Dresden's most famous landmark, the Frauenkirche in winter. By Felix Gottwald.
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 Frauenkirche and its historic centre.
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).
You can still see many ruins and signs of the war in the city. It's story is now understood 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, many builings are however still under reconstruction.
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).
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 9PM, 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. A number of automatic sign 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 the 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!
Dresden is a very beautiful, lightspirited city, especially in summer, when you can appreciate the serene setting of the historic center. Your sightseeing tour should among others include:
The baroque palace features a nympheum, many sculptures of Permoser, a bell pavillon and famous art collections. Do not miss the "Alte Meister" - you'll find the famous Madonna Sistina of Rafael there including the well known angels. There is also a very nice museum on the arms of Saxon kings, the "Rüstkammer".
Semperoper The building is well worth to be visited, as it is one of the most beautiful operahouses in the world. The acustics and the orchestra - the Staatskapelle, are marvellous. Its history saw many operas of Wagner and Straus having their first night there. Nowadays productions are of lower quality and follow the German "Regietheater" fashion. Make sure to inquire about the production in advance, you might have unpleasant surprises. - Make also sure to book tickets in advance. Some last-minute tickets are available from the box office shortly before the performance starts. Seats which do not have a good view are very cheap, and you can sit on benches behind the seats, right at the top of the auditorium, for free. When there is no rehearsal or performance, the opera offers an interesting tour behind the scenes.
Semper Opera stage
Frauenkirche The reconstructed Church of Our Lady was completely destroyed during WWII, and has now been reopened. The City of Coventry, which was raided by the Luftwaffe in WWII, donated the golden cross for the dome of the church. Do not miss the tower visit and bring good shoes to climb in (otherwise you will not be admitted in!).
Fürstenzug This biggest porcellain painting of the world shows (almost) all Saxon princess and kings on their horses and splendid parade uniforms. It leads to the "Stallhof" - the last preserved tournament place contained in a European castle. This place is in winter the location of a very romantic chrsitmas marked with a big fireplace.
Albertinum Museum. The collections of "Neue Meister" feature a wonderful collection ranging from romantic painters (Caspar David Friedrich etc.) up to Rotloff and Van Gogh.
Gläserne Manufaktur The transparent factory is the site where Volkswagen builds its luxury sedan Phaeton. There is a very interesting free tour (English language) offered by Volkswagen. However you have to book in advance.
Schloss und Grünes Gewölbe. The Green Vault is Europe's most splendid treasure chamber museum. You may see the biggest green diamond, the court of Aurengzeb and precious crown juwels. It is not yet completely restored and will be completely re-opened from end of 2006 on.
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen This website provides an comprehensive overview of all important museums in Dresden: 
Kassematten under the Brühlsche Terrasse (the terrace at the Elbe river) are the remains of the old fort. Gives you an insight view of what a fort in a medieval European town was.
Schwebebahn Dresden - a unique aerial tramway
Dresden from another point of view
Dresden Neustadt -- Very nice, lively part of the town. From heavy alternative style in the 90s it has become more and more "pseudo-exclusive" and expensive. But still you find some of the older way. Check out the Bunte Republik Neustadt festival in June. But you shouldn't leave your bicycle unattended without a good lock, and there is a serious risk of damage to your bicycle and car also, especially at weekend nights.
Elbwiesen (River Banks): Go to the (mostly) green river banks, especially in hot summer evenings/nights - very nice view of the old parts and lot of people doing sports, having barbecues and parties. There are often big concerts and a huge movie screen offers "outdoor cinema".
Großer Garten (Big Garden): Recommended for relaxing and sports (rollerblades are very common). It is Dresden's "green lung" and can be reached easily by tram. You can also go on a ride on a miniature train through the park.
Military Historic Museum shows you many items and machines regarding military in history. A must for the interested. Easily accessible with tram lines 7 and 8 and bus line 91 at stop "Stauffenbergallee".
Japanisches Palais, on the north bank of the Elbe between Augusbrücke and Marienbrücke. The palace was bombed out, and in its partially restored state holds several small museums, including one of natural history of the region, and a display of assorted exotic garments. Essentially none of the building is on display, unfortunately.
Dresden is host to a number of worldwide known events, often unique or the biggest of their kind:
The Striezelmarkt is Germany's oldest Christmas market! It takes place from the last days of November till Christmas. Actually located at the Altmarkt, all kinds of shops and Glühwein Buden (mobile cafes selling warm wine - delicious!) now stretch through the whole city centre during this period.
The Dixiland Festival is Europe's biggest Jazz Festival! It normally takes place within the second week of May (from May 10-14 in 2006) and attracts bands and visitors from allover Europe, America and the world.
The Filmnächte take place from June to August at the banks of the Elbe, just across the castle on the other side of the river. A huge movie screen offers cinema in a beautiful setting and there are also many concerts with popular stars. Again, it is the biggest event of its kind in Europe!
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.
Snoopy Underwear at H&M. There are three H&M Stores in Prager Strasse and Altmarkgallerie.
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.
Bierhaus of the Hilton Dresden, An der Frauenkirche 5, phone (0351) 8642-0. Pseudo-nautical decor, doubles as a bar. The food is acceptable, but not anything to seek out. €10-20
Münzgasse If you come as the tourist this is the place to go - lying directly beside the Frauenkirche. The little street is full of restaurants, from glamourous and expensive (for instance the Coselpalais) to the cheaper ones.
Italienisches Dörfchen One of the most stylish places in town - the baroque pavillon features various restaurants decorated with old paintings and furniture. The prices are higher than elsewere, but still affordable. Go for the cakes!
Brühlsche Terrasse This terrace is adjacent to the river Elbe and various restaurants are to be found there - especially in summer time this a wonderful place to be. The view and the drinks are very pleasant.
SchützenhausThis little farmhouse-restaurant is not so easy to find. It lies behind the "Herzogin Garten" (which is a ruin) and behind the opera-house. The large Biergarden is a very relaxing place, has good food and good prices and is very pleasant. If you are vegetarian try the adjacent "Brennessel".
Die ScheuneA restaurant with large Biergarden in alternative style - do not be shocked by the punks in front - they are decor. In warm summernights you will have trouble to find a free place. Good prices.
RaskolnikoffThe formerly very alternative restaurant now features sand on the floors, a red lamp in front of the door and a very nice garden with a fountain. Again - in summer it is difficult to get in. Food and prices are good. Louisenstrasse, close to the Lutherkirche.
Vecchia Napoli, Alaunstrasse 33, phone 0351/8029055  A good Italian restaurant, with a wood fired pizza oven. You can get a pizza or pasta, or a full multicourse meal. Generally very busy, and the food is excellent. €15-40
Rosengarten, Carusufer 12, on the north bank of the Elbe at the edge of the park just east of Albertbrücke. A café bordering one of the public rose gardens of Dresden's riverside park, with plenty of outside seating in nice weather. The food is acceptable, but nothing special. The view is gorgeous. Worth a stop for a hot chocolate or an ice cream.
Amarena Capanna, Louisenstraße 30/Ecke Alaunstraße, on the southwest corner of this intersection, phone 0351-4969984. An Italian restaurant with a fake tropical hut and palm trees inside. The food is decent, though. €8-20
Cafe Toscana, Schillerplatz 7, right by the Blaues Wunder bridge, phone 0351-3100744. This is a very pleasant café that includes a pastry shop and a restaurant. The cakes are mostly gorgeous and will make you understand why the cafe is somewhat famous. The decor is a little bit to new, given the very long history of the place (it was called after Louise von Toscana, the run-away princess that divorced the Saxon king). The terrace however is very beautiful overlooking the river and the famous bridge "Das blaue Wunder". Generally ist full of locals, on saturday afternoons come and admire the local old women chat, they're famous as the "Muttchens" . €8-20
Wiener Cafe Haus Richards, Schandauer Straße 94, phone 0351 2508614. An inward looking café with small, curtained windows, heavy wooden tables, and upholstered armchairs for seating. They have pictures of Mozart on the walls and his music playing in the background. A charming spot to stop for a snack. €5-15
Volkshaus Laubegast, Laubegaster Ufer 22, right on the river, phone (0351) 2509377. A simple local eatery and café. The food tends to be things stereotypically german (schnitzel, sausages, and the like), and is generally good. Their fried potatos are excellent, though their green vegetables are overcooked. Has a nice view of the Elbe and outside seating. €10-20
Historisches Fischhaus, Fischhausstraße 14, on the road into the Albertpark to the northeast of the city, phone (0351) 89 91 00.  There has been a fish house here since the 16th century (specifically 1573), long enough for the road to be named for it.
The Neustadt is a very popular destination, especially for younger people. It boasts a high number of bars and clubs, with many different styles.
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.
Mirabella Dresden rents out holiday apartments.
Kempinski Taschenberg Palais Taschenberg 3, 01067 Dresden; Tel 49-351-4912-0; Fax +49-351-4912-812 . One of the finest adresses in Dresden.
Hilton An der Frauenkirche 5; 01067 Dresden; Tel 49-351-86420; Fax 49-351-8642725. Next to Frauenkirche. Try to get a room with view on the Elbe river.
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.
Pillnitz - the old garden and summer castle of the former Saxon kings. Follow the road along the Elbe eastwards or take a bus to get there. Beautiful atmosphere. You might have pay in order to get in (around €2), but this issue is not yet fully resolved, as there are many people against it.
Meissen - medieval cathedral and castle and home to the first European porcelain factory.
Königstein Fortress One of the largest and best preserved late medeival fortresses in Europe. The fortress is situated about 30 km from Dresden and can be reached by almost all means of transportation. A trip on the river Elbe in one of the historic paddle-steamers of "Sächsische Dampfschifffahrt" is also highly recommended.
Saxon Switzerland (Sächsische Schweiz) upstream along the river Elbe is a national park for hiking and rock-climbing ( is available in English while  is the official site)
Moritzburg - Beautiful castle that was once used when the kings went hunting