Dresden wasn’t a city I had ever intended to spend much time in. However, after my initial plan of spending a couple of weeks in Berlin in summer went by the wayside due to accommodation shortages in the German capital, I found myself visiting Dresden.
I hadn’t done much research about the best places to visit in Dresden but after spending a few days wandering the streets, I was intrigued to find a city with two distinct sides worth exploring – the historic Old Town and the alternative area of Neustadt. Both sides provide travellers with a unique perspective of the city and I suggest taking the time to explore both areas if you’re planning to visit Dresden during a trip through Central Europe.
If you’re still on the fence and wondering ‘is Dresden worth visiting’, then here’s some essential information about these two unique areas of the city, how to get around and the best places to stay.
How to Get To & Around Dresden
Before we delve into what makes these two sides of the city unique, let’s discuss how to best get to and around the city when you visit Dresden.
Dresden is easily accessible by train from the rest of Germany and is only a 2-3 hour (depending on train speed) ride from Berlin. Trains in Germany can be expensive if booking last minute so it’s best to book in advance if you’re trying to cut down on the cost of your Europe trip.
We recommend using a platform like Omio to book tickets in advance, you can click here to browse schedules to Dresden from other German cities. Alternatively, it is also possible to take an organised day trip from Berlin if you prefer not to do the trip independently.
Once you’ve arrived in the city, you’ll find that Dresden is a fairly compact city and it is easy to walk around. Renting a bike is also a good option when visiting Dresden if you want to venture further away from the centre of town.
Visiting Dresden’s Historic Old Town
For most tourists that visit Dresden, the main draw is to explore the historic Old Town. However, the Old Town of Dresden isn’t actually that old.
The majority of Dresden’s Old Town was destroyed by Allied bombings during WWII and has been rebuilt over the following decades to resemble how it looked historically. Arguably Dresden’s most famous site, the Frauenkirche was only completely rebuilt in 2005 — just in time for Dresden’s 800-year anniversary.
The historic Old Town is fairly compact and easy to walk around and I suggest spending at least one day in Dresden exploring this area and marvelling at the baroque architecture that is less common for a German city.
Some of the must-see attractions when visiting Dresden’s Old Town include seeing the Dresden Frauenkirche (you can book tickets in advance here so you don’t need to wait in line!) which is the main Lutheran Church in the city and a visit to Zwinger Palace, which contains many famous sculptures and paintings. Entry to the palace is free, however, there is an entrance fee for some of the exhibitions.
Another popular attraction for tourists that visit Dresden is the Semperoper – one of the most famous Opera Houses in the world. If you want to visit, it is best to book a skip the line ticket in advance to ensure you don’t need to wait a long time to enter. It is also possible to combine an entrance ticket to the Semperoper with a guided walking tour of the Old Town. This is a great option is you want to learn more about the history of the city during your visit to Dresden.
The highlight for me during my visit to Dresden was simply wandering aimlessly through the Old Town, stopping to admire random buildings and streets and casually strolling along Brühl’s Terrace that runs parallel to the Elbe River. Neumarkt Square was also a great place to stop and people watch and maybe listen to a tune from one of the many buskers that can be found all over the Old Town.
If walking around aimlessly isn’t necessarily how you want to spend your time in Dresden, then taking this boat tour is a great way to see some of the highlights of Dresden in a relaxing way. You’ll see a number of the city’s most famous landmarks and also have a guide to explain some of the Dresden’s history.
Where to Stay in Dresden’s Old Town
The Student Hotel Dresden – This hotel is one of the best budget options if you want to stay close to the Old Town. It is located between the train station and the Old Town, offering guests a variety of private rooms suitable for up to two people. Reception is open 24 hours and there is the option to include breakfast in your daily rate. Click here to check their availability
Hyperion Hotel Dresden Am Schloss – Located right in the heart of the Old Town, this is the perfect place to stay for travellers who want to experience a bit of luxury when they visit Dresden. Rooms are large, clean and comfortable with guests able to enjoy the hotel’s onsite restaurant, bar, sauna and massage facilities. There is the option to add breakfast to your nightly rate. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Dresden’s Old Town
Visiting Dresden’s Alternative area of Neustadt
Whilst the historic Old Town might be the main conventional tourist drawcard, particularly for older travellers, the alternative area of Neustadt is fast drawing in young travellers with its trendy cafes, bars and alternative lifestyle rivalling what you would find in Berlin.
Interestingly, the area of Neustadt wasn’t as affected by the Allied bombings in WWII, meaning that parts of Neustadt are actually older than what is considered the historic Old Town. Wandering the streets here, you will stumble across beautiful Baroque architecture, cool street art and lovely open parks that become the centre of life in Neustadt over the summer.
One of my favourite activities while I was visiting Dresden was buying a couple of beers from a nearby store and heading to Alaunplatz park in Neustadt in the late afternoon. Locals swarm to this park in the summer and their artistic and sporting passions are at full show with jugglers, kite flyers and musicians just a few of the many talents on display.
No visit to Neustadt is complete without checking out one of the cool, hip cafes, restaurants or bars in the area. There are also a number of great affordable Turkish restaurants that are wonderful for either a quick kebab, falafel or a laid-back meal. Ask your accommodation for recommendations or simply wander the streets and pop into whichever place looks bustling or tasty to you!
Where to Stay in Neustadt
If you’re travelling on a budget then staying in Neustadt is a good idea as accommodation tends to be cheaper than the Old Town. The restaurants in the area are also considerably cheaper as they are more targeted to locals compared to many of the restaurants in the Old Town. Here are some recommendations for places to stay in Neustadt.
Lollis Homestay – a cosy hostel in the heart of Neustadt offering both dorms and private rooms. The hostel organises a number of activities including dinners and German lessons which is a great way to meet other travellers. Click here to check their availability
Backstage Hotel – If you prefer to stay in a hotel rather than a hostel, then this uniquely designed hotel is a great option. Their rooms all have cool and funky designs with modern amenities. There is the option to include a hearty buffet breakfast in your daily rate. Click here to check their availability
Airbnb – there a number of affordable private rooms that are available on Airbnb in Neustadt. If you’re travelling on a budget then this is a great way to save money and meet locals. Click here to find the best Airbnbs in Dresden!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other rooms in Neustadt!
If you’re still wondering ‘is Dresden worth visiting?’ then hopefully the chance to explore two distinct sides of the city is enough to convince you to add it your upcoming European itinerary! Make sure to take the time to explore both the historic Old Town and the alternative and emerging area of Neustadt.
When visiting Dresden or anywhere in Germany, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads
Are you planning to visit Dresden? What is your favourite part of the city? Add a comment below!