Meissen is a beautiful city in the heart of Saxony that’s known for its porcelain, wine, and castle. It’s a popular day trip from Dresden that’s not to be missed! Here are the top things to do in Meissen, no matter the season.
Known as “the cradle of Saxony,” Meissen is one of the most historically significant towns in Germany despite its small size. It’s here that you can visit the oldest castle in Germany, which also happens to be where European hard paste porcelain was first created.
That’s right, this small town on the banks of the Elbe River is where alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger was held against his will at Albrechtsburg Castle until he finally discovered the secret to making “white gold.”
Meissen’s fascinating history, beautiful Old Town, and prime location along the Saxony Wine Route make it the perfect day trip destination. The town is just 30 minutes from Dresden and can be reached using public transportation — no rental car required!
Here are the top things to do and see in Meissen, Germany. I visited all of these sites in a single day, but an overnight stay would be great if you want to take things slower.
Table of Contents
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See the Impressive Torhaus (Gate House)
The imposing 19th century castle gate house is impossible to miss as you make your way up to Albrechtsburg Castle from Meissen’s Old Town. The bottom half of the gate house is made of exposed stone, while the top showcases a vibrant mosaic of St. George slaying the dragon.
The Torhaus is open in the afternoons Friday to Sunday. There’s a small porcelain exhibit inside; however, I don’t think the exhibit is a must-see Meissen attraction, although the gate itself is!
Tour Albrechtsburg Castle
Believed to be the oldest castle in Germany, Albrechtsburg Castle is the home of European hard paste porcelain. The castle’s history dates back to 929AD, but we’re going to pick up the story at the main event: the creation of porcelain under Augustus the Strong in 1707.
Augustus brought alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger to Albrechtsburg Castle — and then imprisoned him on the premises until he finally figured out how to make hard paste porcelain. Europeans were crazy about porcelain at this time but no one knew how to make the precious “white gold,” because the Chinese porcelain makers wisely kept the production process secret.
The first porcelain in Europe was made in Albrechtsburg Castle in 1707, after two years of trial and error. From that point on, the castle was transformed into a porcelain manufactory and operated for 153 years before production was finally moved elsewhere in the town.
Albrechtsburg Castle is the top thing to do in Meissen and should be the main focus of your visit. During your self-guided tour of the castle, you’ll learn lots more about the porcelain production process, as well as how the castle came to be built in the first place.
The castle itself is gorgeous and is one of my favorites that I’ve visited in Germany. The medieval-style murals in particular were a feast for the eyes.
Note that the castle isn’t fully furnished and it operates more like a museum than anything else. Give yourself at least 2 hours to see everything!
Tip: After touring the castle, treat yourself to a drink or lunch at one of the cafes on the hillside. The Café am Dom (Domplatz 5), for example, has an incredible view of Meissen’s Old Town and surrounding area.
Visit the Meissen Cathedral
The lovely Meissen Cathedral is just a few steps from Albrechtsburg Castle.
The French gothic-style cathedral was built in the 13th century and took more than 150 years to complete. Work on the cathedral began in 1250, and additional extensions were added even after being consecrated in 1401. The 81-meter high twin spires weren’t even added until the early 1900s!
For me, the main draw of the Meissen Cathedral are the stunning paintings completed by Lucas Cranach the Elder (court painter to the Electors of Saxony and one of — if not the — best known German painters from the Renaissance).
See the Marktplatz (Market Square)
The Marktplatz is the beating heart of Meissen’s Old Town, and is where the Tourist Information center is conveniently located.
The picturesque square is surrounded by colorful townhouses and is generally just a nice spot to grab a bite to eat, take some photos, and relax.
The Marktplatz is also where the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) is located. More on that church next!
Tip: From the Marktplatz, walk up Burgstraße to get your first glimpse of Albrechtsburg Castle up on the hill! This street is also lined with lots of local boutiques.
Visit the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady)
When looking up at the Church of Our Lady from the center of the Marktplatz, the eye is immediately drawn to the impressive church spire with its multitude of white bells. That’s the famous Meissen Glockenspiel, which is the first ever to be made out of Meissen porcelain.
What’s better, the beautiful porcelain Glockenspiel still works! The bells are rung six times per day 6:30am, 8:30am, 11:30am, 2:30pm, 5:30pm, and 8:30pm. The Glockenspiel plays a different song each time; if you’ve never heard porcelain bells be rung before, you’re in for a treat!
After admiring the Glockenspiel, take 15 to 20 minutes to look around the inside of the late Gothic hall church. There’s been a church on this site since 1205, but the present structure dates from the 15th century.
Tip: For a small fee, you can ascend the bell tower of the Church of Our Lady to see the Meissen Old Town from above.
Visit the Meissen City Museum
Another top attraction in Meissen is the City Museum. This small museum is jam-packed with historical models, Meissen porcelain, art, and artifacts that help explain the city’s history from the Middle Ages to the present day.
The museum is housed in a former Franciscan monastery, which I found interesting!
Learn How Porcelain Is Made at the Meissen Porcelain Museum
No trip to Meissen is complete without making the pilgrimage to the Meissen Porcelain Museum (which is attached to the Meissen porcelain manufactory). The museum showcases 2,000 porcelain objects spanning over 300 years.
Your visit to the museum will start with a 30-minute guided demonstration on how porcelain is produced and decorated. The presentation takes you through a series of rooms where Meissen artisans are hard at work shaping and hand painting various porcelain objects. This was the highlight of the museum for me, as it gave me the opportunity to pepper actual Meissen employees with all of my porcelain-related questions.
After the demonstration, head to the museum to see the exhibits. The star of the museum is Augustus the Strong’s porcelain zoo — it’s so fun to see how artisans crafted various animals out of porcelain!
Tip: The Meissen Porcelain Manufactory is the same enterprise that Augusutus the Strong created at Albrechtsburg Castle in the early 1700s. Hard paste porcelain was “discovered” at Albrechtsburg Castle in 1707, and Meissen the company was officially founded in 1710. Meissen still creates some of the finest porcelain in the world, so know that if you purchase any porcelain objects you are investing in a piece of history!
Eat Meissner Fummel
One last thing you have to do when you’re in Meissen is try the local specialty: Meissner Fummel.
Meissner Fummel is a type of pastry that looks like a giant bread roll (as in, the size of your head!) but is actually hollow inside. The pastry is incredibly delicate and will darn near fall apart in your hands just by holding it.
To be completely honest, Meissner Fummel isn’t a local delicacy I recommend eating for the flavor. (It tastes sort of like communion wafers to me.) But the history of the dish is fascinating!
Legend has it that Meissner Fummel was created at the behest of a Saxon Elector. The Elector (i.e. the ruling lord of the region) would often send a courier between Dresden and Meissen with important messages. However, the courier enjoyed a little too much of the famous Meissen wine during his stays in the city.
To prevent the courier from drinking too much, the Elector ordered the Meissen bakers’ guild to create a pastry that crumbles easily. The guild invented the Fummel, and from then on the courier had to show the Elector the Fummel — completely undamaged — to prove that he had completed his work without having gotten drunk in the process.
Now that you know what to do and see in Meissen, I suggest filling any more free time in your itinerary with exploring! Most of the main tourist attractions in Meissen fall within the Old Town, so don’t worry about it not being mentioned specifically in this guide. You’ll naturally be exploring it on foot as it is!
FAQs About Visiting Meissen
If you have any more questions about the things to do in Meissen, how to plan your trip, etc. don’t hesitate to leave a comment at the end of this post.
How do you get from Dresden to Meissen?
You can reach Meissen by taking the S1 line from the central train station (Dresdner Hauptbahnhof) to Meissen-Altstadt. The journey only takes about 30 minutes, and trains run regularly throughout the day.
How much time is needed to see Meissen?
One day in Meissen is perfect! If you plan on doing any wine tastings or simply like to travel at a slower pace, you could spend the night in Meissen. (Although it’s so close to Dresden that you could just as easily stay in Dresden and take the S1 back to Meissen if you don’t see all you want to see in a day).
I arrived in Meissen around 11am and left around 5pm and got to see everything I wanted to without feeling the slightest bit rushed.
What is Meissen known for?
Meissen is known for its porcelain. Albrechtsburg Castle is the site where Europeans first discovered the process of making hard paste porcelain in 1707 (noting that the Chinese had known how to make porcelain for much longer before that).
The Meissen Porcelain Manufactory was officially founded in 1710 and is still in operation today.
What’s the best way to get around Meissen?
On foot! It’s a very small city and the narrow streets in the Old Town aren’t good for driving.
Is Meissen Worth Visiting? Final Thoughts
If you love old castles, hand painted porcelain, and postcard-perfect streets lined with boutiques, then Meissen should be at the top of your Germany bucket list.
I suggest adding an extra day to your Dresden itinerary so you have enough time to make the short trip to Meissen. It’s one of my favorite small towns in Germany, and I think you’ll love it too!
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