Dresden’s name might be associated with a tragic wartime event, but this is the last thing that springs to Kate Rothwell’s mind when thinking of ‘The Florence of the North’.
DRESDEN DOESN’T give up. Famed mostly for its devastating and controversial bombing by the Allies in World War II, the capital of Saxony still boasts many breathtaking examples of architecture and the vibrant spirit of a city that rebuilt itself in more ways than one.
One of the most symbolic losses from the bombing was the destruction of the Frauenkirche, an ornate Baroque cathedral which has since been rebuilt and was re-consecrated only in 2005.
Another striking Baroque construction situated in the Altstadt (Old City) is the Zwinger, a palatial building designed to house eighteenth century festivities that now plays host to ballets, concerts and exhibitions.
There’s no better place to picnic in Dresden than in Großer Garten, a large park, which during the summer features a novelty train, the best form of transport for anyone who wants to indulge their inner child.
Providing a scenic setting in Dresden’s city centre is the River Elbe, which leads to the neighbouring town of Meißen, a picturesque town renowned for its pottery and is perfect for a day trip. Equally due an afternoon visit is the quaint Pillnitz, which houses one of the many castles to be found tucked away throughout Saxony.
The Elbe is also home to the Blue Wonder Bridge, the sandstone mountains of the so-called ‘Saxon Switzerland’ and open-air film screenings on its city bank during the summer months, a wonderfully scenic way to pass a warm August evening.
On the other side of the river is the Neustadt (New City), so called because it was rebuilt after a fire in the seventeenth century and subsequently included as part of the city. The Neustadt is an artistic hub and a favourite area for nightlife-loving students.
One bar you won’t regret visiting is the Wohnzimmer (Sitting Room), the décor of which comprises not only of the trendy layout typical for any European nightspot but also a GDR-reminiscent – you guessed it – sitting room.
Even more odd however, is Dresden’s most ‘surreal’ pub, Stilbruch, where streetlamps are used as indoor lighting and the occasional table adorns the ceiling. Flowerpower is a club perfect for anyone ready to dance (and sweat – it’s cosy in there) their way through the night while Katy’s Garage is best suited for live music and a pint of Radeberger in the spacious beer garden.
Dresden has much more to offer than the history books would suggest, and being only 165 kilometres from Berlin, 120 from Prague and a mere 110 from the Polish border it isn’t short of weekend break options either. Yet with scenic surroundings, grand architecture and a variety of activities on offer for the culture vulture, outdoor enthusiast and party animal alike, you might find yourself wanting to spend more time in ‘the Florence of the North’ than you ever expected.