Head on over to Dresden: the capital of Saxony Land, eastern Germany! Dresden is the third largest city in eastern Germany behind Berlin and Leipzig. The city of Dresden is located on the basin of the Elbe River falling just north of the Czech border and a short car ride south of Berlin. Due to its location near the river, Dresden has a very mild climate that is enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.
Before World War II, Dresden was commonly compared to Florence due to its connotation as one of the world’s architectural hubs. However, during the war, the entire city was nearly destroyed by the Anglo-American Air Force—in fact, it has been estimated by the German Commission that 25,000 people lost their lives during the bombings.
Upon conclusion of the war, it was agreed that a modern re-construction approach would be followed while simultaneously maintain the history of the city. Today, Dresden is a diverse cultural hub that anyone would enjoy to experience. Check out our travel guide for tips on how to tackle the city!
This ultimate travel guide to Dresden will show you all the most beautiful places in Dresden, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Dresden and things to do in Dresden which will help you in planning a trip to Dresden.
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Table of Contents
How to get to Dresden
It is very common for Berlin travelers to plan a weekend trip to Dresden as the cities are only about 120 miles apart. If you find yourself in this boat, catching a train is a great option. Trains run throughout the day and a ticket typically costs between $40 and $80 (depending on the type of train and time of the day). For example, the Intercity Express Train travels through Leipzig. However, there might be a change in trains, which would add another hour to the trip.
If traveling with groups or with family, a car can easily be rented. Cars in Germany are usually rented to drivers over the age of 21, need a reservation in advance, and are stick shift. This trip, depending on traffic, should take about two hours. Bus is the cheapest but longest and least comfortable option. Finally, taking a plane is probably your worst bet. Travelers must take a layover in a central German city, and then fly in to Dresden. If having to fly, your best bet is to land in Berlin and then take a train,
How to get around Dresden
Getting around Dresden is pretty easy. When in the city center, everything is accessible by foot. However, if wanting to go to the outer parts of the city, using a bike or public transportation will be best. Surprisingly, Dresden has been able to devise a reliable public transportation system despite the bombings during World War II.
The public transportation system consists of railways, trams, and busses. Additionally, there are three ferries that cross the Elbe and two cable car systems. If already renting a car, don’t worry about driving throughout the city—roads are wide and very well paved.
What to expect in Dresden
The unit of currency in Germany is the Euro. Currently, the Euro to Dollar exchange rate is about 1 : 1.1. The language in Dresden, of course, is German, but travelers won’t have a hard time finding English speakers as well. Generally speaking, it is common to leave a 10% tip or even a 5% tip at meals, but not always expected. In many parts of Germany, service charges are included in the price, so rounding up to the nearest 10 euro is acceptable. If receiving great service, don’t be shy to leave a tip!
The best time to visit Dresden
Average temperatures in Dresden vary all throughout the year. Typically speaking, about the half the year is cold and about half the year has very pleasant weather with low chances of snow or rain. If the cold isn’t for you, the warmest months in Dresden are July, August, and then June.
During this time, the hottest it will get is generally about 84.2 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius). Due to the proximity to the Elbe River, weather is often difficult to predict. Regardless of when you visit, you are bad to fall in love with the fresh, open air!
Where to stay in Dresden
If on a bit of a budget, the luxurious yet affordable Hotel Suitess is a great option. Rooms are finely decorated and contain marble countertops accompanied by a separate kitchen and living space. Also, the amenities are amazing—the hotel has a rooftop restaurant and bar, and has a spa with a gym, sauna, steam room, and treatment rooms. If you are looking for a top-quality hotel but willing to spend a bit more, Hotel Gewandhaus will not disappoint. This boutique hotel is located in the heart of Old Town and has all of the modern amenities you could ever need accompanied by the charismatic charm of local designers.
Hotels not your thing? Check on the many local hostels! I would personally recommend staying at Lollis Homestay. The hostel is top notch and consistently attracts interesting groups of travelers and backpackers. Not to mention…there are so many free perks! Free bikes, free wifi, free coffee and tea, free dinners on Sunday, and free walking tours and wine tasting on Tuesdays!
For those more interested in going down the AirBnB route, I would recommend finding a place in Altstadt, Neustadt, or Loschwitz. AirBnBs can be booked for both solo travelers and groups alike—be sure to look for shared accommodations as well as private accommodations.
What to eat in Dresden
Dresden’s most famous food item, Dresdner Christstollen, is a staple not only in the city but in all of Germany. This infamous treat is the city’s take on fruitcake, and consists of butter, rum soaked raisins, almonds, candied lemon and orange peel, and a secret blend of spices. Don’t forget to try this! Another great dessert in Dresdenis the Dresdner Eirschecke. This dessert consists of a sheet cake with three layers: the yeast dough base, quark cheese crème, and a thick layer of milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla pudding.
Most cafes and coffee shops are bound to have this item on their menu. For those looking for more of a savory experience, Dresden’s most popular open-faced sandwich will surely catch your eye. Yes, it is a bit weird, but give it a try. The Fettbemme is a slice of thick dark rye bread topped with pork spread or beef lard, sliced gherkins (small pickled cucumbers similar but different than pickles), and sometimes sliced apples or onion chunks.
Finally, another local great dish is the Dresdner Sauerbraten. The city’s unique recipe requires that a leg of beef soaks in a stock of herb vinegar, malt beer, bay leaves, and spices for several days. The beef is then quickly fried with butter and thrown in the oven before being served alongside bread dumplings and red cabbage.
Things to do and places to visit in Dresden:
Dresden is home to a variety of different tourist attractions. Nonetheless, those looking for a more local experience will not have a difficult time. One of the most popular attractions that everyone should make time for is the Frauenkirche. One of the world’s most renkown Baroques, the Frauenkirche was originally constructed in the mid 1700s. However, after World War II, the church was destroyed and desperately needed reconstruction.
After the reunification of Germany, the church underwent massive construction. And, interestingly, 4,000 original stones were included. As a sign of international peace and good will, Britain donated a gold cross that remains on top of the church till this very day. The interior is incredible and both something that both religious and non-religious visitors will appreciate.
Additionally, you can take an elevator to the dome for some one-of-a-kind views. For those wanting to participate in worship, be sure to plan align your visit with one of 100+ concerts performed each year.
Another amazing display of German heritage and culture is the Dresden Royal Palace. One of Europe’s oldest and most respected public museums, the Royal Palace is home to the Dresden State Art Collection. Here, tourists will find priceless art artifacts and displays of traditional court clothing designed with time-consuming needle work. Also, the original green vault can be found here.
Although the green vault, too, was destroyed during the war, it was reconstructed and still contains an original collection of gold, silver, jewelry, and ivory from as early as the 14th century. History buffs will definitely appreciate the history behind this castle—in the late 15th century, the Saxons owned the castle, and Augustus the Strong originally decided that the royal collections should also be open for the public to view and appreciate. Thus, the museum was born!
When not bouncing between museums or basking in the amazing architecture scattered throughout the city, there are two things you must do: check out the street art in Neustadt and drink your sorrows away in a beer garden. Dresden Neustadt has gained a reputation internationally for its unique street art.
Visitors can experience the street art either on a guided tour or by themselves. All of the street art has been finely designed and coordinated to flow with the buildings’ architecture. Some of the art is very finely done with much attention to detail, while other pieces are more amateur, rough on the edges, but equally as cool.
After checking out the street art, be sure to stop by a local beer garden. Not only is this a great place to find some of the best beer that you will ever taste, but it is also a great opportunity to experience German culture and daily life. The beer is cheap, the food is good, and the people are nice—what more could you ask for?
Tours to do in Dresden
Of course, tours are available in many of the museums and palaces. Although different travelers prefer different tours, I would recommend making time for a tour at the Theaterplatz and Semper Opera.
The city’s opera house is located on this fine public square, and in order to see the interior you either have to attend a show (which can get expensive) OR you can take a tour from one of the enthusiastic staff members. A tour is a great way to observe all that the opera house contains while simultaneously learning about its rich history and plethora of touring artists.
Another tour worth taking is a tour of the Chinese-inspired Pillnitz Palace and Gardens. In the 19th century, the palace was used to entertain guests of the royal family. Not only is the architecture and art of the palace exquisite, but the gardens are equally as well-kept and arguably even more unique. Guided tours will allow you to see and learn about the rich history behind this property.
Day trips from Dresden
If wanting to experience and learn more about the lifestyle of the rich and wealthy, a perfect day trip to take is a visit to Meissen. Meissen is only 30 kilometers west of the city, and was once home to a long reigning dynasty. This dynasty built their home, the Albrechtsburg Castle, towering above Meissen right in the middle of the city.
The castle is a beautiful representation of the Gothic era. Visitors will be shocked by how well the interior of the castle has been kept—paintings seem as if they were created yesterday, and much of the castle’s original interior design has been maintained. Another reason worth visiting Meissen is due to its vast porcelain manufacturing. Tourists can tour the porcelain factory and see both new and old pieces of art. It’s amazing to see how the porcelain is designed and created!
For those wanting to experience the outdoors, a fan favorite is the Saxon Switzerland National Park. The park is a mere 30 kilometers southeast of Dresden, and contains an unreal landscape filled with huge limestone pillars and many views of the Elbe river. Hiking trails are plentiful, but there is also a tram that tourists can take if not wanting to walk too much. Main attractions in the park include the waterfall at Lichtenhain, the Bastei Bridge, and the village of Bad Schandau.
We hope you enjoy all that Dresden has to offer! Fall in love with the food, history, architecture, and art. Not only is the city easily accessible, it is also bound to satisfy all of your traveling desires!
Recommended tours in Dresden
- Best of Bohemian and Saxon Switzerland Day Trip from Dresden – Hiking Tour
- Dresden Walking Tour of the Historic Old Town
- Small-Group Bastei Bridge and Königstein Fortress Day Tour from Dresden
- Dresden Live-Guided Self-Drive Trabi Safari City Tour
- Winter Edition Bohemian and Saxon Switzerland Tour from Dresden
- Street Art Tour Dresden Neustadt
- New Green Vault with Licensed guide
- Dresden private tour with castle visit
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