Difference between revisions of "Dresden"
Revision as of 00:00, 10 June 2007
Dresden  is the capital of the German federal state of Saxony (Sachsen). Located on the Elbe River, it is an industrial, governmental, and cultural center, worldwide known for the Bruehl's Terrace and its historic, rebuilt, landmarks in the old town.
Dresden was first mentioned as a city in 1206 and the 800th birthday celebrations will therefore take place in 2006. The city has since then come a long way.
It was home to many Saxon princes and kings, the most famous of them being August der Starke (August the Strong), whose kingdom included Poland as well. They apertained to the family of the Wettiner and were closely related to many other European royal families. Many buildings date from their reign and especially the rich art collections are testimony of their extreme wealth. The "Madonna Sixtina" was for instance bought by the son of August the Strong. The last Saxon king abdicated in 1918.
The historical center of Dresden was completely destroyed in a terrible bombing on 13/14 February 1945 by allied forces. The date is deeply marked in the history of the city and is still remembered each year in processions and ceremonies. The destruction of the priceless art treasures that made the city world famous was and is felt as a wound to the soul of the people. More than 30.000 people died in the bombing - the exact number is unknown, as the city was full with refugees and many burnt completely in the firestorm (unofficial sources give numbers of up to 150.000 dead). The ruin of the now rebuilt Frauenkirche acted as a call for peace among the different nations of the world.
The historical center is nowadays in large parts restored to its former glory, some parts are however still under reconstruction. The city nevertheless is a great place to experience!
Dresden has about ten million tourists a year, very most of them from Germany. The Zwinger was rebuilt till 1964, the Sempera Opera house till 1985 and since 2005 this important church gets all the attention. When asked what they like most about their city, Dresden citizens will reply Old Town (which is not very big, even though it has a lot of wellnown attractions and museums of worldwide meaning), Dresden-Neustadt (an alternative central quarter) and the sourroundings like the wine town Radebeul or the climbing area Saxon Switzerland, or a lot of castles, and maybe most of all the city landscape of about 80 quarters. It's essential to know that the last thing is really a core competence of Dresden which helped the city to survive when the innercity was totally destroyed after Second World War. Well, for many international tourists, the number is growing, especially regarding the US and China, Dresden is a stop between Prague and Berlin, that´s why just one city quarter can be recommended to get the whole idea. Blasewitz is in the architectural perspective probably the most interesting living quarter, despite there are truly many in the hilly city landscape.
Dresden-Klotzsche Airport  is located north of the city and can be reached by bus (line 77 and 97) and tram line 7 (change for the bus at tram station Karl-Marx-Straße). Even faster is the connection with local train lines (S-Bahn).
Flights leave to nearly all important German cities and a few European destinations, like London, Zurich and Vienna. The emergence of low-frill airlines Germanwings  and DBA  has lead to reduced fares to Cologne, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Munich. Lufthansa  operates to most domestic destinations. Air Berlin  also offers flights to and from Rome and Barcelona.
The main station is within walking distance of the city centre and easily accessible by bus or car. Regular trains leave for the rest of Germany (Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich) and to Prague and Budapest. It is currently being refurbished, so check if your train is really leaving/going there and not at the other big station in Dresden-Neustadt.
The main train station is situated at the end of Dresden's main shopping street Prager Straße and in short walking distance from most central attractions. It is very well connected with the local bus and tram network and can be reached very fast from nearly everywhere, also at night time. Trains to nearby towns, such as Meissen and Pirna run till around midnight.
The other big train station called Dresden-Neustadt is located in the northern half of Dresden and also offers very good train connections, as most trains run through there, too. Some trains even terminate there and not at the main train station. Dresden-Neustadt is also easily accessible by tram or car.
Dresden can be reached without problems by car from the rest of Germany. It is well connected with the German highway system and a new Autobahn to Prague is nearly finished.
In the center, especially in the historic part, everything is easy accessible by foot. Note that the city center is not the geographical center of the city.
By bus and tram
There is a combined system of tram (called Straßenbahn), bus and even train, but no subway. It works very well and connects all points of interest, but can be a little busy at peak times. Most lines even run at night time, of course with less capacity at night. This allows you to go out to most places or restaurants without the necessity to use a car, including to far flung places like Pillnitz. See Dresdner Verkehrsbetriebe for more information.
Best is to get yourself a Day Ticket or for families a Family Day Ticket. It allows you to ride on all trams, buses, most ferries and trains (except InterCitys and ICEs). It is relatively cheap and valid until the next day 4:00 am. You can also get a ticket limited to an hour and some others, but Day Tickets are good, if you are traveling around, not sure where you will be going and what you will be doing.
As with most places in Germany, the public transit operates on the honors system: you are assumed to have a ticket, and there are a few inspectors out spot checking. The exception is on the buses after 20.00, when the drivers are required to see all tickets.
The street network is very good and many roads have only been refurbished recently, especially in the city centre. As in all bigger towns it can be a bit crowded during rush hours. There are many parking lots in downtown Dresden and it should not be a problem to find a place to park, despite on saturdays when everyone goes to town for shopping. A number of automatic signs have been created, showing you the available number of free parking spaces, before entering the parking lots. Shops are open from around 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and you will see a lot of tourists and locals going shopping in the city centre. Please take care of them when driving and note that this is the time with the fewest available parking. Car drivers might seem to be a little more aggressive than in other countries, but are usually more friendly if you don't have a local registration number.
The fastest thing in the rush hour and if going a short to medium distance, if you're under good condition and not afraid of traffic and pedestrians. Bikes are also good for longer distances as they can be carried (with a separate ticket) in trams. There are many designated cycle paths (marked red on pavements, or with a white bike symbol on a blue background) and it is most times very easy to find a place to park your bike. But as anywhere else, always use a good lock! Much of the older streets of Dresden (particularly in the northern, Neustadt area) still have a coblestone surface: not the most comfortable riding surface! Also, coblestone is relatively slippery, compared to asphalt or concrete: care should be taken when riding in wet conditions.
Dresden has a lot of biketaxis, mostly operating around the Old Town. They offer the typical (short distance) taxi service as well as guided city tours. Since 2007 there are also horse carriages that offer touristic sightseeing.
Dresden is a very beautiful, lightspirited city, especially in summer, when you can appreciate the serene setting of the historic center. Be aware that is has only bit more than 500.000 inhabitans but is larger than Munich as measured by area. Your sightseeing tour should among others include:
Dresden from another point of view
Dresden is host to a number of worldwide known events, often unique or the biggest of their kind:
Go on a tour through town or visit one of the many events.
Stroll around the Großer Garten (Great Garten). Only a few minutes from the city centre, this beautiful big garden with a little castle in its middle is used by many locals to relax, walk around, go rollerblading or rowing in small boats on the Carolasee.
Go on a tour with one of the old paddle-steamers . It is a really great experience. Best start your tour from the main pier at the castle and go down to Meissen or up to Pillnitz or the Saxon Switzerland.
An evening out in the Semper Opera is an unforgetable experince, but be sure to book in advance.
The city is also home to many good sport clubs. Examples are the Dresden Monarchs (American Football - German Football League) , Dynamo Dresden (Soccer) , Dresdner Eislöwen (Ice Hockey - Second National League) and the Dresdner SC (Volleyball women - First National League) 
The main shopping district in Dresden extends from Ferdinandplatz to the west of Sankt-Petersburger Straße northwest to about Wilsdruffe Straße. At the south end (Ferdinandplatz) is a cinema, a couple of restaurants, and a huge Karstadt department store (which also sells groceries). Tucked away in a corner is Tee Gschwendner, a truly astonishing tea purveyor. On the north end is a covered mall.
Within the historic centre and especially around the Frauenkirche are a number of restaurants, serving many different tastes. Most of these are overpriced, and the quality is often low. On the north bank of the Elbe river is the Neustadt, which accounts for most of the trendy pubs, bars and clubs, and the majority of the restaurants in the city. You will generally have better luck finding decent food for a reasonable price north of Albertplatz in Neustadt.
The eastern part of the city, towards the Blaues Wunder, has a lower density of restaurants than Neustadt, and they tend to also serve as cafés, but the food is generally good and cheap, if simple.
When in Germany one should always try a specialty that is not regarded as German at first sight. Today, doner kebab is typically served as a kind of sandwich in pita (flat bread). This type of doner kebab has been available in Istanbul since about 1960. The doner kebab with salad and sauce served in pita, which is predominant in Germany and the rest of the world, was invented in Berlin Kreuzberg in the early 1970s, because the original preparation was not appealing enough to the German taste. Therefore, as the "modern" kebab is very dissimilar to the traditional dish except by name, it can be argued that the kebab as most people know it is a "traditional" German dish. When in Dresden you can probably get the best kebabs at Babos' and at Dürum Kebap Haus (Rothenburger Straße 41 - 01099 Dresden). A typical dish including a large drink should be around 5-6€.
The next step above doner kebab is generally Italian. There are a certain number of ethnic restaurants scattered through the city, and if you go out to the eastern part of town, you will find lots of charming cafés and Volkshausen that serve good food.
The Neustadt is a very popular destination, especially for younger people. It boasts a high number of bars and clubs, with many different styles. Especially the area around Alberplatz is filled with places to go.
The area around the Frauenkirche and Dresden Castle is very popular with tourist. Some fine restaurants are located there.
The Weiße Gasse is just around the corner of the Altmarkt near the shopping centre and the historical town. Good alternative, if you do not want to go to the Neustadt.
Youth Hostels - IYHF:
Youth Hostels - Private:
Local telephone code is 0351. There are some Internet Cafés in the city centre. One is at the Altmarkt, next to Subway and another is at the back of the "Altmarktgallerie" shopping centre at the Altmarkt.
Dresden is very safe in general. You can also walk around the city centre and most other parts late at night without having any worries. Simply enjoy the city.