Sunset on the Elbflorenz

Dresden: Florence on the Elbe River

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”.

Dresden Old Town
The Semper Opera House
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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.

The Church of Our Lady

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.

Zwinger Palace
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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.

View of Dresden Old Town from the bank of the Elbe River
Dresden 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.

The Eierschecke
Another version of the Eierschecke
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46 thoughts on “Dresden: Florence on the Elbe River”

  1. Mel & Suan – Singapore – Mel works his day job for a living, but lives for antiquities, history and geography at all other times. He enjoys writing and thought sharing and obviously traveling. Suan is a homey person, who like girlie stuff such as cross stitching etc. Enjoys shopping & modeling for Mel. What a match!
    Mel & Suan says:

    Oh wow! Such a beautiful city!

  2. Bama – Jakarta, Indonesia – Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.
    Bama says:

    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.

    1. 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.

  3. Kelly MacKay – After a successful 13 years career as a professional female jockey. I now teach fitness to our Canadian Forces soldiers' at CFB Gagetown, In Oromocto, New Brunswick.. When I am not training our soldiers, I enjoy travelling I have been to all 10 provinces and the Yukon Territory, ( NWT, and Nunavut left to see) Just Hawaii and Washington state missing from my USA travels, I have visited All the UK, Scandinavia, and just missing Portugal from continental Europe. Kenya, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Tanzania on the African continent. Still so much to see. During covid I have stayed with in the Atlantic bubble :NB, NS, NFLD some of PEI . In my posts you will see Hear an feel my love of photography both landscape and wildlife. Nights of Camping (mostly under the cap in the back of my Blue Ford Ranger but occasionally in a tent,) I will take you hiking cycling, Kayaking, rock hounding. We will go off the tourist trail to find interest stories of, art, history, geology, natural history, bird watching cultural experiences, as well as unexplained tails of Vikings pirates UFO's ghost, paranormal, and the odd story of my horse racing life -as a jockey. I love to read and write. I enjoy cooking Vegan meals Please stop by any time a cup of tea or chilled beer is waiting for you.. Cheers
    Kelly MacKay says:

    Thanks for the tour, nice photos

  4. 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!

    1. 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.

  5. 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! 🙂

    1. 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 🙂

  6. Traveltellers – Kanpur – Hi. We are travellers from India. We love visiting places that are close to nature or have historical significance. We also prefer to plan trips ourselves. Our blog is more like a travel diary for us to preserve our memories and if sharing it helps anyone else then all the better.
    Traveltellers says:

    You click amazing pictures Len! Dresden seems the kind of city we would enjoy exploring.

  7. Did you go to Neustadt? It’s very hip and artsy and so different from the Aldstadt part of town.

    1. 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 🙂

  8. Nano @ Travels With Nano – Tokyo, Japan – Hi, I'm Nano! Welcome to my site! Travels With Nano is filled with everything I am passionate about: uncovering the world one sight, bite and cultural experience at a time. I'm here to share savvy travel tips and inspire (not influence!) your future travel adventures. Needless to say, I am thrilled to have you here reading!
    Nano @ Travel With Nano B. says:

    I always wanted to visit, but never got to it. It looks so beautiful. Your photos are stunning, Len! xx

  9. Lucid Gypsy – Lucid Gypsy is mum to two grown up kids and Mma to 3 granddaughters and 1 grandson. How did that happen, surely I'm not grown up enough? I love writing – lazy poetry and quite edgy fiction, one day I'll have time to write more and think about it less. In an ideal world, I'd be travelling a lot, but meanwhile I'll go anywhere I can whenever I can. What I'm best at is counselling; I’ve been privileged to work with many special people. I live in the beautiful county of Devon, thank goodness for Devon.
    Lucid Gypsy says:

    I’ve just returned from Florence and I see the similarities, ,I’ll add Dresden to my list!

    1. 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.

  10. Orvillewrong – "I am well read, fairly well travelled, maybe not as many stamps on my passport as I would like. Young at Heart, Always! I like Military history. I Love Life`s variable, colour, character are potential events to record for posterity!!
    Orvillewrong says:

    A beautiful city, beautifully photographed and presented!

  11. bushboy – Landcare, photography, music, poetry (of sorts), cooking, our environment, life on the land and making a difference where I can. MotoGP is my "boy" fix.
    bushboy says:

    Thanks for taking me to Dresden 🙂

  12. Gabriela Marie Milton – Gabriela Marie Milton #1 Amazon Best-Selling Author, 2019 Author of the Year at Spillwords Press NYC; internationally published poet; poetry collections Woman: Splendor and Sorrow (Vita Brevis Pres, July 27, 2021); Passions: Love Poems and Other Writings (Vita Brevis Press, April, 2020)
    short-prose-fiction says:

    Wonderful pictures!

  13. sarishboo – Boston – First name: Sarish, Last name: Unimportant. Small town girl living in this big bad world. This is a digital carbon copy of some of the people, places, and things that bring me joy in life. I say the most "extra"ordinary things. I'm super extra and I wouldn't have it any other way. If you do not agree or like what I write then you don't have to read it. I'm not here to offend anyone.
    sarishboo says:

    These pictures are absolutely stunning! I have serious wanderlust now. I’ve always wanted to visit Germany. Are Germans friendly?

    1. 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 🙂

      1. sarishboo – Boston – First name: Sarish, Last name: Unimportant. Small town girl living in this big bad world. This is a digital carbon copy of some of the people, places, and things that bring me joy in life. I say the most "extra"ordinary things. I'm super extra and I wouldn't have it any other way. If you do not agree or like what I write then you don't have to read it. I'm not here to offend anyone.
        sarishboo says:

        That’s good to know 🤗thanks for the advice. Happy New Year!

  14. Rama Arya – Mumbai, India – I travel for the love of travelling. I blog for the love of blogging. About Me: ramaarya.com My Personal [Travel and Art] Blog: ramaarya.blog My Work: thecommunique.co.in My Communication Blog: ramaarya.tumblr.com
    Rama Arya says:

    I so love those blue skies peppered with snow-white fluffs of clouds. Great photography as always, Len. 🙂

  15. Forestwood – A philosophic Aussie writes here at StPA, one who will readily admit to loving Scandinavia. I'm interested in global politics and what drives us to be who we are. Scratch the surface and you'll find a practical Environmentalist with an egalitarian bent, trying to unleash a little creativity via the written word. Scandinavian culture, literature and traditions are close to my heart, even though I'm Australian. Travel and courteous discussions greatly broaden the mind, so I travel if I can and am always up for a vigorous, respectful discussion. I'm an avid reader, I enjoy photography and craft, particularly traditional art forms. I hope you'll find 'Something to Ponder About,' in my WordPress Community.
    Forestwood says:

    Do you realize that I have to go to Dresden now? Thanks for such a great post!

  16. Forestwood – A philosophic Aussie writes here at StPA, one who will readily admit to loving Scandinavia. I'm interested in global politics and what drives us to be who we are. Scratch the surface and you'll find a practical Environmentalist with an egalitarian bent, trying to unleash a little creativity via the written word. Scandinavian culture, literature and traditions are close to my heart, even though I'm Australian. Travel and courteous discussions greatly broaden the mind, so I travel if I can and am always up for a vigorous, respectful discussion. I'm an avid reader, I enjoy photography and craft, particularly traditional art forms. I hope you'll find 'Something to Ponder About,' in my WordPress Community.
    Forestwood says:

    It is amazing how appealing the buildings are, even if they are reconstructions

      1. Forestwood – A philosophic Aussie writes here at StPA, one who will readily admit to loving Scandinavia. I'm interested in global politics and what drives us to be who we are. Scratch the surface and you'll find a practical Environmentalist with an egalitarian bent, trying to unleash a little creativity via the written word. Scandinavian culture, literature and traditions are close to my heart, even though I'm Australian. Travel and courteous discussions greatly broaden the mind, so I travel if I can and am always up for a vigorous, respectful discussion. I'm an avid reader, I enjoy photography and craft, particularly traditional art forms. I hope you'll find 'Something to Ponder About,' in my WordPress Community.
        Forestwood says:

        It still retains the old world atmosphere

  17. Tina Schell – I am passionate about photography, love traveling and exploring new places and faces, and seeing the world from different perspectives. My lens is always on the lookout for something beautiful or interesting.
    Tina Schell says:

    It’s amazing that they’ve totally rebuilt Len. Silo many European cities had so much damage. Sad. Beautiful images, appreciate the tour!

    1. 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 😀

  18. 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).

    1. 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 🙂

  19. Alison and Don – Occupation: being/living/experiencing/travelling In our sixties, with apparently no other authentic option, my husband Don and I sold our apartment and car, sold or gave away all our stuff and set off to discover the world. And ourselves. We started in Italy in 2011 and from there have travelled to Spain, India, Bali, Australia, New Zealand, SE Asia, South America, Egypt, Japan, etc. - you can see the blog archive. We travelled full-time for nearly six years, and now travel 2-3 months per year. We are interested in how the world works, how life works, how the creation of experience works, how the mind works. As we travel and both "choose" our course, and at the same time just let it unfold, we discover the "mechanics" of life, the astounding creativity of life, and a continual need to return to trust and presence. Opening the heart, and acceptance of what is, as it is, are keystones for us both. Interests: In no particular order: travel, photography, figure skating (as a fan), acceptance, authenticity, walking/hiking, joy, creativity, being human, adventure, presence, NOW. Same for Don except replace figure skating with Formula One motor racing.
    Alison and Don says:

    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!
    Alison

    1. 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.

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