attractions in Dresden

12 top tourist attractions in Dresden and easy day trips

Dresden, one of Europe’s largest Baroque cities, about 30 kilometers north of the border with the Czech Republic, stands majestically on the River Elbe. It was the seat of the Saxon rulers, who devoted their attention to its riverside palaces and soaring churches and left the city with their vast collections of art and antiquities. This wealth of historical artefacts – it even includes beautifully preserved royal clothing – is today displayed in world-class museums. As rich as Dresden is and proud of its heritage, modern history has not been kind to the city. Dresden suffered the double blow of almost complete destruction in World War II, followed by 45 years of post-war neglect under the Soviet regime.

It’s hard to believe all this about the Dresden you see today. It has risen from the ashes and bears few scars from its late 20th century trauma. Palaces shine, gardens bloom and the dome of the beautifully restored Frauenkirche once again rises above the skyline. With its wealth of museums, palaces and other tourist attractions, there are plenty of things to do in Dresden. But don’t spend all your time rushing between these points of interest; Take time to stroll along Brühl’s terrace, admire the river from one of the bridges and smell the roses in the gardens. Dresden is a gracious and beautiful city to simply enjoy its many sights.

Read also: Exploring Munich’s Frauenkirche

1 Dresden Frauenkirche

Dresden Frauenkirche

Dresden’s spectacular Frauenkirche is one of the most remarkable reconstruction projects ever to take place in Germany, if not the world. Completed in 1743, the spectacular Baroque original was considered one of the most beautiful churches in Europe. After its destruction during the Allied bombing in 1945, the ruins of the old building were cataloged and stored for use in reconstruction. After the reunification of Germany in 1990, plans to rebuild developed quickly and when it reopened in 2005, almost 4,000 original bricks had been added. On top of it all – and as a symbol of international goodwill – a gold cross had been provided by Britain, whose bomb had caused much of the destruction.

The enormous interior is simply spectacular. The restored high altar is a fantasy of Baroque flourishes highlighted in gold, and row after series of galleries line the walls. You can take a lift to the dome for views of the city, attend worship services (once a month in English) and listen to one of the more than 100 concerts performed here each year. Stop for a reflective moment to look at the cross that once stood atop the dome, its twisted remains buried in the rubble. An exhibition describes the reconstruction project, which was financed by contributions from all over the world. Guided tours are available.

Address: Georg-Treu-Platz 3, 01067 Dresden

Official site:

2 Dresden Royal Palace and museums

Dresden Royal Palace and Museums |  Photo copyright: © Stillman D. Rogers Photography
Dresden Royal Palace and Museums | Photo copyright: © Stillman D. Rogers Photography

If you have time to see nothing else in Dresden, it should be this and the Frauenkirche. One of the richest and probably the oldest public museums in Europe (although the Vatican disputes this), the Dresden State Art Collection , inside the Dresden Royal Palace , is also one of the most modern and forward-looking in terms of displaying and interpreting its treasures for visitors. Priceless art, lavish court robes, intricate handicrafts, even Augustus the Strong’s personal garden tools are displayed and their significance explained. All detailed labels and background information are also in English and the housing houses the dazzling collections of the legendary Green Vaultare in non-reflective glass, so you can admire (and photograph) them from all sides with a clear view from every angle. The original Green Vault, largely destroyed with the rest of the palace in the Second World War, has been reconstructed to house parts of the collection in their original environment. This extraordinary collection contains masterpieces of gold, silver, jewels and ivory from the 14th to the 18th centuries, all of which had been moved to safety at the start of the war.

From 1485 the castle was the home of the electors and kings of Saxony, and it was Augustus the Strong who decided that the royal collections should be open for the public to enjoy. In 1723 he began to transform the previously private treasuries into a public museum. In addition to the treasures of the Green Vault, the Turkish Room , established in 1614, houses one of the world’s largest collections of artifacts from the Ottoman Empire. Other collections include the Numismatic Cabinet of Medals and Seals; the Dresden Armory of weapons and equipment; and the Print cabinet, featuring graphic art, drawings, watercolors and pastels by European artists from the 15th century. Not content to imitate the delicate, original Renaissance sgraffito decoration on the exterior walls with painted designs, Dresden opted to replicate it precisely and master stone artists still continue to painstakingly engrave the intricate designs into the stone. In the courtyard, step close to the decorated walls to appreciate the details of the sculpted lines.

Address: Taschenberg 2, 01067 Dresden

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The Zwinger – a beautiful early 18th-century palace in the city center next to the Elbe – is one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in Germany. It’s worth walking around the outside to appreciate its architecture. On the south side is the majestic 32-bayed Long Gallery, and on the east and west sides there are four symmetrically placed pavilions, the Wallpavillon and the Nymphenbad (Bath of the Nymphs), with its graceful fountains and mythological figures.

Aside from its impressive architecture, the Zwinger is home to more of the Dresden State Art Collections. These include the Dresden porcelain collection , scientific instruments in the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments , and the Old Masters Picture Gallery . The latter has paintings from the 15th to the 18th century, including Italian Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces by Raphael, Titian, Correggio and Tintoretto. The collection of Dutch and Flemish paintings includes works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck and Vermeer.

Address: Sophienstraße, 01067 Dresden

Official site:

4 Theaterplatz and Semper Opera


Theaterplatz at the Semper Opera

The west side of Dresden’s Theaterplatz, one of Germany’s most beautiful public squares, is dominated by the magnificent Semperoper, the city’s opera house, built in the Italian High Renaissance style. To see the lavishly decorated interior, attend a performance (including concerts, ballet and opera) or take a spirited tour led by one of the staff, who will tell stories about some of the great artists and guests on your tour.

In the center of Theaterplatz is an 1883 equestrian statue of King John and on the southeast corner is the Altstädter Wache, the Old Town Guard-House , built in 1831 and modeled after the famous guardhouse in Berlin. To the southeast is the Taschenbergpalais , a Baroque palace dating from 1711.

Address: Theaterplatz 2, 01067 Dresden

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5 The Georgentor and the procession of princes

The Georgentor and the procession of princes
The Georgentor and the procession of princes

The Georgentor, or Georgenbau, was the original exit to the Elbe Bridge and the first of the city’s many Renaissance buildings. On the west side is a doorway from the original building with its rich sculptural decoration, including an equestrian statue of Duke George. Also interesting is the Langer Gang, a long wing connecting the Georgenbau with the Johanneum that was built in 1591. Along the inside is a long arcade in Tuscan style, with 22 round arches, leading to the Court Stables. The main attraction, however, is the famous Fürstenzug – the Procession of the Princes – a 102-metre-long portrait of the dukes, electors and kings of the House of Wettin, together with leading German figures from the arts and sciences. Commissioned in 1870, it consists of 25,000 Meissen porcelain tiles.

Address: Schloßstraße 1, 01067 Dresden

6 Brühl’s Terrace

Brühl's Terrace
Brühl’s Terrace

No trip to Dresden is complete without a stroll along Brühl’s Terrace, or Brühlsche Terrasse, also known as the ‘Balcony of Europe’. Approached from the Schlossplatz by a wide staircase, this area on the site of the old city walls was laid out as a private garden in 1738 and opened to the public in 1814. The sculpted groups on the stairs represent morning, afternoon, evening and night, and the Dolphin Fountain is the only part to the left of the original garden. Part of this promenade is adjacent to the College of Art , built in 1894. The Moritz Monument , the oldest surviving in Dresden, was erected in 1553. Below,

Address: Georg-Treu-Platz 1, 01067 Dresden

7 Pillnitz Palace and Gardens

Pillnitz Palace and Gardens |  Photo copyright: © Stillman D. Rogers Photography
Pillnitz Palace and Gardens | Photo copyright: © Stillman D. Rogers Photography

In the 1720s, Augustus the Strong ordered a pair of Baroque summer palaces built next to the Elbe, where he could entertain at costume parties and sporting competitions. They are decorated in the then popular Chinoiserie style and face each other in a garden. Pillnitz later became the summer residence of the royal family and in 1820 the neoclassical New Palace was built, forming the third side of the Pleasure Garden. During all this time the gardens grew and grew across the estate, each new addition reflecting the tastes and styles of its time, until they extended over much of the 77 hectare park. Apart from the beauty of their design, their charm lies in the way the Baroque, Neoclassical and English landscape styles blend together harmoniously. Wander through them to find hedge gardens; wooded landscapes; an English pavilion reflected in a lily pond; a Chinese garden: a tropical palm house and the garden’s prized possession, one of the oldest camellia trees in Europe , now almost 30 meters tall.

The palaces are worth touring, both for their Chinese-inspired decorations and for the museums they house. The Museum of Decorative Arts and the Crafts Museum contain furniture, musical instruments, glass, pewter, porcelain and textiles from the collections of State Arts Collections, and there is a reconstruction of the New Palace Kitchens .

You can get to Dresden by bus from Pillnitz, but the best way to arrive is by paddle steamer , floating along the Elbe, under the famous Blue Wonder Bridge and past the three Schlösser (castles) on the Elbe: the late neoclassical Albrechtsberg , Lignerschloss (built in 1850), and the neo-Gothic Schloss Eckberg (built in 1859-61).

Address: August-Böckstiegel-Straße 2, 01326 Dresden

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8 Albertinum

Built between 1884 and 1887, the Renaissance Revival Albertinum on Brühl’s Terrace is as spectacular as its world-class art collection. The museum is best known for its impressive New Masters Gallery , with its rich collection of works from the Romantic and Realist periods, as well as French, Polish, Romanian, Hungarian and Belgian paintings of the 19th century and German Impressionists and Expressionists. Artists and styles represented range from Degas and Goya to Max Liebermann. Other highlights include the Sculpture Collection , including examples from Egypt and Western Asia, as well as Greek, Roman and Etruscan work.

Address: Sculpture Collection, Albertinum Tzschirnerplatz 2, D-01067 Dresden

9 The big garden

The large garden
The large garden

The beautiful Great Garden (Großer Garten) was laid out in 1676 in French Baroque style and has been open to the public since 1814. Sommerpalais , built between 1678 and 1683, is one of the earliest Baroque palaces in Germany. Also in the park are the Dresden Zoo and the Dresden Botanical Garden , where more than 10,000 species are geographically arranged for a world tour of plant life. A miniature railway, the six-kilometre-long Parkeisenbahn , staffed largely by children, is a good way to get from one attraction to another and to the frequent concerts and performances held in the park. Volkswagen’s Transparent Factory is of interest to car enthusiasts, an assembly company that offers tours of the production and assembly processes.

Address: Hauptallee 8, 01219 Dresden

Official site:

10 Dresden Transportmuseum

Dresden Transportmuseum
Dresden Transportmuseum

The Johanneum, one of the oldest buildings on the Neumarkt in Dresden, houses the Transport Museum, or the Verkehrsmuseum. Historic vehicles including aircraft, steam engines, automobiles, motorcycles and watercraft are displayed in attractive exhibits. Entered through a stylized ship’s hull, the navigation exhibition explores 1,000 years of maritime history, its technology and the people who lived and worked on its rivers and seas. Other exhibits chronicle the progress of road transportation from before the invention of motorized vehicles to the present, and a third traces the development of railroads. A model railway covers 325 square metres, with 26 locomotives pulling 115 cars through detailed models of Saxon villages and countryside. Nearby is the Peace Fountain,Bundeswehr Military Historical Museum , the museum of the German Armed Forces.

Address: Augustusstrasse 1, 01067 Dresden

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11 The Japanese Palace and the Golden Horseman

The Japanese Palace and the Golden Horseman
The Japanese Palace and the Golden Horseman

At the Neustädter Markt, across the river in Dresden Neustadt (the city’s newer district), stands the statue of Augustus the Strong in the pose of a Caesar, dressed in Roman armor and mounted on a horse. Created in 1736, it is commonly known as the Golden Horseman and is one of the city’s most popular landmarks. It is located at the beginning of a long Hauptstrasse, a wide boulevard with a tree-lined promenade in the middle, a popular place for an evening stroll.

Also here is the Japanese Palace, or Japanisches Palais, a mansion in Baroque and Neoclassical style, built in 1737. It is richly decorated with Chinoiserie and built to house the porcelain collection of Augustus the Strong (now the Dresden Porcelain Collection), but now houses the State Museum of Prehistory and the Museum of Ethnology Dresden . Another nearby attraction, housed in the 16th-century Jägerhof, is the Saxon Museum of Folk Art .

Address: Palaisplatz 11, 01097 Dresden

12 The German Hygiene Museum

The German Hygiene Museum Allie_Caulfield / photo modified
The German Hygiene Museum Allie_Caulfield / photo modified

Southeast of Dresden’s Old Town is Lingnerplatz, home to the German Hygiene Museum (Deutsches Hygiene-Museum), an institution founded in 1912 to promote health education and healthy living. The museum is more interesting than you might expect from its name – it is really a museum dedicated to medicine and medical practices. Among the many interesting exhibitions are the famous Glass Woman, first seen in 1930; a permanent exhibition on the human race; and a fun interactive children’s museum that focuses on the senses.

Address: Lingnerplatz 1, 01069 Dresden

Official site:

Where to Stay in Dresden for Sightseeing

The dazzlingly restored old town (Innere Altstadt) contains Dresden’s top attractions and is a convenient place to stay, despite its slew of tourists in summer. Within walking distance of the Frauenkirche and Zwinger, but away from the crowds, consider the Neustadt district, just across the river and close to the Japanese Palace and Folk Art Museum. These highly rated hotels in Dresden are all close to the main tourist attractions.

  • Luxury Hotels : Hotel Suitess zu Dresden is located a few steps from the Frauenkirche, in the center of the old town. It has large well-appointed rooms and superior service. The stylish and almost playful, modern design of rooms at Swissotel Dresden, between the Frauenkirche and the Residenz, forms a nice contrast with the surrounding Baroque architecture. The Bulow Palais is a short walk from the Zwinger and the historic center. The Michelin-starred restaurant is located in Neustadt, away from the hustle and bustle of the high season.
  • Mid-range hotels: Innside by Melia Dresden offers spacious, modern rooms and a private parking garage just steps away from the Frauenkirche. Right next to that striking church is the Hilton Dresden Hotel, with a swimming pool and a fitness center. Located halfway between the Frauenkirche and the Royal Palace, the new Amedia Plaza Dresden offers chic, modern rooms in the Jüdenhof, a building with a rich Jewish history. The Star Inn Hotel Dresden im Haus Altmarkt is located a few blocks away and offers views of the popular Altmarkt Square. It has large, well-appointed rooms, between the historic and shopping streets.
  • Budget Hotels:Holiday Inn Express Dresden City Center is located just steps away from the Altmarkt and a short walk from the Frauenkirche. It is located on one of the main shopping streets, close to the Hauptbahnhof train station. Don’t be put off by the name of Motel One Dresden-Palaisplatz. It is not a motel, but a chic, modern hotel with spacious rooms and friendly staff, just across the river in the Neustadt. InterCityHotel Dresden is located right at the station, a 10-minute walk from the main sights and the zoo/botanical garden attractions, or take advantage of the hotel’s free city tram tickets to go anywhere. Close to the Zwinger and Residenz palace museums, Ibis Budget Dresden City offers quiet rooms despite its location in a busy shopping area.

Day trips from Dresden



Just 30 kilometers to the west and easily reached on a day trip from Dresden, Meissen was once the seat of the long-ruling Wettin dynasty. They made their home in the Albrechtsburg Castle , which rises above the city and the river on top of a high hill (the climb through narrow alleys is scenic but steep – you can avoid this by riding the funicular). Founded in the 15th century, the castle is one of the finest secular buildings of the late Gothic period, and its most striking feature is its grand spiral staircase. Inside, the rooms are richly decorated with vault and ceilings, with paintings from 1870. Adjacent to it on top of the steep rock is the early Gothic Meissen Cathedral, dating from 1260. It is an almost purely Gothic building with nothing but its Protestant pulpit, pews and organ changed from its medieval appearance. The original front entrance was closed to preserve the early graves in the floor.

Meissen has long been famous for its porcelain and a top attraction is the Porcelain Factory . A tour there includes not only examples of their work over the past 300 years, but also a chance to watch skilled artists create object molds, paint the delicate blossoms and figures that adorn Meissen figurines and flowers on plates and teacups. The silver mining town of Freiberg , about 40 kilometers southwest of Dresden, is also home to a beautiful cathedral, a late Gothic hall church with the oldest and largest surviving Silbermann organ in Saxony. The historic center of the city is listed as a monument.

Address: Domplatz 1, D-01662 Meissen

Moritzburg Palace

Moritzburg Palace
Moritzburg Palace

About 14 kilometers northwest of Dresden lies the remarkable Schloss Moritzburg, an electorate hunting lodge and summer palace in the ocher and white of the Saxon Baroque. This beautiful palace, which began life as a modest hunting lodge in 1544, took its current form between 1723 and 1736, with Baroque statues on the balustrades of the carriage ramp and terrace. The furnishings and furnishings of the interior, including hunting trophies and paintings, are preserved unchanged. Also on site is Little Pheasant Castle , an 18th-century hunting lodge whose extraordinary interior is decorated in rare Rococo finishes– inlaid panels of exotic wood types; murals on canvas; painted and gilded ceiling plasterwork; painted wood and plaster; faux marble; and walls finished in embroidered silk, feathers and a remarkable combination of straw and pearls. This rare interior was recently restored by the World Monuments Fund.

Address: Schloßallee, 01468 Moritzburg

Official site:

Saxon Switzerland

Saxon Switzerland
Saxon Switzerland

A favorite day trip from Dresden is to Saxon Switzerland National Park , just 30 kilometers southeast of Dresden, a wild landscape of soaring limestone pillars, with views straight down to the Elbe. Hiking trails form a network through the park, with paths for all levels of energy, and since 1898 a small tram has transported tourists between the village of Bad Schandau and the waterfall in Lichtenhain . The most famous sight is the Bastei Bridge , a 76 meter high stone arch bridge that connects the rock formations. You can walk there or reach it by public transport.

There are several ways to get to Saxon Switzerland from Dresden: by car, by S-Bahn trains that leave Dresden twice an hour, by sightseeing boats or by one of the world’s oldest paddle wheel steamboats (the most romantic way ) .

For an in-depth look at the natural wonders of this park, take a Bohemian and Saxon Switzerland National Park day trip from Dresden, featuring the Bastei Bridge and a trip across the border into the Czech Republic to see Pravčická Gate, the largest natural sandstone arch in Europe.


attractions in Dresden
Annaberg-Buchholz | Photo copyright: © Stillman D. Rogers Photography

About 90 minutes from Dresden is one of the most fascinating and little-known regions in Saxony, the Erzgebirge or Ore Mountains. Their long history of mining led to a wooden Christmas ornament industry, which remained active long after the mines closed. The central town in the region is Annaberg-Buchholz, crowned by the beautiful St. Annenkirche , a monument with its 78-meter-high tower. Like many others in the city, the interior of the church is decorated with exceptionally fine carvings. Opposite is a historical museum where you can enter a real mine, one of many underground here. To see more examples of the wood carving the region is famous for (many traditional German Christmas arts – wooden arches, Christmas carousels, wood shaving ornaments and wooden angels to name a few – originated here) visit the Manufaktur der Träume (maker of dreams ) , a museum full of beautiful examples of carved and painted Christmas and other decorations and toys. Just outside the old town, the Frohnauer Hammer is a museum with a fascinating iron mill powered by water power.

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More Must-See Destinations near Dresden

The leading city in Saxony after Dresden, Leipzig, is also a center of art and culture and an easy train or car ride from Dresden. Also to the north and connected by direct rail lines and highways is Berlin, Germany’s capital and largest city, full of museums and art galleries. Potsdam is close to Berlin, just like Dresden, a city full of royal palaces. Between Berlin and Leipzig lies the old university town of Wittenberg, the birthplace of Martin Luther’s reformation, on the banks of the River Elbe. Not far south of Dresden is Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, crowned by the beautiful Prague Castle.

Read also:

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