Things to do in Dresden Germany in Two Days

Dresden points of interest: Zwinger Palace
Dresden Germany lies about halfway between Prague and Berlin. How long does it take to get to Dresden from Prague? About 3 hours by train. Dresden was heavily bombed during World War II and the city situated in East Germany remained behind the Iron Curtain for decades. Because of this, Dresden’s architecture is a mix of communist era drab and a lovingly rebuilt medieval core. Is Dresden worth visiting? Read on to discover things to do in Dresden on a 2-day trip.

Where to Stay in Dresden

We didn't have to look hard to find our hotel. Was I seeing double? or triple? There are three different Hotel Ibis, one after the other, close to the train station in Dresden.
Where to stay in Dresden Germany: The Ibis Hotels

Follow the Fountains to Dresden’s Historic Core

We dropped off our bags and then had a look around. A number of modern fountains pointed the way toward the historic core of Dresden. Modern sculptures softened the boxy edges of the buildings in this part of town.
What to see in Dresden Germany: fountains

Eat Ice Cream in a Clam Shell in Dresden

We hadn't walked more than 10 minutes when we found an unassuming kiosk on a concrete stand in the middle of the road. We saw people enjoying ice cream on a clam shell nearby. What now? We needed to get in on that action... We sidled up to the window of Haselbauer, a local's favorite. We placed our order, choosing from a very small and simple menu. We were soon in possession of our very own clamshell. It was actually a great idea. We were able to separate the portion into two halves and have our own ice cream on a half-shell. The ice cream was whipped, creamy, and delicious. Don't miss Haselbauer on any trip to Dresden.
Things to do in Dresden Germany: Eat ice cream on a clamshell from Haselbauer

Try to Tell the Old from the New in Dresden

We continued into the heart of town and took the opportunity to explore and admire the architecture. You'd never guess that Dresden was heavily rebuilt after the war. We looked up and marveled at intricate decorations on the facades. Dresden sits on the River Elbe and has a great many elaborate structures residing on the river’s edge. We took in sweeping views before crossing over to Dreseden Neustadt for further exploration.
Dresden points of interest: Frauenkirche Dresden
The squares surrounding Frauenkirche Dresden are among the most impressive of the city. Note the mottled colors of the bricks. The ashen ones were recovered from the original structure. The unblemished stone is modern, was used to fill in the gaps in material, and is made of a substance more resistant to oxidation giving the structure this textured look. Open fields nearby hint at the destruction during the war.

Explore Dresden Neustadt (New City)

The River Elbe separates old (altstadt) and new (neustadt) Dresden. Dresden Neustadt is full of quiet fountains and tree-lined streets. The buildings looked newer but had a classic German feel. We had the neighborhood practically to ourselves. We continued on through Neustadt into Äußere Neustadt, the hipper, edgier part of town. High quality street art decorated almost every available surface. The Kunsthofpassage was another delightful diversion lined with colorful art and shops to match.
Things to do in Dresden: visit Kunsthofpassage in Dresden Neustadt
We sat down in the Kunsthofpassage courtyard to enjoy a piece of cake and coffee while we admired our surroundings. We explored the colorful nooks and crannies of the art passage. After a leisurely stroll, we emerged at the opposite end of the passage and ended up back on the streets of Dresden. Our final stop was for a bit of lunch at Babos Donerpoint. After a long walk, a double-stuffed pita really hit the spot. Just as we were about to leave Dresden Neustadt, I spotted my favorite bit of street art of all - Mr. T! I pity the fool that visits Dresden and doesn't take a walk in Äußere Neustadt ;-)
what to see in Dresden Germany: Mr. T street art

Dresden’s Art Nouveau Treasures

On our way back from Dresden Neustadt to Dresden Altstadt we saw traditional Art Nouveau accents. We sometimes saw empty lots between Art Nouveau buildings. This was a clear reminder of the bombs that destroyed much of Dresden during World War II.
What to see in Dresden Germany: Art Nouveau architecture

Dresden’s Zwinger Palace

Hands down, exploring Zwinger Palace was my favorite thing to do in Dresden. Much of this impressive enclave was destroyed in World War II but was lovingly rebuilt. We crossed the moat...yep...there's a moat which is part of the charm of the place... We passed under a gilded arch and into a splendid courtyard. There were photo opportunities everywhere and I could barely decide where to turn first! Dresden is definitely an Instagrammable city! We admired the Pavilion building and then turned our attention to the Rococo sculptures on the interior walls. A glockenspiel comprised of white bells framed the window of the Pavilion. We headed for the steps along one of the side buildings. There was a museum inside but it was getting late in the day and the weather was simply too gorgeous to spend inside. Ornate sculptures seemed to hold up the walls.
Things to do in Dresden Germany: Visit Zwinger Palace
We climbed the stairs and admired the views outside the complex. We then turned our attention inward for fantastic views of the interior courtyard. Sculpted cherubs looked down on the scene below. We walked along the upper walkway doing almost a complete circuit. We admired the shiny glockenspiel up close. We headed down a staircase at the rear of the complex and exited onto the street. The Opera was just next door to Dresden’s Zwinger Palace and was ornately appointed. A rare Catholic church was done up in similarly grand fashion. We took one last pass through Zwinger Palace as we understood that the glockenspiel would chime around 5:30 pm. We waited until at least 5:45 pm but there was nothing. Oh well, maybe they only do it seasonally or perhaps they've changed the timings. Dresdner Zwinger is a not-to-be-missed point of interest on a trip to Eastern Germany.
Things to do in Dresden Germany: Visit Zwinger Palace

Discovering Dresden: A City Reborn

Dresden is really a city reborn. Much of this once great German city was flattened by bombs in World War II and laid in ruins during Soviet-era East Germany. After German reunification more than 30 years ago, the historic core was rebuilt to its former grandeur. We took time to explore the historic Altstadt on our recent visit to Dresden. Historic facades contrasted sharply with communist-era buildings like the Palace of Culture. Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (art collection) is housed in Residenzschloss. The historic courtyard is protected by a modern glass roof.
Dresden Germany points of interest: glass covered courtyard at Residenzschloss
Nearby, a row of graceful arches are decorated with sculptures of the heads of game animals. The Procession of Princes or Fürstenzug depicts the rulers of the land through the centuries in a gilded mosaic that continues for a city block.
What to see in Dresden Germany: Procession of Princes or Fürstenzug mosaic

Drink a Beer al Fresco

We sat down at a Bavarian style restaurant for a beer al fresco not far from Frauenkirche Dresden. This neighborhood is an ideal spot for meeting up with friends and for a bit of people watching in the city. Take time to reflect on the past and the contrasting architecture from your vantage point where you can see both the communist-era Palace of Culture and the rebuilt Frauenkirche Dresden.
Things to do in Dresden Germany: drink beer outside near Frauenkirche Dresden

Eat a Hearty Breakfast at Schwerdtner in Dresden

Early on our visit to Dresden, we discovered Schwerdtner, a restaurant that we enjoyed so much that we came back twice for a hearty breakfast. The location was also super-convenient which was important given that we only had 2 days in Dresden.
Where to eat in Dresden: breakfast at Schwerdtner

Visit Dresden’s Großer Garten

Großer Garten is a great place to get some fresh air and exercise and was another of my favorite things to do in Dresden. We took the tram to Großer Garten. The park is nicely wooded with paths and streams running through. We soon emerged into a clearing in the center of the park where an old mansion still stands. We stopped to admire the detailed embellishments on the facade. A rectangular pond sits alongside the house. A swan and cygnets were taking advantage of this beautiful spot to nest. We continued along the path soaking up the sun. Passing through another wooded area, we chanced upon a small railway that runs in the park. We were there pretty early so didn't get the chance to give the train a go as it wasn't open yet. We emerged from the park and passed Volkswagen's 'Transparent Factory'.
Things to do in Dresden in 2 days: Großer Garten

Blaues Wunder

Loschwitz Bridge, more commonly known as Blaues Wunder (The Blue Wonder), is another popular point of interest in Dresden. As we’ve discussed, Dresden was heavily damaged during WWII and this is especially true of the city's bridges. Blaues Wunder is a rare example of a bridge in this area predating the war (it was built in 1893). We walked across and admired the Elbe from the center. Horses grazed alongside the bridge on the other side; such an idyllic scene. A small strip of shops and restaurants greeted us on the other side in a mainly residential neighborhood. We wandered through the smaller streets on this side of the bridge back toward the river. We saw some really cool structures and a chocolate shop en route. Such a peaceful neighborhood. Back along the Elbe, we admired Blaues Wunder from a different vantage point. A small cracked path led directly to water's edge. We walked back toward the bridge climbing a set of stairs for the return crossing. We caught a ride on public transit from the high street back toward Dresden City Center.
Things to do in Dresden in 2 days: Loschwitz Bridge better known as Blaues Wunder

Tour the Inside of Frauenkirche Dresden

We managed to squeeze in a quick visit to see the inside of Frauenkirche before our train from Dresden to Berlin was scheduled to depart. A cross used to sit atop the dome but when the church was bombed in World War II, the cross became a gnarled, twisted piece of metal that is on display inside Frauenkirche Dresden today. The gnarled cross serves as a reminder of the ravages of war. Overall, Frauenkirche has been lovingly restored to its former glory.
Things to do in Dresden Germany: Inside Frauenkirche

Take A Day Trip from Dresden to Leipzig 

Getting to Leipzig from Dresden takes about an hour by train and is a well worth a day trip. Leipzig is a vibrant university town featuring edgy street art, cheap eats, and even some Napoleonic history. You can read more about what to see in Leipzig in a day here.
Dresden Day trips: From Dresden to Leipzig: Glass building at the University of Leipzig

Things to Do in Dresden Map

Check out this helpful map to find the various things to do in Dresden discussed in this post. 

Is Dresden Worth Visiting?

Both Berlin and Prague have well-connected airports to cities in Europe. If your travel plans take you from Prague to Berlin (or from Berlin to Prague), a stop in Dresden is a must. Dresden is one of the most interesting cities we’ve visited in Europe with an edgy mix of old and new plus lots of 20th century history. Situated 3 hours from both Prague and Berlin, Dresden isn’t the easiest city to get to on a short weekend break but it’s well-worth a stop on a longer adventure through Central Europe. After our final moments inside Frauenkirche Dresden, we were out of time and dashed to the train station for our journey from Dresden to Berlin. Goodbye Dresden, and thanks for a fascinating trip!

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: Things to do in Dresden Germany in Two Days
Things to do in Dresden Germany in Two Days
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