Dresden is one of the best places to visit in Germany, or so said my then German boyfriend (now fiancé). On one of my first visits to Germany, I wasn’t convinced that we needed to drive over 500km to visit this place in northeast Germany, when I was sure there were other lovely places much closer in southwest Germany, where I was visiting him in Stuttgart. But off we went, my curiosity peaked that he insisted on taking me so far to a city I had never heard of.
And despite my grumbling, and now having seen a lot more of Germany, I have to agree that Dresden is one of the best places to visit in Germany because:
Royal Palace in the Historic Center of Dresden
1. Architecture in Dresden: Dresden is the capital of the state of Saxony and was the former royal residence. Walking through Old Town Dresden surrounded by ornate baroque buildings, I could see how Dresden earned the nickname “Jewel Box.” If being a member of the royal family meant surrounding yourself with ornate buildings, and museums, I thought I would have adapted rather well.
The FrauenKirche (Church of Our Lady), Dresden's Most Famous Landmark that was completely destroyed in WWII and rebuilt using as much of the remains as possible. Reconstruction costs were ~ €100 million, most of which came from donations. The dark stones are the original stones.
Dresden after WWII bombing. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
2. Bombing of Dresden in WWII: The bombing of Dresden in which 85% of the historic city center was bombed might not seem like a good reason to visit Dresden, but I would disagree. Seeing the pictures after Dresden was bombed is devastating, knowing that 25,000 people were killed and learning that it was one of the most controversial bombings of WWII adds further to the devastation. But, when you compare the photos to what Dresden looks like today and how Dresden is once again a vibrant cultural and education hub, I see it as a sign of hope and a stellar example of what can be accomplished by a group of determined citizens.
Zwinger in Dresden's historic city center
3. Dresden Elbe Valley is the Only Site in Europe to Lose Its UNESCO Status: And only the second site in the world! All because a bridge was built too close to the historic center. Despite this, I believe it is deserving of UNESCO status and I’m a sucker for most things with a UNESCO status – even if it has been revoked.
Elbe Sandstone Mountains near Dresden. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
4. The Surrounding Area from Dresden is Begging to Be Explored: It’s not just Dresden that is interesting, but also the surrounding area. I counted 17 different castles/ruins all within a couple of hours drive from Dresden (very rough estimate), there’s the Elbe River in which you can explore the Dresden Basin, and the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, which comprise one of Germany’s few national parks. I plan to go back to Dresden at some point, just to explore the surrounding area.
Crown Gate at the Zwinger. Imagine how easy this must have made giving directions "Meet me by the gate with the crown."
5. Dresden Hasn’t Been Largely Discovered by Tourists Outside of Europe: Make no mistake, Dresden does have a lot of tourists, but most of them are from Germany and Russia and we spotted quite a few Italian tourists as well, but I only heard a handful of tourists speaking English. I hadn’t heard of Dresden before, and I know a lot of my Canadian friends hadn’t heard of it before either. I love “discovering” a new place – even if I had some help in doing so.
Have you been to Dresden or heard of it?
For more info on Dresden see: Dresden Tourism