Dresden has so much to offer in terms of art, history, and culture that it is difficult to choose the city’s top attractions. That said, below is a list of what I consider to be the top 10 sightseeing highlights in Dresden. You can see many of them on the Dresden Sightseeing Map, too.
1. Dresden Old Town – The Old Town is a great place to walk around, have lunch or coffee, or go sightseeing and shopping. There are a lot of museums and re-built historic Baroque buildings in the Altstadt, too. Don’t miss the Frauenkirche, the stunning Zwinger Palace, and the Semper Opera House. Neumarkt Square (home of the Frauenkirche) and Altmarkt Square (where the annual Dresden Christmas Market takes place) are also worth a visit, as are the 18th century Kreuzkirche Church and the New Synagogue, which was built in 2001.
2. Frauenkirche – Dresden’s most famous monument is the Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady. Rebuilt in 2005 after being destroyed in World War II, the church is a symbol of post-war peace. Part of the dome was donated by England in an act of reconciliation, and the walk up to the top of the tower offers great views over the city. Guided tours of the church are available, and audioguides can be rented for a small charge.
3. Semper Opera House – Located in the Old Town, the stunning Semper Opera House is situated in the Theaterplatz on the Elbe River. The historic venue was home to the premieres of many operas by leading composers, including Wagner and Strauss. Today the opera house’s programs focus mainly on concerts, ballet, and opera.
4. Royal Palace – The Dresden Royal Palace is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Built over the centuries by Saxon kings, the palace featured around 500 rooms before bombs and fire destroyed it during World War II. Since then it has undergone a complete re-building process.
The palace is now home to the museums that make up the excellent Dresden State Art Collections. Highlights of the Royal Palace include the New and Old Green Vaults, the English Stairway, which is a Baroque masterpiece, and the Stallhof (Stall Courtyard), where jousting tournaments once took place. Additionally, the Hausmann Tower offers great views over Dresden.
5. New and Old Green Vaults – The New and Old Green Vaults are a true highlight of the top sightseeing in Dresden. The vaults house the royal jewels, collections of decorative artistic pieces, gemstones, and other remarkable works of art. The Old Green Vault has been restored to its original decor, while the New Green Vault is a modern space.
6. Zwinger Palace – Built from 1710 to 1728, the Zwinger Palace is a Baroque masterpiece, and is one of Dresden’s most stunning buildings. The palace consists of six pavilions connected by galleries. Formerly used for court festivities and exhibitions, today the palace is home to the Old Masters Picture Gallery (with works by van Dijck, Vermeer, Rubens, Titian and Raphael), the armory (with weaponry from the 15th to 18th centuries), the Porcelain Collection, and the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon (with scientific instruments like sextants, clocks, and globes).
7. Dresden Cathedral – Built from 1739 to 1755, the Dresden Cathedral, or Hofkirche, is another great example of Baroque architecture in the city. The cathedral is the largest church in Saxony and features a Rococo Permoser pulpit, a Meng altarpiece, and a Silbermann organ. There are organ recitals on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11:30am to 12:00pm.
8. New Town – The New Town is not as new as it sounds. It has been around since 1403, and is home to an array of historic buildings, shops, restaurants, and monuments. The most important of these include the Neustadter Markt with its Golden Horseman statue of the Polish King Frederick August I, the Hauptstrasse, which is the main street of the New Town, and the trendy area between Konigsbrucker Strasse and Lutherplatz, which is home to many restaurants, cafes, and boutiques.
9. Neumarkt Square – Neumarkt Square is one of the most beautiful places in Dresden. The square is the home of the Frauenkirche, and also houses many restaurants, cafes, shops, and hotels. It is a great place to start a Dresden sightseeing tour or walk.
10. Altmarkt Square – Altmarkt Square is located just outside of the historic Dresden Old Town, but still deserves to be included in any list of the top 10 sightseeing spots in Dresden. The large square is lined by shops, restaurants, and cafes. It is a great place to sit on a sunny day and watch the world go by. The annual Dresden Christmas Market takes place here, too.