Dresden Off the Beaten Path

Berlin has been hailed as the "hipster capital of Europe" while simultaneously being deemed over. In that rush to find the next best thing, Dresden has tentatively been the answer.

This Eastern city, home to the charming Frauenkirche and elegant Zwinger and oldest Christmas market in Germany, is gaining a reputation as the "new Berlin". Because amidst all the splendor is an underdog city; a place destroyed and reborn with a youth and vigor hard to match. While other eastern destinations tempestuously hold the crown of coolest city at various times (Prague, Budapest) Dresden might just be the real winner. 

Dresden is cheap, student-filled and (dare-I-say-it) cool. Here are six of the best Off The Beaten Path places in Dresden.

  • 01 of 06
    Kunsthofpassage in Dresden
    Erin Porter

    Hidden behind a nondescript exterior, visitors who venture into the courtyard complex behind Görlitzer Straße 25 will find a surprising mix of artworks. The Kunsthofpassage consists of five interlocking courtyards, or Hofs, each with its own unique and bizarre decoration. Wander the passageways to find little shops and cafes, but don't forget to look up.

    Courtyard of Mythical Creatures (Hof der Fabelwesen)

    Artist Viola Schöpe created this 900 m² wall of imagined creatures and cosmic elements. The tiles come from Italy and Meissen with the fantastical ornaments flown in from Portugal.

    Courtyard of the Elements (Hof der Elemente)
    Artists Annette Paul, Christoph Rossner and André Temple's piece jumps into action every hour and a half. This is one of the most popular courtyards as the elements come together (rain pipes as the water element; yellow facade and aluminum sheets as the light element) to create a cacophony of music and illumination as streams of water move down the side of the building.

    Courtyard of Metamorphoses (Hof der Metamorphosen)

    Two 15 meter high pillars cut this building with the curved surfaces lit by glass fiber bundles. Through corrosion and light, the Hof is constantly undergoing change.

    Courtyard of Light (Hof des Lichts)

    The winner of a 1998 contest, this design makes use of web platforms and screens for a multi-media experience. Look for the metal mirrors which use the light of the sun to produce colorful reflections.

    Courtyard of Animals (Hof der Tiere)

    The façade in the "court of the Animals" is in green decorated with animal reliefs held color. The farm is home to giraffe, monkey, and crane. Over the whole house wall, the herd of monkeys jumping over the head of a giant giraffe from window to window. The balconies are made of wicker. At the fountain, some small animals have so hidden.

  • 02 of 06
    Brauhaus am Waldschlösschen.JPG
    Erin Porter

    In summer, old and new gather in the sprawling city biergartens. In addition to spectacular views, this is a truly authentic German environment.

    For example, Augustusgarten’s slogan of “Dresdens schönster biergarten” (“Dresden’s prettiest biergarten) may, if anything, be an understatement. Located just across the river from the Altstadt, there are plentiful wooden benches, each with a lovely view of the riverfront.  

    Or head into the Neustadt to mingle with the young and hip at Katy's Garage. This popular bar has an intimate beer garden that stays open until 10:00 pm, just in time for their nightclub to open. In winter, check out their funky Christmas market.

  • 03 of 06

    Step into Literature

    Dresden Slaughter house five
    Sean Gallup / Getty Images

    Fans of author Kurt Vonnegut’s book Slaughterhouse-Five might wonder where the infamous Schlachthof Fünf in Dresden really lies. Not popular with local residents, it took a while for the site of this POW camp to be recognized as a literary hot spot. But - amazingly - the place where Kurt Vonnegut was imprisoned and survived the firebombing of Dresden still exists.

    The building has actually been converted into a convention and event center. Outside there is a simple blue sign marking its existence with a small tin medallion noting “ORT 63” embedded in the curb in front. Within the basement (available only on private tour) there is an installation dedicated to the novel. Added in 2015 by Ruairi O'Brien, it has hand painted glass and silk screened wood panels with scenes and quotes from the novel.

  • 04 of 06

    Dine in a former Cigarette Factory

    Yenidze Dresden
    Erin Porter

    Once a cigarette factory from the early 1900s, Yenidze is an impressive mosque-like structure that is now a humble office building. It is still a sight to behold with an 18-meter stained-glass dome and minaret chimneys.

    Just a short distance from the city center on the east side of Dresden’s Friedrichstadt district, visitors can experience the interior at Kuppelrestaurant in the dome.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Marvel at the Blue Wonder

    Blue Wonder Dresden
    Erin Porter

    Along the Elbe River are broad bike paths that lead to the bridge called the Blue Wonder. This engineering marvel was built in 1893 and was given its prestigious name for its innovative design which spans the length of the river without supporting piers. It is one of the few things in Dresden to survive World War II.

    It is also located close to Dresden's funicular railway and the world's oldest suspension railway, Schwebebahn. See if you can spot Fernsehturm Dresden-Wachwitz (Dresden TV tower).

  • 06 of 06
    Deutsches Hygiene Museum in Dresden
    http://www.dhmd.de/index.php?id=204

    Don't let the German tell-it-like-it-is name deter you, the Deutsches Hygiene Museum (DHMD) examines the history and importance of personal care in a way that is actually fascinating. Everything from antique grooming tools to ophthalmology equipment is on display.

    This unusual museum even has its own odd history. It was appropriated by the Nazis to promote their extreme racial ideology and that history is explored here as well.