect, the museum notes that “the exhibition confronts the visitor with his or her own potential for aggression and shows violence as a historical culture and anthropological phenomenon.’
The Saxon Steamboat Company is still steaming along on the Elbe. Founded in 1836, tours offer amazing views of the historical palaces on the river and, if you’re lucky and you hit it right, maybe you’ll catch a ride on the ‘Rathen,’ the world’s oldest steam engine ship still in use. It dates to 1841.
The former summer residence for Saxon Electors and Kings, the castle was built more than 200 years ago and is the biggest complex in the world in the chinoise style (the European interpretation of Chinese art and design. The tour takes about two hours.
The place to be in Dresden. This literal quarter on the right bank of the Elbe houses numerous treasures that are a mix of old and new—Baroque architecture mixed with art galleries, restaurants and upscale shops.
If you are lucky enough to visit during Christmas, this is one of the great German experiences. Dresdner Striezelmarkt is the country’s oldest Christmas market, and if you know anything about European Christmas markets you know this is one of the most incredible visits you’ll ever have.
PHOTO: Dresden, Germany's Old Town. (photo via Flickr/Max A.)