Dessau, now Dessau-Roßlau, has a population of approx. 90.000 and is the third largest city in the Saxony-Anhalt region of Germany. Dessau is historically the capital of the principality (later dukedom) of Anhalt(-Dessau). In the 20th century it became famous for the "Bauhaus" & "Junkers". Buildings and parks in and around Dessau ("Garden kingdom of Dessau-Wörtlitz"), built in the second half of the 18th century during the time of enlightenment by prince Franz, became listed as world cultural heritage as well as the Bauhaus buildings.
Dessau is located on the river Mulde which discharges into the Elbe just north of the city. The meadows of Mulde and Elbe are protected biosphere reservation.
Nearest Airports are Leipzig (IATA: LEJ), Magdeburg-Cochstedt (IATA: CSO), and Berlin (IATA: TXL, SXF). Allow 90 minutes transfer from LEJ, 2,5 to 3 hours from the other airports using public transport.
The easiest way to get to Dessau is by car, using the motorway A9. It has three exits depending on where are you coming from. If you arriving from north use the exit "Dessau Ost" (faster) or "Vockerode" on a more scenic route. From the south the exit is "Dessau Süd".
There is also a possibility to arrive by train. Regional trains connect to Wittenberg (30 minutes), Leipzig (60 minutes), Halle (50 minutes), Köthen (20 minutes) and Magdeburg (60 minutes) on an hourly and Berlin (100 minutes) on a 2-hourly basis. Exit at Dessau Hbf. (Dessau main station). There are some more suburb stations, which are usually not relevant for visitors.
Most sites in or near the city centre, including Bauhaus building, Master houses, Georgium park, can be reached by foot.
However, if you want to visit some more parks and palaces in the suburbs or vicinity of Dessau, walking is not an alternative. Flat topography and a dense and reasonably maintained network of bicycle paths make touring by bicycle the recommended way of getting around. You can take bikes on regional trains within Saxony-Anhalt for free, from outside Saxony-Anhalt for a couple of Euro. There is a bicycle hire in front of Dessau main station in the Mobilitätszentrale (mobility centre), prices are 6 to 7 Euro per day.
Getting around by car is generally easy. There is not too much traffic. Finding a parking space is usually no problem, parking fees may apply in the city centre. Some fine landscape in the Mulde or Elbe meadows are not accessible by car though.
There is public transport, too. Two tramway lines start at the main station and connect with the south (Line 1) and the west (Line 3) of the city. Several bus lines serve all parts of the city. However, they have poor frequency esp. at weekends and do not serve places of tourist interest easiliy. In many cases you will reach your destination by walking even before some bus even came by, by cycling anyway. Tickets for a single jouney are 1,50 Euro at the Mobilitätszentrale or vending machines (also in the trams), 2 Euro at the bus driver.
Bauhaus building, Gropiusallee 38. The "Bauhaus" (1926 by Walter Gropius) is a trendsetting building for modern architecture. It is 5 minutes walk from the main station (use west exit, not the main exit). It houses a postgradual college ("Bauhauskolleg") and exibition rooms. Opening hours 1000-1800 hrs. It is possible to walk about parts of the building freely. There are guided tours (in German) daily at 1100 and 1400 hrs, additional tours on weekends (4 Euro). Ticket counter is on the first floor.
Master Houses ("Meisterhäuser"), Ebertallee 1 -7. 5 minutes walk from the Bauhaus/10 minutes from the station. The Master Houses (1926 by Walter Gropius), dwelling houses for the Bauhaus teachers ("masters"), are an ensemble of originally one single and three double houses. They are named after their first users (Gropius, Moholy-Nagy/Feininger, Muche/Schlemmer, Klee/Kandinsky). The houses Gropius and Moholy-Nagy were distroyed during WWII, the Gropius villa was replaced by a detached house of the 1950ies. Currently (Sept. 2012) there is construction underway to reconstruct the Gropius villa and the Moholy-Nagy semi-detached house. Opening hours Tues-Sun from 1000-1700 (Apr-Oct until 1800). Admission 5 Euro. Guided tours (in German) start at the Bauhaus building (tickets on the first floor) Tue-Sun 1230 and 1530. The price of 9 Euro includes entrance fees.
Georgium, Puschkinallee, 5 minutes walk from the Bauhaus, 10 minutes from the station. The Georgium park, part of the world cultural heritage, is a landscape park with baroque and english elements of late 18th century, which stretches almost from the station north up to the Elbe river. There is unlimited access to the park (beware of boars in the nighttime though). Georgium palace houses a painting gallery (Tue-Sun 1000-1700), 3 Euro.
Luisium, Waldersee (3 km north east oft the city centre). The Luisium is a English landscape park, which continues into the meadows of Mulde and Elbe. Small palace (rather a villa). Admission to the park is free (beware of boars ...), to the palace May to Sept 1000-1700 Tue-Sun, Admission 4,5 Euro with a guided tour only.
Junkers Museum, Kühnauer Strasse 161a (1,5 km west of the city centre), open daily 1000-1700, admission 3 Euro. The exibition allows to discover the amazing engineering work of the aircraft pioneer Hugo Junkers. It is possible to see some real airplanes like a legendary JU52 at the "Hugo Junkers Museum" and get more information on the different working areas of Hugo Junkers.
make a tour to Wörlitz Gardens, the largest english landscaped park on the continent. Created in the 1770ies, it shows finest garden architecture, animated by parks in England like Kew, Stourhead, Stowe. Vistas within the park and to surrounding landscape. The access to the park is free, some passerger ferries which shortcut lakes 0,60 -1 Euro. Wörlitz Palace, Gothic House, Stein (with artificial volcano) have exhibitions, admission 3 to 5 Euro. 17 km to the east of Dessau, a good hour of cycling, or take the Wörlitzer Eisenbahn from the Dessau main station (approx 8 Euro return).
Cycle along the Elbe or Mulde rivers and explore hidden beaches. The Elbe was named by the Romans albis fluvius (white river) for its bright sandy beaches.
visit Oranienbaum, baroque ensemble of palace, park and town. Built for a Dutch princess who married to Dessau, some roots of the Dutch Royal Family are here.
Ferropolis, the city of iron, 20 km east of Dessau. A unique ensemble of five of open cast mining giants placed around an open air arena seating 20.000. Staging festivals, like the annually Melt festival in July, and concerts. Metallica liked the setting, so check out the programme.
In the city centre there is the standard shopping choice. Two shopping malls in the city centre, Rathaus-Center (between Kavalierstrasse and Zerbster Strasse) and Dessau-Center on Franzstrasse/Askanische Strasse offer the same indoor.
Worth having a look at are:
Bookshop in the Bauhaus (Gropiusallee 38, at the basement of the Bauhaus building), open daily 1000-1800, offer a variety of books on arts and architecture, also in English.
Galerie Bauart (Gropiusallee 81, near Bauhaus/Meisterhäuser), open Fri-Sun 1200-1800 offer design articles and Bauhaus-style futniture.
There are several restaurants and bars in the city centre and on Zerbster Strasse. There is a food court inside the centrally located shopping mall Rathauscenter.
Worth noting for their special flair are:
Brauhaus zum Alten Dessauer Lange Gasse 16 (city centre). Open daily from 1100 until midnight. Located in an old brewery building, thid restaurant serves traditional local food. They brew their own beer. Main dishes around 10/12 Euro.
Bauhaus Mensa, Gropiusallee 38 (inside Bauhaus building), open 0800-1400. Breakfast and Lunch. Self service, meals up to 5 Euro
Bauhaus Klub, Gropiusallee 38 (inside Bauhaus building, in the basement). 1000-2400 (sundays until 2000). Mixed crowd of locals, Bauhaus staff and visitors. They offer snacks and light meals.
Kornhaus, Kornhausstrasse 146 (2 km north of the city centre). Open daily except Thurs 1100-2300. This restaurant, built 1929 by Bauhaus architect Carl Fieger, sits directly on the south bank of the Elbe river. Terrace out to the river, splendid views. Traditional and experimental food using fresh local produce, main dishes around 10 Euro.