Spending one day in Dresden is an excellent way to experience a smaller German city in a digestible amount of town. Located roughly equidistant between Berlin and Prague, it is possible to visit this beautiful city as a day trip – or as a stopping-off point between the two capitals.
This Dresden itinerary will take you around the historic centre – rebuilt to its former grandeur after being destroyed during WWII. Dresden is a fascinating city to visit and has a lot to offer visitors and it’s sure to be a highlight of any trip to this area of the world.
So if you’re looking for a great day out from Prague or are interested in seeing Dresden as part of a longer trip, then this guide should help you easily map out your time in this eastern German city.
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How Many Days in Dresden?
Dresden’s old town (which, incidentally, is newer than its new town) is relatively compact and you can easily see the top sites and highlights within the confines of a single day. If you do only visit Dresden in one day, you likely only have the time to hang around the old town, especially if you’re not planning on spending the night.
That being said, it can very much be worth it to spend 2 days in Dresden to ensure you get the opportunity to dig a bit deeper and have the chance to cross the Elbe and spend some time in Neustadt – or the new town.
Regardless if you’re going on a Dresden day trip from Prague, have a full day to spend or plan to see Dresden in 2 days, you will find that this charming German city has a lot to offer visitors and is very much worth taking the time to visit.
Getting To & Around Dresden
If you’re visiting Dresden from the Czech capital, there are several direct trains that run between Prague’s Hlavni Nadrazi and Dresden’s Hauptbahnhof daily. The journey takes roughly 2.5 hours.
There are also plenty of buses that run from Prague to Dresden – these tend to cost roughly the same as train tickets but shave about 30 minutes off the journey time. You can reach Dresden from Prague by bus in about 2 hours.
If you plan to come to Dresden as a day trip from Prague, you can join a number of organised tours such as this small group tour that can also be made private or this full-day tour that focuses on the Old Town and Dresden’s Christmas markets.
Being a major city, Dresden is also well-connected to other cities in Germany. As mentioned, you can reach Dresden from Berlin in 2-2.5 hours either by direct bus or train. You can view train and bus schedules here.
The central train station in Dresden (Hauptbahnhof) is located within easy walking distance of the old town and the main sites are all easily accessible on foot.
That being said, there is also ample public transportation available in Dresden that includes buses, trams and S-bahn trains.
You can opt to purchase tickets for the public transport onboard or at the stops or, consider buying the Dresden City Card which includes unlimited public transport along with discounted entry into a number of different attractions within the city.
One Day in Dresden Itinerary
This itinerary concentrates on the top sites in the old town which are all easily accessible on foot, especially if you’re arriving from the main train station.
You can opt to wander around independently and visit all of these sites at your own pace, or consider booking a guided walking tour in order to give more context to the sites you are visiting.
About a 15-minute walk along Prager Strasse from the main train station, you will arrive at Altmarkt – a perfect first stop during your visit to Dresden.
This historic medieval market square is vast and regularly holds host to markets even to this day – whether it’s the iconic Christmas market in December or various food and craft markets throughout the year.
Like most attractions in the Dresden Old Town, Altmarkt was rebuilt following the fire-bombing of Dresden at the end of the Second World War and holds all of its former charm.
While it’s a joy to visit at any time of year, if you happen to be here in December, Altmarkt does play host to Dresden’s Christmas Market, which is said to be the oldest in Germany – dating back to the 15th Century.
Just a few minutes walk from Altmarkt, you will find another iconic historic square in Dresden’s Old Town – Neumarkt. While Altmarkt translates to “old market”, Neumarkt translates to “new market”. In reality, these two squares are about the same age due to the rebuilding of the city.
Newmarket is a lovely square to take in, located at the base of the imposing Frauenkirche (the Church of Our). This square also plays host to a smaller Christmas market during the holiday season and you can sometimes find food or craft markets here throughout the year.
Even if there is not a special event taking place at this square, this is an excellent place to take in some restored historic buildings and to people-watch.
One of the most iconic buildings dominating the Dresden skyline is the imposing Frauenkirche – or the Church of Our Lady in English.
This massive Baroque church was one of the last buildings to be restored in the old town of Dresden and was only re-opened in 2005, due to the fact that religious buildings were not a priority for restoration by the former communist East German government.
Ground was broken on the original church (as it is modelled after today) in 1726 and it was originally opened in 1743. After it was destroyed in WWII, ground was broken again in 1993 and only reopened 18 years ago. It is an exact replica of the 18th-century church.
You can visit the church independently or opt for a guided tour to learn more about the history of this beautiful building.
Those who are keen to work up a bit of a sweat can also opt to climb the dome of the church – there is an additional fee for this, but you will be greeted with an incredible view over Dresden as a result!
No visit to a beautiful European city is complete without taking in an incredible castle and, fortunately, this is something you can experience on a visit to Dresden, as well! So after visiting the Church of Our Lady, set your sites on the imposing Residenzschloss – also known as the Dresden Castle or Royal Palace.
This is one of the oldest buildings in Dresden – although the roof and many other parts were destroyed during the 1945 bombings, the bones of the building remained intact. Its full restoration began in the 1960s and parts of it are still ongoing today.
Historically until the early 20th Century, the Residenzschloss was home to the electors and kings of Saxony. Today, the castle houses a collection of museums where you can learn about royal Saxony and take in the impressive collections of opulent treasures and jewels collected over the centuries.
The Royal Palace is home to a number of different museum galleries including the Royal State Apartments, the Firearms Gallery, the Turkish Chamber, the New Green Vault and the Historic Green Vault.
All museums besides the Historic Green Vault can be visited under the same general ticket. To visit the Historic Green Vault, you need to purchase a timed ticket entry.
Alongside the Frauenkirche, the Dresden Zwinger may be one of the most iconic monuments in the city. This beautiful baroque structure was first opened in the 18th Century and was meticulously reconstructed in the 1950s and ’60s.
This grand palatial complex is an unmissable place to visit when in this Saxon and it’s a great place to learn a bit more about the history.
Like the Royal Palace, there are a number of different museums to explore here, but you could also simply take the time to wander around the courtyard and the gardens.
Entry into the grounds of the Zwinger is free of charge, but there is paid entry into the museums and galleries. Some of the museums to be found at the Zwinger are the Porcelain Collection, Old Masters Picture Gallery (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister) and the Mathematical-Physical Salon. You can buy a single ticket for the major museums.
If you want to take in the true grandeur of the Zwinger, you can also book a concert here.
After exploring the Zwinger, head over to the adjacent Theatreplatz and take in the Semperoper – the Dresden Opera House one of the most famous Opera Houses in the world. Another of Dresden’s architectural gems, this is yet one more of the beautiful reconstructed historic buildings in the Saxon capital.
The Semperoper was first constructed in the mid-19th Century and reconstructed was completed in 1985. Today, it is home to the Dresden Opera and the Ballet and has seen countless famous performances over the centuries.
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. The interior is incredibly opulent and beautiful, so it is worth it.
After taking in an array of different historic attractions in Dresden’s Old Town, it’s time to enjoy the cityscape a bit and wander along Brühl’s Terrace, the promenade running beside the Elbe River.
From the Semperoper, first take a stop at the Dresden Cathedral, a gorgeous historic Catholic church that was also restored after the 1945 bombings.
Then, take the time to wander down this beautiful promenade – often referred to as the “Balcony of Europe” and enjoy the beautiful views you can get of Old Dresden on on side of the bank and New Dresden on the other. This is truly one of the best things to do in Dresden.
Elbe River Cruise
End your day by getting out onto the Elbe and taking a river cruise of Dresden. This is an excellent way to kick back, relax and take in some of the beauty of the Saxon Capital while getting off your feet for a bit.
There are lots of river cruise options, but they generally last between 1.5-2 hours and are well worth it to get a bit more historical context while experiencing some beautiful scenery and admiring the work that went into reconstructing this incredible German city.
After your cruise, if you’ve been visiting Dresden from Prague for just a day, you can make your way back to the train station and head back to the Czech capital.
Have 2 Days in Dresden?
If you have more than a day to spend in Dresden, there is plenty to do in the city to keep you occupied for another day – or even more!
With more time in Dresden, you can explore Neustadt – the new town of Dresden. Interestingly, the area of Neustadt wasn’t as affected by the 1945 bombings, 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. You could even opt to take a street art tour of this area if it interests you.
You could also take the time to visit a few more museums that you wouldn’t have had the time to in just one day in the city. For instance, there is the Dresden Transport Museum or the Albertinum Art Museum. Foodies should consider taking a gourmet tour of Dresden’s Old Town as well.
If you want to experience some incredible views over Dresden, then consider heading over to the Dresden Suspension Railway. This 19th-century funicular will take you to an observation deck where you can get spectacular views of the valley below.
And if you’re a car fan, then consider touring the Volkswagon Transparent Factory. This was only opened in 2002 but it can be interesting to visitors. Tickets can be bought here.
Where to Stay in Dresden
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
Lollis Homestay – This cosy hostel in the heart of Neustadt offers 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
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Dresden hotels!
A trip to Dresden is an excellent option if you’re looking for a great day out from Prague or if you’re keen to find an interesting city to stop on while travelling between the Czech capital and Berlin. This unique city has a lot to offer visitors and it is a true joy to explore.
Are you planning to visit Dresden? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!