A city guide to Dresden, eastern Germany’s rebuilt cultural masterpiece

Seven highlights of visiting Dresden

1. Zwinger: To visit the Zwinger is to dive into Dresden’s baroque heyday. Built as a party pad for royals in the 1700s, when Augustus the Strong sat on the throne (his own residence, Dresden Castle, stands behind the Zwinger and is also worth visiting), the lavish, sculpture-studded palace complex surrounds an enormous courtyard filled with fountains. It now houses three museums: the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery), in which hang celebrated artworks including Raphael’s Sistine Madonna; the Porzellansammlung (Porcelain Collection); and the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon, which displays a curious collection of telescopes, clocks and globes. 

2. Procession of Princes: This 335ft-long mural presents Saxony’s rulers as a procession of riders. The 24,000 porcelain tiles adorn the outside of the Stallhof, part of the Dresden Castle complex, and were among the only items in the vicinity to survive the bombing of February 1945. Porcelain can withstand temperatures of up to 1,000C, so while much of the city burned, Augustus and his ancestors rode on.

3. Kunsthofpassage: After the Berlin Wall came down, Kunsthofpassage, in Neustadt, was taken under the wing of a group of artists. The result: a series of refreshingly original street art. The most famous features interlinked drainpipes twisting and turning against a turquoise backdrop; when rain trickles through them, it produces a musical tinkle. Another building is adorned with a giant relief of a giraffe, plus monkeys swinging from window to window. Murals and art can be found all around the area, and a walking tour with guides like Susanne Reichelt offers an insider’s perspective.

4. Großer Garten: In Dresden’s biggest park, sprawling east from Altstadt, paths are overhung with horse chestnut trees and a small train chugs around the border. The real draw, though, is the crumbling baroque summer palace, built in 1680. In spring, a flower festival sees its rooms filled with plants, while each winter a local theatre company performs A Christmas Carol — Ein Weihnachtslied by candlelight.

5. German Hygiene Museum: This museum was founded by Karl Lingner, best known for manufacturing the mouthwash Odol. Far from focusing just 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 exhibitions have included a thought-provoking look at the future of food.

6. On your bike: As Dresden is fairly flat, cycling is an easy way to cover lots of ground. Cycle to Blasewitz, a residential area full of pastel-hued 19th-century villas, before turning towards the river, where you’ll get a great view of the city’s three palaces — Albrechtsberg, Lingner and Eckberg — on the opposite bank. Many hotels provide bikes, or you can join a tour. Private guide and Dresden local Cosima Curth offers a four-hour cycle with multiple stop-offs for £150.

7. Take a hike: The Saxon Switzerland National Park lies to the 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 pine, oak and fir trees. Consider a culinary hike with BrotZeit Tour; founder Kristin knows the area like the back of her hand and will even rustle up a picnic of local cheese, meat and wine.