Why Dresden is One of the Best Places to Visit in Germany

best places to visit in Germany - church in Dresden, Germany

Dresden is one of the best places to visit in Germany…

or so said my then German boyfriend (now husband). On one of my first visits to Germany, I wasn’t convinced that we needed to drive over 500km to visit this place in northeast Germany, when I was sure there were other lovely places much closer in southwest Germany, where I was visiting him in Stuttgart.  But off we went, my curiosity peaked that he insisted on taking me so far to a city I had never heard of.

And despite my grumbling, and now having seen a lot more of Germany, I have to agree that Dresden is one of the best places to visit in Germany because:

Royal Palace in the Historic Center

Royal Palace in the Historic Center

1.  Architecture:

Dresden is the capital of the state of Saxony and was the former royal residence.  Walking through the Old Town surrounded by ornate baroque buildings, I could see how it earned the nickname “Jewel Box.”  If being a member of the royal family meant surrounding yourself with ornate buildings, and museums, I thought I would have adapted rather well.

best places to visit in germany-Frauenkirche in Dresden, Germany

The FrauenKirche (Church of Our Lady), Dresden’s Most Famous Landmark .  It was completely destroyed in WWII and rebuilt using as much of the remains as possible. Reconstruction costs were ~ €100 million, most of which came from donations. The dark stones are the original stones.

best places to visit in Germany-Dresden, Germany after WWII bombing

Dresden after WWII bombing. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

2. Bombing of Dresden in WWII:

The bombing in which 85% of the historic city center was bombed might not seem like a good reason to visit Dresden, but I would disagree.  Seeing the pictures after it was bombed is devastating.  25,000 people were killed.  The fact that it was one of the most controversial bombings of WWII  adds further to the devastation.  But, when you compare the photos to how it looks today and how it is once again a vibrant cultural and education hub, I see it as a sign of hope and a stellar example of what can be accomplished by a group of determined citizens.

 

Zwinger in the historic city center

Zwinger in Dresden’s historic city center

3. Dresden Elbe Valley is the Only Site in Europe to Lose Its UNESCO Status:

And only the second site in the world!  All because a bridge was built too close to the historic center.  Despite this, I believe it is deserving of UNESCO status and I’m a sucker for most things with a UNESCO status – even if it has been revoked.

Elbe Sandstone Mountains near Dresden, Germany

Elbe Sandstone Mountains near Dresden. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

4.  The Surrounding Area is Begging to Be Explored:

It’s not just Dresden that is interesting, but also the surrounding area.  I counted 17 different castles/ruins all within a couple of hours drive  (a very rough estimate).  There’s the Elbe River in which you can explore the Dresden Basin, and the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, which comprise  one of Germany’s few national parks.   I plan to return at some point, just to explore the surrounding area.

best places to visit in Germany-Crown gate at Zwinger in Dresden, Germany

Crown Gate at the Zwinger. Imagine how easy this must have made giving directions “Meet me by the gate with the crown.”

5.  It Hasn’t Been Largely Discovered by Tourists Outside of Europe:

Make no mistake, Dresden does have a lot of tourists, but most of them are from Germany and Russia.  We spotted quite a few Italian tourists as well, but I only heard a handful of tourists speaking English.  I hadn’t heard of Dresden before.  And I know a lot of my Canadian friends hadn’t heard of it before either.  I love “discovering” a new place – even if I had some help in doing so.

Have you been to Dresden or heard of it?

For more info on Dresden see:  Dresden Tourism

Also be sure to check out my posts on Bamberg, Maulbronn, Schwäbisch Hall and Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which also comprise my list of favorite places to visit in Germany.

See more places to visit in Germany.

Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their active holidays in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Germany. You can find her in the mountains on most weekends.
2017-09-24T20:00:46+00:00

38 Comments

  1. Jeremy B May 9, 2011 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    For me, I would be fascinated by Dresden because of it’s WWII history. I am surprised to see it as as a city to enjoy because it’s hard to think of it beyond the WWII stuff. I know people live there but it’s great to find a place that’s pleasantly surprising!

  2. Laurel May 9, 2011 at 6:02 pm - Reply

    @Jeremy – The WWII history definitely still permeates Dresden and you hear a lot about it if you do a tour, but it really is uplifting to see what a vibrant engaging community it has become in a relatively short time. It was also my first time in Eastern Germany, so interesting to see the differences between east and west.

  3. Debbie Beardsley May 9, 2011 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    I have wanted to visit Dresden for a long time but now I really want to go! Thanks for sharing your experience and pictures. This area has so much to offer other than WWII history, which is a big draw for me too.

  4. Christina May 9, 2011 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    I haven’t been to Dresden yet, although I have to agree with you, it must be a great city to explore. I’m very interested in visiting the Semper Oper, its opera house; it looks magnificent!

  5. jamie - cloud people adventures May 9, 2011 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    ive never heard of a place getting its unesco status revoked! youre right though, it does look pretty special.
    a lot of the reconstruction work in germany amazed me.
    nice photos.

  6. Roy | cruisesurfingz May 9, 2011 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    Wow, wish I knew. I used to live in Prague just round the corner to Dresden…

  7. Katherina May 9, 2011 at 8:40 pm - Reply

    From my thoughts, Dresden is (or used to be) one of the cities with a very high unemployment rate. I think I saw a report on this issue of couple of years ago…
    But then, from videos and pictures, it seems to have a quite strong Eastern European feel – which I love! Thanks so much for the post, its a city I had never considered before as a touristic destination… but will do from now onwards!

  8. The Travel Chica May 10, 2011 at 12:04 am - Reply

    I was on a group tour in Germany many years ago, and we stopped in Dresden for a couple of hours. It was pretty cool to see (even though it poured the rain). But your pictures show me there is much more to explore around Dresden. Will definitely take the opportunity to do that on my next trip to Germany.

  9. adventureswithben May 10, 2011 at 12:12 am - Reply

    The sandstone mountains remind me of the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains, outside of Sydney.

  10. Zhu May 10, 2011 at 12:22 am - Reply

    I never knew Germany was so beautiful. Seriously.

    Not sure why I pictured a grey country in my head… seems lovely!

  11. Michael Figueiredo May 10, 2011 at 12:53 am - Reply

    I changed trains in Dresden on my first backpacking trip through Europe, after graduating college. Only after I passed through did I hear how beautiful it was. I’ve still yet to return, but I know someday I will!

  12. ayngelina May 10, 2011 at 4:01 am - Reply

    Wow the architecture really is lovely.

  13. Chris May 10, 2011 at 4:20 am - Reply

    “…I thought I would have adapted rather well.” Ha ha.

    You always come up with something really cool in these posts. I knew about Dresden from its WW2 history, but I didn’t know about the beautiful architecture, and surrounding area, until now. Thanks!

  14. robin May 10, 2011 at 10:11 am - Reply

    It really is a jewel box – and I didn’t know that the surrounding countryside was so spectacular.

  15. Eastgale May 11, 2011 at 6:11 am - Reply

    Oh yes, Dresden! I do know about this city, both from German colleagues who reside there and from history books! And also sometimes from economic reports concerning East Germany recovery.

    It is lovely to see that the city is nicely rebuilt now, and I love to see all those historical buildings being restored to their original form, instead of what the communists usually do – tear them down and build some ugly buildings in its place. So I am glad that at least the more important buildings escape this fate.

    I have not visited Dresden though, as much as I want to. Maybe next year I will get my chance, if my plan to visit my German colleagues can be realized.

    @Zhu

    Oh, nobody ever knew Germany was this beautiful, 😛 Okay I am kidding, but seriously, I think Germany really doesn’t enjoy the tourist reputation I think she deserves. When visiting Europe people (at least people I encountered) talk of France, Italy, Spain, Czech, etc etc, you rarely hear people talk about visiting Germany aside from business trips.

    I think German tourist board is not doing their job, XD

  16. Christy May 12, 2011 at 1:51 am - Reply

    Dresden definitely looks travel-worthy, and the photos are just so beautiful! I thought it looked a little like Munchen, which I enjoyed very much but looks like Dresden is good too, if not better!:D
    Thanks for the informative post, I hope I can go back to Germany, and I am marking Dresden the next time 🙂 Looking forward to more posts from you!

  17. Turkey's For Life May 12, 2011 at 7:49 am - Reply

    Yes. Heard of Dresden – being from the country that decided to bomb the place! 🙁 It looks like a beautiful city. I didn’t realise Elbe Valley had lost its UNESCO status. Istanbul maybe joining it on the ‘status revoked’ list soon – coincidentally, because town planners want to build a bridge too close to a historic mosque.
    Julia

  18. Cheryl May 13, 2011 at 3:12 am - Reply

    Wowwww. Looks beautiful … this is definitely on my list of places to visit!

  19. Meghan May 13, 2011 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    I lived in Dresden for four months while studying abroad in the spring of 2009. I could not agree more with your comments regarding its beauty. One of the things I loved most about the city is that since it is on the smaller side, I really felt like I had an understanding of most of the city. But yet it wasn’t too small that I became bored. I also loved the juxtaposition between the traditional Altstadt and newer, hip and eceltic Neustadt. The city has a fascinating history of suffering and triumph, which I think is most evident when walking around the Altstadt. For me, the city is a beautiful story of hope and I am counting to days until I can go back again. Thank you for featuring this lesser-known gem on your blog! Viel Spaß!

  20. ePhotographers» Blog Archive » Dresden pictures wwii August 5, 2011 at 5:51 am - Reply

    […] Why Dresden is One of the Best Places to Visit in Germany | Expat … May 9, 2011 … Dresden after WWII bombing. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 2. Bombing of Dresden in WWII: The … […]

  21. Raj May 16, 2013 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    I went there last week and never had so many people stare at me ??? When I got back to Hessen and googled ‘Dresden’ and read some comments on discussion forums I realised that it is a little racist/or maybe not used to seeing foreigners. Anyhow, the place itself is great, but still prefer Heidelberg

    • Laurel May 28, 2013 at 7:01 pm - Reply

      @Raj – I’m so sorry to hear that :(. Heidelberg is a great place and probably a lot more international with the university there.

  22. Rohan Murray June 25, 2013 at 8:54 am - Reply

    I will be having some friends visiting me from the USA and two of them are black. So here is my question I was planning of going to Dresden for two days with them. Is it safe for foreigners? Since, I have heard and seen some bad things about Eastern Germany, when it comes to foreigners’. So should I take them there or go to a more international city like Hamburg.

    • Laurel July 1, 2013 at 9:29 am - Reply

      @Rohan – Dresden is definitely safe for foreigners and you shouldn’t experience any issues.

  23. Michael January 2, 2014 at 8:34 am - Reply

    Thanks for the quick view of Dresden. On our first extended stay in Prague we took the train from Berlin to Prague through Dresden. Ever since I have wanted to return for a closer look, but we seem to always chose someplace else. Now Dresden is much higher on the list. Thanks to you.

    • Laurel January 4, 2014 at 10:14 pm - Reply

      @Michael – Dresden is definitely worth spending a couple of days. I really want to return so that I can explore the surrounding area.

  24. Lori-Airbnb Superhost January 6, 2014 at 6:51 am - Reply

    Great info! We just had an airbnb guest from Hanover, Germany and she highly recommended Dresden for our future travels.

  25. Patent Kaufmann July 21, 2014 at 12:07 am - Reply

    I am a Dresden resident and I do think that I know all major cities of Germany pretty well. The historic downtown of Dresden is significantly smaller than that of Munich but, imho, more beautiful, even though I like Munich in all seasons and all weekdays and times, too. The cities can hardly be compared. In some aspects Dresden is a world city, one of the smallest, in others not, not that much or not at all. Measured by area, Dresden is a bit larger than Munich, the population density is very much lower. The amount of historic villa quarters is almost untouched in Germany, relatively it’s singular, comparable to only Wiesbaden and the upscale districts of Hamburg, but, much different to Hamburg, affordable. That’s the biggest advantage of Dresden plus the truly beautiful surroundings such as Saxon Switzerland (not the Alps, but still nice at all seasons), Moritzburg, Radebeul, Meissen etc. Dresden-Pillnitz is a must-see as well. If you have a smartphone or Google Glasses or a car, there is probably Dresden inside. (Europe’s major microelectronics location) Frankfurt’s downtown is really shabby compared to Dresden’s but the city is very much more a world city with all of these advantages. When Dresden is too small, while it got felt bigger in recent years, Prague, Leipzig and Berlin are not that far away. I understand you are on a budget, in terms of money and time, but if you can spend at least a night in Dresden, it’s worth the experience to see more than the historic downtown.

  26. Paul Henderson November 25, 2014 at 2:22 am - Reply

    Of all the comments about Dresden, I failed to see mention of Dresden best attribute. Dresden is home of the famous Christstollen (a German bread-based fruit cake) They are made and available forms all year round, but the Christmas Stollen is the best. Each year I get a Christstollen imported from Dresden (the highest quality of all). I still have an item on my bucket list to some year attend the Stollen Festival held each year on the first Sunday in Advent, to seen the Stollen Queen, and to taste the community Christstollen (all bakers in Dresden gather together to make a gigantic stollen, large enough for each person attending the festival to have a piece.

    • Laurel December 18, 2014 at 9:31 am - Reply

      @Paul – Excellent point! The reason I didn’t mention it is that I’m celiac (allergic to bread, including Christstollen unfortunately), but you’re right, it’s something everyone should try when they’re there. Thanks for pointing that out.

  27. Puja Pal March 31, 2016 at 5:51 am - Reply

    Nice list! Yes, There is something missing in it, but you should have a list of 1000 attractions because in Germany every single little place has something beautiful to show

    • Laurel April 6, 2016 at 12:05 pm - Reply

      @Puja – Thank you, and yes, I’m working on it 🙂

  28. Alex June 27, 2016 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    This is the most beautiful city I’ve seen. Haven’t been too many places yet but it blows Munich and Berlin out of the water. I live in the west but any time we get a 4 day weekend I try to make it back. The skyline takes your breathe away. I always tell my soldiers that they must go and yep none of them have ever heard about it.

    • Laurel July 1, 2016 at 11:14 am - Reply

      @Alex – So glad to hear that you enjoy Dresden. I’ll admit I hadn’t heard of it either until I moved to Germany.

  29. Meagan Brown November 16, 2016 at 11:12 am - Reply

    Hi, Laurel, Thanks for this amazing article and I know There are countless beautiful places to visit in Germany. I really enjoyed your beautiful photos with historical places.

    • Laurel November 16, 2016 at 5:50 pm - Reply

      @Meagan Thanks for your kind words.

  30. Jim Young August 27, 2017 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    We are planning a trip to Dresden next June. Is 5 nights there too long? We are booked at the Gewandhaus Dresden.

    • Laurel August 29, 2017 at 8:53 am - Reply

      @Jim – Great to hear that you’re going to Dresden. I’d recommend 3 days in Dresden, and then use the extra time for exploring the surrounding area. Enjoy.

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