If Dresden were a cocktail, its addictive recipe would be wine, architecture and grit. One sip and you'd be hooked forever. At least that's what happened to us the first time we set foot in Dresden. Not only we fell in love with how the city looks like, but we established such a connection with the Saxon capital, that we decided to make it our home. And so, for more than two years, we lived in one of Bellotto's paintings: the ever-changing, contrasting and fascinating city of Dresden.
Many know of Dresden for its tragic fate during WWII when the opulent baroque sites were reduced to rubble. The city still bears many wounds from the bombing raids of 1945, but it has undergone significant reconstruction in recent decades. A visit to the Dresden Panometer will show you two sides of the city: the Baroque Dresden as it might have appeared in 1756, as well as Dresden in 1945, a city destroyed during World War II.
Despite the cataclysm of World War II, Dresden showed true grit, as it took decades to bounce back. There are pictures of locals picking up stones to clear the streets and make room for reconstruction. Brick by brick, Dresden went from nothing to magnificent. Unlike any other city, Dresden gracefully rose like a Phoenix from its own ashes. And it sure made an entrance, as it is now considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and in the world.
Condensed in Altstadt, you have everything you could ever desire for the cultural mind to unleash your imagination. Elegance is how we could best describe Altstadt, home to reconstructed landmarks like Dresden Castle, the Zwinger palace, the majestically ornate Frauenkirche and the lavishing Semperoper.
If it's old Dresden you wish to admire, you will do well to visit the heart of the city with its perfect cobblestones, old school boutiques and enchanting European cafes. At sunset, climb to the Frauenkirche’s dome and look out over the rooftops: beneath you, there's a new Dresden disguised in its old facade.
Dresdeners are hardy by nature and nowhere this is more evident than in its alternative Berlinesque side: the Neustadt. Cross the sandstone Augustus bridge from Altstadt towards Neustadt, and you will notice how the landscape changes. From majestic buildings and grandiose sites, you slowly cross into gritty alternative quarters, with graffiti-filled walls and experimental art at every corner. Like a shapeshifter, Dresden captures your imagination with new facades, one for every personality you wish to convey.
There are countless different sides to Dresden. The vast spectrum of different architectural styles have shaped this beguiling burg into a diverse, thriving city. You can find yourself taking your coffee on the Brühlsche Terrasse on the banks of the Elbe river, eating German cake in one of the posh establishments surrounding the Residenzschloss or admiring Bellotto’s painting in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister. In fact, Dresden is so incredibly varied that it's not considered bizarre to turn up in your hiking shoes, as the city is home to the Dresden Heide, a forest as large as 50 km2 (19 sq mi).
Meander along the river and find the upmarket Loschwitz, cosied up between the bewitching Heide Forest and the Elbe with its gorgeous Blaues Wunder bridge. This enthralling place dazzles with hypnotising vistas of the cityscape from above. Loschwitz is a village-like enclave with quaint streets and colourful gift shops. Gorgeous estates with playfully elaborate gardens, homes with embellished doorways, and decorative timber frameworks, it was like stepping in an old German fairytale.
Dresden boasts more historical estates than you could imagine, and not just in Altstadt, as previously mentioned, but along the river Elbe too. Take the path towards Pillnitz and pass palaces, mansions, gardens and castles. Pillniz has its own castle too, with historical gardens, landmarks and ruins. Sample a traditional German dessert from the Wippler Bakery in Pillniz and make your way back via the Dresden river cruise, a charming boat ride on a paddle steamer.
And if it's wine and food you wish to experience, then Dresden has that too. Dresden is located in Saxony, a region with a proud wine history. The wine produced here was enjoyed by emperors back in 980 AD. Dresden and Meissen are both key wine locations that hold wine festivals, tastings and seasonal celebrations.
You can either reserve a table at one of the many wine bars in the city or go right to the source and sample wine from the vineyard. We recommend Weine mit Weitblick Winzer Lutz Müller, a superb vineyard (open during the weekends only). Not only you will enjoy some of the best German wines, but you can order a traditional Flammkuchen too, which is a German pizza with delicious toppings. The vineyard boasts views over the river Elbe, so you can expect a romantic evening with a glass of wine and incredible vistas.
Not into wine? How about milk? Head over to the most unexpected places in Dresden, a milk shop that is now part of the Guinness Book of World Records. The milk shop, officially called Pfunds Molkerei, was opened in 1880 and was fortunate to survive the heavy bombing of the war. The entire interior is decorated with hand-painted Villeroy & Boch ceramic tiles. The shop is covered floor to ceiling with dancing angels, chubby babies, cows, and woodland creatures.
For something a little more unconventional, admire all the murals that make Neustadt Dresden's rebellious corner. Visit the Kunsthofpassage Singing Drain Pipes which are unique because this colourful drain and gutter system becomes a charming musical instrument when the rain starts to fall. And since you are already in the bastion of independent bars and lunch spots, enjoy vegan Ramen1974 followed by a cocktail at the Pinta cocktail bar.
Our favourite restaurant in town is Acheron, an authentic eatery run by a Greek family. Altes Wettbüro is brilliant for lunch while Schmidt's on Moritzburger Weg is the perfect restaurant for a special dinner. It would be unfair to not give a special mention to the Herz American Bar, a cosy lounge with incredible highballs.
I'm sure by now you can tell that Dresden holds a significant space in our hearts. Having lived in this city for over two years, we have developed an unprecedented affection towards the Saxon region. To us, Dresden is like an avant-garde collage with sophisticated architecture, environmental-supporting shops, flea markets, cobblestones, crazy cocktails, wine bars and the best ever sunsets. Dresden is shaped by such a vast array of influences which is why this German city is truly unique. It may not feel this way when you first arrive at the central station, or when you check-in into your hotel room. But give it a few days and you'll be head over heels, intoxicated on its wine, grit and architecture.
Dresden, we might not live there anymore, but it's the city we most look forward to visiting again.
This post was created in partnership with The German National Tourist Office. All restaurants, cafes and places of interest have been chosen by You Could Travel based on personal experiences.
As many of you know, we truly loved living in Dresden and in Germany in general. We got the chance to form lifelong friendships, photograph some of the most incredible parts of the country, explore off the beaten path towns only locals know about and drink delicious German wine. We did road trip after road trip around Germany, stayed in a Circus Hotel, saw fabulous shows and hiked in Saxon Switzerland. This post is our ode to Dresden, to Germany, a country we still call our second home. Deutschland, wir lieben dich!