When I went on my trip to Dresden, Germany for the first time, I only had two full days and a couple of hours to explore the city, so I put on my sneakers and made sure I did my research on things to do in Dresden in 2 days.
So is Dresden worth visiting? I sure think so. Below you’ll find my itinerary for things to do in Dresden, Germany in 2 days (and a couple of hours because two days is so cliche). It’s actually exactly what I’ve done when I was there, so if you want you can follow in my footsteps. Yes, I know you’ve been dying to do that (kidding).
As there's quite a bit of information in here, you can also adapt this Dresden itinerary to spend just one day in Dresden and if you'll have three days in Dresden, you can simply take things slower than I have because I do have to admit I tried to see and do as much as possible when I was there.
- Best things to do in Dresden in 2 days: day 1
- Top things to do in Dresden: day 2
- Extra: art in Neustadt
- Other things to do in Dresden
- How to get to Dresden
- How to get around Dresden
- Where to stay in Dresden
- Fun tours in Dresden
- Food, bars and going out in Dresden
- How many days in Dresden?
- Don't forget travel insurance
Best things to do in Dresden in 2 days: day 1
Morning in the new Altstadt – Brühl's Terrace and the Albertinum
On my first full day in Dresden I decided to explore Dresden Altstadt, the Old Town area of the city.
Strangely enough, Altstadt is actually younger than Neustadt, the new part of town where I was staying.
In February 1945 the British and American troops bombed Dresden to the ground. The attack is controversial until this day, as the Allied claimed they attacked Dresden because of military targets there, while others saw the bombing as an act of revenge and say the bombs were dropped on the entire city, not specifically on military-related places.
The fact is that there was not much left of Dresden after the Allied were done, but the city was determined to restore its old glory and so the Altstadt you can visit today is almost a replica of the Altstadt that was destroyed in World War II.
I began my walk at the Brühl’s Terrace Dresden, a 500-meter stretch along the river Elbe. Called “The Balcony of Europe” by Goethe, it used to be a city wall and was later the parade ground of Dresden’s High Society. It still offers great views on the Elbe river, but you’ll mostly see tourists there.
The Brühl’s Terrace is also where you can find the Albertinum. The Albertinum wasn’t as severely damaged during the war as many other buildings in the city and has maintained its pre-war function as an a museum showing art exhibitions.
I descended the large staircase leading up to the terrace at Schlossplatz and was now facing the Katholische Hofkirche with two options: I could go left to see the biggest tile picture in the world, or right towards Theaterplatz, the Semper Opera House and Zwinger. I chose to do the latter.
Semperoper is the Dresden opera house and home to the Saxon State Opera and the Dresden Staatskapelle, an orchestra with an uninterrupted history of 460 years. A lot of important premieres took place here, like Richard Wagner’s “Rienzi”. It's one of the best places to visit in Dresden.
The Semperoper also houses the Semperoper Ballet and welcomed stars like Vaslav Nijinsky on its stage. I would have loved to see a ballet here, but it was still morning so I crossed the Theaterplatz to the Zwinger.
Aside from seeing a performance at the opera house, you can also visit the Semperoper on an exclusive guided tour.
Unfortunately, the outer walls of the Zwinger were partly in scaffolding during my visit, but the inner court was its photogenic self.
The square structure with the inner court is actually the Zwinger and the Semper Building (not the Semperoper!) combined. Originally built in a U-shape with an opening towards the river Elbe, it was in the 19th century that the Semper Building was added to it, making the Zwinger a square with a center court.
Both buildings are now museums. The Zwinger holds the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon (cabinet of mathematical and physical instruments) and the Porcelain Collection, while you can go to the Semper Building for the Alte Meister or Old Masters Picture Gallery.
The Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister displays around 750 paintings – 750 paintings! – from the 15th – 18th centuries, which include works of art from the Italian Renaissance, such as Raphael's Angel painting and Baroque masterpieces.
There are also regular classical music concerts at the Zwinger. Click here for ticket prices and options.
Tickets include seating, coat check and toilet fees.
I would love to go back someday to visit these museums and maybe catch a concert, but I knew my time was short and as they’d predicted rain for the afternoon, I continued my walk through Dresden Altstadt.
Procession of Princes
Next up was the Fürstenzug, the huge tile picture I walked past earlier on. The Fürstenzug or “Procession of Princes” is a large mural painted on 23,000 Meissen porcelain tiles.
The “Procession of Princes” portrays Saxonian kings, lords, and electors between 1127 and 1904, including the famous king Augustus the strong. Another famous place to see Augustus the Strong in Dresden is the statue of the golden horseman which is at the entrance to the Neustadt when you cross the bridge over the Elbe river from the Altstadt.
This piece of art survived the Second World War 1945 bombing. Can you imagine having to reconstruct a work consisting of 23,000 porcelain tiles? Right. It also survived the Soviet era when East Germany was separated from the West.
Dresden Frauenkirche church
I continued on towards the Frauenkirche. This Lutheran church is not so big, but definitely worth going into. The church was completely destroyed in the Dresden bombing but has since been restored to it's former glory. In 2004 a golden cross built by the son of one of the pilots involved in the allied bombing was put on top of the church as a symbol of reconciliation.
Entrance is free and what’s inside might surprise you. It surprised me. I thought this would be another church with heavy, dark wooden ornaments and lots of bombast, but it wasn't. Actually, the inside of the Frauenkirche was rather girly, with lots of pastels and especially pink.
You’re not allowed to take photos or film inside and so I didn’t, but practically everyone else who was there seemed to have missed the huge sign by the entrance. I don’t get it. They had a whole city to photograph, did they really have to get this as well?
Entry to the church is free, but if you want to climb up to the dome for a view of the city, you need to get a ticket which you can buy online or on-site.
When I left the Frauenkirche I was hungry. Luckily, Dresden Marketing had told me that one of the things to do in Dresden is have a real Saxonian lunch, and they sent me to a typical Saxon restaurant located right behind the Frauenkirche: the Pulverturm.
A Saxonian lunch in Dresden Altstadt
The Pulverturm isn’t that easy to find as it’s located in the basement of the Coselpalais, but for those of you looking: it’s down the stairs at that big yellow building. The waitress handed me a menu with unmistakably German dishes on it, but also some vegetarian options. I opted for the tomato soup as a starter after having declined the soup of the day when it turned out to be liver soup and chose grilled trout with potatoes as the main course. Nope, no dessert this time.
The tomato soup was rather small but thick and filling with chunks of cheese in it. It also came with three large pieces of bread; one with onions, one with cheese and one with ham baked into it.
The trout was a full trout and well grilled, accompanied by way too many potatoes. A hearty meal that left me ready for another few hours of exploring.
To Grosser Garten
After leaving the Pulverturm I headed towards the Altmarkt and the Kreuzkirche. By the Kreuzkirche you can find the Aha fairtrade cafe which I heard is pretty good, but as I’d just had lunch I didn’t try it out.
From there I walk to the Grosser Garten or Grand Garden. The walk there lead me out of Altstadt and wasn’t so interesting.
Before entering the Grosser Garten you can find the German Hygiene Museum, not only dedicated to hygiene but all kinds of body and health topics. It was a Monday, though, and as this museum is closed on Mondays I walked directly to the Grosser Garten.
The Dresden Zoo is located in this park, as well as the Botanical Garden. You can also find a small baroque palace there. I’ve seen pictures of the garden in spring/summer and it looks really nice. In the winter it’s nice for a stroll, but you won’t see all the flowers and fully leaved trees you’ll see in later seasons.
I did enjoy my walk there because it was so quiet in the park and I could just sit down on a bench and rearrange my camera gear a bit without bothering people.
Then came the rain
As I headed back, the predicted rain started to fall. I contemplated what to do. As I knew that the Gläserne Manufaktur (a Volkswagen factory with a large glass tower full of cars) was kind of in the direction I needed to go whatever I decided to do next, I walked towards it.
I hadn't really researched this place as I’m not into cars and thought you could only visit the factory if you’d booked a tour, but apparently, there’s also a visitors area that’s freely accessible every day of the week. If I’d known, I would have definitely gone in to hide from the rain and have a look around.
Instead, I decided to head back to Altstadt and visit the Residenzschloss, Dresden’s former Royal Palace. Here you can find several different exhibitions, but you can't take any photos of them. I visited the Turkish Chamber and the Armoury, both well worth it.
You can see medieval armory in countless museums, but the Residenzschloss has a very fine collection of richly decorated armory which is very nicely presented. I also recommend the Turkish Chamber, where I especially liked that they had actually erected an authentic tent inside the exhibition room.
At the Residenzschloss, you can also find the Historical Green Vault and the New Green Vault, which both contain a large collection of jewelry and other objects made out of precious materials. Be aware that you need a separate ticket for the Historic Green Vault. First opened to the public in 1724, the old Green Vault is one of Europe's oldest museums.
Fun fact: in November 2019, robbers broke into to the Green Vault and stole $119 million worth of jewels in what was one of the most shocking museum heists in years. German authorities have now recovered most of the Green Vault's stolen treasures, except a 49-carat green diamond which remains missing.
Around 5 pm I’d kind of had it. I was a bit bummed because I’d actually planned on spending the rest of my afternoon outside (although, yes, I knew they’d predicted rain) and I’d already seen so much that day that my brain wasn’t absorbing any information anymore.
As it was still raining outside, I decided to do groceries for dinner and head back to the apartment to get some work done and plan my second day in Dresden.
Top things to do in Dresden: day 2
That’s right, on my second full day in Dresden I actually spent 11 hours wandering around, minus a small lunch break. I loved every minute of it.
Meissen porcelain museum
I took the S-Bahn at Neustadt station around 8.30 am to Meissen-Triebischtal station. You’ll first pass Meissen station and Meissen-Altstadt station, so don’t get out too soon. Meissen-Triebischtal is the closest stop to get to the Porcelain Museum.
Someone from Dresden Marketing recommended me to go and check out the Dresden porcelain collection, and I have to say I went because I was curious about the production of porcelain, but up until now, I’ve always thought that porcelain objects were a bit kitsch.
Boy, was I wrong!
Meissen is the biggest and oldest manufacturer of porcelain in Europe and visiting the Meissen museum was one of the best things I did during my trip. I absolutely loved the museum.
First of all, there’s a lot of light in there thanks to big windows – something you don’t often get in museums and which is really a plus when seeing the collection (and taking photos!).
Secondly, the collection itself is amazing. I’ve seen so many pieces of art that I would never have related to porcelain and so many typical porcelain pieces (like sets of dishes and teapots) decorated in a very modern, non-kitsch way. I hadn’t expected to actually like the things I’d see in the museum but I really did. There were definitely some pieces I would have loved to take home with me. Unfortunately, Meissen isn’t cheap, as I could see later in the store.
What I really liked were the porcelain paintings. Painting-like, rectangular-shaped pieces with cracks, cuts, and brush strokes. Modern art combined with tradition.
Interesting was the workshop you can do as a visitor. Well, they call it a workshop but it’s more of a tour.
First, you’re lead into a room with a screen where they show you an informative video about porcelain and the Meissen brand. Then you go through several rooms where each time an employer of Meissen demonstrates a stage in the production process of Meissen porcelain.
Nice to know: around 75% of Meissen’s employees are craftsmen and all the products the company produces are handmade.
The entire tour there’s an audiotape running through speakers in German, but at the entrance of the museum, they immediately ask you what language you’d like the tour in and so when you enter the workshop area you get a headphone with the explanation in your language of choice.
Really, I highly recommend taking the train to Meissen, even if it’s just to visit the porcelain museum.
Meissen Altstadt and Albrechtsburg
Then again, there’s more to see in Meissen than just the museum. If you follow the main road the museum is located on for about ten minutes, you get to Meissen Altstadt. There you’ll find some cute cobblestone streets, the old market square and Albrechtsburg Castle.
Albrechtsburg is located high above the city and from some spots you get a great view. The castle itself is now a museum with exhibitions on the history of Meissen and the castle itself. I actually think visiting Albrechtsburg would be interesting, but when I had to make the choice to go in or not something happened that often messes up my plans: I got hungry.
As I cannot think well when I’m hungry, I decided to head back to Meissen-Altstadt station and grab some food on the way there.
Yes, there were also some taverns on the square in front of the castle, but to be honest I didn’t feel like a real Saxon meal and most of the restaurants seemed to be just opening. So I bought a snack and ate that on the train back to Dresden. There I switched the S-Bahn at Neustadt station for tram 11 direction Bühlau as I wanted to go and check out the Albrechtsberg Castle (not to confuse with the Albrechtsburg in Meissen).
By the time I got there, it was early afternoon, but I'm sure that if you have lunch in Meissen and properly visit the castle, you could turn that into a proper day trip from Dresden.
Tip: I went to Meissen by train but I later found out that you can also book a return boat trip for a full day in Meissen. Might be fun in summer!
Only groups can enter Albrechtsberg Castle when making a reservation beforehand, but everyone’s free to take a walk in the castle park and so that’s what I was planning to do.
The park wasn’t so special, but what’s nice is that it’s located along the river Elbe and offers a great view of the river as it’s located on higher ground. I could also see that there was a long path running along the river, so you could actually walk or bike from Dresden city center all the way to Albrechtsberg, which I think would be nice in summer.
Personal story: when I arrived at Albrechtsberg Castle I had to pee SO badly, but the men at the ticket office told me there were no toilets there – which I, of course, didn’t believe. So while I was walking through the park I was actually just keeping my eyes open for spots where I could possibly pee.
Yes, I’m serious.
I didn’t find any though and it probably wouldn’t have been a good idea to squat down while wearing leggings (imagine the mess) and so I squeezed tight until I found a spot where they would let me go to the toilet.
I found that spot in Neustadt. I’d taken tram 11 back to stop Diakonissenweg because close to there I knew I’d find Pfund’s Molkerei, the world’s most beautiful dairy shop according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Unfortunately, you can’t take photos inside and so I quickly walked on to my next destination – now not only needing to pee, but also hungry again.
That was when I passed the Cafe Neustadt. There was a young man sitting outside eating something that looked quite good and so I quickly looked the place up on TripAdvisor. It got some good reviews so I went in, quickly ordered and then, yes, finally, went to the toilet.
I first thought about getting some tomato soup with bread but as I already had that the previous day and was quite hungry, I went for quiche instead. Bad choice. The quiche was tiny, and I do mean tiny and although it was good, it was finished in five bites or so and hadn’t really made my hunger go away.
To make things worse, some people a few tables over were having huge bowls of tomato soup. Damn it!
I wouldn’t let that get me down though and left Cafe Neustadt (which does have excellent free WiFi, by the way) to go to my next destination: the Military Museum.
A walk through Neustadt
The Military Museum was a 30-minute walk from where I was, but I thought that would give me the opportunity to really see the neighborhood and not just run from one tourist site to the other. I’d barely stepped outside the cafe and came past this though: Martin Luther Platz.
The next cool thing I came across was the Alaunplatz, an open park in the middle of Neustadt where I imagine a lot of people come to picnic or play Frisbee in the summer.
After that came a not so interesting part with very modern looking new apartment blocks. The small residential area was even gated. It were low gates that allowed you to see everything, but still, they were gates.
Right after, I saw something that couldn’t have been more different: the Garnison Kirche Saint Martin. What a beauty, isn’t it? It seemed out of place though, located between the new apartment buildings, a parking lot and the busy Stauffenbergallee.
I was close now and only had to cross the road to get to the Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr or the Military Museum.
Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr
Let me start by saying that two hours for this museum is not enough. I thought it would be and I was dead wrong. This place has 5 floors in total (the last one just offering a view on the city, but still) and during the almost two hours that I was there, I got to see 1,5 floor. That’s not even half of everything exhibited!
From the outside, the building looks grand, on the inside, it’s very modern with crooked walls and intriguing music playing silently but clear on every floor. It somehow reminded me of the Jewish Museum in Berlin. I think partly because of the modern structure, partly because it had such an impact on me.
I don’t think it matters how many museums about war you visit, war remains gruesome and nauseating.
The museum left me silent, but then I went back outside and saw this: a pink sky over the city. It made me smile.
As it was getting dark quickly I still had one stop I wanted to make before calling it a day: the Neustadter Markthalle. Neustadter Markthalle is an indoor marketplace where they sell food and drinks, but also clothes and souvenirs. It’s open Monday-Saturday from 8 am until 8 pm, but when I got there after 6 pm the clothes shops on the second floor had already closed.
I wouldn't say this place is a must, but if you’re close by you might as well pop in for a look.
It was close to 7 when I came out and I was hungry yet again. Time to head to the apartment and call it a day. I’d leave Dresden the next noon, but there was still one thing I had to do.
Extra: art in Neustadt
As my apartment was located in Neustadt, I’d already seen a lot of the graffiti there. However, I hadn't photographed it yet. I’d kept that for my last morning in the city. I had to catch a train to the airport at 11 am and figured that would leave me with just enough time to wander through the streets surrounding my apartment on the hunt for cool graffiti. And there was one place I absolutely needed to go: Kunsthofpassage.
Kunsthofpassage Dresden is, like it says, a passage between Alaunstrasse and Görlitzer Strasse in Dresden Neustadt. The passage is more than an alley though. It’s a little court with some shops and bars and – most importantly – with beautifully painted houses.
After I checked Kunsthofpassage of my list I just walked through Neustadt, taking photos whenever I saw something cool. By the time I had to get back to check out and leave for the airport, I’d gathered quite a few pictures. Below you'll find just a small selection.
While you can easily find graffiti all over Neustadt, you won't get any background information on what you see unless you go on a guided street art tour.
Other things to do in Dresden
If you have more than just 2 days to visit Dresden, why no try some of these Dresden attractions and things to do?
- Visit the DDR museum and learn what life was like under communist rule in East Germany
- Try out the Dresden Time Ride tour of the city which takes you back in time via a virtual reality headset that you wear while walking around the city
- Take a trip on the schwebebahn Dresden for panoramic views over the city
- Go for a walk or some biking in the Dresden Heide
- Visit Schloss Pillnitz at the eastern side of the city to see carefully restored baroque architecture and beautiful gardens
- Check out the the Saxon Switzerland National Park for hiking
- Visit one of the Dresden wineries (yes they grow vines on the banks of the Elbe river!)
- If you visit Dresden in December, check out one or many of the famous Christmas markets and try a mulled wine
How to get to Dresden
Dresden has its own airport connected to the UK, Russia and many bigger German airports. From there you can take S-Bahn line 2 to to Dresden Neustadt station or Dresden Central station. From the stations you can continue on to your accommodation by tram, bus or on foot. If you’re traveling by train, those are also the two stations you need to get to.
Alternatively, you can take the bus from other major German cities to Dresden or drive there, but be aware that in the latter case, you’ll probably end up spending a lot of money on parking.
How to get around Dresden
Dresden is a very walkable city, especially if you decide to spend a day in and around Altstadt and the other in Neustadt. To quickly get around there’s also a very convenient tram and bus system. I haven’t used the buses myself, but riding the tram always went smoothly and there are a lot of lines you can take throughout the city.
If you want to get to neighboring communities, I recommend taking the S-Bahn like I did to get to Meissen. If you’re not pressed for time and need to get across the Elbe river, you can always take one of the ferries or go on the boat tour I mentioned earlier.
Some hotels and hostels offer bike rental, which might be a nice alternative to public transportation in summer.
Lastly, you can get a Dresden City Card which doesn't only offer you free use of all public transportation within the city, but also discounts on a bunch of museums and activities.
Where to stay in Dresden
I spent three nights at Hostel Lollis Homestay in Dresden Neustadt. I didn’t stay at the hostel itself, but in their apartment down the street.
This apartment has a cozy living room, a big and fully equipped kitchen, a large bathroom with toilet and a bedroom with three bunk beds (so to sleep 6 people). There’s free wi-fi and a computer to use if you don’t have a laptop with you. When you stay at the apartment you can also join the other guests for a free dinner on Sunday evening.
If you'd rather not stay at a hostel or are looking for something in Altstadt, you might want to check Booking.com for an extensive list of options for all budgets and needs.
If you're looking for an apartment rather than a hotel, I would recommend checking Airbnb.
Fun tours in Dresden
Food, bars and going out in Dresden
As I had a kitchen I prepared dinner myself and only went out for lunch twice, but my general impression was that Altstadt is where you need to be for traditional Saxonian food, while Neustadt offers a bit of a wider selection.
Neustadt is definitely the place to go for drinks and partying at local spots like Hebedas. There are also lots of hip and modern restaurants in the Neustadt offering a huge variety of cuisines from sushi, to Mexican, Italian and Thai.
The area around Görlitzer Strasse, where I was staying, is just full of bars – some with live music, little restaurants and clubs. Hostel Lollis Homestay's websites warns that it can get loud in the neighborhood, but staying there from Sunday evening until Wednesday noon I wasn't bothered by noise just once.
How many days in Dresden?
I thought spending 48 hours in Dresden was enough to see the most important sights of the city and enjoy a few drink and food stops as well. However, if you want to visit Dresden in one day, I think that's possible too if you limit yourself to either the Altstadt or Neustadt, or pick out a few things you really want to see beforehand because you won't be able to see it all.
Of course, for some ideas on what to see in Dresden in 1 day, you can also use my itinerary and just drop the things that seem least interesting to you.
Don't forget travel insurance
No matter how well you plan your trip Dresden, there's always something that can happen that's beyond your control. Your transportation gets delayed, a reservation goes missing, you get sick while visiting Dresden, or your luggage never shows up. In all of these cases, good travel insurance has you covered.
I've had ongoing travel insurance ever since I started traveling to make sure I'm covered for every trip I go on but if you travel just a few times a year, you can get insured for each trip separately too.
Don't have travel insurance yet? Check out SafetyWing. They offer super flexible plans that you can even sign up for while you're already on your trip. On top of that, they were the first travel insurance to cover COVID, and when I got COVID, they reimbursed all of my expenses without making a fuss. Their customer support team is great and I can personally recommend them.
That was it! I hope this guide will help you in planning your own trip and deciding which things to do in Dresden suit your plans, whether you decide to visit Dresden in 2 days, more or less.
If you liked it, please also share it with other people through Facebook, Twitter or another channel so that they can benefit from it as well.
PIN FOR LATER
You might also like:
- Discovering Baden-Würtemberg in 4 cities
- Things to do in Düsseldorf when the weather sucks
- Münster, where old and new meet and match
I was invited to Dresden by Dresden Marketing and Germany Tourism. However, the choice to enjoy a place like I enjoyed Dresden will always be my own.