Saxony's capital Dresden is located in what once was called Valley of the Clueless; as the city is encircled by mountains and hills, the signals of the West German TV stations never seemed to reach Saxony's antennas, forcing them to watch the propaganda programs the Socialist party had hatched up for them. Once an important cultural and commercial metropolis featuring Germany's then most impressive architecture, Dresden was practically wiped out over two nights of air raids in February, 1945. The city has recently undergone much renovation and is now reaching the splendor it once had. Nowadays, it is marked by hard contrasts: most of the famous buildings have been restored or rebuilt from scratch; the Neustadt, formerly a beggars' quarter, is flourishing to a surprising extent; various parks and recreational areas contribute to its beauty. However, the city is not without its bad districts. While these contrasts have clearly been typical of German cities since World War II, one is inclined to claim that majesty and deformity are scarcely as close to each other as in Dresden. It almost seems as if each side was the prerequisite to its counterpart.
Located in the city's very north, Hellerau is a quarter you might be predisposed to miss, but it's definitely worth a visit, being the first German "Garden Town." Its founding originates in Karl Schmitz's commitment to the city's plans, begun in 1907. Luckily enough, the remote district had not been a target for Allied bombers in 1945, and remains a popular destination to this day.
Dresden's most impressive bridge, the "
Driving from Bühlau towards Dresden's inner districts, one should look out for the automatic speed cameras. On a lighter note, the tiny yet appealing district
By far Dresden's most lively district, the Outer Neustadt is the area to the northeast of Albertplatz. Originally an economically and culturally unimportant poor man's quarter, it was neglected by British and American bombers in World War II. The city's catastrophe became the Neustadt's opportunity to gain attention - although the quarter continued to deteriorate after the War, young folks and bohemian artists took over the neighborhood and deeply influenced the character it now has. Some of the pubs and clubs that had emerged during the Communist regime, like the
Heading west from Albertplatz, the splendid
Crossing Augustusbrücke (Augustus's Bridge) from here, the wonderful sight of Dresden's lovely silhouette - the famous
A stones' throw south of the main station, the university quarter unfolds. As Dresden University of Technology has no single campus, its facilities and institutes are widely spread over several districts, though the administrative center and the majority of academic buildings are situated around the Nürnberger Platz. Opposite the newly constructed Auditorium Center (
Dresden, the capital of the federal state Saxony is an excellent stay not only because of the baroque atmosphere of the city, but also as you are sure of luxurious and comfortable lodgings. In this field, Dresden, with its numerous boroughs, offers places to stay of all shapes and sizes. The scope ranges from a small room in a pension to a luxurious suite in a first-class hotel. That means there is a bed for the night for every taste and for every budget.
Those who land at the airport in Klotzsche can find several hotels and pensions in the surrounding area. A good stop for tired travellers is the Pension Schmiedeschänke on Boltenhagener Street. Those who would prefer the comfort of a first-class-hotel are exactly at the right address with the Best Western Airport Hotel with its numerous rooms and suites. It is only a short way from the airport to this four-star hotel.
The Holiday Inn Dresden and the Comfort Hotel are also situated not far from the airport, but rather closer to the city-center. The neighboring hotels supplement each other perfectly with their special services. The traveler can, for example, explore the city by bike or make use of the hotel-run shuttle bus service. The Park Plaza Hotel, also in this area, is particularly notable first and foremost for its interior design. The hotel's in-house restaurant and pub mean that it is a popular choice for guests who plan to stay in town a bit longer. In Neustadt visitors to Dresden find themselves in the heart of the action. It is but a stone's throw to the main district for all the bars, restaurants and cafes. Nevertheless, being sufficiently out of the way, the hotels in this region can still guarantee a quiet night's rest. Good options in the area are: Hotel Ingeburg, the Astron Hotel Dresden or the Hotel Tulip Inn.
There is also a good smattering of cheaper lodgings to be found in this borough such as Pension Edith or Hotel-Pension Ermitage. Those who want to stay in Dresden for next to nothing and aren't fussed if a few creature comforts are lacking can always find a place to sleep in the youth-orientated hotel Die Boofe or the hostel Mondpalast. If you are planning a slightly lengthier trip to Dresden it is possible to rent an apartment (varying sizes available) in the Hotel Martha-Hospiz or the Apart Hotel Akzent. Many a worthwhile hotel is hidden in the narrow streets of Neustadt. One special address is the Bülow Residenz Hotel Dresden. The establishment is enchanting just for its façade but the inner court is also fascinating. The Hotel Martha-Hospiz is reputedly the oldest place to stay in Dresden and stands out due to its selection of rooms fitted for disabled people. Furthermore, a visit to the nearby ethnic restaurant In the potato cellar should not be neglected.
People who arrive by train at the station Neustadt only have to walk a few metres to check into the Hotel Bayerischer Hof Dresden. Due to the individual care for its guests, this 4-star hotel proves that smaller establishments do have a lot to offer. Hotel am Terrassenufer and the Westin Bellevue are both popular with guests due to their positioning-right on the river Elbe. Both hotels offer a high degree of comfort coupled with a tremendous view over the river and the skyline of the old city of Dresden.
Of course there is ample opportunity to find accommodation in the heart of the old city. Do you fancy staying next to the Frauenkirche? Then the Hilton is exactly the right address for you. Or, should you prefer something really grand, there's always the former residence of the Countess Cosel, the Kempinski Taschenbergpalais! Both hotels pamper their guests with all the mod cons and fabulous facilities. The art'otel is another very comfortable hotel with a certain artistic flair, situated next to the Zwinger. The guests here also have the advantage of being close to the city centre.
Another luxury-hotel is the Gewandhaus Hotel Dresden at Pirnaische Square. Its exterior appearance is striking and guests here can relax in the beautiful rooms and suites in the style of Biedermeier.
On the shopping mile, the Prager Street, the range of hotels is so wide that really every traveller can find the perfect place to stay. The Ibis Hotel Dresden itself has three huge blocks containing no less than 306 rooms apiece! In addition, there is the Hotel Mercure Newa Dresden, considered by many as the key to the city. This is partly due to its proximity to the city's main train station but first and foremost because of the special way in which the hotel introduces Dresden. Loschwitz & White Stark
People who attach less importance to the distance to the city-centre, yet pay attention to stylish accommodation in the city's exclusive residential districts should look for a hotel or pension in the boroughs Loschwitz or White Stark. Pension Andreas and the Hotel Am Blauen Wunder are both situated next to the Blaues Wunder (literally, 'Blue wonder'), a huge metal bridge. If you walk over the bridge, you will also find Gästehaus Loschwitz or the Pension Landhaus Maria. Meanwhile, Hotel Schöne Aussicht does business from the banks of the river Elbe. Indeed the name of the establishment somehow lets the cat out of the bag as to the hotel's main merit, meaning 'A beautiful view'. You really have a wonderful view from here over the valley of the Elbe. Other hotels lucky enough to be situated in the exclusive residential district of White Stark are the Hotel Villa Emma (directly on the heath in Dresden) as well as the Pension Arcade and the Hotel-Pension Zu den Linden. Booking into any accommodation in this area is a passport to a quiet location and a view of impressive villas.
The absolute highlight on the banks of the river Elbe is Hotel Schloss Eckberg. This luxury-hotel is a true fairy-tale castle and turns every stay in Dresden into a special event.
A stroll through the Old Town (Altstadt), which lies in close proximity to the River Elbe, is the best place to catch your first glimpse of Dresden and its many attractions. The main highlights are all located within a radius of less than one kilometer.
The Zwinger, our starting point, and also one of the tour's high points, is arguably the symbol of Dresden. Originally built in the 18th century as the architectural setting for a courtly festival, the ensemble, with its modern sculptures, remains unique today. The Zwinger courtyard was closed in 1855 when a museum building was erected, designed by Gottfried Semper.
The art gallery of the old masters, which is home to the world famous Sistine Madonna by Rafael (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister) is especially worth a visit.
Once you leave the Zwinger behind, you come across the Theaterplatz. Without doubt, this is one of Europe's most beautiful squares; the buildings which back onto it are spectacular. Amongst them are the Semper Opera House, the Italian miniature village, the Schinkelwache, the Hofkirche, and the Royal Castle, the Residenzschloss. If you can't manage to get hold of the highly-sought-after opera tickets, there is always the possibility of embarking on a tour of the magnificent Semper Opera House. After the tour, take the opportunity to put your feet up and have a breather in one of the coffee houses, found in the Schinkelwache and the Italian village. Fully revitalized, you should not knock back the chance to visit the newly renovated castle, which belongs to the Hausmann Tower. From the top of the tower's platform, the view over the old town roofs and the neighboring St. Trinitatsis Cathedral is quite breathtaking. In the former court church, which is a baroque gem, the heart of Saxony's most famous ruler, August the Great, is stored.
Across the castle square steps lead to a terrace the Brühlschen Terrasse. The terrace, named after Earl Brühl, is often referred to as the Balcony of Europe. From up here you can look out over Dresden, from the paddlesteamer on the Elbe, the Schaufelraddampfer, to the new town and the Japanese palace, the log cabin and the town chambers. A small passage then leads away from the terrace to one of Dresden's most famous buildings, the Women's Church - Frauenkirche. Until German reunification, the building served as a reminder of the destruction caused in war. This Protestant place of worship is now being rebuilt with extraordinary public sympathy. One should certainly not leave Dresden without visiting this wonderful building.
A wander through the Münzgasse will take you past many restaurants, and for those who aren't too exhausted there is always the option of turning back to the terrace. Follow the tourist route past the Academy of Art, but don't go into the Albertinum. This assortment of museums, galleries, sculpture and coin collections and the Grünen Gewölbe - the legendary treasure chest of August The Great - should be saved for another outing, when you can devote an entire day to being there.
The final stop-off on this tour could be a visit to another architectural delight. Just yards away from the Albertinum and the Brühlschen Terrasse lies the New Dresden Synagogue. This synagogue was built very close to the spot where the original Jewish synagogue once stood; it was destroyed by Nazis in November 1938.
Should you have worked through all of Dresden's main attractions: the Semper Opera House, Zwinger and the Women's Church, turn your attention to exploring the hidden parts of the Old Town. The castle square leads off to the other side of the Elbe. The August Bridge, which stretches across the river, was built between 1907 and 1910. From the bridge, the panorama of the old town is amazing and not just for those who appreciate fine architecture. On the new town side of the river, you'll stumble across the gold-plated statue of August the Great (the Golden Rider), which was built in 1736. He invites you on a ride - or rather, a walk - through the new town. The Neustädter Markthalle, in which we now find ourselves, bears no resemblance to the famous Dresden Platz, which stood here before the First World War. The entire substance of the building fell victim to bombing in February 1945.
The Neustädter Markthalle and the tree-lined street (formerly Liberation Street) leading from the Markt to a boulevard of shops and delicious eateries were reconstructed during the 1970's. On the way to Albertplatz you pass the street's only remaining historic town houses. In one of the most beautifully restored buildings, you will find the small but fine museum of the Dresden early-Romantic period. The Three Kings Church, Dreikönigskirche, is just a stone's throw away from this museum. Between 1990 and 1992, the church was rebuilt following its destruction during the war and today it serves not only as a place of worship but also as a multi-functional church. Among other things, the Sachsen parliament (regional legislature) met here between 1990 and 1992.
If you have time, it really is worthwhile to take a look down the neighboring streets, which lead off from the left-hand side. The inner Neustadt has experienced something of a renaissance over the last 10 years, with the likes of Obergraben, Heinrichstrasse and Rähnitzgasse. After decades of dilapidation, the baroque-style buildings have finally been restored and brought back to life by a fresh assortment of shops, galleries and restaurants. The same goes for the Königstrasse, an adjoining street, which has been hailed as the new noble mile of Dresden.
Along this street, you will find just about everything that is new and expensive! From designer rags to Meissen china - you will find it all here. If you need a little something to eat at this point, there is a wide choice: from Wallgässchen, which cooks California-style, to the less traditional Wenzel, a Czech restaurant located on the Königstraße. For those who still have a thirst for culture there is always the Societätstheater, a small and relatively young theater, situated in the courtyard between Hauptstraße and Rähnitzgasse. The varied program offers national and international theater productions, as well as dance pieces.
From here, we march in the direction of Albertplatz. Once the home of two luxurious wells, Albertplatz is now, above all, a traffic junction. However, just north of it lies the liveliest area of Dresden, the Äussere Neustadt. The area is home to many pubs, which cover an area of around one square kilometer. In order to really discover Neustadt you need hours, if not days. If you don't have this kind of time on your hands, then you should at least take a walk down the Alaunstrasse, or the Loisenstrasse, which crosses Alaunstrasse at a right angle. Stop at one of the many cafes, bars or pubs along the way. In the Alaunstrasse for instance you may like to pay a visit to Scheunecafé, La Vie en Rose, or El Perro Borracho, which can be found in the wonderfully-decorated Kunsthofpassage. Historically speaking, Martin-Luther-Platz, which lies in the east of this quarter, is extremely interesting. At the heart of the square you will find the Martin-Luther Kirche. Very close to the old Jewish cemetery, and rather a sudden contrast in the program, is Pfund's Dairy, which prides itself as being the most beautiful dairy in the world! After you have had a stroll around the shop and maybe purchased a piece of cheese or two, you can take the tram-line number 11 all the way back into the town center.
Dresden, on one hand the baroque art and culture city, on the other hand a young city with numerous attractions, presents a very high entertainment value for all age groups. It is perfect if you are a typical city-hopper but also should you like to install yourself somewhere for several weeks: the experience-hungry are guaranteed superb entertainment for all occasions.
A search for Dresden's representation of world-cinema can be narrowed down to but one special theater, the Ufa Kristallpalast. It might have the right to boast some of Germany's most exciting architecture: the asymmetric, glass-front extends towards the sky, a disputed work of art created out of concrete and a great deal of glass. What the big screen offers here is, however, nothing particularly out of the ordinary. The repertoire includes Hollywood mainstream, once a week a surprise film, and the odd independently-made film. Similar programs run in the city's other two multiplex cinemas, the Bofimax and the UCI Kinowelt. All three have got some reputable taverns and cafés in direct proximity. The Schauburg is somewhat smaller, yet this is perhaps the cinema with the biggest cult acclaim. It is situated directly in the tavern quarter and is a good starting point for a post-movie evening out. Here you can catch commercial and lesser-known or classic films. The Casablanca, the Kino am Hauptbahnhof or the Programmkino Ost all show films of similar genres.
For those who love the theater, Dresden is a veritable melting pot: the Schauspielhaus shows modern productions of classic pieces and other well-known plays. In the TIF-Theater in der Fabrik, however, things tend to be a little louder and more risqué. Modern pieces address the problems of modern society and the distinctly out of the ordinary. The Schlosstheater captivates audiences with its beautiful backdrop, the Residenzschloss. This stage's program is, more often than not, original and alternative. If you prefer to laugh in a more cordial fashion, you should head for the Komödie Dresden, the Kabarett Herkuleskeule or the Theaterkahn Dresdner Brettl. Local comedians will surely make you laugh with their Saxon wit.
Dresden's nightlife has its roots in one main area: the district of Dresden Neustadt. Nowhere else in Dresden will you stumble across such a concentrated mass of bars, inspired taverns and cafés. Houses dating from courtly times with colorful, daubed walls and graffiti-decorated buildings characterize this area where the bars and a handful of clubs have made their home. The Scheune Café, for example, is the perfect prelude for an evening out. This establishment covers all eventualities: the ground floor offers delightful Indian cuisine, while guests return later on to dance the night away on the upper floors to alternative and electronic music. You can get your hands on inexpensive and delicious fodder to suit both large and small appetites at Pizzeria Al Capone, Café Europa or Café Reale. When visiting the likes of the Blumenau or Raskolnikoff Restaurant, it's usually better if you arrive early, otherwise it's standing-room only! Here, it gets crowded at the drop of a hat, as these well-publicized taverns are two favorites of Dresden's party-goers.
Why not move on to a few cocktails at Mona Lisa, the Studiobar or the plush Déjà vu? Or perhaps partake in a glass of a wine at the Leonardo, the cozy cellar of Die 100 or in the Italian Alimentari?
For the more serious night reveler, dancing is next on the program! Whether you are looking for an alternative experience in the AZ Conni, a fun evening in the funky Down Town or something with a bit more style, in Schleuder Bar Room. There is something suitable for every taste and budget. Fans of Brit Pop should stop off at riesa efau or the Brit-Parade. If you prefer a stunning open-air garden party (in the summer months) you should venture to Saloppe.
Guitar music prevails in the Star Club and at Groove Station (directly beside Down Town). Untiring techno fans should stop by the Straße E and note the dates of their annual Boundless Party in the Showboxx or in the Kühlhaus. The Alter Schlachthof, however, stages alternating techno parties, expertly mixing the big names with newcomers.
One can experience summertime nightlife of another type altogether with the Nachtskaten: view Dresden's most beautiful buildings right across the city as part of a large group on roller skates!
To receive an overview about events, check out the following sites: www.sz-online.de, www.cybersax.de or, especially for parties, www.technoidz.de.