A Long Weekend in Dresden, a Trip About Nature and Culture

After living in Germany for several years, I finally dedicated a weekend to explore Dresden. My inspiration sparked from a TV documentary highlighting the reconstruction of the renowned Dresden Frauenkirche. This extensive process, spanning almost a decade, involved the use of old stones for both the exterior and interior.

Some time ago, I saw an image portraying the Bastei Bridge bathed in the soft glow before sunrise. The moment I laid eyes on the picture, the remote and beautiful view of nature immediately attracted me.

Dresden, once the royal residence for the Electors and Kings of Saxony, featured centuries of cultural and artistic splendor. Unfortunately, the ravages of air raids during the Second World War left the city in ruins. Post-reunification, gradual redevelopment initiatives took root. Today, the city’s royal buildings have reclaimed their former glory, earning Dresden the moniker “Florence of the North” as the twin city of Florence. With determined certainty, I planned a long weekend in Dresden.

Our family*s long weekend in Dresden spanned from Thursday to Sunday. Truth be told, squeezing more activities into our tight itinerary proved challenging. Nevertheless, in those four days, we not only explored the city’s landmarks but also ventured into its scenic surroundings.

Sächsische Staatskanzlei (Saxon State Chancellery or Saxon State Chamber)
Pferde und Fürsten

Weekend in Dresden Itinerary

Here are the details of activities for each day during the weekend in Dresden.

  • Thursday – Dresden’s Old Town and the City’s Night Views
  • Friday – Three Castles, Moritzburg Castle, and Wackerbarth Castle
  • Saturday – Pillnitz Castle garden, the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, and the Bastei Bridge
  • Sunday – Meissen old town walking tour and the Porcelain Workshop tour

Thursday – Dresden old town and the city’s night views

On the first day of our Dresden adventure, we mainly explored the city’s key landmarks and enjoyed its lively night views.

Given that all the major attractions in Dresden are conveniently clustered within walking distance, we dedicated several enjoyable hours to wandering through the historic old town and leisurely strolling along the picturesque Elbe riverside. After dinner, we extended my exploration, spending an additional two hours to visit the sight of illuminated buildings in the heart of the old centre.

Theaterplatz and the Semper Opera

Friday – three castles in Dresden, Moritzburg Castle, and Wackerbarth Castle

On the second day, our focus was on castles, and it turned out to be a unique castle-hopping experience. The itinerary featured exploration of three captivating castles in Dresden—Albrechtsberg Castle, Lingner Castle, and Eckberg Castle—located conveniently adjacent to each other. Although the walk through all three castles could be completed in about an hour, we still took our time at each, relishing the unique charm and riverside view highlighted by a relaxing river cruise aboard an old steamer.

In the early afternoon, our journey continued to the expansive Moritzburg Castle. The castle grounds, featured with trees, ponds, meadows, and a quaint harbour, was so huge that it was impossible to cover entirely in just a few hours.

In the late afternoon, we made our way to Wackerbarth Castle, where the focus shifted from historical exploration to a wine-tasting experience. The castle was complemented by a charming walkway through the vineyard, offering a leisurely 90-minute round walk that perfectly balanced our day of castle exploration.

Saturday – Pillnitz Castle garden, the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, and the Bastei Bridge

Our exploration for the day included Pillnitz Castle garden, the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, and the iconic Bastei Bridge.

Beginning our excursion from Dresden, Pillnitz Castle garden presented itself conveniently along our route to the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. Taking advantage of this proximity, we walked through Saxony’s most beautiful garden, and having a lunch at the Castle hotel restaurant.

As the afternoon unfolded, we admired the distinctive landscapes of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, with a particular highlight being the renowned Bastei Bridge. The walking route leading to this natural wonder was pleasantly straightforward, allowing us to spend approximately three hours in the area. As the day drew to a close, we treated ourselves to a well-deserved rest in the panoramic setting of Berghotel Bastei‘s restaurant, savouring a breathtaking sunset view overlooking the Königstein Fortress.

Pillnitz Castle garden; weekend in Dresden
Bastei Bridge; Weekend in Dresden

Sunday – Meissen old town walking tour and the Porcelain Workshop tour

Our final day was dedicated to a day trip to Meissen, capped off with an insightful Porcelain Workshop tour.

Meissen, a mere 30-minute drive from Dresden, is divided into two historic parts, seamlessly connected by well-marked walkways. Navigating through the old centre, we followed several charming stairways that led us to Albrechtburg Castle hill, providing panoramic views of the city.

A short distance from the old city centre lies the current Meissen factory. Eager to explore the intricacies of German craftsmanship, we seized the opportunity to participate in the Meissen Porcelain Workshop Tour within the factory premises.

Meissen factory workshop tour; weekend in Dresden
Meissen Albrechtsburg Castle

Where we stayed

To ensure a comfortable stay during our trip, our family chose the Holiday Inn Express Dresden City Centre, situated a mere 100 metres from the historic Altmarkt square. Parking was hassle-free, with ample spaces available opposite the hotel at a nominal cost of just a few Euros per day. Adding to the appeal, the hotel offered a breakfast featuring a variety of German hams, cheeses, assorted bread, and fresh vegetables.

For those seeking a touch of luxury without breaking the bank, consider exploring some of the historic hotels in Dresden.

Suggested tours

Local residents provide tours in English and various other languages, making it convenient for international visitors. The tours are reasonably priced, reflecting the overall affordability of the region compared to larger German cities.

How to get there

If you plan to explore several castles in Dresden independently, the most convenient mode of transportation is by car. The distance between Berlin and Dresden is just under 200 km, with a travel time of approximately 2 hours. Driving yourself is a practical option if you prefer not to join a guided tour.

Dresden also has its own airport, with flights operated by Eurowings and Lufthansa from various major German cities. This provides another accessible option for reaching Dresden.

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