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Magic Cities from A to Z
Dresden: a synonym for culture.

Dresden: a synonym for culture.

There are many ways to interpret or define culture. But it can be easily summarised with just one word: Dresden. The sheer abundance and splendour of the city's cultural treasures are enough to take your breath away. And since Dresden also just happens to be set amidst a stunning river landscape, your amazement is soon accompanied by pure delight.

Though the attribute 'world famous' is dished out all too readily, it is a befitting term in the case of Dresden. The city is famed not only for its three major landmarks – Zwinger Palace, Semper Opera House and the Church of Our Lady – but also for Brühl Terrace and the Royal Palace, for the Elbe palaces on the Loschwitz hillside, for the exclusive villas of Blasewitz, the garden city of Hellerau and, of course, for the twelve Dresden State Art Collections. And not forgetting the city centre's prime position on the western bank of the Elbe, at the apex of one of the river's gently sweeping meanders.

Dresden's no. 1 world-famous building has to be Zwinger Palace, widely considered a masterpiece of baroque architecture. The glorious Church of Our Lady, resurrected from the rubble, is arguably the preeminent church of the Protestant faith, and the imposing Saxony State Opera House, designed in the Italianate High Renaissance style by its eponymous architect Semper, is undoubtedly one of the world's most beautiful music theatres. The gardens of Brühl Terrace, or the 'Balcony of Europe' as it is known, provide magnificent views of the Elbe and across to Neustadt on the bank opposite; lined with prestigious buildings including the Academy of Fine Arts and the Albertinum Museum with its New Masters Gallery and sculpture collection, the terrace is another of the city's cultural must-sees. Dresden boasts superb museums that add to its cultural prowess, including the Green Vault – the world's largest treasure chamber – at the Royal Palace as well as the Turkish Chamber and the Old Masters Gallery where Raphael's Sistine Madonna is displayed.

For almost 700 years, Dresden has also been famed for its music. It is not only the Opera House that enraptures audiences but also the State Orchestra, the Dresden Philharmonic and the Kreuzchor boys' choir. The cultural calendar is packed all year round, with the city hosting international festivals, captivating theatre and dance productions and other popular events such as the Semper Opera Ball. And what would Dresden's music scene be without its jazz? The city's International Dixieland Festival is Europe's biggest old time jazz festival. Traditional highlights include the Riverboat Shuffle, the Jazz Mile along Prager Strasse and the Dixieland Parade through the old quarter. The festival season is rounded off with open-air events, including the riverbank film nights, the Elbhangfest and concerts in the romantic parkland of the Elbe palaces.

But Dresden is more than just a city of history and heritage, as evidenced by its modern architectural masterpieces. Notable examples include the New Synagogue and the deconstructivist UFA Kristallpalast cinema designed by celebrated Austrian architects Coop Himmelb(l)au. At the main train station, Norman Foster has covered the historical iron framework with a translucent Teflon membrane. There's also the Military History Museum, which has recently undergone a radical extension and redesign by Daniel Libeskind. A bold design move in its day was the 'Blue Wonder', Europe's first bridge without river piers. The construction is both a feat of engineering and a spectacular vantage point.

If you happen to be in Dresden in December, be sure to visit the Striezelmarkt. Germany's oldest Christmas market, first documented in 1434, remains to this day a celebration of lights, colours and inviting aromas. Enjoy the peaceful, festive atmosphere while indulging in glühwein, spiced gingerbread and hot chestnuts, and discover another Dresden speciality in the shape of striezel, as the locals call their traditional Christmas cake. There are only two words that do this delicacy justice: world famous.

City Highlights

Even the young Johann Wolfgang Goethe was enraptured after a visit to the Dresden Art Gallery: "My amazement goes beyond words!" he is said to have exclaimed. Today's visitors will be equally impressed, whether they look round the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in the Semper wing of Zwinger Palace or the separate Galerie Neue Meister at the Albertinum on Brühl Terrace, a gallery that was established in 1965.

Here you begin to understand what the terms 'master' and 'masterly' truly mean. They are synonymous with outstanding works from the Italian Renaissance and Baroque – most notably Raphael's 'Sistine Madonna'– as well as the legacy of geniuses such as Titian, Canaletto, Botticelli, Veronese and Tintoretto. Masterly are the Flemish and Dutch paintings of the 17th century – Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Vermeer – and works by Spanish, French and German painters including Dürer, Cranach and Holbein. The quality of the collection and the magnificent Semper building are what make the Old Masters Gallery so special.
The New Masters Gallery pays tribute to the most influential German artists of the Romantic era, including Caspar David Friedrich, and spans the period right up to the present day. Impressionists such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Max Liebermann, Max Slevogt and Expressionists such as Otto Dix, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff take visitors on a tour of modern art history right up to the time of Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Georg Baselitz.

Dresden's restored Church of Our Lady represents the pinnacle of Protestant ecclesiastic architecture and is a prime example of the European baroque style. For over 250 years, this masterpiece created by the city's master carpenter and architect George Bähr has reflected the prosperity and faith of Dresden's citizens. Built between 1726 and 1743, the badly damaged church became a war memorial after 1945 and is now a symbol of reconciliation. Its re-consecration was broadcast live to the world in 2005 and a series of prestigious concerts, church services and free sightseeing visits are currently giving visitors the chance to marvel at its glory.

This unique cinema complex was built in 1997-98 to plans by Viennese architectural firm Coop Himmelb(l)au. A fine example of deconstructionism, the tall glass structure forms a striking contrast with the surrounding high-rise buildings – a legacy of the former East Germany. The exterior is a fascinating blend of concrete, steel and glass architecture. The outer glass panels held in place by a clearly visible steel framework give the building the crystal-like structure from which it derived its name.

Built between 1838 and 1841 by Gottfried Semper, the Semper Opera House is home to the Saxon State Opera, which looks back on a long and illustrious past. Musical accompaniment is provided by the prestigious Dresden State Orchestra of Saxony.

With its refined architecture and fantastic acoustics, this temple of the muses is a triumph of 19th century theatre design and one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world. Built in the Italian high renaissance style, the magnificent building is equally impressive inside: the walls, rooms and corridors are richly decorated with paintings and artistic ornamentation.

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Events

Dresden's film nights on the Elbe have taken the 'big' screen quite literally to heart. Not simply because this is Germany's largest open-air film festival but also because since 2004 the films have been shown on the world's biggest mobile screen, which measures a gigantic 448 square metres or 32 metres by 14 metres – offering a superlative cinematic experience.

The events take place on approximately 60 nights during the summer, around 50 of which take the form of film screenings including a number of German premieres. There are around 3,300 seats, 400 of which are particularly sought after because they are under cover and offer at-seat service.
The festival's name only tells half the story because some brilliant concerts also come under the film nights on the Elbe banner: R.E.M., Die Ärzte, Nelly Furtado and Die Fantastischen Vier are just a few of many who have appeared here. For these ten or so performances, the giant screen is rotated 90 degrees and handily becomes the stage's roof. All in all, the film nights on the Elbe offer an exceptional programme for around 150,000 people.
There's also one magical, free extra: for many, Dresden silhouetted against the evening sky is a highlight in itself. Many things have changed since the festival was founded in 1991, but this view forever stays the same, which surely makes the film nights on the Elbe the most beautiful open-air film and concert festival in Germany – and possibly even in Europe?

Upcoming dates:

27.06.2019 - 25.08.2019

Venue

Königsufer
01097 Dresden

All information on prices, dates and opening times are subject to change without notice.

The Ostrale showcases the full spectrum of contemporary art incorporating every genre and discipline. 

This annual event is held on Dresden's Ostrainsel at the former abattoir, a listed ensemble from 1910. which provides exhibition space of 15,000m² indoors and 50,000m² outdoors. The various rooms and buildings offer several hundred artists from Germany and abroad the ideal space to display their art.

Upcoming dates:

28.06.2019 - 29.09.2019

from 10:00 to 19:00

Venue

Messe Dresden
Messering 8
01067 Dresden

All information on prices, dates and opening times are subject to change without notice.
The Stollenfest makes for an unusual highlight of the Dresden Striezelmarkt.
The Stollenfest makes for an unusual highlight of the Dresden Striezelmarkt. Every year, the members of the Dresdner Stollen protection association bake a huge Stollen, a traditional Christmas cake, which weighs a ton!

Upcoming dates:

07.12.2019

Venue

Stadt Dresden
Altmarkt
01067 Dresden

All information on prices, dates and opening times are subject to change without notice.

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