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23 Best Things to Do in Dresden, Germany (2024)

Zwinger Dresden
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Dresden is the capital of Saxony and is one of Eastern Germany’s most beautiful cities. Known as the “Florence on the Elbe”, Dresden is home to spectacular Baroque buildings, excellent museums, and a fascinating yet turbulent past.

In this guide, we are sharing all of the best things to do in Dresden, Germany. We also include day trips, a map to help you navigate around, restaurant recommendations, and transportation tips.

We spent 5 days in Dresden exploring the best of the city and the region. Our takeaway? This city, once nearly devastated during World War II, has now blossomed into a thriving cultural center. We loved our time here, and it’s definitely worth spending a few days in Dresden.

Read on to discover the top things to do in Dresden.

23 Things to do in Dresden

1. Altmarkt (Old Market)

Altmarkt Dresden

At the center of the Old Town is the Altmarkt (Old Market). Dating back to the 13th century, this is one of the city’s oldest squares. It was severely damaged during World War II but has since been rebuilt into a modern and bustling hub.

Around the square, you’ll find the Kreuzkirche (Church of the Holy Cross), known for its impressive baroque architecture, and next to it a modern shopping complex. It serves as unique juxtaposition and reminder of Dresden before the war, and the thriving city it has become post-war.

Throughout the year, the Altmarkt hosts many events, such as the annual Dresden Christmas Market (Striezelmarkt). The square transforms into a magical and festive event with booths selling traditional crafts and foods.

Additionally, we visited Dresden in early September and ran into the Herbsmarkt (Autumn Market) in the square. We wandered around the stalls that were selling baked fall goods and drinks. There were also some activities set up for kids.

Keep your eye out for these events, as they are a fun way to experience the local culture.

Here’s an overview of seasonal events in the Altmarkt in 2024:

  • Frühjahrsmarkt (Spring Market) | April 26 – May 20, 2024
  • Herbsmarkt (Autumn Market) | September 13 – October 6, 2024
  • Striezelmarkt (Christmas Market) | November 27 – December 24, 2024

2. Neumarkt (New Market)

Neumarkt Dresden, Germany

The Neumarkt (New Market) is a historical and significant square in Dresden. It serves as a stark reminder of the city’s turbulent past during World War II.

In the middle of February 1945, over the course of several days, the U.S. and British Air Forces bombed the city of Dresden. This resulted in a fast-spreading fire that ultimately decimated Dresden’s Old Town, especially the buildings surrounding the Neumarkt.

Most of the historical buildings in this square were largely destroyed in the bombing raids, including the Frauenkirche. Restoration began in the late 20th century and the square has since been restored to its former glory

Walking around the Neumarkt is both heavy and hopeful. You can feel the sorrow that people must have felt when their city was destroyed but seeing it come back to life is inspiring.

Today, the Neumarkt is a testament to Dresden’s resilience and commitment to preserving its history while embracing modernity.

3. Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady)

Frauenkirche Dresden

Situated in the Neumarkt, the Frauenkirche is a beautiful Lutheran church built in the Baroque style. The original structure dates back to the 11th century; however, the Baroque building that we see today was constructed in the 18th century marking a transition from its earlier Gothic style.

During this time, the dome was added on and is considered a masterpiece designed by George Bähr. It took an impressive 17 years to complete and is one of the tallest domes in Europe.

Tragically, the Frauenkirche was destroyed in the 1945 Dresden bombings and ultimately collapsed due to the heat of the firestorm that ravaged the Old Town. The church sat as a pile of ruins for many years until the city was able to fund its rebuilding in the 1990s.

The church’s restoration was completed in 2005 using the same plans by George Bähr from the 1700s. On the exterior, you’ll notice many blackened stones from the original structure intermixed with lighter stones to remind us of the church’s tumultuous history.

Stepping inside, the Frauenkirche’s interior is covered in pastel hues and Baroque details. Fun fact: the walls seem to be covered in marble; however, it has been painted in such a way to create a marble-like effect.

Practical info: The church is free to visit. Opening hours are Monday to Friday from 10:00-11:30 & 13:00-17:30. Hours vary on the weekends.

4. Brühls Terrace

bruhls terrace dresden

At the edge of Old Town, perched high above the River Elbe, is Brühls Terrace. Also known as the “Balcony of Europe,” this terrace sits atop the city’s old fortress and offers one of the most picturesque views in the city.

We bought a Bratwurst from a popular food cart called Imbiss, Thüringer Rostbratwurst, and walked up to Brühls Terrace to enjoy the views while eating our lunch. We highly recommend doing this if you’re looking for a quick and cheap lunch on the go, plus it was delicious!

5. Theaterplatz

Theaterplatz is a grand square that serves as the entrance into the Old Town. Surrounding the square are several of Dresden’s main attractions, including the Zwinger Palace, Hofkirche, Semperoper, and the Residenzschloss.

From here, make your way to the Zwinger Palace to start your visit to some of Dresden’s most significant sights.

6. Zwinger Palace

Zwinger Dresden

Visiting the Zwinger Palace is one of the most popular things to do in Dresden. The palace is one of the best examples of Baroque architecture and is considered a masterpiece.

Originally built in the early 18th century as place to host events and tournaments for nobility, the palace is now home to several museums, which are also part of the Dresden State Art Collections.

These include the Old Masters Picture Gallery, Dresden’s Porcelain Collection, and the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments.

Additionally, the gardens are wonderful to walk around and feature orange trees and manicured lawns. Stop by the Bath of Nymphs to admire this beautiful fountain.

Sadly, like many buildings in Dresden, the Zwinger Palace was destroyed during World War II; however, much of its contents inside were stored away and survived.

The palace was rebuilt in the mid-20th century and reopened to the public. Below, we’re sharing some more information on the can’t-miss sights at the Zwinger.

Practical information: The palace is open Monday to Friday from 6:00AM – 8:00PM and on weekends from 8:00AM – 8:00PM.

7. Glockenspiel

glockenspiel in dresden, germany

At the center of the Zwinger Palace courtyard, you’ll find the Glockenspiel, a unique instrument made of 40 porcelain bells. It was originally built in the 1930s with 24 bells but was replaced after World War II.

Every 15-minutes, the bells chime and play a variety of melodies. You can walk up close to see the bells in action as they play their song.

8. Dresden Porcelain Collection (Porzellansammlung)

The Dresden Porcelain Collection contains one of the most impressive porcelain collections in the world, boasting over 20,000 pieces, including Chinese, Japanese, and Meissen porcelain.

As a result of his obsession with East Asian porcelain, Augustus The Strong founded the first European porcelain factory in Meissen, Germany in the early 18th century.

The Porcelain Collection is the best place to view some of the first pieces produced in Meissen, from plates to large vessels. Additionally, the museum hosts exhibitions every year featuring porcelain from Asia and other parts of Europe.

Practical information: The museum is open daily from 10:00AM – 6:00PM, except Monday. Tickets can be purchased online at the official website or upon arrival.

9. Old Masters Picture Gallery (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister)

The Old Masters Gallery hosts an incredible collection of 15th to 18th century artworks.

Established in the mid-18th century by Augustus the Strong and further expanded by his son Augustus III, the gallery is renowned for its exceptional collection of European paintings from the Renaissance to the Baroque period.

The most famous piece inside of the gallery is Raphael’s “Sistine Madonna,” an inconic work of art that people from all over the world come to see. In addition, masterpieces by Rubens, Rembrandt, Titian, and Van Eyck can also be found here.

Practical information: The museum is open daily from 10:00AM – 6:00PM, except Monday. Tickets can be purchased online at the official website or upon arrival.

10. Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments (Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon)

The Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments is a fascinating museum that features an incredible collection of historical scientific instruments.

Located within the Zwinger Palace since the early 18th century, this collection dates back to the 16th century when Augustus of Saxony began accumulating many scientific devices.

Over the centuries, this collection grew to include an extraordinary variety of instruments used for astronomical, geographical, and physical measurements. You’ll find an array of globes, telescopes, clocks, and many other curiosities here.

Practical information: The museum is open daily from 10:00AM – 6:00PM, except Monday. Tickets can be purchased online at the official website or upon arrival.

11. Semperoper (Opera House)

Opera House Dresden

The Semperoper in Dresden is one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world. Named after its architect, Gottfried Semper, this magnificent building first opened in 1841.

The original structure, however, was raged by fire in 1869 and subsequently rebuilt in another style by Semper. Tragically, the opera house was again destroyed during the bombings of World War II but was eventually restored to its former glory, reopening in 1985.

The Semperoper is famed not only for its stunning Baroque architecture, with its elaborate interiors and grand facade, but also for its rich musical history. Composers, such as Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss, premiered major works here.

Today, you can attend a ballet or opera performance in this historical building. Alternatively, you can book a tour of the building if you are interested in visiting the interiors without paying to see a performance.

12. Hofkirche (Dresden Cathedral)

Catholic Church Dresden

The Hofkirche, also known as the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, is an important catholic church in Dresden. The cathedral was commissioned by Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, and was completed in 1751.

Designed by Italian architect Gaetano Chiaveri, the cathedral is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, featuring an 85-meter-high bell tower that dominates the Dresden skyline.

Notably, King Augustus the Strong’s heart is buried here, along with other members of the royal family of Saxony.

Practical information: The Hofkirche is free to visit.

13. Residenzschloss (Dresden Royal Palace)

Theaterplatz Dresden

The Residenzschloss, also known as the Dresden Royal Palace or Dresden Castle, was the seat of power for many electors and kings of Saxony for centuries. The palace has undergone various renovations over the years – from Baroque to Renaissance styles – and is one of Dresden’s oldest buildings.

The castle was destroyed during the bombing of Dresden in 1945 and has since been restored, with some of the most recent works being completed in the 21st century.

Today, the Residenzschloss houses several museums, including the Historic Green Vault and New Green Vault, the Cabinet of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, Armoury, Turkish Chamber, and Coin Cabinet.

In 2019, the State Apartments of Augustus the Strong were opened to the public featuring several ornately decorated rooms and items from his porcelain collection.

Practical information: The Dresden Royal Palace is open daily from 10:00AM – 6:00pm, except Tuesdays. Tickets can be purchased online at the official website or upon arrival.

14. Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault)

Located inside of the Residenzschloss, the historic Green Vault is one of the most popular attractions in Dresden.

Set inside of an opulent 18th century Baroque room, the Green Vault is the treasury of Augustus the Strong. It is famed for its meticulously crafted and artistically arranged collection of objects, including ivories, bronzes, gold and silver treasures, gemstones, and intricately carved amber and coral pieces.

The highlight of the museum is the breathtaking Dresden Green Diamond, a 41-karat green diamond from India.

Practical information: The Residenzschloss is open daily from 10:00AM – 6:00pm, except Tuesdays. Tickets can be purchased online at the official website or upon arrival.

15. Fürstenzug

Furstenzug in Dresden, Germany

One of the top things to do in Dresden is to see the Fürstenzug, a 102-meter-long porcelain mural located on the outer wall of the Dresden Royal Palace.

The Fürstenzug, or the Procession of Princes, is renowned as the largest porcelain artwork in the world. This grand mural depicts the procession of the rulers of Saxony, showcasing a lineage that spans nearly eight centuries.

Originally painted by Wilhelm Walther between 1872 and 1872, the mural was later transferred onto 23,000 porcelain tiles in the early 20th century to help preserve the artwork.

Remarkably, this masterpiece survived the allied bombing in 1945, suffering only minimal damage.

Book this Dresden Walking Tour to learn more about the history of the Fürstenzug and other historical sights in the city.

16. Grand Garden of Dresden (Großer Garten Dresden)

Grand Garden Dresden

Exploring the Grand Garden is one of our favorite things to do in Dresden. It is only a 20-minute walk from Neumarkt and features the Summer Palace, the Dresden Zoo, and Dresden Botanical Garden.

If you’re visiting on a nice day, spend a couple of hours wandering around this beautiful garden with landscaped lawns, flower beds, and tree-lined pathways.

17. Neustadt (New Town)

Make your way across the Elbe River from the Old Town to Neustadt (New Town). Surprisingly, the New Town has more preserved historic buildings and streets from before World War II than the Old Town because it wasn’t as heavily bombed.

Walking around Neustadt feels quite different than Altstadt. It’s hip, has a cool restaurant scene, and you’ll find much of the Dresden nightlife here.

It also hails a much younger and less-touristy crowd. We stayed in Neustadt and really enjoyed the area.

18. Pfunds Molkerei

Pfunds Molkerei

Pfunds Molkerei is a 19th century shop that has been named the “most beautiful dairy shop in the entire world.” It’s true.

The interior is completely covered in hand-painted blue and white tiles and is one of the most unique cafes we have ever visited.

The shop sells a selection of delicious cheese, milk, and other food products. You can also dine at their formal restaurant upstairs or at the cafe on the main floor, which both sell dairy-focused dishes.

19. Courtyard of Elements

Courtyard of Elements Dresden

Make your way to Kunsthofpassage in the Neustadt district, and you’ll find a small alleyway that has been transformed into an outdoor art gallery. Murals and other art installations line the alleyway, but the real showstopper is the Courtyard of Elements.

The Courtyard of Elements is a wall of drainpipes that transforms rainwater into a musical performance. This is the place to go on a rainy day in Dresden.

Unfortunately, it didn’t rain when we were in Dresden, but it’s still neat to see nonetheless.

20. Albertinum

The Albertinum, located in the Altstadt, is an art museum that showcases art from the Romantic period (1800s) to the present day.

Inside, you’ll find a fantastic sculpture collection featuring artists such as Degas and Rodin. Additionally, the museum hosts exhibitions throughout the year featuring contemporary artists.

Practical info: The Albertinum museum is open daily from 10:00AM – 6:00PM, except Monday.s You can purchase tickets at the museum upon arrival.

21. Pillnitz Palace

Pillnitz Palace in Dresden

Pillnitz Palace, located on the banks of the River Elbe near Dresden, is a stunning blend of Baroque and Chinoiserie architecture.

The palace dates back to the 14th century, but it was during the 18th century that Augustus the Strong used it to host many events, festivals, and weddings.

Today, you can visit Pillnitz Palace and its beautiful gardens, including a 250-year-old Camelia plant that apparently was brought back from Japan in the 18th century. If this is true, then it is one of Europe’s oldest Camellia trees. Although no one knows for sure.

To get here, you can either drive (takes 25 minutes), or take the tram and bus from Dresden city center. If you opt for public transport, then plan on a 1-hour journey to Pillnitz Palace from Dresden.

Practical info: The palace is open daily from 6:00AM – 5:00PM. Tickets can be purchased upon arrival. Note: The museums are closed during the winter. Make sure to check opening times before visiting.

22. Dresden River Cruise

Dresden River cruise

Taking a Dresden river cruise is a fantastic way to explore the Elbe River and to enjoy some beautiful views of the city from the river.

Here are a few options to book:

  • Dresden to Pillnitz Palace – This 3-hour cruise takes you along the Elbe River to Pillnitz Palace. The boat stops at the palace for only 20 minutes, so if you want to spend more time here, it’s best to visit on your own.
  • Dresden River Cruise | This 1.5 hour cruise takes you along the Elbe to see several different palaces.
  • Dresden to Meissen | This full-day trip takes you along the Saxon wine route to the town of Meissen. You’ll have 3 hours to explore the city before taking the boat back to Dresden.

23. Take a day trip from Dresden

Street in Meissen, Germany

Dresden’s central location within Saxony makes it easy to take day trips around the region. Below, we are sharing our favorite day trips that we took from Dresden.

Meissen | A day trip to Meissen is a fantastic idea if you want to explore one of the most charming towns in the Saxony region. From Albrechtsburg castle to the Meissen Porcelain Factory, there are plenty of things to do here to fill up your day. We did this day trip from Dresden and loved it. Just hop on the local train and you’ll be there in under 1 hour.

Moritzburg | We loved taking a day trip to Moritzburg from Dresden to see the castle. A half-day is plenty of time to explore the town and castle. You can either get there by steam train or bus from Dresden.

Saxon Switzerland National Park | A day trip to Saxon Switzerland National Park is a wonderful idea if you’re looking to take a break from the city and want to enjoy some nature. Located on the border of Germany and the Czech Republic, this national park has many wonderful hiking trails and unique sights, such as the Bastei Bridge. We recommend booking this full-day tour from Dresden or renting a car to get here.

Top Ten Things to do in Dresden

Don’t have time to see everything on this list? Below, we’re sharing the top 10 things to do in Dresden that you can’t miss!

  1. Zwinger Palace Gardens
  2. Dresden Porcelain Collection
  3. Old Masters Picture Gallery
  4. Frauenkirche
  5. Residenzschloss
  6. Green Vault
  7. Fürstenzug
  8. Hofkirche
  9. Semperoper
  10. Grand Garden

You’ll need 1.5-2 days to see everything on this top ten list.

Getting Around Dresden

Dresden is a very walkable city. Once you are in the Old Town, you can walk to all of the main sites very easily.

If you are staying in the New Town, like we did, then you might want to take a tram to the Old City. It’s a doable walk, but much quicker to take the tram. Since we stayed in New Town, we opted to take the tram to save us some time.

The tram system is convenient to use. There are stops all around the city. Just buy a ticket at a tram stop, or you can buy a single-day pass online here.

Map of Dresden

To help you best navigate your way around, here is a map of all of the best things to do in Dresden.

To save the map to Google Maps on your phone or computer, click on the star next to the title. Once you do this, you’ll be able to find the map in your “saved maps” list on your phone.

To see a list of all the items on the map, click the box with arrow on the left. To enlarge the map, click the box on the right.

Dresden Welcome Card

Dresden offers several discount cards to make it cheaper and more convenient to get around during your stay. There are several offers – one includes free transportation and another offers discounted museum tickets.

You can learn more about the different city cards here. Please note – this does not include free entrance to any of the main museums. The major perk with the card is that transportation is included; however, you may not need this if you are staying in the Old Town.

How to get to Dresden

View of Old Town Dresden, Germany

Located in Eastern Germany near the borders of Poland and the Czech Republic, Dresden is easy to access by train, bus, or plane.

There is an international airport in Dresden with access to many European countries. The closest major airport is in Berlin.

Alternatively, you can get to Dresden by bus or train easily from nearby cities, such as Berlin, Leipzig, and Prague.

Berlin to Dresden: The high-speed train from Berlin takes around 2 hours each way. We highly suggest taking the fast train.

Prague to Dresden: The direct train from Prague takes around 2.5 hours, making Dresden an easy day trip destination or weekend trip from Prague.

Leipzig to Dresden: The train from Leipzig to Dresden takes around 1.5 – 2 hours each way.

How much time in Dresden

Planning on visiting Dresden but not sure how much time to spend here? We recommend spending a minimum of 2 days in Dresden to visit the main attractions. If you want to take a day trip or two, then you should spend 4 days here.

We stayed in Dresden for 5 days and spent 2 days in the city and 3 days taking day trips to Meissen, Moritzburg, and Saxon Switzerland National Park. In our opinion, this was the perfect amount of time.

Best time to Visit Dresden

view overlooking Dresden Germany Old Town

Dresden is a wonderful city to visit all year. In November and December, you can visit the Dresden Christmas markets, which is a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday months and enjoy the winter months here.

Fun fact: The Striezelmarkt in Dresden is actually the oldest Christmas market in Germany – dating back to the 15th century.

Of course, the summer months have the best weather but visiting during this time means more crowds and higher prices.

The shoulder seasons, April to May and September to October, are the best times to visit Dresden for pleasant weather and less tourists. We visited in September and would highly recommend visiting this time of year!

Where to stay in Dresden

The Old Town in Dresden is the best area to stay if you’d like to have everything within walking distance. We stayed in the New Town and really enjoyed it; however, it was a much longer walk to the main sights, and we ended up having to take the tram most days.

Luxury hotel: Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski | A stunning 5-star hotel located in the heart of the Old Town with well-decorated rooms and modern amenities (including a pool).

Boutique hotel: Hotel Suitess | This 5-star hotel is located near the Frauenkirche in the Old Town and features comfortable rooms.

Mid-range hotel: Steigenberger Hotel de Saxe | This beautiful hotel is located in the Neumarkt and features modern rooms and great views.

Budget hotel: Hotel Indigo Dresden | This hotel is located within walking distance to all of the main attractions and offers affordable prices.

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