Looking for things to do in Dresden, Germany? No matter what time of year you’re visiting, here are my favorite attractions in this beautiful city.
Nestled along the banks of the Elbe River you’ll find one of the gems of Germany: Dresden. The Baroque architecture, scenic river views, and rich culture attract visitors from all over the world.
Looking at the beautiful city today, you’d never know that Dresden was reduced to a pile of rubble in the 1945 fire bombings. The historic Old Town was largely rebuilt in the late ‘80s / early ‘90s, and Dresden’s old world charm has somehow been preserved.
If you find yourself traveling through Germany in the future, I can’t recommend Dresden enough! Two to three full days is enough time to see the main sights and soak up the beauty of this historic city. With all that said, let’s hop into the best things to do in Dresden.
Table of Contents
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Map of Dresden’s Top Attractions
Explore the Altstadt (Old Town)
Most of Dresden’s attractions can be found within the lovely Old Town. If you’re only in Dresden for a day or two, this is the area I recommend spending the bulk of your time.
There are far too many things to do in Dresden’s Old Town than can easily fit in a single post, so I’ve written a detailed guide to Dresden’s Altstadt — check that out to learn more about the history of Dresden’s city center, the main things to do and see, and more!
Below is a (very) brief overview of what to do in Dresden’s Old Town:
Dresden Old Town: Zwinger Palace
Once an exhibition hall and festival ground, the Zwinger Palace is now a museum complex in the heart of the city. The three museums are: the Porcelain Collection, the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon, and the Alte Meister art gallery.
Even if you don’t go into the Zwinger museums, this is still one of the must-see places in Dresden! The ramparts of the Zwinger Palace offer a wonderful view of the complex and the gardens surrounding it.
Tip: Try to get close to the Glockenspiel when it’s about the chime to hour. The bells of the Glockenspiel on the Zwinger Palace are made of Meissen porcelain, and they play delightful tunes throughout the day!
Dresden Old Town: Semperoper Opera House
Whether or not you’re an opera lover, a tour of the Semperoper Opera House is a must! The Semperoper is home to the Saxon State Opera House, and it was here that nine of Richard Strauss’ 15 operas premiered here (including “The Knight of the Rose”).
If you don’t have time to go on a tour of the Semperoper (or if they’ve run out of tickets for the day), still make time to admire it from the outside. It’s magnificent — truly one of the best things to see in Dresden!
Dresden Old Town: Royal Palace (Residenzschloss)
Destroyed in WWII, the Residenzschloss has only recently been rebuilt. Interestingly, the city decided to reconstruct the palace in a way that’s NOT historically accurate! Instead, they employed a variety of architectural styles to showcase how the palace would have looked over the course of the many generations of rulers that have lived there.
Within the Residenzschloss is one of the best things to see in Dresden: the Historic Green Vault (Grünes Gewölbe). It’s a literal treasure trove stuffed full of priceless artifacts. Well worth book an extra ticket to see!
Dresden Old Town: Procession of Princes
Formally called the Fürstenzug, the Procession of Princes is a 101-meter-long mural comprised of hand-painted Meissen porcelain tiles (more than 24,000 in total!). Running the length of the mural are various famous figures from the former Wettin dynasty, including 35 margraves, princes, and kings.
Dresden Old Town: Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady)
The Frauenkirche is one of the most peaceful places to visit in Dresden. The Baroque-style church that was destroyed in WWII and lay in piles of rubble until restoration began in 1994.
Head into the Frauenkirche to admire its beautifully painted interior, then climb to the top of the dome for a breath-taking view of Dresden (note that the dome requires a ticket!).
Dresden Old Town: Brühl’s Terrace
The “Balcony of Europe” opened to the public in 1814. Visit the terrace near sunrise or sunset for an unparalleled view of the Elbe River (and some peace and quiet before all the visitors start filing through!).
Remember, these are just some of the top things to do in Dresden’s Old Town. Read my full guide for even more details on the attractions mentioned above, plus additional recommendations for activities in this area.
Walk Across the Augustus Bridge
Commissioned by Augustus the Strong in 1731, Dresden’s iconic Augustus Bridge connects the historic Old Town (Altstadt) with the more contemporary New Town (Neustadt). I walked this beautiful bridge every morning I was in Dresden and walked back over it after night had fallen to return to my hotel.
From the center of the bridge, you’ll have an unparalleled view of the city’s skyline, so definitely hug the side of the walkway to snap a few photos. (Note that bikers and pedestrians must share the bridge, so don’t drift into the bike lane while you’re taking pictures.)
Explore the Neustadt (New Town)
Located on the opposite riverbank of the Old Town, the Neustadt (New Town) is a great place to see some of lesser-known tourist attractions in Dresden.
I’ve got a very detailed guide on my site sharing what to do and see in Dresden’s Neustadt, but here’s an overview of the attractions you have to look forward to:
- Königstraße — A lovely street within the Baroque Quarter of the New Town.
- Hauptstraße — The main shopping street. This is also where the Christmas Market in Dreden’s Neustadt is held.
- Neustädter Markthalle (New Town Market Hall) — A bright and airy market hall decorated with wrought-iron staircases and Wilhelminian-style lanterns.
- Kunsthofpassage (Art Courtyard Passage) — A series of five decorated courtyards interconnected by passageways. There are some wonderful cafes and local shops tucked away here!
- Pfunds Molkerei — An elaborate tiled dairy dating from the early 1900s.
- Jewish Cemetery — The oldest in Saxony; it can only be visited as part of a guided tour.
For more details and photos of each of these Dresden attractions, read my guide to the Neustadt here.
Relax in the Großer Garten (Grand Garden)
The 17th century “Grand Garden” is a beautifully manicured green space in the city center, with the Dresden Zoo and Botanical Garden located within the large park.
There’s also a small but grand Baroque palace in the heart of the garden which you can tour with a guide (you must book your tickets in advance, however!).
The Großer Garten is worth exploring any time of year. The landscape design is a unique blend of Baroque and English styles, with winding paths, reflection ponds, and small forests scattered throughout.
Tip: You can take a guided tour of the garden and / or the Baroque palace in the center.
See the Former Cigarette Factory That’s Shaped Like a Mosque (Yenidze)
Often called the “Tobacco Mosque,” the Yenidze building served as a tobacco manufacturer in the early 1900s. (The name “Yenidze” comes from a famous tobacco-growing region located within the former Ottoman Empire.)
The building is now used as an office space, and while you can’t enter the private offices you can head up to the impressive dome. There’s a restaurant and beer garden at the top that serves traditional Saxon dishes, and the view of the surrounding area from the dome is spectacular!
Take a Day Trip From Dresden
If you have more than two days in Dresden or are revisiting the city and wondering what else there is to do, I suggest taking a day trip!
My top suggestion would be Meissen, which is where European hard paste porcelain was invented. It’s less than an hour away from Dresden, and it’s the perfect size city for a day trip. Tour the castle where porcelain was “invented” by Europeans, meander around the charming Old Town, and visit the Meissen factory to see some of the brand’s most fabulous porcelain creations.
Another day trip idea is Prague, which is about 2 hours from Dresden. A day in Prague isn’t enough time to see much more than the Old Town, but it’s a start! Don’t miss the astronomical clock on the old town hall, and a walk across the iconic Charles Bridge is also a must. If you have time, definitely explore the Jewish Quarter as well.
My final suggestion is Leipzig, a charming university city known for its rich music history and its role in the Peaceful Revolution of 1989. I recommend spending your day exploring the Old Town. Be sure to visit St. Thomas’ Church (Thomaskirche), which is where Johann Sebastian Bach worked for nearly 30 years!
Bonus Activity: Visit the Dresden Christmas Markets!
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Dresden in December, I suggest spending as much time as possible at the city’s Christmas markets. The Dresden Christmas markets are some of the best in Germany, with the Striezelmarkt considered to be the oldest in the country.
Be sure to read my full guide to the Dresden Christmas markets for more information, plus lots more festive photos.
FAQs About Visiting Dresden
If you have any more burning questions about what to do in Dresden, leave me a comment at the end of this post and I’ll reply as soon as I can!
How many days are needed to see Dresden?
I recommend spending at least 48 hours in Dresden, but if you plan on taking a day trip and also want to explore the Neustadt you could easily fill three to four days here.
What can you do in Dresden in 1 day?
If you only have one day in Dresden, these are the top things I recommend doing:
- Zwinger Palace (exterior only)
- Residenzschloss (see the Historic Green Vault if nothing else!)
- Procession of Prices
- Brühl’s Terrace
- Augustus Bridge
Can you get around Dresden on foot?
Yes, very easily! The Old Town is only accessible on foot, but there’s an extensive public transportation network that connects the Old Town to the Neustadt, Grand Garden, “Tobacco Mosque,” and all of the other attractions mentioned in this post.
What’s the best time of year to visit Dresden?
I suggest visiting during the late spring or early fall when the days are longer, the weather is warm, and there are theoretically fewer tourists in the city center. Or, visit in December when the Christmas markets are open. Dresden’s Christmas markets are some of my favorites and the city is unimaginably beautiful during the holidays.
Is Dresden Worth Visiting? Final Thoughts
Dresden is one of my favorite cities in Germany, and I’ve visited a lot! The stunning Baroque architecture, history, and unique attractions make this a must-visit city in Germany.
From here, you can easily use the train network to visit Meissen (less than an hour away), Berlin, Leipzig, and more, so know that Dresden is an excellent starting point for any Germany adventure.
And if you have any questions about what to do or see in Dresden, leave me a comment below!
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