Dresden is a city with two different faces- you have the bombastic baroque beauty of the Aldstadt and then you have the grungy alternative feel of the Neustadt.
48 hours in the city gives you enough time to explore these two great but very different sides to this fantastic city.
Top tip: The city has an excellent transport network. If you are blessed with good weather and have good walking shoes it is possible to walk around all the key sights. In colder weather you will probably have stay more indoors, visit many of the city’s excellent museums- in this case I would recommend investing in the Dresden 2 day city card ( €26) which gives you unlimited use of their transport networks and free entry to the city’s museums.
10am: Walk up Prager Strasse
Starting point for my adventure was the Hauptbahnhof. Walk up Prager Strasse which is a hub of all the big clothing brands and fast food chains. The futuristically designed Shopping Zone is the centrepiece and worth popping in for some quality window shopping.
12pm : Saxon potato soup lunch at Aha
Inner Aldstadt is packed with mostly expensive cafes and restuarants –avoid these and pop into Aha: fair trade store and café. The coffee is excellent here and the food too. I would recommend trying the local Saxon speciality they make here- Potato Soup with sausages. Garnished with beansprouts and sunflower seeds and served with a hunk of rye bread-this was one of the best soups I have ever tasted. Plus a very generous portion size keeps you going for the day.
Cost: €4.90 ( Without sausages, €3.90 )
Fortified by the soup , I walk out and a few hundred yards north bringing me to the glorious edifice of Frauenkirche. Reduced to rubble in WW2 bombing, the church lied in ruins during the GDR times as a reminder of the horror and painful consequences of war. After the fall of the wall it was rebuilt , wherever possible using the original bricks of the church. Atop the beautiful cupola is a cross with a special story – it was designed by Englishmen whose grandfather was part of the 1945 Allied air raid on the city.
Tip: Avoid the expensive €8 entry fee to climb to the top of the Frauenkirche. You can admire an equally impressive view of the city from the church tower of the nearby Kreuzkirche which I visited for as little as €2.50.
Top tip: If you time your visit to Dresden over the weekend, do pop into the Kreuzkirche for their 9:30am Sunday service here where you can listen to one of the world’s oldest boys choirs ( 700 years old) for free.
2pm: Wonder aimlessly in Old Town and admire the architecture
One of the best things to do in Dresden Aldstadt is to just drift freely and soak in the beautiful baroque architecture. It’s nothing short of a miracle given how the city was carpet bombed by Allied forces , completely reducing the city to rubble by Allied forces. ( Killing thousands of people in the process..such a sad story )
So, what you see in front of your eyes is a complete reconstruction.
One of the highlights of the walk around the Aldstadt is a stroll up Augustusstrasse to admire the ‘Furstenzug’ : the world’s largest porcelain mural. Created by alchemist, Johann Friedrich Bottger , the mural depicts the 35 princes, counts and kings from the House of Wettin.
2:30pm: Stopover at the ‘Balcony of Europe.’
Head to the top of the Renaissance Fort to walk along Bruhlsche Terrace to have birds eye view of the ‘Balcony of Europe.’ The terrace is also home to the Albertinum where you can wonder in the Bruhlsche Garden and also check out the two museums: the New Masters Gallery and the collection of Sculptures.
Built in Rococo style and designed by court architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann, the Zwinger is one of the most beautiful buildings you will see in Dresden and indeed anywhere on your travels in Germany.
Previously a festival arena and an orangery, today the Zwinger serves as museum complex that contains the Old Masters Picture Gallery (where you can admire Raphael’s Sistine Madonna up close ), the Dresden Porcelain Collection (Porzellansammlung) and the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon
A combined ticket to see all three costs €10 but you get in for free with the Dresden City Card.
Note: It’s free to explore the beautiful grounds of the Zwinger and admire it’s fountain studded courtyard.
4pm: ‘Elbwiesen’: THE view of Dresden
Cross the river and head to the Elbwiesen -‘Elbe Meadows.’ I’m a big fan of Canaletto and his beautiful Venetian landscape paintings so it was great to discover that his nephew and painter Bernardo Bellotto (who also signed his paintings in his uncle’s name) was a frequent visitor to the city. He left behind some great paintings of Dresden which serve as a memory of how beautiful the city looked before the grave destruction of the city in World War II. None of his paintings are more memorable than his view of Dresden’s Old Town from the Elbe meadows on the river’s north bank. So, once you cross the river do stop at the meadows for a quick photo opportunity of that view. You can see the painting at the Old Masters Gallery in the Zwinger. Also in the summer, the Elbe’s meadows on the north bank are packed with sun worshippers and given the glorious day, this was the perfect place for me to chill and have a mini-picnic.
I had popped into the local REWE supermarket earlier to pick up the local Radeberger Pilsner , Spanish salsa crisps …
Tip: If you are visiting July and August, there is an open air film festival held here on the banks called the ‘Filmnachte Am Elbufer’ plus they hold a number of concerts here too.
Cost of REWE mini-picnic: € 3.60
Off to Neustadt
After a lazy few hours in the Elbe Meadows, I headed off to the Neustadt which is actually the oldest part of Dresden and is more than 800 years old. It has a very cool, grungy and alternative feel to it. Tons of character, interesting shops and cool bars make this one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Germany.
6pm: Evening beers and live music at Bon Voyage
Thanks to a tip from a friendly local I headed to Bon Voyage- a very cool bar in Dresden Neustadt. Free wifi was excellent & they have a nice selection of beers. Every evening they have live ( sometimes free) acts ranging from live bands to house, electronic & hiphop DJ sets so this was a nice few hours spent.
Cost 2 Radeberger Pils: €5.80
I love these retro, B/W photo kiosks in Berlin and glad to discover one in Louisenstraase in the Neustadt. After a few beers, this was the perfect place for some photo-fun.
Cost: Just €2 for 4 photos.
8:30pm : Dinner at Doner Kebab Haus. Rothenburger Strasse 41
Neustadt has a bunch of Turkish doner places but this one is a cut above the rest.
My halloumi doner Kebab set me back €3.50 but with the salad they stuffed into the pita , this snack easily feeds 2 people.
10am: A walk around Neustadt
I spent the morning getting away from the jam of tourists in the Aldstadt and headed straight to the Neustadt.
I wanted to just go for an aimless ramble and discover more about this cool neighbourhood.
If you love your punk or electronic music, a visit to Head Shop and Record Store is a must.
The store is a quirky mix with shishas, tobacco and rolling paper being sold at the front while in the back, you can shift through their excellent collection of vinyl. It’s a good place to get to find out what’s happening in the local live music scene with a bunch of flyers and posters in the shop.
Here’s a few more pictures from my morning ramble around the lively crossing between Alaunstrase and Louisenstrase
2pm: Lunch: Curry & Co
Winner in the national currywurst competition Curry & Co is no ordinary currywurst bistro.
You have a choice of 6 sauces ranging from their self made peanut sauce to jalapeño cheese. Like me you can choose from the economy package (€3.80) with fries or if you’re looking for something extra you can upgrade to ‘First Class’ ( €8.90) where you are served prosecco with your currywurst- great concept.
The Kunshofpassage just off Gorlitzerstrasse in Neustadt is a hidden maze of backyards that have been redeveloped and now houses a number of artsy cool handicraft shops, a garden store, a shop that sells tea and also the Hofcafe-a wine and cafe bar ( In picture below)
It’s a beautiful place to visit anytime of the year & perfect for finding cool unusual gifts.
A particular favourite of mine personally was visiting Schlubaden and meeting the owner Antje who kindly showed me around. It’s the kind of shop for discovering all kinds of wonderful things that you would not find anywhere.
Antje’s father was a carpenter and the bug of crafting beautiful things with wood has been passed onto her. Everywhere around the shop (which also doubles up as her workshop) I could see beautifully handmade birdhouses and lots of pieces of driftwood that she has sculpted and turned into beautiful coat hooks.
4pm: Eis Eis baby- Tiki Bar
Serving locals since 1966, Neumann family during the GDR times were responsible for 100% of the diet ice cream production in the socialist east. It was a hot day so I really enjoyed cooling down with this combo of yoghurt blueberry & coconut chocolate.
Cost: €2. Bonus: Excellent free wifi too.
5pm : More drifting around the Neustadt
Loved walked around here.
Here are some more pictures from my ramble.
7:30pm: Kinh Do
The inner Aldstadt has a few touristy traps but you can’t go wrong with Kinh Do which is probably one of the best Vietnamese diners in Dresden.
I had been looking for a bar to watching the Champions League semi final between Bayern Munich and Barcelona and with all the bars being rammed with Bayern supporters I found this restaurant comparatively less crowded and showing the game on a small screen in the corner. Quick glance at the food being served and the happy faces of diners gave me some degree of confidence. I wasn’t really hungry, so I went for their Pho Beef noodle soup. Was delicious. Service was good and for the price of €5, I couldn’t complain.
9:30pm: Blue Note
I end the evening and my 48 hours in Dresden with a few beers at Blue Note- a local institution where everyday for 13 years people have poured in from 8pm for a daily dose of live music listening to everything from soul, funk to jazz and bebop. Best thing is that most concerts are free to enter.
Cost: Radeberger Pills €2.80
Tip: Still a student? How about a night at the Opera for 10 euros
One of the great traditions and highlights of Dresden is a visit to the stunning Semper Opera. A limited number of tickets are available for schoolchildren and students (valid ID required and under 27 years) for purchase from the 15th of the month for subsequent performances at a price of 10 euros.
Also if you are unlucky not to be in Dresden around the 15th of the month but lucky to be a student , if you arrive 30 minutes before the performance, subject to availability, tickets are offered at a discounted price of 11 euros.
Where to stay in Dresden
There is a lack of good quality budget accommodation in Dresden and the best places tend to get booked up pretty quickly so always book in advance.
I stayed at the DJH Dresden Jugendherberge- it’s clean, comfortable and in a good location just 2 stops by tram from the Railway Station. Buffet breakfast was excellent and sets you up nicely for the day.
Lack of free internet is a drawback.
Bed in a dorm is pricey at €26.25 and if you are travelling solo, definitely worth upgrading to the ensuite, single rooms for the €10 extra. If you are travelling as a couple or with a friend, choose the twin room option you pay a €4 surcharge on top of the €26.25 base rate, per person, per night.
How to get there
Dresden is just a 2 and 1/2 hour ride from Berlin and booking via Bahn.de you can get fares as low as €35.
Or alternatively , Dresden has it’s own airport which is served by airlines like Lufthansa, Germanwings and Air Berlin.
Total cost of trip
2 nights at DJH Dresden Jugendherberge: €62.50
2 day Dresden City card : €26
Lunch at Aha: €4.90
Zwinger: €Free with Dresden card
REWE mini-picnic: € 3.60
Beers at Bon Voyage: €5.80
Photos at Fotokiste: €2
Dinner at Doner Kebab Haus: €3.50
Lunch at Curry & Co. €3.80
Yoghurt blueberry & Coconut chocolate icecream at Tiki Bar: €2
Pho at Kinh Do: €5
Beers at Blue Note: €2.80
If visiting the Zwinger and other museums is not a priority on your list, you could just go for the daily Dresden 1 day travel pass for €5.50 , saving you €15 over the 2 days.
Big thanks to Julia Brendler and the Dresden Marketing Board for their support during my stay and also the German National Tourism Office , their partners for the ‘Youth Hotspots’ campaign – Jugendherberge : The German Youth Hostelling Association and Deutsche Bahn for sponsoring my ‘German Wanderlust’ tour.
I’m toured Germany as part of an effort to highlight and discover the country’s emerging ‘Youth Hotspots.’
Find out more about these hotspots at their website , feel free to add your own and also do download their free youth hotspots app that is now available on the Apple Store & Android Store .
Please note: While my trip has been sponsored, the views and thoughts represented in this article are my own.