Boasting a riverine location, pleasantly mild climate, a magnificent historic center, as well as numerous renowned museums and art collections, Dresden – the capital city of the Free State of Saxony – is often called Elbflorenz, or “Florence on the Elbe”, reflecting its role as a center of art and architecture in Germany.
Situated in a valley of the Elbe River, near the Czech border, Dresden has a long history as the capital and royal residence of the Electors and Kings of Saxony. They furnished the city with cultural and artistic splendors. Unfortunately, Dresden was nearly burnt to the ground during the Second World War. Only the city’s oldest part can still retain the essence of the glorious time.
1. Dresden Old Town
Looking at the Baroque architecture, you probably think Dresden’s Old Town has existed for centuries. But in reality, it was reconstructed just a few decades ago. Between the 13th and 15th of February 1945, the entire historic center was leveled up by the Allied bombers. And thousands of Germans lost their lives in this firestorm. Historians used to discuss this unnecessary destruction. However, what has been done cannot be undone, and thus Dresden started to rebuild itself.
Much like Florence in Italy, Dresden’s Old Town is a center of art in Germany. The riverside city houses several key cultural institutions, including the Old Masters Gallery in Zwinger Palace, the Semper Opera House, and the Green Vault – one of Europe’s largest treasure collections. Its name actually comes from the most valuable exhibited item – the 41 carats “Dresden Green Diamond”.
1.1 Church of Our Lady
Dominating the skyline is Dresden’s most well-known symbol of, the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). Completed in 1743 and rebuilt after the Second World War, this Baroque church was an outstanding example of Protestant sacred architecture. It features one of Europe’s grandest domes, measuring 24 meters in height and 26 meters in diameter.
The church’s façade is equally unique, with darker-colored stones scattering across the light surface. These stones are remains of the original structure which collapsed during the 1945 firestorm. Atop the bell-shaped dome is a viewing platform where visitors can enjoy a sweeping view over the Old Town and the Elbe River.
1.2 Dresden Zwinger
Constructed in 1709 on the behest of Saxon Elector Augustus the Strong, Zwinger is another masterpiece of Baroque architecture. This palace was initiated as an orangery and a simple venue for court games. But over time, it grew into a building complex that features richly ornated gates, pavilions, and galleries.
These days, Zwinger is home to multiple art museums, as well as a spectacular collection of Meissen porcelain. A stunning fountain, complete with sculptures and vases, can be found right next to the palace. It reminds me of the splendor of German Baroque art, which was at its height during the 17th and 18th centuries.
2. The Elbe River
Similar to the Arno in Florence, the Elbe River is the bloodline of Dresden. It rolls through the city, separating the Old Town on the western bank and the New City built in the 19th century on the opposite side. The river then flows out into the beautiful Saxon countryside, passing by meadows, cottages, and even vineyards.
The riverbank landscape was so extraordinary that UNESCO inscribed it as a World Heritage Site in 2004. Unfortunately, a four-lane bridge was constructed not long after that. It ruined the original scenery, forcing the international organization to delist the site in 2009. Nevertheless, the riverbank is a perfect place to take a stroll and admire Dresden’s beautiful skyline.
3. The Eierschecke
The Eierschecke is Dresden’s special cake and perhaps its most well-kept secret. As its name derives from a tripartite piece of clothing, the Eierschecke consists of three sheets. The upper layer is made of egg yolk which is creamy stirred with butter. The middle layer is a kind of custard containing quark and vanilla flavoring.
Finally, the base is somewhat similar to a sponge cake. Despite its heavenly taste, the fame of this specialty strangely has never grown beyond the borders of Saxony. One good address to try this sweet treat is the Dresdner Kaffeestübchen on the Salzgasse, a short walking distance from the Church of Our Lady.
Die Eierschecke ist eine Kuchensorte, die zum Schaden der Menschheit auf dem Rest des Globus unbekannt geblieben ist.Erich Kätschne, German author
*Translation: The Eierschecke is a type of cake which to the detriment of humanity remained unknown to the rest of the world.
46 thoughts on “Dresden: Florence on the Elbe River”
Oh wow! Such a beautiful city!
Coincidentally this morning I watched a program on DW about Dresden. It’s very impressive how the city managed to rebuilt itself from the debris of war — I can’t imagine the amount of work and time dedicated to reconstructing those magnificent monuments, one piece of stone after another.
It might take years or even decades 🙂 I also think that the collapse of the Berlin wall partly contributed to the revive of Dresden. Without the financial support from the West (including donations from Western Germans), it would be very difficult to conduct such a gigantic project.
Thanks for the tour, nice photos
My pleasure! 🙂
Great, Len! 🙂 It’s so nice to see Dresden under the sun, when I went some months ago it was a cloudy day. Now I have a more complete vision of this great city. Hope you had a wonderful time there!
Thanks, Eleazar! The trip was blessed with great weather but it was quite short. I wish I could have time to visit the Saxon Switzerland National Park 🙂 Maybe next time.
Dresden has been on my radar for more than 2 years now and I still haven’t managed to get there despite living 5 hours drive away. Your photos are good encouragement! Did you visit the nearby Saxon Switzerland national park? I hear that it’s perfect for hiking. Dresden looks charming and brilliant photos as always, Len! 🙂
Thank you, Pooja! Unfortunately, I did not go to the park this time because I only planned one day for Dresden. It is just one hour from Dresden by trains, but you need at least 1/2 day or a day to see this area 🙁 Although I am not into hiking, I really wanted to see the spectacular Bastei 🙂
You click amazing pictures Len! Dresden seems the kind of city we would enjoy exploring.
Many thanks! Yeah, Dresden is surely worth visiting.
This is beautiful! I’ll need to visit someday
I highly recommend 🙂 Thanks for comment!
wonderful guide you made:)!
Thank you 😉
Did you go to Neustadt? It’s very hip and artsy and so different from the Aldstadt part of town.
I just went there for dinner, so i could not see much. But it does feel very different than the Altstadt. It feels somehow like Berlin, just less crowded 🙂
I always wanted to visit, but never got to it. It looks so beautiful. Your photos are stunning, Len! xx
Thanks a lot, Nano! 😉
Love the pictures. So beautiful 🙂
I’ve just returned from Florence and I see the similarities, ,I’ll add Dresden to my list!
You should visit Dresden soon, before the city and its museum are filled with tourists like Florence 🙂 Currently, there is no queue for most attractions, except at the Church of Our Lady. However, the queue moves quite fast.
A beautiful city, beautifully photographed and presented!
Many thanks! 😀
Thanks for taking me to Dresden 🙂
You welcome! 🙂
These pictures are absolutely stunning! I have serious wanderlust now. I’ve always wanted to visit Germany. Are Germans friendly?
Yes, if you are their friends or acquaintance 🙂 But if you are a completely stranger, it might be difficult to make a conversation with Germans, especially when you cannot speak their language.
Being said that, you can still ask them for help if needed. In most cases, they won’t wave you away 🙂
That’s good to know 🤗thanks for the advice. Happy New Year!
I so love those blue skies peppered with snow-white fluffs of clouds. Great photography as always, Len. 🙂
Thank you, Rama 🙂
Do you realize that I have to go to Dresden now? Thanks for such a great post!
It is amazing how appealing the buildings are, even if they are reconstructions
Indeed. I was surprised to know that everything was re-built after the war. A lot of work was done here 🙂
It still retains the old world atmosphere
It’s amazing that they’ve totally rebuilt Len. Silo many European cities had so much damage. Sad. Beautiful images, appreciate the tour!
It was a miracle that the East German government re-built the original Dresden Old Town. Otherwise, we would see another town full of Soviet-style buildings. I’m glad that you like the post, Tina 😀
Dresden is on my list for next summer. It looks beautiful and I really want to try the cake (strange how it has remained only a local specialty).
I was surprised as well because the cake is really tasty! Perfect for an afternoon tea! I only knew about this cake thanks to a bookseller. I was buying a guide book to Germany and she (as a proud Dresdener) informed me about her hometown’s specialty 🙂
Reblogged this on THE FLENSBURG FILES.
Thanks for sharing 🙂
Beautiful post. It’s hard to believe it was all recently rebuilt. Plus I think I need to go to Dresden if only for the cake!
It is a (tasty) secret of Dresden 😛 Actually, I know about this cake through a book dealer who incidentally a Dresdener. She insisted that I have to try that cake when visiting the city.