On the Elbe in Saxony, Dresden is a city full of Baroque wonder that has been resurrected since the war. The Witting family was a long line of electors and kings who ruled Saxony and the kingdom from Dresden between the 13th and 20th centuries.
None of these rulers wielded as much power as the 18th-century mighty Augustus II. He would like to thank the amazing wealth of the Staatliche Kunstsammlung (National Art Collection), which is so large that it has to be organized in different historic buildings in the city. With priceless gold treasures, paintings by Renaissance masters, oriental porcelain, classical sculptures, ceremonial weapons and more, you won’t be able to fill it all in one trip.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Dresden:
1. Church of Our Lady
The majestic Church of Our Lady, with one of the largest church domes in Europe, demands your attention to the new market.
The original church was completed in 1743 and designed by architect George Barr, who did not live to see it completed.
The Church of Our Lady was completely destroyed in 1945. At first its rubble was left in New Markt as a war memorial, but was eventually moved to a warehouse in the 1980s in preparation for future reconstruction.
This finally began in 1994, using a large amount of well-preserved material (3,500 individual stones), and was completed in 2005. The new gilded cross and orb on the dome were forged in London as a gesture of reconciliation, while the damaged former cross is located to the right of the church’s new altar.
2. Zwinger Palace
One of Germany’s most acclaimed Baroque buildings, Zwinger was ordered by the Saxon elector Augustus II Strongman in the late 16th century as a venue for lavish court celebrations.
The work was completed in the early 18th century by court architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann and sculptor Balthasar Permoser.
What started as an orange grove slowly developed into an ornately decorated pavilion and garden overlooking galleries lined with balustrades and statues.
One of the many theatrical elements is the Nymphenbad (Nymph Bath), a hollow fountain surrounded by nymph sculptures set in niches and crowned balustrades.
The pavilions of the Zwinger Museum are museums based on the national collection, and next we will introduce the best one.
3. Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
Zwinger’s Sempergalerie houses one of the world’s most outstanding collections of Italian, Spanish, Dutch and Flemish Renaissance art.
The collection was started in the 16th century by Augustus I, but really took shape during the reign of Augustus III in 1746, when most of the collection of the Duke of Modena, Francesco III, was purchased.
So get ready for Vermeer, Rembrandt, Van Eyck, Titian, Raphael, Giorgione, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Holbein Jr., El Greco, Zubaran , Canaletto, Van Dyck, Rubens’ art feast.
About 750 paintings are on display at one time, only a little over a third of the collection.
Named after its architect Gottfried Semper, Dresden’s splendid Opera House opened in 1878 and is one of the world’s most respected venues for the performing arts.
This is the second opera house on the site, after the first burned down in 1869. Semper also designed the original opera house, which was completed in 1841. The fantastic Neo-Baroque/Italian Renaissance hall was destroyed during the war and in the mid-1980s.
Look for statues of Goethe, Schiller, Shakespeare, Molière, Euripides, and Sophocles on the front.
In the 19th century, the Semper Opera staged the world premiere of operas by Wagner and Richard Strauss (Elektra, Salome, Der Rosenkavalier). If you can’t catch a show, there are English and German-speaking guides around the vibrant interior every 15 to 30 minutes throughout the day.
5. Dresden Palace
This Renaissance palace was the residence of electors and Saxon kings from the 16th to 19th centuries.
Like the Zwinger, the palace is now a museum complex with various national collections.
The most exquisite of these is the Royal Treasure Room Green Vault, which we’ll cover below.
But you can also visit the Dresden Armory, an amazing collection of ceremonial armor, weapons and kingship, and the Turkish Chamber of Commerce, one of the most important collections of Ottoman art outside Turkey.
Also in the palace is the Kupferstich-Kabinett, a collection of 500,000 drawings, engravings and drawings by Albrecht Dürer, Goya, Michelangelo, Jan van Eyck, Rubens and Rembrandt, among others Artist creation.
Don’t forget the Münzkabinett, which is a collection of 300,000 national coins from ancient times to the present and from all over the world.
6. Green Vault
The first and second floors of the West End of the Dresdner Residenzschloss are the incredible treasure rooms of the Elector of Saxony.
Construction of the Green Dome was started in the 16th century by Moritz of Saxony and expanded in the 18th century by August II the mighty, who turned the rooms into one of the world’s first public museums.
His aim was to create a Gesamtkunstwerk (synthetic artwork) to convey power and wealth.
The historic green dome is the name of the restored 18th-century room on the first floor, which houses some 3,000 masterpieces in gold, ivory, silver and amber.
Meanwhile, the new green dome upstairs is a free-standing museum dedicated to the work of goldsmith Johann Melchior Dinglinger, the mighty Augustus II II) favorite.
On the east side of the Residenzschloss, around the Stallhof facade on Augustusstraße, there is a 102-meter long porcelain fresco.
Originally painted in the first half of the 1870s, this monumental artwork was replaced by tiles in the 1900s to protect it from natural disasters.
You couldn’t ask for a better history lesson, as Fürstenzug records all 35 rulers of the Wetting family, from 12th-century marquis to dukes and imperial-electors, all the way to 19th-century kings.
8. Dresden Porcelain Collection
The South Hall of the Zwinger Palace is reserved for the National Porcelain Collection, which was founded in 1715 by the mighty Augustus II. You can marvel at the treasure trove of Chinese and Japanese porcelain acquired in the 18th century.
There are Imari ware produced for export in the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as Ming (14th-17th century) and Qing (17th-20th century) porcelain.
But the museum also excels for its locally produced Meissen porcelain, including figurines, a set of tables by Frederick Augustus III, and vessels decorated with Rococo and Oriental motifs.
The collection exceeds 20,000 pieces, but only 10% of the exhibition space is displayed, so the display is regularly updated.
9. Bruhl Terrace
To the north of the Frauenkirche is a 500-meter luxurious panoramic terrace overlooking the Elbe from the left bank between Augustusbrücke and Carolabrücke.
The terrace is connected to the cathedral by a grand staircase, dating back to the days of the Dresden fortifications.
It takes its name from the 18th-century statesman Heinrich von Brühl, who built a series of lavish buildings here when the walls were torn down.
Only the garden on the east side survives, while the rest of the terrace is a historicist style public building and museum.
There are many sculptures along the way, including a statue of Gottfried Semper and a monument to Caspar David Friedrich.
On Brühl’s Terrace, the Renaissance Albertinum, built in the 1880s, is home to the Royal Sculpture Collection.
Now, in addition to containing the “Skulpturensammlung”, the building also houses the New Masters Gallery, which houses contemporary works purchased after 1843. The New Masters Gallery is a who’s who of European art before the Second World War, with a collection of works by Romantic (Friedrich, Richter), Impressionism (Van Gogh, Monet), Symbolism (Klimt, Munch) and Expressionist painter (Klee, Kirchner). Skulpturensammlung has more than five thousand years of sculpture, from classical to 21st century, including Rodin, Degas and Lembruck among others.
11. Dresden Cathedral
In the 18th century, Albertina Waitins converted to Catholicism under the mighty Augustus II, making them eligible for the Polish throne, and they set about building a new court church.
Located on the banks of the River Elbe at the western end of Brühl Terrace, it was designed in Italian Baroque style by Rome-born architect Gaetano Chiaveri.
The church, which only received cathedral status in the 1960s, is another monument to Dresden’s post-war revival.
A total of 49 Albertines of the Wetting family are buried in the crypt, including Augustus I, Augustus III and all the 19th century Saxon kings, as well as the heart of the mighty Augustus II.
The cathedral houses the last survivors of four pipe organs designed by master Gottfried Silbermann in the early 1750s.
12. New Town
The Neustadt, consisting of the inner and outer areas on the right bank of the Elbe, is a district of Dresden that was rebuilt after a fire in the 1730s, hence the name “New District”. The interior is housed in the old fortifications of Dresden, whose street art and counterculture have been recognized since 1989, passing architectural landmarks such as the Japanisches Palais, which houses the Dresden Museum of Ethnology and Prehistory.
With around 150 restaurants and bars, the Neustadt outskirts are one of the best places to go out in Germany.
Come to the three-day Bunt Republik Neustadt festival in June.
13. Art Channel
In the new town, you may stumble upon a passage through a series of courtyards, all of which are whimsically designed.
Take the Hof der Elemente (The Court of the Elements), which has a cluster of drain pipes on its facade, shaped like musical instruments.
When it rains, water creates its own music.
The Hof des Lichts (Garden of Light) features projection screens for multimedia performances, as well as metal mirrors that illuminate the courtyard and project artistic patterns on the walls.
Also check out the Hof der Fabelwesen (Garden of Mythical Creatures), where artist Viola Schöpe adorns the walls with paintings of strange creatures and ceramic mosaics.
There are cafés, art galleries and one-off shops along the Kunsthofpassage.
14. Pillnitz Palace and Park
The Elbe, a few kilometers from Dresden, was the summer resort of the Electors and Kings of Saxony.
Pillnitz is actually a complex of three palaces: Wasserpalais (Seaside Palace), Bergpalais (Upper Palace) and New Palace, a neoclassical palace from the 1820s.
Wasserpalais and Bergpalais are a perfect blend of the baroque and chinoiserie styles that were popular in the 1720s.
Today, they house ceramics, furniture and textiles from the National Collection of Applied Arts dating back to the 1200s.
Neues Palace has a museum that tells the history of the complex and the court intrigue that took place here in the 18th century.
The 28 hectares are stunning, with conifer gardens and Dutch gardens scattered with rare trees.
In 2006, Austrian artist Yadegar Asisi brought his “panorometer” concept to Dresden, installing a panoramic image 27 meters high and 127 meters in circumference in an abandoned telegraph gas meter in the Reick district.
The attraction utilizes the completely hollow interior of the gas meter to present a panorama of Dresden in the past.
When the attraction opens, images depict Dresden at its heyday in the mid-18th century.
Since 2015 and the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden, a panorama has emerged revealing the extent of the damage (and its reconstruction), rotating scenes from the city’s Baroque heyday, partly inspired by Canaletto Famous Dresden scenery.
Where to Stay: The Best Hotels in Dresden, Germany
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