15 TOP Things to do in Dresden, Germany

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Dresden is the capital of the German state of Saxony, and for centuries it has been the most important city in the region.

While it has a long history stretching far back to the medieval era, Dresden is, unfortunately, best known for more recent events in World War II, when the city was completely destroyed by Allied bombing.

Dresden was utterly annihilated, and in the following decades, as part of East Germany, and then a unified Germany, it was slowly rebuilt. Today you can find a grand city again, once more resplendent with cathedrals, churches and the restored palaces of the Saxon monarchy.

The wide River Elbe stretches through Dresden, offering beautiful views and riverside walks or cruises, while just outside the city, you can find the glorious outdoor landscapes of Saxon Switzerland.

There are a lot of great things to do in Dresden, and to inspire your trip to Saxony, here are our favorite sights and activities!

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Germany (Travel Guide)

15 Things to Do in Dresden, Germany

Dresden Castle - Things to do in Dresden Germany

1. Dresden Castle

Dresden Castle is the most iconic sight in the city, and it’s one of the oldest and most important buildings in Saxony.

The castle was built as a palace for the rulers of Saxony, and it was constructed in the 16th century in the grand Baroque style that was popular across Europe at the time.

The castle was almost totally leveled during World War II, losing the roof and many of the historic collections held inside.

It’s since been restored as faithfully as possible, but the restoration was only completed in its entirety just a few years ago, such was the amount of damage inflicted upon it.

Our top recommended tours of Dresden Castle:

The Green vault in Dresden

2. The Green Vault

Within Dresden Castle, you can find one of the oldest museums in the world. Dating back to the early 18th century, the Green Vault was first opened in 1723 by the reigning King of Saxony, Augustus the Strong, who began to expand on an existing treasure trove of relics and artifacts held by his family.

The vault contains a vast collection of gems, jewelry and works of art from across the world. Although the Green Vault itself was destroyed during World War II, the treasure within had been moved to safety beforehand.

Our top recommended tours of The Green Vault:

Zwinger Palace in Dresden

3. Zwinger Palace

Opposite Dresden Castle, you can find the equally resplendent architectural styles of Zwinger Palace. Also built in the popular Baroque fashion, the palace was constructed in the 18th century and served as a residence, a place for royal events and as an artistic legacy for the monarchy.

Like its counterpart over the road, Zwinger Palace was also destroyed by Allied bombing during World War II. Restoration work though began straight after the war ended and the palace was open to the public within a decade.

Today the palace contains many museums and art galleries and is home to the famous Dresden Porcelain Collection.  

Our top recommended tour of Zwinger Palace:

Frauenkirche in Dresden

4. Frauenkirche

The Frauenkirche, or the Church of our Lady, is one of the defining sights on the Dresden skyline. There has been a church on the same site since the 11th century, but over the years it’s changed immeasurably.

Originally Catholic, today the church is Lutheran, while in World War II it was completely destroyed.

The Frauenkirche was for decades left in ruins, as a memorial and as a reminder of the destruction of the war, but in recent years, it has been completely restored.

Our top recommended tours of Frauenkirche:

Dresden skyline

5. River Elbe Cruise

The River Elbe is one of the most iconic natural sights in Germany, and it stretches right through the center of Dresden. It’s an important waterway, and the city is built across both sides of the river, with bridges and ferries connecting either bank.

You can enjoy pleasant riverside walks along the embankments of the Elbe, and it’s perfect for sunset views. One of the best ways to experience the Elbe through and one of the best things to do in Dresden is to take a river cruise.

You can sit back, perhaps enjoy an evening dinner cruise or entertainment, and watch the city pass you by as you meander along the Elbe. Related Article: Elegant Elbe River Cruise with Viking River Cruises

The Museum of Military History in Dresden

6. The Museum of Military History

One of the best things to do in Dresden is to visit the excellent Museum of Military History. This is one of the foremost military museums in Germany, but although it’s found in a former arsenal, the focus is not necessarily on military might, but on the human cost of war.

Dresden suffered immensely during the Allied bombings in World War II, and thousands were killed and much of the city destroyed. The museum gives you an insight into the events and is a space to help remember and to ensure such things don’t happen again.

You can find several different sections within the museum, focusing on pre-20th-century wars, World War I, and World War II.

Dresden Cathedral

7. Dresden Cathedral

Dresden Cathedral is another of the historic buildings that form the unique skyline of the old city center. While most of the city was protestant, the Saxon monarchy was Catholic, and it was built by the royal family in the mid 18th century to serve as their personal place of worship.

The cathedral has been restored heavily, and you can still find the tombs of the last Saxon kings within the crypts.

Our top recommended tour of Dresden Cathedral:

Procession of Princes in Dresden

8. Procession of Princes

One of the best things to do in Dresden is to visit the Procession of Princes, a historic mural that depicts the history of the rulers of Saxony.

Known in German as the Furstenzug, the long mural is made from porcelain, is found on an outside wall of Dresden Castle and miraculously survived the bombings of World War II.

The mural was first unveiled at the turn of the 20th century and celebrates the royal family by tracing their lineage and exploits back to the 11th century.

Our top recommended tour including Procession of Prices: City Walking tour of Dresden

opera house in Dresden

9. The Opera House

One of Dresden’s grandest works of architecture is the elegant Opera House, which is known locally as the Semperoper, after its architect, Gottfried Semper.

Located in the central Theatre Square, the Opera House dates back to the 1840s and has held many historic concerts during its lifetime, including from the likes of such famous composers as Richard Wagner.

The Opera House continues to hold concerts to this day in the heart of Dresden.

Our top recommended tours of The Opera House:

Things to do in Dresden

10. Bruhl’s Terrace

Often called ‘The Balcony of Europe’, Bruhl’s Terrace is one of the best things to do in Dresden. The terrace dates back to the 18th century and although it’s now a public space, it was once the realm of the city’s nobility.

Bruhl’s Terrace overlooks the River Elbe and offers wonderful views along the waterway and of the city’s magnificent skyline.

Neumarkt in Dresden

11. Neumarkt

Neumarkt is a fantastic public square to visit when you are in Dresden. This is one of the oldest areas within the city and is home to such important sights as the Frauenkirche.

The square has an intriguing history of reconstruction though, as it was mostly destroyed during World War II. During the city’s tenure as part of East Germany, it was redesigned with Soviet influence.

After reunification, it was again redesigned, but in a way that restored the original, historic look of Neumarkt.

Dresden Transport Museum

12. Dresden Transport Museum

Surprisingly, one of the best things to do in Dresden is to visit the Transport Museum. It might not sound too exciting, but actually, the museum has a fascinating collection of historic vehicles, and there are few other places like it in the world.

You can find steam engines, train carriages, old airplanes and everything else from vintage cars and motorbikes to seemingly ancient bicycles.

Our top recommended tours of Dresden Transport Museum:

Konigstein Fortress in Dresden

13. Konigstein Fortress

A short journey outside of Dresden, you can find one of Saxony’s most fascinating castles. The Konigstein Fortress was built on a tall hilltop overlooking the River Elbe, with a recorded history dating back to the 13th century.

The impressive fortifications you see today were mostly raised in the 16th century to provide a safe haven for the Saxon monarchy.

The high walls offer spectacular views over the countryside around Dresden, while the exhibitions within the fortress will give you an insight into the castle’s history and importance.

Our top recommended tour of Konigstein Fortress: Small-Group Bastei Bridge and Königstein Fortress Day Tour from Dresden

Pillnitz Castle in Dresden

14. Pillnitz Castle

Also on the River Elbe, the Pillnitz Castle is another historic royal residence built by the Saxon monarchy. Dating to the end of the 18th century, Pillnitz is more of a palace than a castle, as it was designed in the iconic Baroque style that you find across Dresden.

The palace overlooks the river and is located outside of Dresden’s center, it makes for a great way to escape the city.

Lina Stock at Saxon Switzerland National Park - Things to do in Dresden

15. Saxon Switzerland National Park

To really escape the city though, one of the best things to do in Dresden is to visit the nearby Saxon Switzerland National Park. Found on the border with the Czech Republic, the national park is known for its spectacular sandstone rock formations and mountains peaks.

There are epic gorges and canyons, jaw-dropping bridges that span craggy outcrops and dense, natural forests to explore. You can easily spend days immersing yourself in this beautiful part of Saxony, but equally, it’s just a short day trip from Dresden too.

Our top recommended tours of Saxon Switzerland National Park:

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15 TOP Things to do in Dresden, Germany


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About David Stock

I have always been an outdoorsman so becoming an adventure traveler was just the next natural step. I love nature, I love to get off the beaten path and I like to explore. I enjoy scuba diving and cars. And yes, Lina and I have a naked dog.

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