Dresden may not be a high-rise haven like cities in the former West Germany, but it is a big city nonetheless. If you are a tourist, you might devote the majority of your time in the Altstadt amidst the many regal monuments, or take a ride down to the Schloss Pillnitz. But once you are done with those places, what else is there to do? Quite a bit, actually. This travelogue covers a whole range of locations surrounding the Altstadt to the south and east that is where the locals (and some tourists) go to shop, unwind, or party. And, if you booked your hotel online, you will might find yourself staying among the many large hotels in the south.
Those hotels would be among the major shopping district of Prager Strasse, shown in the first photograph. This boulevard probably began as a basic market street in the old days, but now it is the southern end of Dresden's modern shopping district and home to several massive hotels (particularly those servicing tour groups). Prager Strasse runs from the train station in the south to the gallerias just outside the Altstadt in the north.
It is mostly a pedestrian shopping and clubbing district. The southern end is mostly budget-level stores and street cafés (imbisses selling gyros or wursts, for example). The further north you go, the more up-scale it gets. Several of the buildings have nightclubs on the second floor. I suspect that the clubs are attended more by the young tourists, because they were very active in the summer but much quieter in the autumn.
In my first trip, I ventured further south beyond Prager Strasse, and it is clear this is where the city is continuing to expand. The two blocks between the shopping area and the main train station are completely dug up and major constructions projects are underway. It is worth noting, however, that the floods of 2002 left their impact, particularly on the train station which was under several feet of mud and water and its restoration project is not yet complete. As of October 2003, large sections of the station were still under scaffolding.
At the north end of Prager Strasse, across a couple east-west highways, are Dresden's larger modern gallerias. These places are really, really nice with all the expected modern chain stores and amenities.
But if modern shopping doesn't entice you and you'd rather visit old, antique markets, then be sure to visit on a Saturday and head to the Elba Promenade on the south bank of the river. As shown in the second photograph, the south bank holds huge outdoor markets on a regular basis. This picture was taken in May 2001, which I believe was a special event, but even on a normal weekend in October 2003 there was a smaller version of this on-going. This market was virtually all antiques -- including old East German and Soviet military hardware, locally produced porcelain and glass, liquors and wines, and CDs of old recordings of music from many ethnicities. It is a major local draw, I didn't note the presence of all that many tourists when I went.
The Promenade is a great place to walk, and a wide walking trail goes for miles beyond the Altstadt. The region is very quiet and largely undeveloped, with the floodplains to the south serving as a nice park.
The harbor area is directly below the Altstadt, and is the place where you will be able to take boat rides up and down the Elba River. The harbor sits at the
The nicest section of town, which can easily be overlooked is the Grosser Garten and the city Zoo, which are located southeast of the Promenade a few blocks. It is, as the name suggests, the largest garden in the city. The park is over a mile long and several hundred yards wide, and it includes open grassy fields, flower gardens, forested areas, several lakes and a whole lot of ducks and swans. The center of the garden is marked with a small palace or hunting lodge, shown in the third picture, that has an assembly hall in the second floor.
We spent quite a lot of time venturing about the Grosser Garten, mostly on a whim. It was a Sunday, and Dresden's stores and malls were locked up, so large numbers of families headed to the Garten to catch a rare sunny autumn day. The leaves had already changed color, so we took a lot of pictures of the autumnscape (such as the one given as the fourth photograph). We also spent a lot of time at the various lakes and fountains -- very peaceful and nice.
The fifth photograph shows an interesting sight, that of a small kiddie train that ventured around the Garten's perimieter and stopped at the Zoo. The picture is a little deceiving -- the train was very small and designed for kids. But, it was loaded with adults who managed to shoehorn themselves in. (No thanks, I was not interested).
In my first trip, I also did a lot of venturing even further to the south of the city. From the train station, the main road winds up the hill toward a university complex. Along the way was a pretty nice residential district, all new and seemingly modern structures, and a small Russian Orthodox church with bright blue domes. The university complex was a couple centuries old, with a lot of very interesting architecture.
Hopefully, this travelogue provided some hints for those of you wondering what's outside of Dresden's tourist districts. The answer is plenty.
Trips taken 26 May 2001 and 12-13 October 2003 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2001 Tom Galvin