When I did my first visit to Dresden in May 2001, I spent a lot of time venturing around the Neustadt, the region of the north bank inside the bend of the Elba. It is a part of Dresden that tourists are less likely to visit, since most of the grand attractions are on the south bank and the newer shopping and developments are spreading southward. However, I was intrigued by the array of huge architectural masterpieces that stared at the old city, so I crossed the bridge. What I found was an impressive array of markets, squares and boulevards, and a separate pedestrian district filled with very trendy establishments that cater to the local artsy crowd (or those wanted to escape the mass throngs of tourists, anyway). I would not classify everything in this travelogue as 'awesome', but it was all very nice.
There are four bridges that cross the Elba in the downtown, but only one -- the Augustusbrücke -- has that old classic brick look, and that's the one I crossed. It connected with the Altstadt in front of the Hofkirche and faced two significant landmarks on the northern bank. These are the Saxon Ministry of the Interior and the Staatskanzlerei (city chancellory), both palatial government buildings. In front of the Ministry is an amphitheater that has been cleaned up, and may well be in use for summer concerts or outdoor events.
The bridge took me across to the Neustädter Markt. The entrance is marked by the bright statue in the first photo, called the Goldener Reiter, that faces the Hauptstrasse, the main shopping boulevard. Similar to the Prager Strasse, this street has shops and eateries lined on both sides of the street, with a park in the center (although it is not nearly as modernized or spruced up). The left side has a couple landmarks -- the Societätstheater, a small artsy theater, and the tall Dreikönigskirche. On the right side is the Museum für Volkskunst (folk art) at the side of a large square. The end of the Hauptstrasse is marked by the Albertsplatz, a huge traffic circle not far from the Dresden-Neustadt.
The main highlight is the Dresdener Neustädter Markthalle, located between Metzerstrasse and Ritterstrasse. Shown in the second photograph, the Markthalle is a beautiful three-floor market building that combines everyday stores (like a regular grocery store) with all sorts of specialty items from around the world, particularly former Communist countries and Russia. In the basement were several wine shops featuring Georgian and Hungarian wines among others, cheese shops, and antique stores. A couple stores featuring a whole array of Russian foods and beers, while others carried Saxon and Polish porcelain.
From the Albertplatz, the best direction to go is back toward the river along Königsstrasse. This street, along with the maze of alleyways and shortcuts, is the most charming past of the Neustadt, very artsy and trendy in flavor, with tucked-away gardens and classy restaurants. The streets to look for are the Wallgäßchen and the Obergraben, or you could do what we did and visit it through the passages and gallerias that reach it off the Hauptstrasse.
During my first visit in May 2001, I devoted a good couple hours wandering the opposite direction, toward a section of town known as the Aussereneustadt (Outer New City). This was mostly a survey of the varied architectures of the residential zones that were largely restored after the Neustadt was heavily damaged in World War II. The typical house was gabled in front and decorated with sculptures and artwork above all the windows. I didn't keep track of all the streets I combed, but I took one gorgeous shot down Hospitalstrasse among rows of houses that had been recently renovated.
One of my favorite pics from this area is the third photograph. It was taken on a walking bridge over Albertstrasse of a Dresden streetcar heading toward the Carolabrücke. What's cool about it is the grass -- most of the streetcar tracks away from the downtown go over mowed grasse, which took away the usual ugliness of rail zones.
Further north is a ridge line that gets close to the banks of the Elbe. This ridgeline is home to several old manors and castles that are visible from the Elba, as I learned during a boat ride toward the Schloss Pillnitz. There is also a bus line that runs along the top of the ridge connecting together the manors, but I did not try taking it myself.
In our November 2003 trip, we ventured around the Neustadt at dusk, which is probably the best time to go. As the fifth photograph shows, the lights of the Altstadt really shine over the river and its a beautiful spot to catch the scenery. In addition, the artsy cafés and restaurants get into full swing with the evening theater crowds. It's very quiet and pleasant.
I also felt it was important to mention the big differences in the north bank between my two visits, suggesting that Dresden is making very steady progress. When I visited in May 2001, the parks on the northern bank were absolutely nasty -- especially compared to the well-cared for and groomed southern bank. The areas below the Ministry of Interior were grown with weeds and filled with garbage, and the previously-mentioned amphitheater was sorely neglected. On my return trip in October 2003, the grounds were completely mowed, renewed, and clean. The amphitheater looked mostly restored or at least cared for. Considering that the floods has occurred the year earlier meant that this was a recent project, and it made a very direct and positive impression on me. This along with all the construction and renovation projects going on throughout the city, told me that Dresden is slowly getting it all together, beyond just luring tourists.
Again, this travelogue may not convince you that you 'gotta hit the Neustadt' when you visit. But, you shouldn't ignore it out of hand.
Trips taken 26 May 2001 and 12-13 October 2003 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2001 Tom Galvin