Sitting on the lazy river Elbe, Dresden located 120km to the east of Leipzig is the pretty tourist capital of Saxony. Compared to Leipzig it’s more internationally known, as much for the notorious bombings in WW2 as for its music and operas, and lavish baroque architecture.
The city receives a zillion tourists many of which are of the older ‘tour-bus’ demographic. Dresden has much to see and do and is easily do-able by train or car from Leipzig making for an enjoyable day trip at any time of year.
Getting to Dresden is straightforward although beware that there’s three major stations; the main one called simply Dresden Hauptbahnhof (Hbf), the Friedrichstadt station, and the smaller Neustadt station. The first two are most convenient for the Altmarkt tourist trap and baroque architecture south of the Elbe. Dresden-Neustadt is north of the river where the gritty areas of the city are, as well as most of the budget eating, lodging and youthful nightlife options.
There are typically around three trains per hour from Leipzig’s Hauptbahnhof. Ticket prices vary hugely depending how far in advance you book and whether it’s a regional train (RE) or an intercity train (ICE/IC). Expect to pay anywhere from €20 to €60 for a return trip ticket. The regional trains take about an hour and a half making several stops along the way. The intercity trains are 20-30 minutes quicker. By car it’s a direct 121km haul on the A14 autobahn that turns into the A4 when you get close to Dresden.
Frauenkirche – Altmarkt
The imposing Frauenkirche church and the nearby Zwinger palace are prime photo opps. This area is called Altmarkt and despite the overwhelming tourist crowds in the summer it is actually a really nice spot for al fresco dining. There’s a huge modern shopping centre here as well. Most of what you see in Altmarkt was re-constructed after being destroyed during a series of controversial Allied bombing raids in 1945. Dresden was dealt a particularly harsh blow because it was deliberately firebombed.
Of the two, Dresden’s Christmas market (‘Striezelmarkt’) probably just pips Leipzig’s in terms of atmosphere. The world-famous baroque architecture of the Altmarkt makes for a particularly striking and enchanting setting. And it gets more international visitors giving it a cosmopolitan vibe. If you’re in Saxony in the weeks leading up to Christmas we highly recommend the Dresden Christmas market. It’s got to be one of the most romantic places you could ever take your loved one.
[page content last updated November 2013]