Planning a trip to Germany? Don’t miss out on all the exciting things to do in Dresden, the historic capital of Saxony. With its distinctive Baroque architecture, Dresden is one of Germany’s most alluring travel destinations. From the churches, museums, and art galleries of Altstadt (Old Town) to hip restaurants, cafes, and bars of Neustadt, explore this beautiful Saxon city with this quick & easy Dresden attractions guide!
What to see & do in Dresden
Explore the carefully reconstructed Dresden Frauenkirche
Got just one day in Dresden? Start your sightseeing adventure with Dresden Frauenkirche. Located in the heart of Dresden’s Altstadt, this beautiful Baroque church was built in 1743, this beautiful Baroque. Its completion was a remarkable achievement, and Frauenkirche was considered the most spectacular church of its time in Germany.
Unfortunately, Frauenkirche was also among the buildings destroyed during Allied bombing raids. Instead of reconstructing the church, East Germany decided to let the church ruins stand as a memorial to the casualties of the Dresden firebombing.
It wasn’t until reunification that Germany decided to rebuild the church. The restoration started in 1994 and wasn’t fully completed until 2005. Since then, this stunning Lutheran church has been one of the top tourist attractions in Dresden.
The 67-meter-high bell tower and intricate dome of Frauenkirche stand out against the Dresden skyline. The interior of the church is also impressive, with a large altar featuring baroque flourishes.
To get the full experience, power up several flights of stairs to the top of the bell tower. From the viewing platform, you’ll enjoy fantastic panoramic views over the city. Depending on the weather, you might be able to see as far as the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, the Ore Mountains, and the city of Meißen.
Examine priceless works of art and porcelain artifacts at Zwinger
While there are many cool things to see in Dresden, it’s hard to miss Zwinger. Located on the western end of the Altstand, this massive palace features a sprawling courtyard and garden. It’s also home to a couple of the most-visited museums and art galleries in Dresden.
The Zwinger complex houses the Old Masters Picture Gallery, the Dresden Porcelain Collection, and the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments.
Step inside the Old Masters Picture Gallery (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister) to view major works from German, Dutch, French, and Spanish painters. The gallery includes 750 paintings, with over 300 on permanent display. Highlighted artists here include Raphael, Rubens, and Rembrandt.
Slide over to the Dresden Porcelain Collection to browse over 20,000 porcelain artifacts, including traditional Japanese and Chinese porcelain. It’s also home to a collection of porcelain from the Dresden region, as the city was once the center of porcelain manufacturing in Europe.
Science geeks will also want to check out the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments (Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon). The museum features a collection of about 500 scientific instruments, including terrestrial & celestial globes, optical devices, clocks, and watches.
Applaud the performers at the grand Semperoper Dresden
Looking to experience arts & culture on your Dresden trip? Carve out time to visit Semperoper Dresden. Located in Theaterplatz in Old Town, this famed opera house puts on a variety of shows throughout the year, including various ballet, theatre, and opera performances.
For culture lovers, catching a performance at the Semperoper is one of the most compelling cultural things to do in Dresden. Check the opera house’s official events calendar to see what’s on during your vacation. As the Semperoper is the official home of the Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden (Saxon State Opera), the Staatskapelle Dresden (Saxon State Orchestra), and the Semperoper Ballett, there’s always something going on here.
Even if you can’t fit in a show at the Semperoper, it’s still worth your time to explore the interior of this beautiful building.
As with many buildings in the city center, the opera house needed restoration work after the war. It’s been fully restored to its original glory with an interior covered in high-quality materials and décor. Take a guided tour of the interior to learn more about its history.
Step back in time as you explore the historic Dresden Castle
No visit to Saxony’s capital city is complete without checking out Dresden Castle. One of the oldest buildings in the city, Dresden Castle has roots digging back nearly 400 years. The complex’s Baroque facade dates back to the 18th century when Augustus II the Strong rebuilt the castle after a devastating fire.
Today, Dresden Castle is a museum complex with several points of interest, including the Dresden Armory and the Collection of Prints, Drawings and Photographs. Here, you can step back in time as you examine everything from wood prints to weapons to ancient coins.
The Collection of Prints, Drawings and Photographs includes over 515,000 historic artifacts. The items on display include drawings and prints from some of the Old Masters, including Michelangelo and Rembrandt.
Military history buffs will want to save time for browsing the Dresden Armory. The museum houses a collection of over 10,000 weapons, shields, and helmets.
Get a view from both sides of the Elbe River as you cross Loschwitz Bridge
Even if you only have one day in Dresden, you’ll likely cross Loschwitz Bridge at least once. It’s the main bridge across the Elbe River, separating the Altstadt and Neustadt districts.
Completed in 1893 for the equivalent of $13 million, Loschwitz Bridge has become an iconic landmark in the city, with locals calling it the Blue Wonder. The truss bridge spans 280 meters and provides a crossing for vehicles and pedestrians.
As you cross Loschwitz Bridge, take a moment to appreciate the vantage point. Stick around to enjoy excellent views up and down the river. You can see the commercial waterfront areas on both sides.
Walk among life-size statues of historical figures at Albertinum
Thanks to its unique collection of sculptures and priceless art, Albertinum is a must-see for art lovers passing through Dresden. This modern art museum teems with paintings and sculptures covering the Romantic period to the present.
While Albertinum was damaged during the bombings, it remained mostly intact and only needed minor restoration work. What you see now is how it appeared after it was constructed in 1887.
The highlight of the Albertinum is its sculpture collection. The galleries include hundreds of sculptures spanning more than five millennia. You can view works from the classical antiquity period next to sculptures from the 20th century.
Get your Christmas shopping done with a trip to Striezelmarkt
Germany is famous for its Christmas markets. And if you’re visiting Dresden during the festive season, nothing beats going Christmas shopping at the Striezelmarkt. Founded as a one-day Christmas market in 1434, the Striezelmarkt has operated for close to 600 years.
Striezelmarkt is a popular stop for any Germany itinerary, attracting over three million visitors each year during the holiday. Browse over 240 stands containing all types of Christmas-related memorabilia and souvenirs. Purchase decorations for your tree and other festive knickknacks like wooden ornaments, candle pyramids, and nutcrackers.
Unfortunately, the market only remains open between the end of November and Christmas Eve. If you’re visiting outside of the holiday season, you’ll need to find another market for your shopping experience.
Where to stay in Dresden for sightseeing
Thanks to its compact size, choosing where to stay in Dresden is a relatively easy task. For sightseeing, staying in Altstadt is a great choice as it’s home to many of the top points of interest in Dresden. Here are a few recommended hotels…
- Hyperion Hotel Dresden Am Schloss: Located just steps away from Dresden Castle, this elegant 4-star hotel is a superb choice for getting front and center with all of the city’s top attractions. The on-site Pürovel Spa, situated in the building’s historic stone cellar, is the perfect place to relax after a long day of sightseeing.
- Steigenberger Hotel de Saxe: Located upon historic Neumarkt Square, this lovely hotel offers spacious rooms with stunning views of Altstadt, including Frauenkirche. Other top tourist attractions like the Zwinger and Semper Opera House are a quick walk away.
- Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski: Like its counterpart in Berlin, this brilliant 5-star luxury hotel is among the finest places to stay in Dresden. The hotel offers modern and classic European designs with unsurpassed elegance.