Port of Dresden
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It was only after Germany was reunited in 1989 that determined citizens could begin to rebuild, exactly replicating the splendor of the past. Art treasures that had been hidden away have been restored to their rightful homes, and this small city (population 500,000) once again features art, music, architecture and culture exceptional for its size, earning it the nickname "Florence on the Elbe."
The handsome city straddles the Elbe River with scenic paths along the water and bridges connecting the two sides. Most of the important sites are in the restored Old Town (Altstadt). Some choice shopping and a scenic bicycle path along the Elbe are on the opposite bank (Neustadt).
Top Dresden Itineraries
Where You're Docked
Riverboats anchor on the edge of town. There is no formal dock area; a gangplank connects to the riverbank and the road or walking path into the city.
There are no facilities directly at the ship because the town is so close by, less than a 10-minute walk or a very short taxi ride. Ships may also offer shuttle service for the short trip.
Good to Know
Dresden is a small city, and although it's quite safe, watch out for pickpockets in crowded places.
On foot: Almost all of the don't-miss sights are in the compact center of the Old Town and are easily walkable. The Royal Palace, opera house and Zwinger museums all are clustered around the stately Theaterplatz (Theater Square).
By Bus or Tram: Bus and tram lines are convenient for further exploration. You can find transit maps and information on the DVB Web site. Tickets can be bought at the stops or aboard, and schedules are posted at each stop. Riding is on the honor system, but fines are steep if inspectors board and find passengers without a pass. The Dresden-City-Card offers good value for those visiting several museums. It gives unlimited access to all public transportation and entry to 12 city museums for 24 hours. The card is sold at the main tourist office and at many hotels. Pick up transit maps at the tourist office, as well.
By Taxi: Taxi stands are located at the main sightseeing locations; rates are moderate. Taxis don't line up by the dock, but you can easily walk or shuttle into town and find one there.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The euro is the local currency. Visit XE.com for current exchange rates. ATM's are plentiful, and major credit cards are widely accepted.
German is the native language. Museums have printed information in English, and some English is spoken in many restaurants and shops, but a German-American dictionary may come in handy.
Food and Drink
While Dresden offers foods from many nationalities, its traditional German menus will most interest visitors. Try hearty dishes like bratwurst, schnitzel (cutlets) and sauerbraten (pot roast), best enjoyed with good German beer. Radeberger is the most popular local brew, with Freiberger a close second.
Local Eats Dresden 1900 is filled with tram memorabilia, including an actual 1903 tram. Along with German dishes, the restaurant offers 80 kinds of pasta. It is quite popular, so a reservation is recommended. When the weather cooperates, an outdoor terrace provides views of the church. (an der Frauenkirche 20; 0351 48 20 58 58; 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., Monday to Saturday)
Freiberger Schankhaus, a pub-style restaurant housed in a former apothecary dating to 1756, has shelves lined with historic pharmacy items and two traditional copper brewing kettles. The menu offers typical old-fashioned German dishes like sauerbraten and bratwurst. Again, there is a big terrace with church views. (Neumarkt 8; 0351 500 43 47; 11 a.m. to late evening daily)
Old world decor and a location on the lovely Theaterplatz, next to the Semper Opera, make Cafe Schinkelwache an excellent choice for salads, crepes or heartier dishes like stuffed cabbage or beef roulade with red cabbage and dumplings. The terrace is a perfect spot on a sunny day. (Theaterplatz 2; 49 (0) 351 4 90 39 09; 10 a.m. to midnight daily)
Gourmet Options For a splurge, consider the Alte Meister cafe & restaurant, occupying the premises of the lofty, barrel-ceilinged studio of Albert Braun, who directed the artistic renovation of the Zwinger. For lunch, the café menu offers inexpensive sandwiches but also main dishes such as filet of pork, venison stew or a spicy fish curry. Dinners are more formal, with appetizers such as marinated salmon or veal carpaccio and main courses including filet of tiger catfish or rack of lamb. (Enter at Theaterplatz 1a. Tel: 03 51 / 481 04 26. Open daily 10 a.m. until 1 a.m.)
The food and setting are exceptional at Restaurant und Bar Lesage, run by the posh Kempinski Hotel and located in the "transparent factory," a stunning ultra-modern glass building where Volkswagen makes its luxury Phaeton cars. You can tour the factory, as well. Choices on the contemporary menu might include anglerfish in a saffron sauce, guinea fowl with a parsnip puree or beef tenderloin in a red wine shallot crust. (Lennestrasse 1, 15 minutes from the town center via trams 1, 2 or 4, Strassburger Platz stop; noon to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday (brunch); noon to 3 p.m. Monday (lunch only); guided factory tours noon to 3 p.m., Monday to Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday)
Whimsical hand-carved wooden figures, nutcrackers and Christmas ornaments from the nearby Ore mountain region make delightful souvenirs. The best selections are found at Stracoland, 2 Neumarkt, near the Frauenkirche and Geschenke & Ambiente at two locations: An der Frauenkirche 5 near the church and Kleine Brüdergasse 5 across from the Royal Palace.
Fine hand-painted porcelain from neighboring Meissen is also found in many shops, and in season, Dresden stollen (Striezel), a fruit-laden holiday spice cake, is a tradition that dates to 1400. Every bakery claims its own secret recipe.