A city guide to Dresden, East Germany’s reconstructed cultural masterpiece

Seven highlights of visiting Dresden

1. Zwinger: To visit the Zwinger is to immerse yourself in Dresden’s baroque golden age. Built as a party venue for the royal family in the 1700s, when Augustus the Strong sat on the throne (his own residence, Dresden Castle, stands behind the Zwinger and is also well worth visiting), the sumptuous palace complex dotted with sculptures surrounds a huge courtyard filled with fountains. It now houses three museums: the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery), which houses famous works of art, including Raphael’s Sistine Madonna; the Porzellansammlung (Porcelain Collection); and the Salon Mathematisch-Physikalischer, which features a curious collection of telescopes, clocks and globes.

2. Procession of Princes: This 100 meter long mural depicts the rulers of Saxony in the form of a procession of horsemen. The 24,000 porcelain tiles adorn the exterior of the Stallhof, part of the Dresden Castle complex, and were among the only items nearby to survive the February 1945 bombardment. The porcelain can withstand temperatures of up to ‘at 1,000C, when much of the city burned down, Augustus and his ancestors rode.

3. Kunsthofpassage: After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Kunsthofpassage in Neustadt was taken under the wing of a group of artists. The result: a series of refreshing and original street art. The most famous feature intertwining drainpipes that twist and turn against a turquoise background; when the rain passes through them, it produces a musical tinkling sound. Another building is decorated with a giant relief depicting a giraffe, as well as monkeys swinging from window to window. Murals and artwork can be found throughout the area, and a walking tour with guides like Susanne Reichelt offers an insider’s perspective.

4. Grosser Garden: In Dresden’s largest park, which stretches east from Altstadt, paths are overhung with horse chestnut trees and a small train circles the border. The real draw, however, is the crumbling Baroque Summer Palace, built in 1680. In the spring, a flower festival sees its halls filled with plants, while every winter a local theater company performs A Christmas CarolEin Weihnachtslied candlelit.

5. German Hygiene Museum: This museum was founded by Karl Lingner, best known for making Odol mouthwash. Far from focusing solely on sanitation, however, the purpose of the space was to examine trends in science and culture. There are sections on life and death, nutrition, sex, movement and beauty, and recent exhibits have included a thought-provoking look at the future of food.

6. By bike: As Dresden is quite flat, cycling is an easy way to cover a lot of ground. Cycle to Blasewitz, a residential area full of pastel-hued 19th-century villas, before heading to the river, where you’ll have great views of the city’s three palaces – Albrechtsberg, Lingner and Eckberg – on the opposite shore. Many hotels provide bicycles or you can join a tour. Private, local Dresden guide Cosima Curth offers a four-hour cycle with multiple stops for £150.

7. Take a hike: The Saxon Switzerland National Park lies east of Dresden, and trains to the picturesque town of Pirna – the park’s entry point – take less than 20 minutes. From here, you can explore a fairytale landscape of epic proportions, where sandstone peaks puncture a forest of pines, oaks and firs. Consider a culinary hike with BrotZeit Tour; Founder Kristin knows the area like the back of her hand and will even prepare a picnic with local cheese, meat and wine.

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