What to do in Dresden - 4 days in Dresden itinerary
Visiting Dresden for more than a weekend, you can fully enjoy the city, get to know further away areas and even throw in some day trip to any of the many beautiful places surrounding it.
Why did I set this itinerary up?
My sister visited me with her husband and children (aged 10 to 16). For them I planned this 4 day itinerary, with a lot of options.
The order of the days is a suggestion. I prefer not having to "travel" 2 days in a row, so that's why the trip day is not the last one. But change it according to preferences and weather!
DAY 1: Altstadt
The perfect way to start a Dresden visit: get to know the "old", historic part. Which ironically it is the newest one, since most of it had to be reconstructed after the bombing in 1945. It is beautifully reconstructed, and worth a full day of roaming around. Everything is pretty close, and if you were in a hurry, you could pack everything in a couple hours. But in a longer visit I suggest you to make your way anywhere close, and just roam around instead of rushing through the highlights in a stablished order, finding them as you enjoy a walk. There are tons of buildings and museums you can access, or just take a look from the beautiful buildings from outside.
This pedestiran area high above the Elbe offers a great view of the river, the Altstadt itself and has some cafés and terraces to have a drink.
Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden.
The building of the University of visual arts is stunning, and it is easily recognisable by its squeezer-shaped dome.
Massive Renaissance Revival building. If you are into modern art, you can make your way inside, since it holds a modern art museum.
This large mural depicts rulers of Saxony and was originally a painting from the 1870's. Onlty thirty years later, it was rapidly deteriorating, so it was replaced with Meissen porcelain. Only minimal damage to the tiles resulted from the 1945 bombing.
Katholische Hofkirche. The Cathedral of Dresden. It is beautiful outside and inside features a carefully restored organ, offering concerts pretty often.
What it used to be the Royal Palace is not only pretty outside, it features now some museums, like the Grünes Gewölbe.
The opera house is home the the Semperoper ballet, too. Not interested in those but still want to see the inside? They offer tours, too.
Whatever you do, do not miss this beautiful palace, and take a long look at the garden (for free!). A couple museums are here, too, one of it is the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, with paintings from the 15th to the 18th centuries, including some of Rembrandt.
Completely destroyed after the bombing and now completely restored, mostly with money from private donations. You can visit the inside, and you can climb to the top for great views from both the inside and the city.
The living center of the Altstadt, chances are high something is happening here: from markets to a Beach volleyball championship, and if you are coming before Christmas, one of Germany's oldest Christmas markets.
Newly opened, it's a concert hall and library in one. It has a café where you can see the Altmarkt from the top.
Kraftwerk mitte. I personally like the picture perfect restoration and industrial arquitecture of this precinct, turned to offices, a theater and some great cafés.
Whatever it looks like, it is a former cigarette factory building! Now it has a restaurant on top (and a biergarten in the warmer months).
Augustusbrücke & Marienbrücke.
Joining the Altstadt and Neustadt, the first is a beautiful old bridge, but the second offers the greatest view of the Altstadt, specially at night.
If hunger strikes, my favourite places for luch are Zum Schiesshaus for german food and BrennNessen, with great vegetarian options. For something smaller, you can go to the cafés in Kraftwert Mitte or Pau Pau Deli.
DAY 2: Neustadt
Neustadt, literally translated to "new city", is not that at all: its "Inner Neustadt" is the historic part close to the river. And the "Outer Neustadt", the quintessential young alternative neighbourhood, has an own flag featuring a Mickey Mouse and a 3-day long party every summer, the Bunte Republik Neustadt (BRN). In Neustadt you can find lots of art, restaurants for all budgets, bars, activities and party to spend (at least) a day.
This area right by the river, next to the Augustusbrücke has a stunning view, as are the sunsets (specially in summer, where you see the sun setting after Yenidze). If visiting with teenagers (real ones and those at heart), take them to the "Selfie Point".
Magnificent building, with (yet another) Museum and an impressive garden by the river that in summer hosts Palais Sommer, a kind of festival offering free daily yoga and events.
Curious about how August the Strong looked like? Well. Apparently like that.
Full with beautiful buildings, plenty of restaurants and galeries, like the Galerie Holger John, with a crushed Superman at the door!
From the Goldener Reiter to Albertplatz, this big street is nice to walk (and prone to events like street markets, too). Here you can find the market hall, the Neustädter Markthalle and the Dreikönigskirche. This large church was reconstructed, with big halls and rooms for events and keeps the original altar in the inside. You can go up the tower, too.
Hub for party people, the streets around here are full with life, restaurants and bars
A trendy 2-story cultural center with cafe, garden & music academy. Check for events happening when you are visiting!
That "blue house that makes music when it rains" you may have heard of? It is here, among other cool things.
If you want just to sit on green, this is the park to do it. Full to the tops in spring and summer, or just when it is sunny.
The building itself is impressive, and if you are interested in visiting but want to save yourself some money: Mondays from 18:00 the entrance is free!
This area is full to the tops with bars, restaurants and even food trucks, so walking around until you see somewhere you like to eat is a pleasure itself, and I have so many favourite places... But for the sake of keeping it down to 3, I choose some you may not notice when walking around. If you are visiting on a weekday and want some fast, cheap and good lunch, you can try the canteen in Dreikonigskirche (yes, inside the church!). If you like burgers, have a sweet tooth, like instagramable meals and cosy places, search for Maka maka, inside a courtyard in Bautzner Straße. For a cheap and tasty treat, Ibras, even if it doesn't look fancy, is always full for a reason.
DAY 3: Do a day trip
Do you want to go hiking? Do a bike tour? Don't feel like it (or the weather is not cooperating)? Well, I have different proposals you can pick from:
In this National Park there are countless paths and hiking trails for different levels. My absolute favourite thing about living in Dresden, is that you can reach it by S-Bahn in less than 1 hour (take a look to the Kleingruppenkarte, a day ticket which costs 29,50€ for up to 5 people and includes some of the ferries to cross the river, too). Some known spots are the Basteibrücke or Festung Königstein, which you can visit. The trails starting and/or finishing in the cute town of Schmilka are really beautiful, too. You can search for hikes online, like for example in https://www.komoot.com/guide/29/hiking-in-saxon-switzerland. The trails are very well mantained and with clear signs, but always check the weather, bring enough water and food and be safe!
This is a great bike trip along the Elbe bike line, and what my sister ended up doing. If you start in the Neustadt, cross the Albertbrücke and continue along the Alststadt side until Blaues Wunder. This way you have views from the city first, and then from the castles, with possible stops at SchillerGarten or Fährgarten Johannstadt. Cross the Blaues Wunder, and if you have time, or decide not to go all the way to Pillnitz, you can take a ride in the suspension railway, the Schwebebahn, and/or the Standseilbahn (with a café/restaurant top of them). Follow the bike line until Pillnitz (warning: the last part is uphill along the road, or offroad along the river). The park visit is free or 3 euro for adults, depending on the time of the year. Don't forget to check the outside too! The way back can be done all the time along the Neustadt side, and take the chance to stop for dinner at Brauhaus am Waldschlosschen.
25km from Dresden, I like to go there by bike along the Elbe Radweg, but since it is a long distance I would recommend for a visitor to take the S-Bahn. :) It is a cute small town with the Albrechtsburg castle, the Gothic Meissen Cathedral and the Meissen Frauenkirche.
13km from Dresden lies Moritzburg, a small town reachable by S-Bahn or a great trip by bike. There, you find this beautiful castle, with great gardens for a picnic.
Still in Dresden, this forest have some trails too. More a half day thing, it's still a choice if short on time.
DAY 4: Park & Prager Straße
Wildly overlooked by people short on time, the area around the park is both beautiful and peaceful, while Prager Straße is always busy.
Take time to walk around this Baroque style park that covers about 1.8 km², where you can see two palaces: the Palais Großer Garten and Carolaschlösschen. Depending on the time of the year, you can take a small train to drive you around.
Just in the park is the Volkswagen's Transparent Factory, a car factory and exhibition space. Some of it you can see for free, and then they offer tours, too.
This free botanical garden is maintained by the Dresden University of Technology, and still part of the park, too.
If you are interested in zoos... this one is not big, but it has Red Pandas!
Optional: Hygiene museum.
It is a medical museum, and I promise, way more entertaining that it sounds! Specially if the weather is not that nice, check it out.
Home of the city football team, the Dynamo Dresden. For football fans.
The shoping street. Always full of people and cool shops. New for me when I came to Germany was Globetroter, a shop for outdoor activities that sometimes offer cool events.
In case you feel you would like to do something more any of the days, but don't know what, this are some cool extras you can take a look into
In a former gasometer, displays one of two 1:1 panorama paintings of Dresden, either in its golden times (1700) or the aftermath after the bombing of 1945.
Along the Elbe you can see several operators offering different tours
Bismarksäule or Fichteturm.
Located a bit further away, but both easily accesible, both offer fantastic views of Dresden and even all the way to Sächsischer Schweiz.
Close to the main station, this church with its blue onion-shaped towers looks like it came out of a fairy tale book.