The UNESCO 'Palaces and parks' route starts and finishes in Leipzig. The heritage sites in between are reminders of a German past that lives on in sumptuous palaces and enchanting landscaped parks – not forgetting Dresden, the beautiful state capital of Saxony known as 'Florence on the Elbe'.
Leipzig's key role in setting the rhythm for the peaceful revolution of 1989 is testament to the city's musical endowment. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Leipzig was labelled 'City of Heroes' – a title which could also be in reference to the many great musicians, kapellmeister and composers who are arguably more popular and more prominent here than anywhere else in the world.
For centuries, Weimar in Thuringia was at the centre of intellectual life in Germany: the city experienced its heyday in the early 19th century when it was home to no fewer than three of Europe's leading intellectuals – Goethe, Schiller and Herder. The Classical Weimar ensemble is testimony to the enlightened, courtly but also civic culture of the period around 1800.
As the first English-style landscape garden in mainland Europe, the 18th century Garden Kingdom of Dessau Wörlitz unites garden design and architecture in perfect harmony. Here you'll find manor houses, more than 100 buildings of varying sizes and a range of sweeping parks and gardens, all spread over an area of 140 square kilometres on and around the banks of the rivers Elbe and Mulde.
The beautiful city of Potsdam is part of an extraordinarily rich and attractive landscape: expansive parks, majestic tree-lined avenues and some 150 buildings from the 18th to the 20th century all combine to make an outstanding cultural treasure. Extended to include architectural monuments in neighbouring Berlin , they have been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990.
Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau – bohemian, travel writer and landscape gardener of great renown – designed Muskauer Park, one of the most beautiful landscaped gardens in the world, in the early 19th century. Covering around 830 hectares, it is made up of a number of smaller parks on either side of the German-Polish border, each with its own character.
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.