Heeding the advice from Go Backpacking’s Facebook page, I visited Dresden for a few nights, en route to the Czech Republic.
Despite nearly being bombed to oblivion toward the end of World War II, the historic buildings were all reconstructed. Today, given the attention to detail, you’d hardly know the difference.
The city’s historic center is compact, making it easy to cover most of the highlights in a single day. Here are my top 5 things to do in Dresden.
Visiting Dresden? Book your hostel here
1. Tour the Opera House (Semperoper)
The plaza outside the opera house, Semperoper, is an excellent spot to begin a walking tour of downtown Dresden.
Casual visitors will appreciate the rich exterior design, while culture vultures can take a 45-minute guided tour ($12) to learn about the history and acoustics of the Semperoper. Tours are offered in both English and German.
And of course, opera and music aficionados can always purchase a ticket to one of the varied nightly performances.
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2. Explore Zwinger Palace (Old Masters Gallery, Nymph’s Fountain)
Adjacent the opera house is the Zwinger Palace, which was my favorite site in Dresden.
Aside from the ornate exterior, designed in the Baroque style, it boasts the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery, $13 admission), which houses a priceless collection of Baroque and Renaissance art.
Far and away the best known piece of art in the collection is the Sistine Madonna by Raphael, with its often-reproduced pair of angels at the bottom.
Being a student of the Italian Renaissance in college, it was both a surprise and pleasure to find Dresden houses such a world-class collection.
The palace also features the Dresden Porcelain Collection, one of the world’s largest.
Don’t miss the Nymphaeum, an enclosure with featuring, you guessed it, loads of nymphs. It’s one of the finest Baroque fountains in Germany.
3. Climb the Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche)
Situated in a large open plaza, the Frauenkirche offers 360-degree views of Dresden from its cupola.
Even on a grey and dreary Fall day like the one I had, it was worth the $10 admission to get a bird’s eye view of the city.
Hopefully, you’ll have beautiful blue skies when you visit.
4 . Dine al Fresco
The Frauenkirche is surrounded by restaurants in all directions, and thus it makes the perfect place to grab lunch or dinner.
It’s here that I began to imagine how wonderful the environment would be in the Spring and Summer, when a mix of Germans and tourists are all out drinking coffee or beer, and enjoying the local cuisine.
Alas, I was here as the city verged on what I imagine to be a bitterly cold Winter.
I was drawn into the warm glow of a restaurant-filled side street near the church. Gas heaters were in full effect.
After casing the alley several times, I settled on Ayers Rock, an Australian-themed restaurant.
I ordered the pumpkin cream soup refined by ham and cranberries ($5) to start, followed by a goulash of breeding emu, served with potatoes ($21).
5. View the Procession of Princes (Fürstenzug)
After dinner, on my way back across the river to the hostel where I was staying, I happened across the Procession of Princes, a 101-meter long mural depicting a procession of the Wettins, Saxony’s ruling family in the 1870’s.
My first impressions of Dresden were quite positive, and my Spidey senses tell me it’d be a city I’d enjoy for at least a few weeks, if not a few months, during a warmer time of year.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Dresden?
My travel to/from Dresden, Germany by train was made possibly by a Global Eurail Pass, courtesy of Eurail.com.