The capital city of the German state of Saxony, Dresden is an impressive, beautiful, and old city. Originally settled in the 12th century, Dresden grew into a popular European metropolis by the mid-1600’s. It was during this time, throughout the reigns of Kings Augustus II the Strong and Augustus III of Poland, that several of the city’s stunning Baroque-style buildings were constructed. These include Dresden Frauenkirche and Zwinger Royal Palace. Dresden is the 12th most populated city in Germany and the 3rd largest city in East Germany. It’s also one of the most visited cities in all of Germany (4.7 million per year).
Unfortunately, Dresden could not escape Nazism, with the Jewish population dwindling from over 6,000 to 41, thankfully mostly from mass immigration. While the city slipped by relatively unscathed attack-wise during WWII, it didn’t remain completely untouched. It was attacked 7 times between the years of 1944 and 1945, with the final blow coming in February 1945, when the city was bombed by Allied Forces during the Bombing of Dresden. It was a devastating attack on the city, with mass casualties, and it completely destroyed the city center, including Frauenkirche.
Thankfully, Dresden has done a remarkable job of rebuilding itself to its beautiful pre-WWII image. I was totally enamored with the beautifully detailed Baroque-style buildings that surround you in Old Town. I stayed at the Hotel Hilton (highly recommend), located in the heart of Old Town and only about a 60-second walk to Dresden Frauenkirche. In fact, everything in Old Town is easily within walking distance, approximately 8-10 minutes apart from each other. I was able to tour it in about 4 hours, finally stopping to get dinner at Umaii RamenbarDresden, located in Old Town (very good! Also, highly recommend!).
Some of the sights in Old Town include Frauenkirche and Zwinger Palace, Neumarkt Square, Semper Opera House (sometimes referred to as Semperoper Dresden), Dresden Castle, the Statue of King Johann/John (King of Saxony 1854 – 1873), the Statue of Friedrich August dem Grechten (King of Saxony and then King of Poland in 1791), and the Georgenbau (Old Town exit to the bridge of River Elbe).
There is also Brühlsche Terrasse (Brühl’s Terrace), nicknamed “The Balcony of Europe”. Part of the city’s original fortification, it’s a promenade that crosses a large section of the outer walls of Old Town. It offers a great view of the River Elbe and is a nice place to take a moment to relax. The present-day terrace is approximately 475 years old, rebuilt after the Schmalkaldic War in 1547. It took some heavy damage during WWII, but was able to survive and parts rebuilt. There are several hotspots on the terrace, including the Academy of Fine Arts, Albertinum (modern art museum), Sächsisches Ständehaus (a 115-year-old building that’s home to the Saxon State Parliament), and the Staircase by Gottlob Friedrich Thormeyer. There are also numerous statues sprinkled throughout.
Lastly, there is the Fürstenzug (English: Procession of Princes). It’s a massive mural located on the outer wall of the courtyard of Dresden Castle. It depicts a mounted procession of 35 ancestral portraits between 1127 and 1904 of princes, electors, dukes, and kings of the House of Wettin, along with 59 artists, farmers, craftsman, scientists, and children. It was originally painted between 1871 and 1876 to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Wettin Dynasty but was replaced with 23,000 Meissen porcelain tiles in 1907. Aside from making it weatherproof, it is now the largest porcelain artwork in the world. Luckily, the mural sustained minimal damage during the Bombing of Dresden.
Overall, I could go on forever about the amazing architecture and vibe of Old Town Dresden. It’s a beautiful city with a magical feel, friendly people, and amazing food. As my first-time revisiting Europe in quite a few years, it was a great introduction back and really set the stage for the trip. Many tend to pass over Dresden when planning European getaways; however, I really think more should reconsider putting it on their itinerary. It’s a wonderful city which I’d love to revisit!