20 Things to do in Dresden

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Dresden is a beautiful German city known as Germany’s ‘jewel box’ because of its spectacular architecture, which includes some of the best examples of Baroque and Rococo architecture in the country. Dresden was badly bombed during World War II with much of the city completely destroyed during the bombing or the firestorm that followed. Thankfully, this beautiful city was rebuilt into the architectural paradise it is today. When exploring, take a careful look at its buildings to see hidden details, statues and carvings. One of the most famous statues and monuments in the city is the Golden Horseman, depicting August the Strong on horseback.

The city has a large number of museums covering everything from music and culture to the arts and natural history. If you happen to be visiting the city on a wet and gloomy day, its museums are the best place to spend your time. Dresden has, like many other cities in Germany, an excellent coffee culture, with plenty of cosy coffee shops, trendy coffee bars and older cafes to enjoy a warm drink and slice of traditional Eierschecke cake. The best way to explore Dresden is on foot as there are many different areas to visit. Spend time around Neustradt to experience the best nightlife in the city in this former warehouse district, or immerse yourself in street art and unique architectural flourishes in the trendy Kunsthofpassage. Here are 20 things to do in Dresden to inspire your next German city break.

Dresden, Germany

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20 Things To Do In Dresden

1- Visit Frauenkirche Church

Frauenkirche Cathedral Exterior In Dresden, Germany
Seeing Frauenkirche church is one of the things to do in Dresden.

One of the most spectacular touches to Dresden’s architectural landscape is Frauenkirche Church.

The church dates back to the 11th century when it was built as a missionary church to serve the city and the surrounding villages.

In the years that followed the church grew with a dome being added in the 18th century.

During World War II, in the wars final days, Dresden as a city was badly bombed and the church suffered catastrophic fire damage before collapsing.

A citizens appeal in the 1990s saw plans drawn up for the church to be rebuilt, with its consecration finally happening in 2005.

Frauenkirche Dresde is at Neumarkt, 01067 Dresden.

Recommended tours:

2- Go on a ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ tour

For an alternative tour of Dresden book onto a Slaughterhouse Five tour.

The tours lead eager visitors through the city in the footsteps of Billy Pilgrim, as they discover the city’s WWII history.

Vonnegut Jr spent time in Dresden as a citizen and later a prisoner of war, and his experiences, particularly of Dresden’s destruction, gave him the inspiration for his novel.

While the novel does time jump, and has some aliens, the tour focuses on the historical elements and both Pilgrim and Vonnegut Jr’s time in the city during WWII.

The walk includes stories, opportunities for discussion and time at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial wall inside a small basement where he spent time in the city during its devastating bombing.

Slaughterhouse Five tours depart from Theaterplatz, Dresden.

3- Admire the Zwinger

Zwinger Castle In Dresden
Admiring the Zwinger is one of the best things to do in Dresden.

One of the most beautiful and well-known Baroque buildings in Dresden is the Zwinger, a palace surrounded by fountains and pleasant gardens.

August the Strong had the palace built in 1709 and filled it with works of art, sculptures and other elaborate decorations.

Inside the Zwinger is the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden Museum that showcases fine porcelains, portraits by Old Masters and a variety of mathematical and scientific instruments.

The Great Court is one of the most popular areas of the Zwinger as this outdoor square offers green lawn spaces, small fountains, and the famous Nymphenbad, a large fountain with ornate carvings.

Between May and October the spacious grounds are filled with fragrant orange trees.

Zwinger is at Sophienstraßs, 01067 Dresden. Book tickets to a Gala Concert in the Dresden Zwinger and skip the line by buying your museum entry tickets here.

4- Capture the View at Brühl’s Terrace

Bell Tower And Dome From Brühl's Terrace
Capturing the view at Brühl’s Terrace is one of the top things to do in Dresden.

One of the most visited and popular destinations in Dresden is Brühl’s Terrace.

The terrace began as the city ramparts before being transformed by Henrich von Brühl into a terraced garden.

Nicknamed ‘the Balcony of Europe’, this beautiful terrace offers relaxation, tranquility and some of the best views over Dresden.

The terrace is 500m (1640ft) in length and overlooks the River Elbe.

Climb the famous staircase beside the Supreme Court to reach the terrace and admire the four sculptures named ‘The Four Times of Day’.

Take your time to explore the terrace and make like the locals by enjoying a seat with a view and a cup of coffee.

Brühl’s Terrace is at Georg-Treu-Platz 1, 01067 Dresden.

5- Explore a royal palace at Residenzschloss Dresden Castle

The Castle Of Dresden
Exploring a royal palace at Residenzschloss Dresden Castle is one of the things to do in Dresden.

Residenzschloss is the Royal Palace of Dresden and is in the city’s historic centre.

The palace was almost completely destroyed and burnt following the WWII bombings of the city with only the historic Green Vault and the basements remaining intact.

The palace was carefully restored and today serves as a building dedicated to arts and science.

Inside the palace is a vast art library, lecture theatres and exhibition spaces.

During the summer the buildings tower, Hausmannsturm, is open to the public who after climbing 327 steps are offered some of the best views across the city.

Residenzschloss Dresden Castle is at Taschenberg 2, 01067 Dresden. Skip the line and book your tickets online or save money by combining castle entry tickets with a two-day hop-on-hop-off ticket.

6- Learn about art at Albertinum

Albertinum is one of many beautiful buildings on Brühl’s Terrace and was named after King Albert of Saxony.

The museum’s collection is housed in a Renaissance Revival sandstone building and includes the New Master’s Gallery and the Sculpture Collection.

Carl Adolf Canzler designed the museum in 1887 and, following damage during WWII, was restored and rebuilt in the 1950s.

The spaces inside the museum are bright, airy and modern in design which is a pleasing contrast to some of the older works of art displayed.

Albertinum offers a range of workshops and guided tours of the museum.

Albertinum is at Tzchirnerpl. 2, 01067. Skip the line and order your tickets here.

7- Feel festive at the Christmas market

Woman Buying Decoration And Baubles On Christmas Market
Feeling festive at the Christmas market is one of the things to do in Dresden Germany in winter.

One of the best things to do in Dresden during winter is spending time exploring the magic of the city’s Christmas Market.

Dresden’s Christmas Market is the oldest winter event in Germany and sees thousands of locals and tourists exploring its stalls each year.

The market dates from the 15th century and is known as Striezelmarkt after the traditional stollen cake or striezel made during winter festivals.

Be sure to look for the Christmas arch adorned with candles and figurines which has been a longstanding tradition at the market.

The arch, now made from wood, was once made from metal symbolising the towns link to the mining industry.

In the Christmas market there are many stalls selling delicious festive dishes and drinks, Christmas decorations and souvenirs, and fairground rides.

Striezelmarkt is at Altmarkt Square, Dresden.

Recommended tour: Dresden: Advent Tour with Stollen Tasting and Mulled Wine

8- Wander around Neustradt

One of the coolest neighbourhoods to explore is Neustradt, the city’s former industrial quarter.

In Neustradt expect to find many clubs, bars and music venues.

Aside from a party vibe after the sun sets, there are plenty of things to see and do in Neustradt during the day.

The area is filled with independent boutiques, clothing stores, cafes and plenty of street art.

There are many walking tours taking in this area of Dresden that focus on its street art which primarily includes many beautiful murals.

Neustradt is a neighbourhood in Dresden.

9- Enjoy a sweet slice of Eierschecke cake

German Poppy Seed Cake On White Plate
Enjoying a sweet slice of Eierschecke cake is one of the popular things to do in Dresden.

To have a true slice of Dresden find a cosy cafe or bakery and purchase an Eierschecke.

Eierschecke is a traditional Saxon desert formed from three layers.

The cake starts with cake base, has a rich and creamy cheesecake middle and sweet vanilla custard top.

Traditional bakeries will sell Eierschecke with some offering additional flavourings and ingredients including chocolate, raisins and almonds.

Many suggest pairing the cake with a coffee, and it is definitely best enjoyed at an independent cafe with a view.

Recommended tour: Taste of Dresden Food Walk

10- Go to the opera at Semperoper

Semperoper In Dresden
Going to the opera at Semperoper in Dresden is one of the things to do in a day.

Semperoper is the home of Dresden’s opera and ballet.

The first opera house in Dresden opened in 1667 and its success saw the city becoming an important centre for European operatic performances.

Gottfried Semper built Semperoper in 1841 using architectural features from Corinthian, Baroque and Renaissance styles.

Semper also included pillars often found in Greek Classical Revival architectural works.

Like many of the city’s buildings, Semperoper was destroyed during WWII leaving only the exterior still standing, however it was successfully rebuilt and reopened in 1985.

At Semperoper expect to see dramatic operas, seasonal ballets and orchestral performances.

Semperoper is at Theaterplatz 2, 01067 Dresden.

Recommended tour: Dresden: Semperoper and Old Town Tour

11- Indulge in chocolate at Camondas Chocolate Shop

Chocolates Shop
Indulging in chocolate is one of the fun things to do in Dresden.

Relive childhood dreams of exploring a chocolate factory and spend an afternoon at Camondas Chocolate Shop.

Dresden was considered the chocolate capital of Germany during the 19th century.

Explore Camondas’ museum to learn all about the history of chocolate in the country and city, before discovering a large variety of delicious chocolate and chocolate-flavoured treats in their dedicated shop.

The second area of the museum focuses on how chocolate is made today and how smaller companies such as Camondas make chocolate in comparison to mass-produced brands.

There are also plenty of samples for you to try as you explore the museum.

Round off your visit with a trip to the Cocoa Parlour, a 19th century styled room where you can indulge in a rich drinking chocolate.

Camondas is at Schloßstraße 22, 01067 Dresden.

12- Cruise down the river on a paddle steamer

One of the best ways to see a riverside city is from the water, and taking to the water in a paddle steamer is one of the most romantic and historical things to do in Dresden.

The paddle steamer ‘Dresden’ was built in 1926 and is the flagship steamer of the nine Saxon fleet steamships operating in Dresden.

This beautiful piece of maritime history has 20’s style salons to relax in and spacious outdoor decks to take in the full view of the city from all sides.

The salons are all heated offering visitors somewhere warm to enjoy the beautiful views from even in the coldest of weathers.

An onboard kiosk provides drinks and snacks to make your journey more comfortable.

Sächsische Dampfschiffahrt is at Georg-Treu-Platz 3, 01067 Dresden.

13- Visit Green Vault

Collection Of The Green Vault In Dresden, Filigree Box, Vintage
Visiting the Green Vault is one of the unique things to do in Dresden.

August the Strong founded the Green Vault in 1723, a unique museum that houses the largest collection of treasures in Europe.

Despite its name, not every room within the Green Vault is green, and it instead gets its name for the malachite green columns of the initial rooms within the vault.

Inside the vault are diamonds, gold, crystals and other precious stones displayed inside elaborate rooms.

There are more than 3000 items created by craftsmen, jewellers and goldsmiths within the vault on display.

People have been able to visit the Green Vault since it opened, and do so in small groups.

As you move through the rooms of the vault, more and more mirrors are added to increase the opulent feel of the buildings design.

Admire the Hall of Precious Objects, a 200 square meter (2152.78 square feet) space filled with ostrich eggs, portraits and precious-stone covered objects including vases and drinking vessels.

Green Vault is at Residenzschloss, Taschenberg 2, 01067 Dresden.

14- Understand Dresden’s Saxon past at Fürstenzug

King Of Saxon
Understanding Dresden’s Saxon past at Fürstenzug is one of the best things to do in Dresden, Germany, for history fans.

Fürstenzug is a large mural in Dresden’s old town, measuring 102m (334ft) long.

This spectacular mural is a porcelain painting and is formed of small tiles finished in whites, blues and golden yellows.

The mural depicts the former rulers of Saxony from 1127 to 1837.

The mural first appeared towards the end of the 19th century but a period of bad weather severely damaged the paint.

As a result, the mural was recreated using ceramic tiles from renowned manufacturer Meissen, who created the tiles so that there are no joins, giving it the appearance of one continuous and detailed painting.

Despite the sheer destruction of Dresden in 1945, the mural largely survived and withstood the following firestorms, with only a little cleaning to remove soot and smoke, and less than 100 replacement tiles were required to restore it.

Agustussttraße 1, 01067 Dresden.

15- Stroll through Pillnitz Palace Gardens

The New Palais Front Entrance In Pillnitz Castle Near Dresden
Strolling through Pillnitz Palace Gardens is one of the things to do in Dresden, Germany.

Take a break from the city and enjoy the peace and tranquility offered by Pillnitz Palace Gardens.

Pillnitz Palace, like many other older buildings in Dresden, has links to August the Strong as he bought the palace for Countess Cosel.

The gardens border the River Elbe and perfectly combine beautiful classical architecture with perfectly designed gardens.

The most famous part of the gardens is the Palm House, an imposing and dramatic Victorian-style greenhouse displaying a range of exotic plants from Australia and South Africa.

Inside the Palm House are three distinct climates allowing the plants to flourish, a central water fountain and sculptures.

Be sure to look out for the 250 year old Camellia which is kept inside the greenhouse during winter.

This beautiful flowering plant was brought to the gardens from Japan.

Visitors can admire this unique plant from two floors inside the greenhouse as it stands at 8.94m (29.33ft) tall and 12m (39.37ft) in diameter when it blooms between February and April.

Outside there are gardens designed to reflect plants found in England, the Netherlands and China.

Pillnitz Palace Gardens is at August-Böckstiegel-Straße 2, 01326 Dresden.

16- Discover street art at Kunsthofpassage

Spend some time exploring Kunsthofpassage, a unique corner of Dresden that features multiple courtyards filled with art, music and architecture.

Many of the apartment buildings here have been completely transformed by residents into unique works of art.

The buildings are painted in bright colours, some of which reflect natural elements such as water.

One of the most unusual sights within the Courtyard of Elements is the guttering system on some of the buildings.

Annette Paul, Christoph Rossner and Andre Tempel created the unusual drains which turn rainfall into music.

Kunsthofpassage is at Görlitzer Str. 21-25, 01099 Dresden.

17- Step back in time at Dresden Panometer

Have a truly unique experience of art at Dresden Panometer.

Yadegar Asisi, a German artist, designed nanometer to house two 360-degree panoramic paintings.

The paintings displayed are the largest panoramas in the world at 32m (104.99ft) tall and with a circumference of 110m 360.89ft).

These huge pieces of art include ‘Baroque Dresden’ a panorama showing Dresden during the Polish-Saxon Union between 1697 and 1763.

Panometer’s newest exhibition opens in early 2024 and focuses on the rainforest, depicting giant trees, aerial roots from tropical plants and a soundscape including rainfall and animal calls.

Dresden Panometer is at Gasanstaltstraße 8B, 01237. Skip the line and book your tickets here.

18- Get a drink at Dresdener Molkerei Gebrüder Pfund

Dresdener Molkerei Gebrüder Pfund is a traditional dairy shop that has been named by the Guinness Book of Records as the ‘most beautiful dairy shop in the world’, and a visit to this exquisitely designed parlour certainly confirms this.

The Pfund Brothers founded the dairy shop in 1892 and designed it to ooze luxury.

The dairy shop has ornately designed tiled paintings throughout all focusing on Neo-Classical designs.

Local stoneware factory Villeroy and Boch produced the hand-painted tiles for the Pfund Brothers.

When visiting the shop order a variety of regional cheeses and other dairy products including fresh milk and buttermilk.

Popular orders at the dairy shop include their speciality buttermilk which is blended with mango, and their cheese platter for 2.

Dresdener Molkerei Gebrüder Pfund is at Bautzner Str. 79, 01099.

19- Relax in Grand Garden of Dresden

Another excellent green space to relax in is the Grand Garden of Dresden.

Elector John George III commissioned the gardens in 1678 and had them built and designed by similar gardens in France.

The garden spans 117-hectares and includes a grand palace, English landscaped parkland, small forests and ponds.

There is also a zoological garden and a botanical garden within its grounds.

The Zoological Gardens have been in the Grand Garden since 1861 and today house around 300 species of animals in natural habitats.

The Botanical Gardens is one of the most popular areas of the Grand Gardens.

More than 10000 species of plants are grown in the gardens in a variety of designed landscapes, glasshouses and ponds.

Grand Garden of Dresden is at Hauptallee 10, 01219 Dresden.

Recommended tour: Dresden: Christmas Garden Dresden Entrance Ticket

20- Travel on the suspension railway

Adventure up one of the oldest suspension railways in the world on the Standseilbahn in Dresden.

This cable railway has ran for more than 100 years and offers spectacular views across the River Elbe and the small town of Loschwitz.

This unique railway originated as a form of public transportation however today it has become more of a tourist attraction.

At the top of the railway is a museum of technology that is filled with various exhibitions on the creation of the railway, how it was made, and the impact of this new technology on Dresden.

Standseilbahn is at Pillnitzer Landstraße 5, 01326 Dresden.

Recommended tour: Dresden: Tour of VW’s Transparent Factory

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sarah holmes travel writer
Sarah Holmes is a travel and fashion writer living in the heart of England. From family adventures in numerous parts of the UK and Europe to exploring cities as an adult, Sarah has a wide knowledge of the best areas, sights and local tips that the UK and the neighbouring continent can offer. Sarah grew up in the North East of England, with incredible sights and landmarks only a short drive away. Her favourite places to visit include Seaham Beach, the Lake District and Alnwick Castle. Sarah has written for a range of fashion and travel blogs and print publications.