With plenty of things to do in Dresden, you may not know where to start your journey. Looking at the skyline of Dresden, it’s hard to believe that it was mostly destroyed by bombings during World War II. Thanks to major restoration efforts, the domes and towers of historic churches and palaces greet you as you arrive.
The city has recovered from the war and thrives today. It now offers a wide assortment of attractions, many removed from the city before the bombing and returned during its glorious restoration efforts.
Dresden’s interesting history and its decades-long phoenix-like rise makes it one of the top tourist destinations in Germany.
Need help deciding where to go? Begin planning your trip with this guide to the best Dresden attractions…
Table of Contents
- What to do in Dresden: Top attractions & best places to visit
- Explore the carefully reconstructed Dresden Frauenkirche
- Examine priceless works of art and porcelain artifacts at Zwinger
- Applaud the performers at the grand Semperoper Dresden
- Step back in time as you explore the historic Dresden Castle
- Get a view from both sides of the Elbe as you cross Loschwitz Bridge
- Walk among life-size statues of historical figures at Ablertinum
- Get your Christmas shopping done with a trip to Striezelmarkt
- Where to stay: The best hotels for sightseeing in Dresden
What to do in Dresden: Top attractions & best places to visit
Explore the carefully reconstructed Dresden Frauenkirche
If you’re interested in Dresden sightseeing, start with Dresden Frauenkirche. Built in 1743, the completion of this baroque church was a remarkable achievement. It was considered the most spectacular church of its time.
The church was also among the buildings destroyed during Allied bombing raids. Instead of reconstructing the church, East Germany decided to let the ruins stand as a memorial to the casualties of Dresden bombing.
After the reunification, Germany decided to finally rebuild the church. Dresden Frauenkirche has become one of the top tourist attractions in Dresden.
The bell tower and intricate dome stand out against the skyline of Dresden. The interior of the church is also impressive with a large altar featuring baroque flourishes. You can even take an elevator to the top of the bell tower for a view of the city.
Examine priceless works of art and porcelain artifacts at Zwinger
While you have many things to see in Dresden, it’s hard to miss Zwinger. It’s a massive palace with a sprawling courtyard and one of the most visited museums in the city.
The Zwinger complex houses the Old Masters Picture Gallery and the Dresden Porcelain Collection. Inside the Old Masters Picture Gallery, you’ll get to view major works from German, Dutch, French, and Spanish painters. The gallery includes 750 paintings with over 300 on permanent display.
The Dresden Porcelain Collection is an interesting place to visit. It has 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 centre of porcelain manufacturing in Europe.
Applaud the performers at the grand Semperoper Dresden
If you want to know where to go in Dresden to experience the culture and the arts, visit Semperoper Dresden. This famed opera house has shows throughout the year, including various ballet, theatre, and opera performances.
Even if you miss a show, it’s still worth your time to explore the interior. As with many buildings in the city centre, 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. If you don’t want to catch a performance, take a tour of the interior to learn more about its history.
Step back in time as you explore the historic Dresden Castle
Dresden Castle belongs on any list of Dresden points of interest. It’s one of the oldest buildings in the city with the construction that started in 1533. It’s now a museum complex with five sections including the Dresden Armory and the Collection of Prints.
The Collection of Prints includes over 515,000 historic artifacts. The items on display include drawings and prints from some of the Old Masters including Michelangelo and Rembrandt. The Dresden Armory houses a collection of over 10,000 weapons, shields, and helmets.
With a trip to Dresden Castle, you get to step back in time as you examine everything from wood prints to weapons to ancient coins.
Get a view from both sides of the Elbe 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, the bridge has become an iconic landmark in the city with locals calling it the Blue Wonder. The truss bridge spans 280 metres and provides crossing for vehicles and pedestrians.
As you cross the bridge, take a moment to appreciate the vantage point. You get 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 Ablertinum
Ablertinum makes the list of top points of interest in Dresden, thanks to its unique collection of sculptures and priceless art. It’s a modern art museum with paintings and sculptures covering the Romantic period to the present.
While the museum was damaged during the bombings, it remained mostly intact and only needed minor restoration work. What you see is actually how it appeared after it was constructed in 1887.
The sculpture collection is the highlight of the museum. The museum is a modern art museum but it includes 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
When you don’t know what to do in Dresden, go shopping. The city has many large markets including Striezelmarkt. Founded as a one-day Christmas market in 1434, it has operated for close to 600 years.
The market is a popular stop for any Germany itinerary, attracting over three million visitors each year. You can browse over 240 stands containing all types of Christmas-related memorabilia and souvenirs. Purchase decorations for your tree and other festive knickknacks.
Unfortunately, the market only remains open between the end of November and Christmas Eve. If you visit outside of the holiday season, you’ll need to find another market for your Dresden shopping experience.
For those lucky enough to visit during the holidays, the market is one of the best places to visit in Dresden. It’s full of Christmas spirit and jolly faces. Some of the most popular goods include wooden ornaments, candle pyramids, and nutcrackers.
Where to stay: The best hotels for sightseeing in Dresden
Thanks to its compact size, choosing where to stay in Dresden is a relatively easy task. For sightseeing, staying in Altstadt is the best choice as its home to the 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-centre with all of the top attractions in Dresden. 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 Dresden 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 best places to stay in Dresden, offering modern and classic European designs with an unsurpassed elegance.