Top 12 Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

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

Dresden, located in eastern Germany, is sometimes called "Florence at the Elbe" thanks to its idyllic location on the banks of the river. It's a city of biergartens and Baroque architecture, peppered with world-class museums that house some of the world's most remarkable treasures and jewels. Although 80 percent of Dresden’s historic center was destroyed in World War II, many significant landmarks have been restored to their former splendor and new attractions attest to Dresden's playful atmosphere. As an added perk for visitors, most of the city's best sights are all within walking distance from Dresden's Altstadt, or Old Town. 

01 of 12

See Funky Buildings in the Kunsthofpassage

Kunsthofpassage Funnel Wall in Dresden

TripSavvy / Erin Porter

Görlitzer Str. 21-25, 01099 Dresden, Germany
Phone +49 351 8105498

The Kunsthofpassage is an art revitalization project that was completed in 2001. Taking advantage of the collective area behind buildings in the Neustadt, this quirky attraction consists of different themed areas, like the Court of the Elements, which features a blue building decked out in pipes that create music in the rain, and the Court of Lights, where multimedia presentations are displayed in a courtyard lit up by mirrors reflecting the sun. Located among the courtyards are also several boutiques, restaurants, and creative studios where you can find unique workshops and exhibitions.

02 of 12

Go for Baroque in the Grand Garden

Baroque palace in the "Großer Garten" in Dresden, Germany

ZU_09 / Getty Images

Hauptallee 10, 01219 Dresden, Germany
Phone +49 351 4456600

If you luck out on a beautiful day in Dresden, there's no better place to enjoy it than the Grand Garden. Built in the baroque style during the 17th century, the garden consists of large grassy lawns and a giant pond surrounding the main palace and takes inspiration from French and English gardening styles. One of the park's most beloved features is the Dresden Park Railway, which is a kid-sized steam locomotive that tours around the park. There is also a zoo and a botanical garden.

03 of 12

Marvel at the Church of Our Lady

A horse and carriage riding by the outside of the Church Of Our Lady

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Dresden Frauenkirche, Neumarkt, 01067 Dresden, Germany

Dresden’s Church of Our Lady, also known as the 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.

04 of 12

Act Like Royalty at Zwinger Palace

People walking around Zwinger Palace

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Sophienstraße, 01067 Dresden, Germany
Phone +49 351 49142000

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 Picture Gallery which displays the famous Sistine Madonna by Raphael and is considered one of Germany's best museums.

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05 of 12

Stroll the Brühlsche Terrasse

People walking around Bruhsche Terrace

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Georg-Treu-Platz 1, 01067 Dresden, Germany
Phone +49 351 501501

Brühl's Terrace is set between the 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. Here you can 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.

06 of 12

Follow the Procession of Princes

People walking alongside the long mural of the Procession of the Princes

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Augustusstraße 1, 01067 Dresden, Germany
Phone +49 351 501501

The Procession of Princes is the largest porcelain mural in the world at 330-feet long. The artwork depicts a parade of Saxon princes and dukes and was created to commemorate the 1000-year-long reign of the House of Wettin. It is impressively composed of 25,000 tiles and covers the exterior of the Royal Mews in Auguststrasse. At night, the painting is illuminated, creating a magical effect.

07 of 12

Admire the Largest Green Diamond in the World

The entrance to the Green Vault

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Residenzschloss, Taschenberg 2, 01067 Dresden, Germany
Phone +49 351 49142000

Dresden’s Green Vault is home to one of the most beautiful royal treasures collections in Europe. Housed in the Dresden Palace, Augustus 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 attractions in Dresden, so it's wise to get your tickets in advance.

08 of 12

Take a Ride on the Historic Paddle Steamer

People sailing on a Paddle steamer down the Elbe River

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Augustusbrücke, Terrassenufer, 01067 Dresden, Germany
Phone +49 351 866090

In Dresden, you can take a very special boat trip on one of the Elbe River's most historic paddle steamers, an old-fashioned steamship powered by just one engine. Coffee cruises offered in the afternoon serve German cakes and sweets while gliding down the river towards the town of Meissen where porcelain is made, or take a cruise through the peaceful scenery of Saxon Switzerland National Park, which sits on the border between Germany and the Czech Republic and is not actually in Switzerland.

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09 of 12

Get Cultured at the Semperoper

People walkin gby the Semper Opera House

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Theaterplatz 2, 01067 Dresden, Germany
Phone +49 351 4911705

Spend an unforgettable evening in the lavish Semperoper, 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 Semperoper 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.

10 of 12

Eat at the Most Beautiful Milk Shop

The exterior of Pfund Dairy

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Bautzner Str. 79, 01099 Dresden, Germany
Phone +49 351 808080

The Guinness Book of Records lists Pfund’s Dairy 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 eyes and tastebuds, so don’t leave without trying some local cheeses, homemade ice cream, or a glass of fresh buttermilk.

11 of 12

Discover Germany's History of War

Exterior of Dresden's Military Museum

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Olbrichtpl. 2, 01099 Dresden, Germany
Phone +49 351 8232803

Dresden Museum of Military History​ is a fascinating exploration into Germany's military history including 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 and at one point was a Nazi museum, a Soviet museum, and an 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 10,000 exhibits, ranging from large equipment and ammunition to scale-based replicas and models. It boasts 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. Instead of focusing on the glory of battle or the mightiness of weaponry, exhibits highlight the human aspects of war.

12 of 12

Ride a Hanging Cable Car

Wide shot of the cable car going up the hill

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Pillnitzer Landstraße 5, 01326 Dresden, Germany
Phone +49 351 8571011

You only need to spend a few Euros to get a wonderful view of Dresden. The Schwebebahn Dresden is a unique hanging cable car. The Schwebebahn Dresden went into service in 1901, which makes it the oldest suspension railway in the world. From the top, you can see down the river towards Saxon Switzerland National Park.

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Top 12 Things to Do in Dresden, Germany