March 20, 2024

3 days in Dresden: Discovering the heart of Saxon splendor

A three-day stay in the Saxon capital, Dresden, is definitely a wonderful proposition for culture-thirsty tourists. Located on the Elbe River, winding along the mountains of what is known as Saxon Switzerland, Dresden is full of Baroque splendor and numerous museum collections, offering a rich three-day experience for both soul and body. The Dresden collections include not only the largest collection of antique sculptures in Europe outside the Mediterranean but also the Old Masters Picture Gallery and the New Masters Gallery, which exhibit works by renowned artists starting from the Renaissance to contemporary times. All this is just a 30-minute train ride from Saxon Switzerland, whose beautiful landscape attracted many Romantics. One of them was Caspar David Friedrich, whose mystical landscapes can also be found today in the New Masters Gallery in Dresden. The mentioned places are just a taste of what can be seen during three days in Dresden. Below we present a suggestion of an itinerary for spending three fascinating days in the Saxon capital.

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Dresden Zwinger

First Day in Dresden: How to Explore?

The first day in Dresden should definitely start with a walk through the city center and getting a taste of it. Walking along the streets leading to the two central squares, Altmarkt and Neumarkt, as well as to the residential castle and the Zwinger Palace complex, you will see a city that was rebuilt after World War II. Among the completely or partially reconstructed monuments is a 102-meter-long wall depicting the Procession of Princes - Fürstenzug. Made of 23,000 Meissen porcelain tiles, known as the first European porcelain invented in Dresden, it is the only object in the city center that was not destroyed during the city's bombing on February 13, 1945. One of the landmarks in the city that was the last to get rebuilt is the Frauenkirche - Church of Our Lady. Since 2005, the rebuilt church can be visited for free, while entrance to the 67-meter-high viewing platform costs 10 euros. In good weather, you can even see from there the neighboring city of Meissen (where the factory of porcelain discovered in Dresden is still located) and the range of the Saxon Switzerland mountains. Other churches in the center definitely worth visiting are the Holy Trinity Church and the Church of the Holy Cross. The Church of the Holy Cross is a Protestant church with a beautiful Art Nouveau altar that was not completely burnt during the bombing. The Holy Trinity Church, the so-called court church, is a Catholic church where the heart of Augustus the Strong is placed. His decision to convert to Catholicism contributed to the construction of this church. Admission to both churches is free. During the walk, it's impossible to overlook the Palace of Culture, an example of 1970s modernist architecture. Entrance to the Palace is free, and the view through the glass walls to the old town, especially during the Christmas market, is beautiful.

The ideal way to explore the center is also to take advantage of Dresden tours offered by Walkative! Our guides will show you the most beautiful and important places in Dresden during a 2.5-hour walk and colorfully tell you about them.

Dresden Frauenkirche

In the afternoon, it's worth heading to one of Dresden's museums to learn about the city's cultural heritage. The choice is vast, so it's worth mentioning some information about the exhibitions in the city's historic buildings. One of the places you should visit is the Zwinger complex. Its garden and nymph courtyard are worth seeing just for their beauty alone. Original objects located in the pavilions and galleries of the complex reflect various aspects of the city's history and culture. One significant aspect of the city's history is undoubtedly science. Interest in science, particularly alchemy, was very significant and attracted many Dresden residents. This is evidenced by the fact that the first European porcelain was invented here. Its collection, enriched with objects made of Chinese porcelain, is one of the most visited collections in Dresden. The adjacent Mathematics and Physics Salon, where various scientific tools are exhibited, is another suggestion for the afternoon. In the building next to the Zwinger complex is the Semper Gallery, named after architect Gottfried Semper, who also designed the famous Semper Opera. In it, we can see the Old Masters Gallery, including the outstanding works such as the Sistine Madonna by Raphael Santi, Sleeping Venus by Giorgione, or one of Canaletto's most beautiful vedutas depicting 18th-century Dresden from the right bank of the Elbe.

Second day: The lesser-known side of Dresden

On the second day it is worth exploring the lesser-known part of the city on the other side of the Elbe. Neustadt, or the new city, despite its name, is not so new. It was created in the 17th century when, at the request of Augustus the Strong, a Baroque district was built there. The Japanese Palace and the houses along the royal route once created a magnificent space. Much of the architecture consists of original, preserved Baroque buildings, not found in the city center. Walking from the inner new city (innere Neustadt) towards the outer new city (außere Neustadt) is a transition from the historical to a completely different, industrial part of Dresden. Little of the 19th-century industrial architecture remains though; it is now a district of street art, pubs and restaurants. Among them, you will also find many artistic galleries, including Raskolnikow, and Kunsthofpassage, which are definitely worth including in your walking program. One of the incredibly beautiful remnants of the district's industrial history is the dairy shop (Dresdner Molkerei Gebrüder Pfund). It has been entered into the Guinness Book of Records as the most beautiful in the world, owing its status to beautiful decor - it is covered with hand-painted tiles.

In the second part of the day, it's worth visiting the Albertinum, or the New Masters Gallery. The exhibit starts with paintings by Caspar David Friedrich and ends with works by Gerhard Richter, allowing you to embark on the artistic journey from Romanticism to contemporary times. The gallery also exhibits paintings by Otto Dix, an artist directly associated with Dresden - he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts located next to the Albertinum. One of his works is the triptych War, depicting the cruelties of World War I. The work was purchased in 1968 and enriched the gallery's collections. The impressionist and expressionist paintings are also worth seeing. There are also works created during the GDR era, often emphasizing themes such as anti-imperialism and pacifism. The New Masters Gallery is definitely a very interesting and content-rich collection not to be missed during a stay in Dresden.

Dresdner Molkerei Gebrüder Pfund

Third day: Dresden's regal heritage and scenic retreats

The third, last day, can be started with a visit to the Royal Palace. Next to the large courtyard with decorative sgraffito is a small courtyard where you can buy tickets for different exhibitions. One of the most dazzling of them is the Green Vault, which vividly shows the opulence and wealth of the Wettin dynasty times. Precious stones and gold are just some of the materials from which the exhibits are made. These handmade works, often combining nature with craftsmanship, are examples of the extraordinary skills and precision of the masters of the time. For those interested, the armory, the numismatic cabinet, and the copperplate cabinet, where works by Käthe Kollwitz among others are exhibited, are also open to visitors.

Dresden Zwinger

After visiting the castle, you can rent a city bike (Next bike) using the dedicated app, and head along the Elbe to the complex of three 19th-century palaces. Alternatively, you can get there by public transport. Worth visiting is the Albrechtsberg Palace located on an elevation that has been used for grape cultivation since the 16th century. Old stairs lead to a viewpoint where you can also taste wine from the local vineyards. Full of greenery, fairy-tale passages, and viewpoints, the palace complex is a fantastic place to relax after intense city sightseeing.

Schloss Albrechtsberg Dresden

Conclusion: Dresden, a perfect blend of culture and history

Over three days in Dresden, you are invited to discover a place where history whispers from every corner and artistic excellence is the norm. From the majestic beauty of Dresden’s Baroque architecture and the profound narratives of its museums to the peaceful retreats offered by its palaces and natural landscapes, a visit to the city is a wonderful experience that will satisfy everyone. Leaving Dresden you will carry with you lots of memories of its beauty and cultural treasures but a deeper understanding of the history of this Saxon gem.

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