One Way to do Dresden

Dresden is essentially a river cruise destination on the River Elbe. The popularity of river cruising is increasing so I thought it no bad thing to include this mid-European jewel in my series of port visits. My wife and I visited Dresden while on the Viking Schumann river cruise ship. A full review of our journey along the Elbe can be found at …

Dresden is a mixture of magnificent Baroque architecture and new, quirky, innovative buildings. Set on a majestic bend in the river it is very easily accessed from the river cruise ship berths…

From the 19th century until the 1920s Dresden held a considerable cultural importance in Saxony when it was a center of art, architecture and music. Despite the ravages of time and war Dresden offers a unique snapshot which we are about to explore.

As with all Viking River cruises there are excellent excursions included and the visit to Dresden was no exception. We had berthed late the previous evening and I had taken a pre-breakfast opportunity to acquaint myself with the immediate area on both sides of the river bank, including capturing a picture of the Viking Schumann…

Our morning guided excursion started with a coach tour through the outlying  districts of Dresden which gave an interesting overview of the whole area. Our coach eventually dropped us at Dresden’s  Theatre Platz  (or Square),  an excellent point to start our guided walking tour.

Whenever Dresden is being talked about everyone immediately thinks of the Zwinger.  Reputably Germany’s most beautiful baroque building,  it served as the orangery, exhibition gallery and festival arena of the Dresden Court and has become the symbol of the city…

The  Glockenspiel Pavilion with its 40 Meissen China bells dominates one end of the courtyard, ..

…while behind the opposite Pavilion (shown centre here)…

….can be found the equally interesting Nymphs Bath and Water Feature…


Leaving the courtyard of the Zwinger and returning to the Theatre Platz, this area is dominated by the Saxon State Opera House…


Dresden Cathedral



…and the ‘Italienisches Doerfchen’  (Italian Village) which now operates as a very popular and somewhat architecturally attractive Italian Restaurant…

A short walk from Theatre Platz brought us to the focal point of our morning excursion, the Royal Palace…

Dresden’s Royal Palace was once the hub of power for the Saxon princes and kings. First mentioned in the 14th century as a castle complex it now houses what is known as the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault),  a unique museum complex that now houses the largest collection of treasures in Europe. It is filled with elaborate artworks of gold, silver, gems, enamel, ivory, bronze, and amber, and includes the largest green diamond in the world. The Grünes Gewölbe is located on the first and second floors of the western section of the palace. Our visit was courtesy of Viking River Cruises and a separate guide with specialist knowledge of the exhibits was provided.


**images courtesy of Wikimedia**

In the splendid interior architecture, around 3,000 masterpieces of worldwide jewellers’  and goldsmiths’ art are on display , as well as precious objects made of amber and ivory, gemstone vessels and elegant bronze statuettes. No visit to Dresden would be complete without a visit to the Green Vault.

There was just one feature for us to see with our guided excursion and that was one of the exterior walls of the palace. The Fürstenzug (English: Procession of Princes) is a large mural of a mounted procession of the rulers of Saxony. It was originally painted between 1871 and 1876 to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Wettin Dynasty, Saxony’s ruling family and containing some 24,000 tiles…

Following lunch on board the Clara Schumann my wife and I headed back out into Dresden to explore in more depth some of the buildings and features that we had been introduced to during the guided tour that morning.

Our priority was the Frauenkirche,   now a Lutheran church it was originally Roman catholic. The current Baroque building was purposely built Protestant. It is considered an outstanding example of Protestant sacred architecture and  features one of the largest domes in Europe…

And yes, yours truly climbed to the observation platform of the 96 metre Dome. Here are the views I took looking east along the Elbe…

….and west…

Having completed that evolution we set off in search of another of Dresden’s great churches, the Kreuzkirche.  It is easily reached, some 15 minutes walk from the Frauenkirche on the eastern side of Altmarkt, that’s it in the far corner of the square

The large rectangular market-place has been the heart of the town since Dresden’s foundation and was mentioned for the first time in a document in 1370. Altmarkt square remains to this day a site used for seasonal markets and events. One highlight, among others, is the annual Dresden Christmas Market – alas on the day of our visit there was no activity on the square.

The Kreuzkirche (Church of the Holy Cross)  is the largest church in Saxony. It also is the home of the Dresdner  boys choir….

We were keen to see one or two of Dresden’s features on the opposite side of the River Elbe – we had noted them on our panoramic tour earlier that morning. En route for the Augustus Bridge we did come across the Johanneum, a 16th-century Renaissance building originally named Stallgebäude because it was constructed as the royal mews. Today the Johanneum is home to the Dresden Transport Museum, which displays vehicles of all modes of transport and their history.

On the subject of transport and history, for those who may not have the ability to walk great distances, or have the luxury of inclusive excursions, we did note a number of fun looking tourist transport vehicles…


Just a thought!

On the northern side we took in buildings such as the Japanese Palace….

The ‘Japanisches Palais’  is a building with a fascinating history, a cultural institution of the first order and the home of famous Dresden art treasures. Standing elegantly on the Neustadt bank of the Elbe, it is often outshone by the more famous Altstadt side of the river with its dozens of architectural gems in close proximity to one another. It also houses a natural History museum and is well worth a visit.

Also north of the River Elbe we found the somewhat garish statue of the Goldener Reiter (Golden Rider), a gilded equestrian statue of Augustus the Strong that is one of Dresden’s best known landmarks.

The statue, showing Augustus, the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland dressed as a Roman Emperor, stands at the Hauptstrasse, the main pedestrian boulevard in Dresden’s Neustadt district, just across the Augustusbridge from the Schlossplatz.

Our time was now becoming limited so we opted for a walk along the north bank of the River Elbe before returning across the Augustus Bridge. This turned out to be an excellent decision because we came across this amazingly interesting feature on the riverside…

Effectively it gives the opportunity to view Dresden as it was portrayed in the famous Bernardo Bellotto painting…


(Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Bernardo Bellotto  was an Italian urban landscape painter famous for his vedute of European cities (Dresden, Vienna, Turin and Warsaw). He was the pupil and nephew of Canaletto and sometimes used the latter’s illustrious name, signing himself as Bernardo Canaletto. In Germany and Poland, Bellotto called himself by his uncle’s name, Canaletto.

Our return across Augustus  Bridge afforded us a splendid view of Dresden’s famous Bruehl Terrace.

Also nicknamed “The Balcony of Europe”, the terraced promenade was part of Dresden’s original rampart, until it became the garden of the Royal Palace. It’s centre piece, the Acadamy of Fine Arts

…and the Saxon House of the Estates  ( Ständehaus) which was the former parliament building and is today the seat of the Regional High Court…

I mentioned in the opening paragraphs the ‘new, quirky, innovative buildings’ that are also to be found – none  more so than this view which I caught as we sailed away from Dresden. It is the Yenidze,   a  former cigarette factory which was built between 1907 and 1909. It is notable for its orientalising exterior design and is now an office complex…

Our visit to Dresden was an amazing and memorable experience. When one considers that it was hidden from view during the 40 year lifespan of Communist East Germany when restoration of its architectural heritage was not a priority, the results are now quite awesome. If nothing more, it’s rise from the rubble is an achievement to behold. The centre is a meticulous reconstruction of Dresden’s former Rococo and Baroque heritage. A gem amongst Viking River Cruises itineraries.

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