The Zwinger Palace in Dresden was built in 1709. It was originally an open area surrounded by wooden buildings which was used by the Saxon nobility for tournaments and other courtly pursuits. The sandstone palace was built between 1710 and 1719 by Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann, under Elector Augustus the Strong. Its pavilions and galleries on the side of the ramparts were used as an orangery. The Crown Gate, the most photographed part of the Zwinger, is decorated with gods from Greek mythology. Next to the Rampart Pavilion is the Nymphaeum, one of the finest baroque fountains in Germany. Today, various museums are to be found inside the Zwinger Palace. The Dresden porcelain collection is one of the largest ceramics collections in the world. Another highlight is the armoury with its exquisite collection of weapons, suits of armour and ceremonial garments. It's also well worth visiting the Semper Gallery, which was built between 1847 and 1854 to plans by Gottfried Semper. To this day, the gallery contains the world's most important collection of paintings dating from the baroque to the Renaissance period, including the famous Sistine Madonna by Raphael. Another near neighbour to Zwinger Palace is the Church of Our Lady. First erected between 1726 to 1743, this baroque masterpiece was destroyed during the Second World War before being rebuilt from 1994 to 2005, thanks to a combination of public funds and donations. In architectural terms, it is one of the finest church buildings in Europe from this period. Still in Dresden, Grosser Garten park covers a total area of 147 hectares and is perfect for leisurely strolls and breaks from the hustle and bustle.
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