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's local cuisine is what one might describe as hearty: sour roast, potato soup, Christmas stolen—those are but of a few of the typical treats of a Saxon kitchen. Good old, tasty, home-cooked food makes you feel like you're right at home with all you need for the perfect feast.
By the late sequences of the Second World War and due to the constraints of the GDR's economy, the traditional recipes were somewhat simplified. But fortunately, a fresh wind has lifted Dresden's cuisine to brand new heights since reunification! The creative use of spices and the development of various new twists anchored on an old theme (the time-old tradition of Saxon gastronomy) replaced a momentary bland repertoire of local dishes into an undeniably modern, cosmopolitan way of life amongst Dresdeners.
This new approach to cooking is particularly pronounced in the popular Dresdner district of Neustadt. This is a multi-cultural quarter, which seems to have grown into the center of all culinary excursions, due to the density of worthy chefs in the area.
In the Äussere Neustadt (Outer New Town) you will stumble across an array of well-known Dresden bars, such as the Havanna Club Bar, Frank's Bar or Studiobar.
If when you make your appearance in these hot-spots, they are crammed wall to wall, fear not, there is still a vast tally of other taverns to choose from whose credentials are by no means limited to the scope of their happy hour.
Should you have an unquenchable weakness for all things French, don't miss a trip to La Vie en Rose. Also, La Rue is worth its salt. It is set up to mimic a French street, complete with Bistro, restaurant, wine cellar and Creperie. Mind you, Italian fans will not go home empty handed either: the temperamental Ristorante Al Capone, the La Casina Rosa or the bistro-like La Pergola is at your service. Indian food is on the menu in the Scheune Café, and in the Raskolnikoff Restaurant you will be treated to a critic's choice fusion mixture of Russian-international cuisine.
Friendly Turkish establishments selling superb lunch dishes seem to be ten a penny and on every corner (Dueruem, Rothenburger Straße or Baguetterieas, Bag's, Louisenstraße); fans of Spanish Tapas will surely meet their match in El Perro Borracho which is situated in the beautiful Kunsthof.
Innumerable small and large Cafés offer the perfect spot to stay and savor a bite to eat or wake up with a coffee. Many of the taverns have a large variety of breakfast and brunch deals on the menu. To be fair, the requirements of your average 'breakfast-crazy' Dresdener, who swarm into the cafes on a Sunday are by no means easy to satisfy. In the Kontinental, in the Blumenau, the Planwirtschaft or in the Café Reale (with a bit of a Buffet) you can celebrate in style and easily get dragged into Dresden's breakfast culture. Part of the Innere Neustadt is characterized by noble, restored buildings and the ambling mile of the Königstraße. Many tourists love to be here and with good reason. Yet it is not just foreigners who enjoy the city's restaurants, such as the Czech Wenzel - Prager Bierstuben or the fine New California and Dresden's many small Italian restaurants dotted about. You will see many a local out for dinner, drinking Cappuccino, eating great big ice-creams or tourists writing postcards. Both the Schwarzmarktcafé or the Eiscafé Venezia are very enjoyable.
A significant tavern scene has also sprung up in the City Centre. Directly above the Shopping mile Prager Straße is Café Börse, which is mostly overfilled. The Barock is also ideal for the >Apres Shopping recovery process. At Zwinger and Semperoper one finds the exotic Busmann's Brazil alongside various other Cafés. The small restaurants owned by the Art'otel in Maxstraße are particularly well fitted-out, as is the Fischgalerie.
Most would agree that students are primarily a pub-going and hard-drinking species and because of this, the university campus is positively riddled with inexpensive facilities. Most central is probably the ale-house Bierstube in der Neuen Mensa and students can also expect to salivate over Hübner's, Müller's and Café B.Liebig.
Directly between Frauenkirche and Elbe is a further maze of gastronomical highlights. In the short Muenzgasse, one of the oldest lanes of the city, one can dine and stroll in beautiful surroundings. In the Café zur Frauenkirche, you are very close to the famous church and its construction and are also spoilt for choice when it comes to both German and French cuisine. Around the Hilton Hotel, you will find the Crêpe Galerie, the Australian-style Ayers Rock, the historical Kleppereck and the rather elegant Ristorante Rossini.
In the summer time it is most beautiful outside! Luckily, there is a sterling choice of beer gardens and catering with outside facilities. It is nice after a trip with the bicycle to restock on calories or to cool yourself with a Radeberger beer! This is possible among others in the Drachen, in the Lindenschänke or in the Fährgarten Johannstadt. The Kahnaletto is a restaurant which one finds not only on the banks of the river Elbe, but also on it! In the picturesque Villa Marie garden, you can see the river rushing and the famous bridge Blaues Wunder, with exquisite Italian cuisine right next door.
That in Dresden people love to celebrate and eat well is no secret. The Bunte Republik Neustadt is a multi-cultural district party at which you'll get mainly an unstrained mixture of international cuisine. The Elbhangfest is popular amongst young and old alike. All along the river Elbe, you can not only drink wine and tuck in to some decent food, but also enjoy all kinds of distractions. In winter, the Striezelmarkt is beautifully romantic, especially at Christmas and at each second stand one can try all sorts of delicious Saxon specialities, have you ever tried a Pflaumentoffel?
First traces of settlements in the area of the Elbe valley go back to the neolithic period. In the 6th century BC Germanic settlers reached the Elbe lowlands and settled temporarily. However, the majority of them left this area one millennium later and so Slavonic tribes took possession of this land peacefully. The Slavonic settlement Drezdany, situated at the place of the present Frauenkirche forms the origins of Dresden's name. Also, the marking of some quarters in Dresden, such as Zschertnitz or Gompitz hark back to its Slavonic roots.
Middle Ages and Renaissance
After 900 AD, the first German settlers came to the area of Dresden, founding the castle of Meißen in order to underline their claim of ownership. The rule of the noble family Wettin, who dominated Saxony's history for the next few centuries, began with Duke Conrad of Wettin in 1123. The first mention of Dresden appearing in a document was in 1206, but it wasn't until 1216 that Dresden was first described as a city. This is also considered to be the founding date. The plague of 1349 is also reported in the chronicle. After the Leipzig separation, Dresden became the residential city of the principality of Saxony, under Prince Albert. The upswing, which was connected with this, allowed for Dresden's expansion. In 1539, the reformation was officially introduced to Saxony. Over the centuries Saxony gradually came to be considered a Protestant principality. In the 16th century, the city walls were reinforced in the face of growing danger from Turk invasion.
Baroque and Rococo For many citizens of Dresden, the period in which the city flourished began in the baroque age, when Dresden became one of Europe's most glamorous royal capitals. The public face of the City was heavily influenced by the erection of an array of buildings by acclaimed architects and the establishment of the Großer Garten. This époque was responsible for some of Dresden's undeniably beautiful buildings such as the Zwinger, Hofkirche or the Taschenbergpalais. Saxony started to gain importance politically and a refined reputation throughout Europe. Prince George III, declared war on the Polish king, Jan Sobieski, and beat the Turks at Vienna, which marked the end of the Muslim invasion in Europe. Moreover, his grandson Friedrich August I, better known as August the Strong, became a well-loved historical personality and his memory grew into a legend that today is common knowledge to every child in Dresden. Reasons for his fame are his dissolute lifestyle, his reputation with women, and his alleged strength. August the Strong soon came to power and in order to secure the crown of Poland, and changed his creed from Protestant to Roman Catholic. August succeeded and became August II, King of Poland, in 1697. The union of Saxony and Poland lasted until 1763, and this period is nowadays called the Augustian Age. In this era, great developments took place, particularly in the fields of economy and culture. For example, the alchemist Johann Freidrich Böttcher invented European-style porcelain in 1709; the first European porcelain enterprise was founded only one year later, in 1710. Meißen porcelain is today a brand of international fame. In the art world, the Green Cave (or "Grünes Gewölbe"), the world famous jewelery collection, was founded. During the Seven Years War, Dresden was attacked by Prussian cannons and suffered heavy damage. The Prince and his ministers fled to Poland.
Finally, in 1763, August the Strong died. His estate, baroque Dresden, with its French and Italian influences, proved to be one of Europe's leading and most beautiful residential cities. Dresden was also dubbed the Florence of the Elbe at this time.
Under the rule of August III, Saxony became a Kingdom through an act of mercy by Napoleon. After Napoleon was defeated in 1813, the Saxon King became prisoner and a Russian governor ruled Dresden until the Congress of Vienna in 1815. In the age of industrialization, Saxony took a leading position within Germany. In 1835, the Dresden-born professor Johann Andreas Schubert constructed the first German locomotive. Saxony's infrastructure was characterized by excellence, thanks to the new railroad and steamships. The waves of the 1848 revolution reached the city with many terrible consequences. In the uprisings of May 1849, bloody battles were fought and the skirmish ended with a monarchist victory. The famous composer Richard Wagner took part in these fights. He escaped from the city after the defeat of the rebels.
With the foundation of the German Empire, Saxony lost its political independence, yet Dresden remained a city of central importance in Germany. At the turn of the last century, Dresden blossomed into a metropolis with 517,000 inhabitants by 1905. During World War I, Dresden escaped damage. The November Revolution of 1918 led to the end of the monarchy, and the last Saxon King, Friedrich, was forced to abdicate. Dresden became the capital of the federal state of Saxony in the interim between the wars. By 1930, 632,710 people lived in the city.
In contrast to other German cities, Dresden did not see Allied bombs until 1945. This created the impression amongst citizens that Dresden would escape air raids due to its international reputation. On the eve of the destruction, many additional refugees from the eastern parts of Germany had flooded into the city. Neither war-important industry nor air defense was based in Dresden. On 13th February, at 10:13pm, the first bombs were dropped on the Saxon capital. In different waves of attack, British and American Bombers dropped more than 3,000 tons of explosives on Dresden in a space of fourteen hours. The result was disastrous. It is estimated that approximately 35,000 people were killed in the firestorm. Buildings of great historical and cultural value were lost. The Florence of the Elbe, one of the most beautiful cities in Germany, was destroyed in just one night.
Reconstruction and Socialism Under Soviet military command, the survivors began to rebuild the city. According to the new GDR government, the rise of a Socialist metropolis was planned, not the reconstruction of the baroque ensemble. Some of the historical sights like Semperoper, Zwinger or Hofkirche were reconstructed. But on the other hand, a handful of ugly, concrete buildings were established, especially in Johannstadt. Later, the authorities started to build this kind of housing along the outskirts of the city. Gorbitz and Prohlis are examples of this period. The Communist rulers neglected the reconstruction of the only lightly-damaged part of the inner city. The Neustadt and the Hechtviertel remained run-down quarters of the city until reunification.
The political change and present time With the political change in 1989 and the ensuing German reunification, Dresden was on the brink of a new era. In but one decade, many new buildings were commissioned, others reconstructed, particularly in the inner city. Conservation of old buildings was given priority and as a result, Dresden appears in new glamour ten years after the reunification. Of course, some mistakes were made in the dynamic process of reconstruction. Yet Dresden continues its glorious past as the capital of the re-established federal state of Saxony!
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.