The Most Instagrammable Places in Dresden, Germany
I think Dresden is one of the most underrated cities in Europe. I went for the history but fell in love with the city is every way and was shocked by how incredible this place was and why everyone wasn’t flocking to it. Dresden is sometimes called the “Florence of the North”. The city was actually once the most powerful state in Germany. Dresden drew artists and architects from all over the world who threw their creativity onto the walls of the city. But such power came with a cost and in WWII, Dresden was bombed almost beyond recognition. After the fall of the wall in the 1980s, an enormous restoration effort was put into place to rebuild the city. Today we can visit an almost perfect recreation of Dresden as it was in the 18th century. While some people find this to be a bit like a living museum, that’s exactly what I liked. I always try to imagine what these ancient cities would have felt like in their day but here in Dresden you actually get a taste of what that might have been like - but with wifi. The city is both bursting with gorgeous architecture but also has its fair share of cute cafes, bars and restaurants ideal for instagrammers. Here are some of my favourite locations that photo savvy travellers must visit on their next trip to Dresden! There is a google map at the bottom of this post you can use to find each and every location mentioned on the list.
The Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (or Old Masters Gallery) is honestly the best art gallery I ever had the pleasure of visiting. It doesn’t feel too big nor too small. It’s like a grand old home that someone has decorated with exquisite pieces of arts — a stellar collection that’s lovingly curated. While it may seem much smaller than the Louvre or the Prado, there are over 700 paintings on display, all ranging from the 15th to 18th century. Treasures from major Italian Renaissance artists, Dutch and Flemish masters and other works by German, French and Spanish painters combine to form this hidden gem in Dresden. Standing amongst these iconic images feels like standing inside a great storybook and makes for such an incredible photo.
Food and architecture fans will find common ground here at the Coselpalais. The old palace has been reconstructed in late Baroque style and now serves as a charming little cafe and restaurant in the old town. The original building was built in 1550 and looks like a buttercream yellow castle out of Beauty and the Beast. Grab a latte, and a fanciful teacake served on the iconic Meissen porcelain and enjoy the views all around you on the patio under the blue skies. If you’re looking to try a traditional German dessert, order up to the apple cake with streusel!
Brühl’s Terrace is known as the Balcony of Europe. It is an enormous platform that stretches along the shores of the Elbe River. Here you’ll see both tourists and locals alike, strolling down the promenade enjoying the fantastic views. The terrace was once built as a fort to protect the city from invaders, but in the 19th century, it was transformed into this lovely pedestrian walkway. Along this riverside path, you’ll see framed the iconic skyline of the city and gorgeous flowerbeds colouring the grey concrete. During the holidays this is a great place to come for pop-up markets, especially exciting during Christmas time!
Münzgasse is a street just across from the Elbe River which feels almost too curated to be real. The two blocks of apartments flanking the road frame the stunning Frauenkirche perfectly. Walking down the street feels like stepping into a painting. On either side of the pedestrian street are various touristy restaurants which are not worth your money but do provide the the backdrop for this stunning scene.
The Zwinger is to this day one of the most incredible baroque buildings in Germany. It was built for Augustus II the Strong, who had been inspired by King Louis XIV. He had returned from a visit to his new court of Versaille and was eager to create a similar elaborate palace for himself. But this was would be located in his hometown of Dresden. The Zwinger was built in the late baroque style called ‘Rococo’. The Rococo style embraced curves and elaborate ornaments but amped-up the drama. Rococo added a sense of play to the designs. Rococo designers felt that architecture should have a sense of motion, and they used dramatic curves, which made the viewer feel as though the building was alive. The Rococo style loved to emphasize piety. Plants and vines are featured prominently, carved into so many parts of the Zwinger. Construction began in 1710 and it took over 18 years to be completed. Anywhere you look here there are gorgeous shots to be found. Since the Zwinger is so large it’s easy to find more private spaces, ideal for framing that perfect shot.
The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is one of the oldest buildings in Dresden, originally built around 1200. Additional wings were constructed over the years, creating an almost patchwork quilt of architecture styles from Renaissance to Baroque and Romanesque. These days, the royal family no longer resides inside. Instead, the building contains a museum complex where you can explore the treasury, the armory and even see collections of prints and drawings as well as old photographs of Dresden before the bombing. The exterior of the Palace is where the real visual treat lies. It’s fascinating to see this Palace so integrated with the rest of the city, instead of walled off like so many other royal residences around Europe.
Along Schloßstraße, you’ll find one of the greatest remnants of old Dresden, the Procession of Princes. This 101-meter long porcelain portrait depicts the entire history of Dresden through the men who built, controlled, governed and sparked new thoughts and ideas within it. It features Dukes, Electors, Kings and other leading figures from the arts and sciences. This is the world’s largest porcelain artwork. The mural was first installed in 1871 and took more than five years to complete. Shockingly enough this mural withstood the great Dresden bombing of WWII. It suffered minimal damage and was a beacon of hope to the people of Dresden after the war. Today its still one of the most striking images you can find in the city.
Just down from the Procession of Princes is the Stallhof und Langer Gang or Royal Stables. These stables were used as the location for horse tournaments since the 15th century. Some of the most exciting jousting activities took place here and where the who’s who of Germany elite came to be entertained. Today, the stalls are the site of the Dresden Christmas Market. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during the holiday season, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most magical sights in the world. There really is nothing like a Christmas market in Europe when the snow is falling and catches the twinkling fairy lights as it touches the ground. But throughout the rest of the year the architectural curves and the effect of the light in the arcade is out of this world!
The Neumarkt is the cultural centre of the Dresden’s historic district. The original Neumarkt was designed in the German Baroque style. Baroque designers loved pastel colours, not just on their frescos; but everywhere they could put them. Today it feels like walking through a miniature buttercream village. Standing in the center of the square is the iconic Frauenkirche, which was completely destroyed during a bombing run in WWII. But after the bombs had fell, hundreds of volunteer collected the burn rumble from the original church and stored it away, waiting for the day it would be rebuilt. And it was, and used many piece of that original structure which so many people help preserve for future generations.
The Green Vault or Grünes Gewölbe is Europe’s most extensive collection of precious, historical treasures. It was the first public museum in all of Europe featuring a selection of crown jewels, royal bowls carved out of crystal, agate and ivory, golden figurines with multicoloured gems inlaid within and the ‘Dresden Green’ - the largest green diamond in the world. During its original construction, the columns and bases which held up the vaulted ceiling were all painted green - giving the whole place an Emerald city-like vibe. While photos are not allowed inside the ‘Old Green Vault’, the ‘New Green Vault’ containing the royal treasury is a photographers dream.
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Pfunds Molkieri, covered floor to ceiling in the most incredible tiles and Meissen porcelain, is the oldest dairy shop in East Germany. Built in 1879 this shop was the first place where German’s could buy high-quality, concentrated milk. Although the dairy was mostly destroyed in WWII, the family made sure to rebuild in the exact same fashion as the original. Now, visitors can come to see and taste the extraordinary place which is Pfunds Molkieri. Guests can try different kinds of milk from farms across Germany as well as cheese, wines and more!
Neustadt Street Art
While most of the historical parts of Dresden were destroyed in WWII, the “new” town built across the river was spared from the destruction as it proved no real military threat to the attackers. This meant that despite being called “new town” the structures here are actually older than the reconstructions found in the “old town”. Neustadt or “new town” remains a bohemian stronghold in Dresden and even today is where you can find some of the coolest shops, bars and exciting nightlife. But if those things aren’t for you, just wandering the streets is a feast for the eyes. Neustadt has become a popular neighbourhood for local street artists who bring otherwise boring walls to life with colours, textures and even sculptural details. You can find some of the most lively street art found anywhere in Dresden right here.
Inside the walls of Neustadt, you’ll find the famous Kunsthof Passage. These dreamlike courtyards come from the visionary mind of various Dresden artists who turned these empty spaces into an art experiment. There are four different themed courtyards to visit; Elements, Animals, Light, and Metamorphoses. Each one features strange and intriguing details which draw in your eye and ask your to question what you’re looking at. In the Courtyard of the Elements, you’ll find a piece inspired by the Rube Goldberg Machine which turns rainfall in a symphonic orchestra! Even without rain it’s a gorgeous work of art to admire.
Inside the inner walls of the Neustadt, you’ll find one of the oldest cinemas still standing in Germany. Built in 1889, Cinema Thalia once used to host people from all over Dresden, and at one time the cinema would extend into what is now the beer garden to hold over 700 people! After being destroyed in 1945, it lay dormant, untouched by the modern era until it was plucked from obscurity in 2004 and returned to live as a hipster mecca. The large theatre was transformed into a cafe and cinema where, and until 2008, people were still allowed to smoke, hence the name on the front “Cinema. Coffee and Cigarettes”. Today it’s still a gorgeous icon east German, retro design.
While you might not expect to find (or enjoy) a Tiki-themed bar in the centre of bohemian Saxony, Neumanns is an institution in Dresden. It opened in 1966 as the one and only store which sold ice cream. After the wall fell, there was an influx of retail superstores, all of which sold ice cream. Neumanns’ was no longer a lone wolf. But it rebranded as ‘Neumanns Tiki’ and made a name for themselves with unique, adorable decor which felt like an escape from the socialist architecture surrounding their shop. They even began selling vegan ice cream and gluten-free treats to ensure everyone could come in and enjoy. The food and drinks are really the stars of the show here and no one comes in without a cute Instagram photo of their tropical themed desserts!
Katy’s Garage is one of the coolest bars in Dresden. It feels a lot like the ruin bars you’ll find in Budapest. The entire place feels like it was scavenged and pieced together from abandoned buildings, old car parks, and furniture found on the streets. While that might sound a bit dingy, there is a real charming quality to it all. There is a dance floor, foosball room, outdoor lounge, poetry reading stages, beer garden and more! Exploring the grounds is one of the most exciting parts of visiting Katy’s Garage since you never know what new things you’ll discover!
To experience one of the most unique beer gardens in the city and catch a stunning view across Dresden, head over to Yenidze. From afar you might think that this building is an Ottoman mosque, but originally it was actually a tobacco factory. Built-in 1907 by Hugo Zietz, the Yenidze tobacco company, was designed in “oriental” style to recall the “exotic origins of tobacco”. The chimney used to process smoke from the factory was incorporated into the architecture as a fake minaret. Today, the building is used as an office but the top floor is home to an incredible restaurant with rooftop views across the city and over to the mountains in the distance.
The most iconic picture from Germany must be of a beer hall, and the Stammhaus in the centre of Dresden is one of the best! This brewery dates all the way back to 1858! Inside the new three-story restaurant, beer gardens and bar are antiques collected by the brewing family from over the years. The food is as traditional as you can get and it all washes down deliciously with a glass of Feldschlößchen Pilsner or Zwickelbier. Sitting in the restaurant, you feel like you’re dining inside a piece of Dresden’s history! My favourite visual of the restaurant is the giant copper brewing lid which serves as a roof atop the bar!
Dresden is such a wonderful place to explore and get away from the crowds which you’ll find in more popular cities across Germany like Berlin and Munich. It’s still that untapped gem which only those in the know are want to find. If you’re interested in explore more of Dresden, check out my guided walking tour which will take your across old town to discover the history and people who helped created this amazing city. Let me know if you’ve visited Dresden before and what your favourite photo spot was on your last trip to Florence of the North.