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
We parked my car 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, we 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:
- Historical walk on the castle hill
- Visiting the old town via the tunnel (Amtsstufen)
- Walked up to the castle hill via castle stairs (Schlossstufen)
- Meissen workshop tour and visited the porcelain museum
Historical 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 and 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 is one of the medieval castles in near Dresden, Germany. 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. 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.
Visiting the old town via the tunnel (Amtsstufen)
Having visited the Domplatz, we walked through a small tunnel (Amtsstufen) inside the Bischofsschloss. The tunnel leads to the city centre and is part of the historical route. 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.
Walked up to the castle hill via castle stairs (Schlossstufen)
To get back to the Domplatz, we 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 museum 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.
Related post: Meissen Porcelain Workshop Tour and Porcelain Museum
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.
How to get there
Join a tour
The best way to see Meissen is to take Elbe River Cruise to Meissen from Dresden. 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