Situated on the Elbe River, Dresden is the capital city of Saxony and one of the most beautiful cities in Germany. It is often referred to as the German Florence, owing to the number of baroque buildings, wide charming squares, and presence of art in all its forms. Its rich cultural heritage and turbulent history provide unique charm and authenticity.

Is Dresden on your bucket list? Then the following top 15 must-do things in Dresden are guaranteed to make your trip the best possible!

Start your tour at the Old Town

Altstadt, as the name suggests, is the oldest part of the town and the city center. It’s where you can see some stunning historical buildings, spacious squares with monuments, churches, and narrow alleys. All of them give this area an authentic feel.

Additionally, you can find many restaurants and trattorias serving delicious pizza. A chocolate museum that offers all sorts of sweet delicacies and huge malls are also located here. Sounds great already, right?

Explore Altmarkt (Old Market)

In Dresden’s Old Town is situated the Altmarkt, one of the oldest squares in the city. It dates back to the 13th century and it is one of the areas severely damaged during World War II h. In the 20th century, the square was rebuilt from scratch and is now a bustling hub that you should visit!

Around the square, you’ll find the Kreuzkirche (Church of the Holy Cross), which has some impressive baroque architecture, and a modern shopping complex right next to it. It’s a fascinating contrast that reminds us of Dresden’s history before and after the war.

Throughout the year, various events are happening at Altmarkt, and one super popular one is the Dresden Christmas Market (Striezelmarkt). During this time, the square transforms into a magical and festive wonderland, with booths selling traditional crafts and foods. It’s worth checking out!

Have a stroll around Neumarkt (New Market)

Just a short stroll from Altmarkt, you’ll stumble upon another historically significant square in Dresden – the Neumarkt or New Market. The open expanse of the square, the lovely old buildings that surround it, and the lively crowds make it such a vibrant space!

Unfortunately, most of the historical buildings in this square were also heavily damaged during WWII, including the Frauenkirche. However, restoration efforts began in the late 20th century and the square has since been restored to its former glory.

The Neumarkt stands as a testament to Dresden’s resilience and commitment to preserving its heritage while embracing modernity. The Neumarkt square is bordered by charming, colorful houses and also features a statue of Martin Luther.

See the famous Frauenkirche

Neumarkt is the home of Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), a beautiful Lutheran church built in the Baroque style. It is the most iconic sight in Dresden and one of the tallest domes in Europe.

The church was restored in 2005. using the same plans by George Bähr from the 1700s. As a memory of the unfortunate event, parts of the old church were used during construction, and you can see the black stones inserted into its facade.

Inside, the first thing to notice is the altar with the organs still in use today. The pastel colors of the interior combined with the golden colors of the altar create a sense of peace and tranquility, despite the building’s unpleasant past.

Note: Entry to the church is free!

See the Fürstenzug (Procession of Princes)

As you make your way from the Frauenkirche toward the Elbe River in Dresden, you will come across a fascinating attraction that is worth having an eye on. The famous Procession of the Princes is a 335-foot-long mosaic mural comprised of over 24,000 porcelain tiles.

This incredible artwork is considered the largest porcelain mural in the world. It depicts the Saxon Wettin dynasty, with its kings, dukes, and royal members, all walking and riding in a magnificent parade.

Tip: This place is a perfect location for your fabulous Instagram photo! 🙂

Admire the beauty of The Zwinger Palace

A visit to The Zwinger Palace complex is one of the essential things to do in Dresden. Its beauty and grandeur are so impressive that visitors are compelled to check it out!

Originally built in the 18th century to host noble events, the palace now houses several museums. These are the Old Masters Picture Gallery, Dresden’s Porcelain Collection, and the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments.

Although the palace was destroyed during World War II, most of its contents were stored away and survived. The palace was rebuilt in the mid-20th century and opened to the public once again. While it’s free to walk around the courtyard, you’ll need a ticket to enter the museums.

My tip: Don’t forget to check out the Glockenspiel, at the center of the Zwinger Palace courtyard. It is a unique instrument made of 40 porcelain bells that every 15 minutes chime and play a variety of melodies.

Book a tour of the Semperoper

Just a few meters from the Zwinger Palace, you can find the Semperoper, a famous opera house in Dresden. The venue hosts operas, ballets, music, and theatre shows throughout the year. Note that the tickets are required.

If you cannot find a suitable performance, you can opt for a tour of the opera house.

But even having a look at the Opera house outside the square can be good enough. It is one of the most impressive buildings in Dresden and many music and cultural events are being held outside.

See the Residenzschloss (The Dresden Castle)

Located in the heart of the old town, just a short distance away from the Semperoper opera house is Dresden Castle, also known as the Royal Palace. This historical building is one of the oldest structures in the city and was once the residence of Saxony’s princes and kings.

Today, the castle serves as a magnificent museum that houses a plethora of treasures and artworks.

The general ticket provides access to the New Green Vault, the Turkish Chamber, the Renaissance Wing, and the Armory. However, please note that you must buy a separate ticket to enter the Historic Green Vault, which you can purchase here. Keep in mind that tickets tend to sell out quickly, so it’s advisable to order them at least a few days in advance.

If you’re a fan of old European palaces a visit to the Residenzschloss is a must-do thing in Dresden!

Buy a ticket for a Panometer Dresden museum

If you love finding out about history, visiting the Panometer Dresden Museum is a “mandatory” thing to do in Dresden!

Located in an old gas tank building, this museum provides a direct entry to the turbulent city’s past. This museum, designed by artist Yadegar Asisi, offers a comprehensive history of the events of WWII in the area. Specifically, it presents the bombing of Dresden by the Allies over 24 hours through a unique and evocative experience. Although it’s not located in the center of the city, it’s easily accessible by public transport. The cylindrical building features a 4-story platform in the center, which allows the viewer a 360-degree experience of the horrors of war at four different heights.

Enjoy the view from the Brühl’s terrace

Brühl’s Terrace is a beautiful, 19th-century terrace that offers a mesmerizing view of the Elbe River and the city on the other side. It’s called the “Balcony of Europe” for a good reason!

The Terrace has a line of buildings and museums with stunning architecture, sculptures, and a beautiful park. Walking along the Terrace is an immensely enjoyable experience.

Spending an afternoon strolling down the river or just sitting on a bench on the terrace and soaking up the beauty of the place is one of the must-do things in Dresden!

Have a look inside of Dresden Cathedral

The cathedral was built under the supervision of Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, and was finished in 1751. It is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, designed by Italian architect Gaetano Chiaveri, with a bell tower that stands 85 meters high and dominates the skyline of Dresden.

Notably, the heart of King Augustus the Strong is laid to rest here, along with other members of the royal family of Saxony.

Note: Visiting the Hofkirche is also free of charge!

Cruise down the Elbe River

River Cruising is one more excellent way to enjoy the view of the city from the water. Especially when the Sun is setting and offering some of the most beautiful sky colors that I have seen.

There are several Tours that I can recommend:

Bridges River Tour is a captivating journey through scenic waterways, ancient landmarks, and iconic bridges. 

Evening River Cruise with Dinner is a 3-hour Cruise down the Elbe River, passing by next to the castles and through the bridges. If you love having sparkling wine and tasty food while enjoying the beautiful scenery then this is the best choice for you!

River Sightseeing Boat Cruise is a 1.5-hour long journey on the water. The tour starts at the Terrassenufer and offers a view of the three Elbe palaces: Albrechtsberg Palace, Eckberg Palace, and the Lingner Palace. You will have a chance to check out the Loschwitz Villa Quarter and pass four of the famous Elbe Bridges, including Loschwitz Bridge, affectionately known as the “Blue Wonder”.

The “Blue Wonder” is a steel-girder bridge constructed between 1891 and 1893. It connects the districts of Loschwitz and Blasewitz and was considered a technical marvel at the time of its construction. The bridge’s light blue paint earned it its name, “Blue Wonder.”

The oldest aerial railway in the world was built from 1898 to 1901 and takes passengers across the bridge in only four and a half minutes.

Explore the Neustadt (New Town)

Just on the other side of the Elbe River, you’ll find the Neustadt, which is the newer part of Dresden. While this area also has many buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries, it has a different vibe from the Altstadt. The old part of the city is all about baroque architecture and art, while the Neustadt is more for the younger crowd. It’s got a lively cultural scene with tons of restaurants, cafes, and bakeries offering all kinds of delicious food. The buildings here are covered in cool graffiti, which adds to the unique charm of the area. If you’re looking for affordable places to stay and a wide variety of food, the Neustadt is the place to be!

Check out Kunsthofpassage

All art lovers will find the Kunsthofpassage an interesting place to see. An alleyway turned into an outdoor art gallery! The installation of murals and other artworks along the alleyway is impressive, but the star attraction is the Courtyard of Elements.

The Courtyard of Elements features a wall of drainpipes that converts rainwater into a musical performance. If you happen to be in Dresden on a rainy day, then you must visit it!

Try Eierschecke Cake

The Eierschecke is a well-known and beloved cake in Dresden and the surrounding areas. This sheet cake consists of three layers that perfectly complement each other. The base is made of either a sponge or yeast dough, with a thin quark-based layer. The upper part is made of a creamy mixture of egg and vanilla pudding. All of these layers combine to create a light and fluffy cake with a subtle, delicious taste. Yum!

Tip: A tasty Eirschecke can be tried in Cafe “Eiscafe Venezia”, located just next to the Bridge toward the Neustadt! Plus, the ice cream there is a must-try!

How many days in Dresden are enough?

Fortunately, the most captivating attractions are situated close to each other and can be conveniently reached on foot. You can explore all of them at a leisurely pace in just 1,5 or 2 days. However, I suggest adding an extra day if you plan to visit the Pillnitz Palace or take a side trip.

What is the ideal time to visit Dresden?

Spring and summer are also great times to visit Dresden. The city becomes even more charming with sunny days, lush parks, and greenery. Just imagine sitting in a Biergarten next to the Elbe River and soaking up the sun – what could be better than that?

How to get around Dresden?

Dresden is a city that is great for walking! Especially in the Old Town area where all the main sights can be reached on foot.

However, if you are staying in the New Town area, it’s recommended to take a tram to the Old City, as it’s a quicker option. Although walking from one part of the city to another is doable, the tram ride will save you some time. The tram system is convenient, with stops located all over the city. You can easily purchase a ticket at any tram stop or buy a single-day pass online for added convenience.

Buy a Dresden Welcome Card

If you’re planning a trip to Dresden, you may consider buying a Dresden Welcome Card, which offers several discount options to make your stay more affordable and convenient.

The card includes free transportation and discounted museum tickets, but it’s important to note that it doesn’t offer free entrance to any of the main museums. The primary advantage of the card is that it includes transportation, which could be helpful if you’re not staying in the Old Town.

Planning a side trip to Berlin from Dresden? Have a look at 25 Essential things to do in Berlin!

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