How to spend 24 hours in Dresden
Friday, 03. October 2014, 14:41
In English-speaking circles, its name conjures images of dreariness and tragedy. But Dresden - a city shaped by kings, communists and artists - has reinvented itself once again.
Its position on a gentle bend in the Elbe has made Dresden a cross roads for East, West and everything in between.
Today, its New Town attracts those tired of rising Berlin rents, while its small, historic centre of Old Town feels more like a mini-Munich (albeit much less pricey) with palaces, churches and museums reborn from the ashes of World War II destruction and communist neglect.
The massive rebuilding project which restored Dresden to its historic high is recent.
The city’s Frauenkirche, with its famous dome, was only consecrated in 2005 after a campaign to rebuild it began in 1990. Rising from a huge square in the middle of Old Town called Neumarkt, a climb to the top of the dome (€8) offers the best views of the city and a great starting point.
Look north-east towards the river and you will see the doomed roof of the Academy of Fine Arts. Opposite that you’ll see the Albertinum, one of the finest of Dresden’s 44 museums, which also include the very Teutonic sounding German Hygiene Museum.
The capital of Saxony's greatest attractions, however, lie west of the Frauenkirche around the seat of its former royal power, the Residenzschloss (Royal Palace).
The area around the Residenz matches anything larger European cities can offer in terms of Renaissance beauty.
Visitors to Dresden have two sets of people to thanks for this – the royal family of Saxony who made Dresden their capital - and those who have funded and rebuilt the destroyed historic quarter since the 1990s.
The Residenz’s Historisches Grünes Gewölbe (Historic Green Vault) is a testament to the taste and ambition of the Saxon Royal Family and the rebuilding efforts.
It reopened in 2006 and its ten rooms (entry €12) each have a different theme, starting with amber, passing through ivory and reaching their zenith in the jewellery room.
Although much of the original collection was lost or destroyed forever by war, it is one the finest collections of royal treasure in central Europe.
Completing the great architecture of Old Town is the Semper Opera House and Zwinger Palace. Zwinger used to form part of the city’s walls but it is now host to three museums as well as a park and playground.
This area forms the core of Dresden’s Baroque skyline which was captured in the 19th Century by Bernardo Bellotto.
But Dresden does far more than Royal remembrance.
In the New Town on the north bank of the Elbe river, there are strips of bars as lively as those in Berlin.
The average age in the Neustadt neighbourhood is 32 and the streets are littered with students, beer bottles and bicycles.
Between Old and New Town is the Elbe river valley, a Unesco World Heritage Site until 2009, when the United Nations body stripped the city of its title over a new bridge project which they deemed too ugly.
The Waldschlösschen Bridge eventually opened in August 2013 and its Unesco loss has hardly put visitors off.
Tourism to the city, measured in the number of overnight stays, is steadily growing at around three percent a year with four million recorded in 2013.
That makes Dresden the seventh most popular tourist destination in Germany.
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