Things to do in Dresden – The Old Town

Dresden has a multitude of things to do, from High Street shopping through to punk parties. It’s a city which could happily accommodate a grown family, with baroque sightseeing or hiking during the day, a wide selection of restaurant styles for the evening, and energetic clubs and bars to help you see in the next morning. It’s a great option when visiting Saxon Germany, as we did with a German Rail Pass from ACP Rail.

The Old Town

Rebuilt from the ground up after the World War II firebombing of the city, Dresden’s Old Town is actually its most-recent construction site. This collection of baroque buildings is bordered by the Elbe River on one side – and a controversial bridge recently built across the river has caused the removal of its UNESCO World Heritage ranking.

Some of Dresden's Old Town spires.

Some of Dresden’s Old Town spires.

The Dresden Castle

The Saxon palace forms the centre of a circle whose radius touches all the important baroque buildings in the Old Town. Inside you can explore several galleries ranging from Turkish silks, weapons, and tents imported for the Army to modern photography from internationally recognised artists.

This golden mosaic is made from local porcelain.

This golden mosaic is made from local porcelain.

The Zwinger

The Zwinger is not your everyday fairground! It’s more like a pleasure palace with a large, fountain-filled courtyard. It houses three important galleries: the Old Masters Gallery, the Mathematics and Physics salon and the Royal Porcelain Collection.

The Dresden Zwinger! Houses the Physics salon, Old Masters, and Porcelain galleries.

The Dresden Zwinger! Houses the Physics salon, Old Masters, and Porcelain galleries.

The Opera House

The Semper Opera has been called the most magnificent in the world. Rebuilt in 1985, the interior is even more impressive than the facade. Tickets are pricey but if you’re lucky, cheap tickets might be available on the day. Don’t forget to dress up as this is a high society pastime.

Opera house from the castle tower.

Opera house from the castle tower.

The Opera House from ground level.

The Opera House from ground level.

The Bruhl Terrace

The so-called Balcony of Europe is a promenade built on top of mediaeval city fortifications. As well as offering views to the river and the new town, it has a life of its own. Hawkers sell paintings, cafes and bars open onto it, and the art gallery, Albertinium, is accessed from it. Of all the galleries we visited in Dresden, this was my favourite: combining canvases alongside dynamic sculpture.

Church of Our Lady

The Frauenkirk, or Church of Our Lady, has the kind of interior that puts you in mind of a wedding cake. White, pink, blue, and rounded — it is always full of people and tour groups.

Shopping

Heading away from the Church of Our Lady towards the edge of town you’ll find a large, modern shopping centre with a few interesting cafes and bars nearby. This seemed to me to have a better quality-to-price ratio on meals and snacks with Weisse Gasse being a popular option from lunch until evening.

We ate for €8.88 in Weisse Gasse

We ate for €8.88 in Weisse Gasse

The Big Garden

The ingeniously named Grosser Garten is a large park complete with a train, the zoo, museums, and anything else you could possibly put in a park — don’t forget the beer gardens! It’s a great place to relax with a drink on a warm day or to slackline under the trees.

Palace in Big Garden, Dresden

The big skate

If you have wheels, there’s a big skate meet-up at 7pm on Friday nights during the summer. Rollerskaters and rollerbladers congregate at the halfpipe on Lignerallee, near the park, and take it from there.

That brings us to the end of things to do in Dresden’s Old Town. In part two, we’ll take a look at things to do in the less-touristy, alternative Dresden Neustadt as well as outside the city. You can also take a look at all our reviews in Dresden. and check out this podcast about Dresden.

We visited Dresden as part of #IndieGermany, a month-long trip through Germany by rail. We used German Rail Passes from ACPRail.com which saved us hundreds of euros: a great way to get around.

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