Dresden is easily one of Germany’s most beautiful cities. I recently visited Dresden, the capital of Saxony, and fell in love not only with the city, but with its history, and the spirit of the Dresdners.
If you are traveling between Berlin and Prague, you should definitely make a stop to this incredible city that is right in the middle. Even if you are short on time (or budget like I was), the city center is small enough to walk around and get to see the most important sights in one day.
I visited the city on February 13th, an important date known to locals (but unknown to me before arrival). On that same day in 1945, hundreds of bombs were dropped during the Second World War that destroyed 90 percent of the historical city center. If you hadn’t known this, you would have never guessed just by looking at the Frauenkirche (main church) that it was finished being reconstructed from rubble in 2005.
Dresdners gather together every year on February 13th to commemorate the tragic event and to take a stance in the name of freedom. This year, more than 11,000 people participated in forming a human chain around the city center, and I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to join in. We held hands for 10 minutes in silence, with the only noise coming from the church bells. Needless to say, this was my favorite part of the trip. I love being able to participate in truly local experiences. Whatever you do when you travel, make sure to keep an eye out for these types of experiences and not just for the sightseeing.
If you only have limited time (and money) to visit the city, here is what you absolutely MUST see and do in Dresden:
The most impressive thing about this church is that is was completely reconstructed using 3D model imaging which began in 1994 and ended in 2005. Can you imagine that only 20 something years ago this church was a pile of rubble?! The church itself is a beauty to behold both on the outside as on the inside. Do take the time to admire the details, and to learn about the history itself. Entrance to the church is free, and despite there being a “No Photograph” sign, you can definitely take photos without flash.
Dresden’s famed Opera House (Semperoper) was also destroyed in the Second World War and was finished being reconstructed by 1985. It’s also an unforgettable sight to behold both inside and outside. If you’re lucky (like I was), sometimes there are free performances from singers of the Opera House taking place just outside of the Semperoper.
Absolutely visit the Opera House at night when it’s all lit up! Also, if you happen to be in Dresden on February 13th, make sure to take part in forming a human chain around the city (the best spot is here at the Semperoper) in remembrance of the bombing of the city in 1945.
Another of Dresden’s top sights is the Dresden Cathedral located just across from the Semperoper. It was surprising to see a Catholic church in the middle of a Protestant city. It was built in secretby August the Strong because he wanted to be king really badly, but couldn’t become one unless he was Catholic! The history behind this church is really quite interesting, and is definitely worth visiting!
No amount of pictures will do this place justice. You simply HAVE to visit Zwinger Palace, which was once the hangout spot for the Royals back in the day. In the palace complex, you can visit the Porcelain museum, the museum of mathematics (Dresden is known not only for its beauty, but also for its brains), or the Old Masters Gallery filled with amazing artwork. Or simply take a stroll through the gardens and admire the architectural beauty if you’re short on time and money.
This 500 meter long stretch in Dresden, also known as “Europe’s Balcony”, is a nice place to watch the sunset over the Elbe river. It also gives you a great view of the Dresden’s old town, and also a good spot for people watching or for drinking a coffee.
TAKE A STROLL ON THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWN
If you want an even better view of Dresden at sundown, simply cross the Carola Bridge next to Brühl’s Terrace to get the perfect picture. From here you can admire the Frauenkirche, the Cathedral, and all the main sights that Dresden has to offer.
Where to stay on a budget?
I stayed at the Hostel Louise 20 in Neustadt and I highly recommend it if you are looking for a quiet place. Located in the trendy Neustadt area, it is close to tons of great restaurants and bars, as well as near to public transportation that takes you into the city center in 10 minutes or less.
If you plan to stay in a Hostel, you NEED to know this beforehand.
Where to eat/drink on a budget?
Although the hostel offered breakfast, I decided to try one of the local breakfast spots. I can recommend Cafe Continental in Neustadt, which is cheap and quick with friendly service. Neustadt also has an amazing and varied selection of restaurants. If you are craving Indian food like I was, I highly recommend Little India. It’s a bit pricey (12 euros), but portions are great and the taste is very authentic.
As for bars, there is an endless number of them, but I personally recommend Hebeda’s. A friend who studied in Dresden gave me this recommendation and I really enjoyed the place. It has a really cool atmosphere and cheap beers (2.60 euros for 0.5 L … say what?! That’s cheap if you live anywhere in Germany).