Situated on the Elbe River, Meissen is a picturesque town including the impressive castle. It is famous for the manufacture of porcelain. Surrounded by the vineyard landscape of the Elbe valley, Meissen is not only a 30-minute drive from Dresden but also conveniently connected to public transportation. By all mean, it is a great day trip option from some big cities such as Berlin or Dresden. During a week trip to Dresden, I managed to make a day trip to Meissen.
Developed from the Slavic village Meisa, the city was founded as a German town by King Henry the Fowler in 929. Between 1205 and 1274, there used to have three monasteries in the town. The monumental cathedral on the castle hill began its construction around 1250. Followed the reformation in 1539, the three monasteries were dissolved, and a city school was established in the former Franciscan Monastery.
Before Meissen became the porcelain city, it focused on cloth making. But after the Thirty Years’ War, the economic situation almost came to a standstill. Later, until 1710, August the Strong opened the porcelain factory, the city boomed again.
However, two centuries later, at the time of National Socialism, the Nazi regime persecuted some political opponents in Meissen. Among them were the couple Alex and Else Loewenthal, who had run a department store in Elbstraße 8 and were murdered in 1942. Their surviving children had a commemorative plaque affixed to their parents in 1968. The old city was heavily damaged during World War II. But east Germany didn’t set the development focus on the historic city centre after the war.
Nevertheless, after the reunification on October 3, 1990, the city center has undergone extensive renovation. One of the recent disasters in Meissen was the Elbe flood in August 2002. The old town was partially flooded up to three metres. As a result of that flood, some of the attractions in Meissen were temporary under the water. After years of renovation, today the city becomes the cultural and historical destination again.
Things I did in Meissen
I parked my car at the parking lot next to the Meisastraße. The panorama elevator (Domaufzug) is just at the opposite of the parking place. To take the elevator going up the hill, I had to pay a small fee for the small journey. The elevator arrives at the Domplatz on top of the castle hill. There I started my journey of the day:
- First I took a historical walk on the castle hill
- Then I went to the old town via the tunnel (Amtsstufen)
- Afterward, I strolled around the old town
- Next, I walked up to the castle hill via castle stairs (Schlossstufen)
- At the end of the day, I joined a Meissen workshop tour and visited the porcelain museum
Took a historical round walk on the castle hill
The historical round walk around the Domplatz starts from Schlossstufen and ends at the Hohlweg. The 500-metre route has views of the Elbe Valley and the old town. The highlights are Meissen Cathedral, the Albrechtburg Castle.
Meissen Cathedral (Dom am Platz, Address: Domplatz 7, Meissen)
The first building jumped into my sight was the cathedral with its two spires. It is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Although the construction of the cathedral began around 1250, the two cathedral towers were completed in 1909. The cathedral contains several grave plates made from P. Vischer’s workshop. Visitors can see statues, beautiful columns, and high ceilings inside of the cathedral.
Albrechtburg Castle (Address: Domplatz 1, Meissen)
Albrechtburg Castle was built between 1471 and 1524 on behalf of the two brothers, Ernest, and Albert of Wettin, who jointly ruled Saxony. In 1710, Augustus the Strong started to use the Albrechtsburg as Europe’s first porcelain factory. For 153 years, the Albrechtsburg was the factory of the Meissen porcelain.
The large spiral staircase is a masterpiece in design. Ornamental decoration in Gothic style was applied. Murals were created from 1893, with topics mainly related to historical events taken place in the castle. Today, all floors of the castle are open to the public. The exhibition is divided into five sections.
Related post: Medieval Castles in Dresden and the City Surroundings
Other interesting sites on Domplatz
Bischofsschloss is the former bishops’ residence of the Diocese of Meissen in Saxony. From the Bischosschloss I was rewarded by the view over the Elbe toward the Proschwitz Castle.
Several cafes and restaurants offer breathtaking views over the Elbe valley from the terraces. Have a cup of coffee and enjoy the stunning view of the Meissen’s old town is something I didn’t miss out.
To the old town via the tunnel (Amtsstufen)
Having visited the Domplatz, I walked through a small tunnel (Amtsstufen) inside the Bischofsschloss, which leads the way to the city centre. This is part of the historical route. The walkway is made of stone stairs. Out of the tunnel, I continued walking down. Sitting places are available along the way.
Strolled around the old town
At the foot of the hill, I came across the Heinrichplatz. The highlights in the old town are such as the Stadtmuseum and Frauenkirche.
Stadtmuseum (Address: Heinrichsplatz 3, Meissen)
Founded in 1901, the Stadtmuseum (City Museum) is in the former Franciscan monastery. The most popular displays in this museum include the 11-meter Elbe fishing boat, the largest hand-operated wine pressor from 1788 in Saxony. Different sections in the Neo-Gothic building tell the socio-economic, political, and cultural history of Meissen.
Frauenkirche (Address: An der Frauenkirche 1)
Built mainly in the 15th century, the church is a plastered stone building, and the choir is made of sandstone blocks. The Protestant Frauenkirche in the old town is a late Gothic hall church.
In 1929, on the occasion of the 1000th anniversary of Meissen, its tower host the world’s first porcelain carillon. And on June 1st, 1929 at noon, the carillon sounded for the first time. The porcelain carillon consists of 37 bells and sounds daily every two or three hours from 6:30 in the morning.
Other highlights in the old town
The Meißen Town Hall is a place where the locals get married. It is in the centre of the old town, just like in all other German towns. Another interesting place in the old town is the Meißen Theater. Many theater plays and concerts take place there. You can find the programs online. If you want to get detail information about the events around the city, the Meißen Tourist Information office is just behind the Meißen Town Hall.
- Meißen Town Hall, Markt 1, 01662 Meißen
- Kloster St. Afra., Freiheit 14 Meissen
- Brauhaus Meißen, Ziegelstraße 6, 01662 Meißen
- Theater Meissen, Theaterplatz 15, 01662 Meißen
- Tourist Information Meissen, Markt 3, 01662 Meißen
- Many historic buildings have stories behind. They are on several side streets, such as buildings at the Webergasse 1, Marktgasse 1, and Elbstraße 7.
If I would stay in Meissen for a couple of days, the following places would also be on my list:
- Schloss Proschwitz, Heiliger Grund 2, 01665 Meißen
- Schloss Siebeneichen, Siebeneichener Schloßberg 2, 01662 Meiße
- Triebischvorstadt Park, Neumarkt 29, 01662 Meißen
Tired of walking around the old town? Then it is possible to take a Saxon Wine Route River Cruise for a relax. Visitors will be onboard a historic paddle steamer and cruise along the Elbe riverbanks from the Meissen to the historic village of Seusslitz.
Walked up the castle hill via castle stairs (Schlossstufen)
To get back to the Domplatz, I followed the Burgstraße and then the Schlossstufen. The Schlossstufen is the stone stairs leading the way up the hill. I looked up and was able to see Torhaus from the stairs.
Torhaus museum (Address: Domplatz 14)
In 1761, Christian H. Kändler, the brother of the famous porcelain designer Johann Joachim Kändler, bought the residential building Torhaus. Between 1828 and 1829, the painter and drawing teacher of the porcelain factory Ludwig Richter lived in one of the apartments. Until 1989, the Torhaus was used for residential purposes, then was renovated and set up in 1997 as a museum.
Romantik Hotel Burgkeller Residenz Kerstinghaus (Domplatz 11, 01662 Meissen)
Before I was back to the panorama escalator I came across the Romantik Hotel Burgkeller Residenz Kerstinghaus. The hotel has such a prime location. It has several terraces with amazing roof views of the old town. The rooms are quiet and offer views of the River Elbe. It is a non-smoking Hotel which owns a bowling alley as well as offers rental bikes. You can find this hotel either at booking.com or at hotelscombined.com.
Joined a Meissen workshop tour and visited porcelain museum
I took the Panorama Elevator down to the parking lot and drove toward the Meissen factory about two kilometres away. There I joined a workshop tour and looked around the porcelain exhibition.
The workshop tour
The workshop demonstrates how the famous Meissen porcelain takes shape in front of our eyes. I saw how plates were made and how many individual pieces made up a typical figurine. The principal stages of the manufacturing process are molding and throwing, the crafting of figurines, and both under-glaze and over-glaze decorations. The workshop tour was accompanied by an audio guide in various languages. You can secure your ticket to the Meissen Porcelain Factory online.
The porcelain museum
The porcelain museum presents the 300 years of porcelain history. Arranged chronologically from 1710 to the present, the permanent exhibition contains numerous porcelain collection pieces. Porcelains made in different years with different materials and techniques are displayed.
There is also a Meissen porcelain outlet on site. The prices are much cheaper than I expected. Still cannot afford the noble porcelain? Then take a snack at the Cafe and enjoy your snack served in Meissen porcelains.
Where to stay
Meissen is a well-known tourist destination in Saxony, Germany. There are many hotels which can fit every need. Other than Romantik Hotel Burgkeller Residenz Kerstinghaus, the budget hotel Schwerter Schankhaus is a good choice.
Dating back to the 17th century, this hotel features a country-style restaurant, a traditional brewery and a daily breakfast buffet. Guests can also enjoy a visit to Saxony’s oldest private brewery. It is located in Meißen, just 500 m from the Elbe River and Albrechtsburg Castle. From the hotel, it is only a 5-minute walk to the historic Meissen Cathedral. And, Meißner Railway Station is also just 0.7 mi away. You can find this hotel either at booking.com or at hotelscombined.com.
How to get there
Sightseeing tour through Meißen
The best way to see Meissen is to take a sightseeing tour Elbe River Cruise to Meissen. The tour starts in Dresden, and you will discover the Saxon Wine Route by paddle steamer on this full-day tour. Travel from Dresden to Meissen, where you can visit the Albrechtsburg, stroll through the town, and explore the town museum or the porcelain factory before returning to Dresden.
From the main train station in Dresden, a S-Bahn goes directly to Meissen train station. The journey takes around 34 minutes.
- If you take highway A4, the exit is Siebenlehn, and then continue along Federal Road B101 or Exit Wilsdruff;
- When coming via highway A13, then take the exit Radeburg;
- For highway A14, you need to take the exit Nossen-Ost;
- Coming from Dresden, use Federal Road B6