Top 12 Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

Dresden's historic landmarks have been rebuilt to their former splendor

Dresden, located in the east of Germany, is also called "Florence at the Elbe" thanks to its idyllic location on the banks of the river, the city's Biergartens, its excellent examples of Baroque architecture, and world-class museums. Although 80 percent of Dresden’s historic center was destroyed in World War II, important landmarks have been rebuilt to their former splendor. As an added perk for visitors, most of the city's best attractions are all within walking distance from Dresden's Altstadt, or Old Town. 

01 of 12

Worship at the Church of Our Lady

View of Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) from the plaza
Jorg Greuel / The Image Bank / Getty Images

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-foot high pile of rubble. The ruins were left untouched until 1994 when the painstaking reconstruction of the church began. Almost wholly financed by private donations from around the world, the people of Dresden celebrated the resurrection of their Frauenkirche in 2005. 

02 of 12

Act Like Royalty at Zwinger Palace

The front elevation of Zwinger Palace with the reflecting pool in the foreground
WIN-Initiative / Getty Images

The Zwinger Palace is one of the most excellent 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.  

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Stroll the Brühlsche Terrassen

A view of Bruhl Terrace and the surrounding area
TommL / Getty Images

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, 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.

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Follow the Procession of Princes

The mural of the Furstenzug, or Procession of Princes, in Augustusstrasse
De Agostini / G. P. Cavallero / Getty Images

The Procession of Princes (Fürstenzug) is the most massive porcelain mural in the world, depicting a parade of Saxon princes and dukes to commemorate the 1000-year-long reign of the Wettin dynasty.

It runs an impressive 330 feet long and is composed of 25,000 tiles from the porcelain manufacturer Meissen. The mural covers the exterior of the Royal Mews in Auguststrasse. For a memorable experience, come here at night when the painting is illuminated.

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05 of 12

Admire the Largest Green Diamond in the World

A woman admires the displays at the Green Vault
Getty Images / Sean Gallup

Dresden’s Green Vault (Grünes Gewölbe) is home to one of the most beautiful royal treasures collections in Europe. Housed in the Dresden Palace, August the Strong founded the treasure chamber in the eighteenth 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. This is one of the most popular sites in the so get your tickets well in advance.

06 of 12

Take a Ride on the Historic Paddle Steamer

Paddle steamers at the bank of Elbe river, as seen from under the Augustus bridge
Ulf Boettcher / LOOK-foto / Getty Images

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, or take a cruise through the peaceful scenery of Saxony Switzerland.

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Get Cultured at the Semper Opera

The Semper Opera illuminated at night
Sylvio Dittrich / www.dresden-tourist.de

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 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.

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Explore Greater Dresden

The Dresden Elbtal on a sunny summer day
Sylvio Dittrich / www.dresden-tourist.de

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 and offer unique places to relax, stroll and barbecue.

During the summer you can join the locals at the Biergarten, or watch movies in one of the largest outdoor theaters in Germany for Filmnaechte am Elbufer from July to September. Use the extensive biking trails to explore more of the region.

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09 of 12

Eat at the Most Beautiful Milk Shop

The intricate painted tiles of the Pfunds Molkerei in Dresden
Lvova Anastasiya

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 12

Discover Germany's History of War

Military Historical Museum of the Bundeswehr with the new renovation by Architect Daniel Libeskind
Iain Masterton / Getty Images

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 more than one million exhibits, ranging from large equipment and ammunition 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.

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Ride a Hanging Cable Car

Spend just 3 Euro (as of 2018) to get a picture-perfect view of Dresden on the Schwebebahn Dresden, a unique hanging cable car. The Schwebebahn Dresden went into service in 1901, making in the oldest suspension railway in the world. It was fully restored between 1984 and 1992. 

 

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Discover the History of Transportation

Dresden's Transport Museum isn't one of the city's most visited, but it's home to a unique and impressive collection of history's first vehicles. Spanning more than 50,000 square feet, the collection include steam engines, motorbikes, ships, and more. While the museum hosts temporary exhibitions across various topics, the permanent exhibition covers the history of road travel across 200 years.