I have wanted to visit Dresden for a very long time and finally made it there in July 2016. Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe. Dresden is a stunningly beautiful city and owes its wealth of architecture to its long history as the capital and royal residence of the Kings of Saxony.
Dresden is such a beautiful place now that it is hard to believe it has such a sad history. It would have been a horrific place during World War II. During the Nazi era, the Jewish community of Dresden was reduced from over 6,000 to just 41. During the final months of the Second World War, Dresden was bombed by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces. The inner city of Dresden was largely destroyed. Casualties numbered between 18,000 and 25,000. After the Second World War, Dresden became part of the German Democratic Republic. Some important historic buildings were rebuilt, such as the Semper Opera House and the Zwinger Palace. Other areas of the city were reconstructed in a modern style. After the reunification of Germany in the early 1990s more restoration work was carried out . The Dresden Frauenkirche was completed in 2005.
We stayed a bit outside the centre of Dresden in the Cotta area. Our hotel was located on the banks of the Elbe River. We wandered around the historical part of Dresden on one side of the River Elbe before crossing over to visit some sites on the other side. We also visited the Yenidze cigarette factory and The Großer Garten .
A review of our hotel can be found below.
Mercure Hotel Dresden Elbpromenade: Pleasant Hotel Away From City Centre.
We arrived at the hotel by train. There is a train station very close to it and we thought we would use trains to get to the centre of Dresden. We were surprised they only ran once an hour. This was not really a problem as we got to the centre by tram which was much more frequent. Check in was quick and efficient. Our room was clean and comfortable. It was quiet at night. It had a fridge and tea/ coffee making facilities. There is a large supermarket round the corner from the hotel. I think it was an Edeka, there was also a Lidl. The hotel provides free wifi. The hotel is located on the banks of the Elbe River. It is quite pleasant to take a stroll along the river walkway.
Walking along the Elbe River in Cotta.
Our hotel was outside the city centre in Dresden's Cotta area. On our first day, as we arrived quite late, we just went for a walk along the Elbe Promenade here rather than going into the centre. It was a beautiful sunny day and the river scenery was lovely. We were surprised there were no seats from which to sit and enjoy the view though.
Next day we went into the centre and visited the sights listed below. It started out cloudy, but finished off raining.
The Zwinger Palace.
The first site we went to in the centre of Dresden was the beautiful Zwinger Palace. The Zwinger Palace is built in Rococo style and was designed by court architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann. The Zwinger was originally an open-sided area where cannons were kept at the ready. It later became enclosed when the Semper Gallery was built on its northern side by Gottfried Semper. Today, the Zwinger is a museum complex that houses the Old Masters Picture Gallery, the Dresden Porcelain Collection and the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments.
When we left the Zwinger we found ourselves on a beautiful square known as Theatreplatz. This is home to several important historical buildings such as the Semper Opera House and the Hofkirche. Right in the centre of the square there is a statue of King John. The Semper Opera House was originally known as the Hoftheater, hence the name of the square. The original opera house was built in the seventeenth century. Then in 1838 Gottfried Semper began building a new theater in neo-Renaissance style. Unfortunately, in 1869 a fire destroyed the building. Semper's son, Manfred, constructed a new building in High Renaissance style. The Semper Opera House was destroyed again in February 1945 when Dresden was heavily bombed at the end of World War II. The building was reconstructed forty years later and finally reopened in February 1985. The Hofkirche was built by Saxon ruler Augustus III between 1738 and 1751 in high Baroque style. It is a Catholic church and its name means Church of the Court. The church was destroyed in the allied bombing of Dresden in 1945. Reconstruction started in 1979. At the center of the Theaterplatz stands a large statue of King John sitting on his horse. This was designed by Johannes Schilling and was erected here in 1889. King John ruled Saxony from 1854 until 1873.
The Residenzschloss - Royal Palace.
The Residenzschloss is the Royal Palace. This was the seat of government of Saxon rulers, the Wettin family. A fort was built at this site in the thirteenth century. In the early fifteenth century the Hausmann Tower was added to the fort. In 1530 George the Bearded commissioned the construction of the Georgenbau as the residence of the Wettin Family. During the latter half of the sixteenth century the Royal Stables and the Langer Gang were built. The palace was expanded for the final time between 1889 and 1901. The Royal Palace was destroyed in 1945 and for more than forty years the building stood in ruins. Reconstruction of the Residenzschloss started in 1985 and was mostly completed by 2006. The Georgentor is the entrance gate to the central section of the palace. To the right of the Georgentor is a large inner courtyard, known as the Great Court. Its walls are decorated with sgraffito. At the centre of the north wing stands the Haussman Tower which has a viewing platform. On the other side of the Georgentor is a large courtyard which in the past was used to stage jousting tournaments. To the north of the courtyard is the Langer Gang or long corridor which leads to the Johanneum, the former royal stables. These are now the Transport Museum.
Fürstenzug: Procession of Princes.
I am fortunate enough to travel a lot and I have been to many incredibly beautiful places, but the Procession of Princes literally took my breath away. I cannot remember when I was last so impressed.The Procession of Princes is on Augustusstraße, at the back of the Langer Gang. It is a 334ft long mural depicting a parade of rulers of the House of Wettin. 93 people are portrayed on the mural: 35 noblemen on horseback, many foot soldiers and various people accompanying them. The leader of the procession is Konrad the Great, who ruled from 1127 to 1156. The procession ends with Friedrich August III, Saxony's last king, who ruled between 1904 and 1918. The Procession of Princes was originally painted by artist Wilhelm Walther to celebrate the 800th year anniversary of the Wettin Dynasty. Over time this painting began to deteriorate. To make it weather proof, the sgraffito decoration was replaced between 1906 and 1907 by 25,000 Meissen ceramic tiles . The tiles miraculously survived the bombings ofFebruary 1945.
The Brühl Terrace: Brühlsche Terrasse.
The Brühl Terrace is a terraced promenade with views over the Elbe River. The terrace was originally built as ramparts to protect the city. Between 1739 and 1748 Count Henrich von Brühl, after whom the terrace is named, transformed it into a garden for his palace. In 1814 the gardens were opened to the public. Goethe called the terrace the 'Balcony of Europe'.
The Frauenkirche : Church of Our Lady.
The Frauenkirche or the Church of Our Lady is a Lutheran church with one of the largest domes in Europe. The Frauenkirche was originally built in the eighteenth century, but was destroyed in the bombing of Dresden during World War II. Its ruins stood for fifty years as a war memorial. The church was rebuilt after the reunification of Germany. Rebuilding work began in 1994 and was completed in 2004. This is a beautiful church both inside and out. Its surrounding area is also very beautiful. A statue of Martin Luther stands in the square outside it.
The New Town Hall.
The New Town Hall, is a huge building with a 98 metre tall Baroque tower. It was built between 1905 and 1910 by Karl Roth. It replaced the Old Town Hall which had become too small for the city. The New Town Hall was severely damaged in World War II but was rebuilt between 1948 and 1952. In front of the New Town Hall stand two bronze lions and the bronze sculpture 'Bacchus on a Donkey' by Georg Wrba. The copper dome of the New baroque tower has a statue known as the 'Golden Man'. This is a five meter high statue of Hercules by Richard Guhr.
Crossing the Elbe River.
It is worth crossing the Elbe River just to see the magnificent view over the old town of Dresden from the other side. In addition to the views back there are also some worthwhile sights on this side of the river, too.
The Golden Rider.
My favourite sight on the other side of the Elbe was the Golden Rider statue. The Golden Rider is an equestrian statue of Augustus the Strong. It was commissioned by Augustus III in memory of his father and was designed by the French court sculptor Jean Joseph Vinanche. It was cast in 1734 by Ludwig Wiedemann. This statue was hidden and dismantled during the war so survived unscathed.
Yenidze is not in the old town. We passed it on our tram on the way into the centre and went to visit it later. Yenidze is a former cigarette factory building. It was built between 1907 and 1909 by the architect Martin Hammitzsch. The Yenidze Cigarette Factory was set up by Jewish entrepreneur Hugo Zietz. He called it Yenidze as that was the name of the place he imported tobacco from. The building has an Oriental style of architecture with its chimneys resembling minarets. It is sometimes nicknamed the tobocco mosque. Yenidze was restored in 1996 and is now an office building.
We had a lovely meal near our hotel in Dresden.
Il Nonno: "Excellent Meal."
We went here because it was right next to our hotel the Mercure Dresden Elbpromenade. We sat outside, unfortunately it is on quite a busy road, but back a bit, so it is not too bad. We both had pizza. I had ham and mushroom; my husband had four cheeses. The pizzas were huge thin based pizzas and really delicious. We had to take some away with us as it was so filling. The beer here was good, too. A very enjoyable meal. Address:Hamburger Strasse 74, Dresden.