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 DresdenWe 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.
Follow the Fountains to Dresden’s Historic CoreWe 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.
Eat Ice Cream in a Clam Shell in DresdenWe 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.
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: What are some other great cities to visit in Germany? Have you thought about spending a weekend in Frankfurt with day trips to Heidelberg and Speyer? What about discovering all the things to do in Hamburg, the port city in the north of Germany that helped the Beatles get their big break.
Try to Tell the Old from the New in DresdenWe 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.
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.
Dresden’s Art Nouveau TreasuresOn 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.
Dresden’s Zwinger PalaceHands 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.
Discovering Dresden: A City RebornDresden 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.
Drink a Beer al FrescoWe 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.
Eat a Hearty Breakfast at Schwerdtner in DresdenEarly 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.
Visit Dresden’s Großer GartenGroßer 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'.
Blaues WunderLoschwitz 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.
Tour the Inside of Frauenkirche DresdenWe 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.
Take A Day Trip from Dresden to LeipzigGetting 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.
Things to Do in Dresden Map
Check out this helpful map to find the various things to do in Dresden discussed in this post.