Dresden, located in the east of Germany, is also called "Florence at the Elbe" thanks to its idyllic location on the banks of the Elbe river, biergartens, and its excellent examples of Baroque architecture and world-class museums. Although 80% of Dresden’s historic center was destroyed in World War II, all important landmarks have been rebuilt to their former splendor.
Here are the top ten things to do in Dresden. As an added bonus, almost all of these attractions are within walking distance of Dresden’s Altstadt (Old Town).
01 of 10
Dresden’s Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche) has a moving history: In World War II, when air-raids wiped out the city center, the grand church collapsed into a 42 feet high pile of rubble.
The ruins were left untouched until 1994, when the painstaking reconstruction of the church began. Almost completely financed by private donations from around the world, the people of Dresden celebrated the resurrection of their Frauenkirche in 2005.
02 of 10
Brühl's Terrace (Brühlsche Terrasse) is set between the river Elbe and the Old Town. Nicknamed “the Balcony of Europe”, the terraced promenade was part of Dresden’s original rampart until it became the garden of the Royal Palace.
Climb a monumental staircase, which is flanked by four bronze statues, and take a walk along the promenade. It is lined by some of Dresden’s most beautiful historic buildings, including the Royal Art Academy and the Albertinum Museum.
03 of 10
The Zwinger Palace is one of the finest examples of late Baroque architecture in Germany. Built between 1710 and 1728, the Zwinger was used for court festivities and tournaments.
Today, the Baroque complex of pavilions, galleries, and inner courtyards is home to first-class museums, including the Old Masters Gallery (Alte Meister) which displays the famous Madonna Sistina of Rafael and its sweet cherubs.
04 of 10
The Procession of Princes (Fürstenzug) is the largest porcelain mural in the world, depicting a parade of Saxonian princes and dukes to commemorate the 1000-year long reign of the Wettin dynasty. At an impressive 330 feet long, it is composed of 25,000 tiles from the porcelain manufacturer Meissen. The mural covers the exterior of the Royal Mews in Auguststrasse.
Top tip: Come here at night, when the mural is illuminated.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Take a boat trip on one of the historic paddle steamers on the river Elbe. You can take a coffee cruise in the afternoon (where you can eat as much German cake as you want), glide down the river to the town of Meissen where porcelain is made (see above), or take a cruise through the peaceful scenery of Saxony Switzerland.
06 of 10
Dresden’s Green Vault (Grünes Gewölbe) is home to one of the finest royal treasures collections in Europe. Housed in the Dresden Palace, the treasure chamber was founded by August the Strong in the 18th century. It is filled with elaborate artworks of gold, silver, gems, enamel, ivory, bronze, and amber, and includes the largest green diamond in the world. Get your tickets well in advance.
07 of 10
Spend an unforgettable evening in the lavish Semper Opera, built in 1841 by the German architect, Gottfried Semper. Set at the Theater Square in the heart of Dresden, the portal of the Opera depicts famous artists such as Goethe, Shakespeare, and Molière.
The Semper Opera was completely destroyed by Allied bombing in 1945. After extensive reconstruction, the Opera reopened in 1985 - with the same piece that was performed just before its destruction.
08 of 10
The river Elbe, which flows right past Dresden’s Old Town, is lined with wide, grassy riverbanks, which offer stunning views of the Old Town - a unique place to relax, stroll, and barbecue.
In summer, you can join the locals at the biergarten, or watch movies al fresco in one of the largest outdoor theaters in Germany (“Dresdner Filmnaechte”, July– September). Use the extensive biking trails to explore more of the region.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
The Guinness Book of Records lists Pfund’s Dairy (Dresdner Molkerei Gebrüder Pfund) as the most beautiful milk shop in the world. Opened in 1880 by the Pfund brothers in the Neustadt quarter, this assessment is hard to argue with.
This unique dairy is elaborately decorated from floor to ceiling with hand-painted porcelain tiles from the neo-Renaissance period. It’s a feast for all senses – don’t leave without trying some local cheeses, homemade ice cream, or a glass of fresh buttermilk.
10 of 10
Dig into Germany's War History
Dresden Museum of Military History (Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr) is a fascinating dive into Germany's military history, as well as an exploration of some of the darker elements of the country's past.
Originally an armory from 1876 for Kaiser Wilhelm I, the site has undergone many transformations including time as a Nazi museum, Soviet museum, and East German museum. Ironically, it survived the Allied attacks of 1945 while much of the city burned because of its location on the outskirts.
The museum has over 1.2 million exhibits from large equipment and ammunition to devices and equipment to scale-based replicas and models. There is an impressive collection of over 800 land, air and sea vehicles, over 1,000 guns, rockets and flamethrowers, and historically significant items like the ship's bell from SMS Schleswig-Holstein. However, the focus here is not on the glory battle or might of weaponry, but the human aspects of war.
This underrated site may just be the best... military museum in Germany.