While Dresden has a lot of things to offer, the entire state of Saxony is chockfull with grand views, grander castles and cute little towns. To give you an idea of where to go for Dresden day trips, I’ve compiled a list for you.
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Pro tip: For those who don’t want to join tours but explore by themselves, the local Dresden Regio Card includes public transport and discounts at museums, restaurants, etc. You can get order and print your tickets for 1, 2 or 3 days here*.
One of the must see castles around Dresden, Moritzburg is quite a beautiful sight to behold! It sits
snugly in the midst of a perfectly symmetrical lake/moat and can hardly be
missed with its coral colors and round tower domes.
It was one of the many castles of King
August the Strong as he was majorly into beautiful architecture and hunting. (It
was originally built for a Duke Moritz, however.) As such, the castle’s main
purpose was to be a base for his hunting sprees and consequent entertainment of
The grounds are vast and at the other end,
you can find the smaller castle (which is more like a mini mansion), called Fasanenschlösschen
This one overlooks a lake with Germany’s
only domestic light house. That one was more like a prop for his reenactment of
sea battles. The King was rather
If you want to go a step further in immersing yourself in German culture, watch the all-time classic Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel* (“3 Wishes for Cinderella”), a Czech-German coproduction that plays on loop over Christmas on German TV stations. It’s a fantastic fairy tale and I love it.
Join a Dresden boat cruise along the Elbe
river and lazily get carried over to Castle Pillnitz. It’s a gorgeous palace with carefully manicured parklands and
vivid flowers. The most interesting one is Europe’s oldest living magnolia.
The grounds are free to visit, only
entering the greenhouse or castle requires an individual fee. Day tickets
including all the entrance fees are available. You can view the map of the
grounds here. The area is even and easy to walk as well as wheelchair accessible.
If you’d like a guided tour around the castle and grounds, you can get a personal guide here* (who’s also in costume!). Tours last 90 minutes and languages provided are German, Spanish, Dutch, English, French and Russian.
One of the most picturesque places in Germany and
particularly renowned among hikers is the Saxon Switzerland. It’s a mountainous
region shared by Germany and the Czech Republic and you can easily spend
multiple days here. There are so many hiking trails!
One of the most scenic is the Schrammsteine
walk, which starts outside of the town Bad
Schandau and leads you through the most iconic formations of the Elbe Sandstone
Do you know the painting “Wanderer above the sea of
fog“ by the Romanticist German painter Caspar David Friedrich? He drew it from
a ledge overlooking the now standing Bastei Bridge.
This one is a definite must see.
There’s a parking lot and restaurants a little further
up so you can easily reach it and also start a hike from here. The views over
the quiet valley, river and lush forests are divine!
In case you haven’t rented your own set of wheels, you
can join a tour as it’s very walk intensive to get around the high mountains and
deep valleys of the main spots around Saxon Switerzaldn.
I found a day trip from Dresden that lasts 5 hours and
comes with an English speaking guide who will pick you up from your hotel. Along
the route, you get to see the Bastei Bridge, Pravcicka
Gate, Kamenice Gorge and the Elbe Canyon. Book it here*.
While we’re still
in the Saxon Switzerland, do plan a visit to the impressive Fortress
Königsstein. It was built on a huge rock and has never been captured. It’s free
to visit and there’s a big parking lot. On busy days – such as during German
vacation times, you might find it tricky to get a spot, so come early.
Once you enter
through the massive gates, you can walk around the grounds and along the
fortifications, which allow for vast views over the surrounding area.
restaurant serving traditional German cuisine as well if you’re hungry. To
satisfy your thirst for history, enter the castle museum and peek behind the
You can easily
combine your Dresden day
trip with other sights, such as the Bastei Bridge or the town of Pirna.
(More on the latter below.)
Leipzig has a very pretty city center with
a historic guildhall, marketplace and gorgeous townhouses. There are many
hidden passages and chic arcades abound to stroll through as well. Look up for ornamental
details on Art Deco houses, such as the giant elephant head.
But it’s not just the historical aspect
that makes Leipzig such a tourist magnet. There’s also the huge zoo, which
constantly extends their grounds to allow the animals as much space and
hideaway spots as possible. The giant indoor landscapes of Gondwanaland
is a visitor favorite as it almost feels as if you’re left the continent.
What’s more, there’s a huge cultural offering
with plenty of live events, performances, concerts, museums and the autumn
In December, Leipzig is especially
beautiful thanks to the wonderful Leipzig
Christmas market locations around the center. Some are even internationally
If you’re a fan of trains and train
stations, know that the Leipzig train station is Europe’s largest Kopfbahnhof (terminal station). It’s
also among the top 15 most frequented train stations of Deutsche Bahn.
In case you’re interested in a guided
walking tour, here’s*
a good selection focusing on various topics and activities, such as exploring the
Town center*, scouring the hidden
passages* of the city center and even doing a 3-hour canoe
The city of
Meissen (or Meißen, as it is written in German) is only a 35 minute drive away
from Dresden and it is deemed the birthplace of the state of Saxony. Already in
929, a castle was erected here, around which a town had developed by the 12th
Castle Albrechtsburg became a major
porcelain manufacturer from 1710 onwards when King August the Strong relocated
the factory into the castle beside the Gothic Cathedral to hide the new recipe.
Even today, the Meissen porcelain is a well known, high quality brand.
The Old Town
itself is extremely charming and you can walk around for a while, admiring the
gorgeous historic architecture. If you visit in December, you can check out the
Meissen Christmas market right in its center.
Pro tip: You don’t even
need to take a car or train over to see the castle. It’s possible to join a
laid back boat 3-hour tour from Dresden past the regions most scenic views,
wine tasting at a vineyard included! Reserve your spot here*.
Are you into gorgeous little towns that
make you want to never put down your camera for fear of missing out on shots?
That was Görlitz at the Polish border for me. It’s absolutely adorable and
particularly its historic doors provide excellent photo opportunities.
Do also visit the grand Cathedral and then
stroll across the river and into Poland. The town Zgorzelec and Görlitz
used to belong together but were split among the two countries.
Besides the iconic doors, what makes
Görlitz so special? Visit the historic market place with the guildhall in Old
Town and you will instantly understand. The surrounding buildings span
various epochs, from late Gothic all the way to Art Noveau and rank among the to
the best preserved in Central Europe.
Prague, Czech Republic
A super popular idea
for a trip from Dresden
is to Prague. The capital of the Czech Republic has so much to offer, you might
actually want to stay for a few days if your time allows.
If not, make sure
you know where the main sights are and plan in a bit of walking. (This includes
stairs as the views from the castles and surrounding hills are absolute
stunners!) To make it super convenient for you, hop on a day tour from Dresden to Prague,
such as this 10-hour
long small group tour*.
The tour guides speak Slovak, Spanish,
Czech, English, German and Russian and there are booklets available in Spanish
and English, too. Plus, you’ll get to stop by the Saxon Switzerland on your
way. Another hotspot near
Dresden ticked off in one go.
How do you feel about
red castles? You can see one that is quite similar to Moritzburg in style in
the town of Bad Muskau. Look for the Fürst Pückler Park (“Prince Pückler Park”),
which artfully blends English-style landscaping and garden art on 830 hectares.
Both the castle
and garden design are from Prince Pückler himself, who dabbled in all kinds of
disciplines and loved a hands on approach. Inside the castle, you will learn lots
more about his vibrant life and unbelievable stories. I really enjoyed it.
There were some interactive elements (such as receiving one of his letters) as
Plus, you can stroll through the park and
suddenly you’re in Poland as the larger part of it is actually in the neighboring
country. The park is listed in the World Heritage catalogue.
Another nice spot
for your Dresden day trip
is Bautzen. The city center comes with
historic houses, a huge tower and medieval city walls, all overlooking the
river Spree. Fun fact: It’s seen as the cultural center of the Sorbs (even
though not that many are living here.)
quite a bit to see in town and outside, such as the former river dam in the
North and the mountain Drohmberg in the South. In the center, take it slow and
admire the intricate details of the well preserved and restored Baroque townhouses,
such as the gate of Domstift Bautzen or the houses around the marketplace.
The main attraction, of course, is the castle
in Bautzen, which is known as Ortenburg. It towers on a rocky plateau and you
can easily overlook the Old Town from the tower Matthiasturm.
known as Karl-Marx-Stadt in the GDR from 1953 to 1990. Now, it’s a modern city with
an old heart. Right by the historic market square, you will find both the New
and Old Townhall (Alte und Neue Rathaus
am Chemnitzer Marktplatz) with the big tower that is possible to climb.
The city has also
preserved the Red Tower, which used to be part of the former city walls. Fun
fact: Chemnitz has both the world’s second largest model head and the second
largest portrait head: that of Karl Marx. It’s set up in front of the Karl-Marx-Forum.
The city was significant for industrial productions
and therefore it’s no surprise to find the Industry Museum in Chemnitz. In it
you can find all kinds of temporary exhibitions and the main one, which is
devoted to 220 years of industrial history in Saxony. Note that it’s closed from 1 January to 24 April 2020.
Did you know that
to get around the region of Spreewald
in northern Germany, you have to use a gondola? It’s a little bit like Venice,
only that you’ll be boating through forests.
A highlight of
the region is its vibrant culture. Traditions and folklore are very dear to the
locals here and the Sorbs have enriched the culture. The best time to visit is
during the Sorbian Carnival (Zapust), when everyone dresses in traditional
costumes and there’s dancing.
is a great time. Learn more about the delicate art of painting Easter eggs, see
villages being all decked out and watch Easter horse riding in Zerkwitz.
city near Dresden with medieval architecture and a grand castle is Altenburg. Known
as Skat City, as the game was invented here. Naturally, there are many local
skat clubs around town and you can admire both historic and modern cards in the
Game Card Museum, which is part of the castle museum.
castle, it’s such a beautiful one and the rooms are simply gorgeous. Each has
been restored to its original look with historic furniture, tapestries and
busts, to name just a few things.
After your visit, be sure to stroll through
the old town center as there are many more pretty buildings to look at. The
best view over everything can be had from the castle.
You might see a pattern
here, because here’s another charming town with a historic center and pleasant
old houses. Really take a closer look because on every corner in Pirna you will find artful gables, bays and
Many of the buildings
are made from local limestone that was cut from the nearby Elbsandsteingebirge (Elbe sandstone highlands). From Pirna you have
great access to the Saxon Switzerland, which is why it’s also known as the “Gate
to the Saxon Switzerland”.
In town, you should visit Castle
Sonnenstein and the Marienkirche (Church
of Mary). When it comes to museums, do stop by the GDR Museum as well as the Richard-Wagner-Museum
distances of more than 2 hours are “rather far” and aren’t typically classified
as a day trip. However, if you’re no stranger to driving longer distances and
are pressed for time, you can easily do a day trip between Dresden and Berlin.
The connection is
as easy as can be, German trains and buses operate multiple times a day between
the two cities. To make it even easier for you to see the main attractions,
there are guided day tours, such as this
one from Berlin*.
course, is well known for being the governmental seat of the country, for the
Berlin Wall and trabant
tours* as well as Museum Island. For edgy experiences, check out local street
art, shop at flea markets, do bar hopping or go clubbing at night.
There’s so much to do in Berlin, it would not fit in this
article on day trips from
One of the most instagrammable
spots in Germany is the Rakotzbrücke in Kromlau. It’s a super round bridge crossing
the lake of the same name. On days when the water is perfectly still, the
bridge becomes a circle thanks to the reflection.
The bridge is
part of a large country park called Azaleen-
und Rhododendronpark Kromlau, which is 200 hectares big. It’s the largest azalea
park in Germany and is free of charge.
bridge, you can also see historic mansions and sights, such as the
Kavalierhaus, the castle (Herrenhaus)
and the Basaltorgel (basalt organ). When the park was created, the stones were
carried via ox cart from the Saxon Switzerland.
Note that at the moment, restorations on the bridge,
grotto and organ stones are taking place and the lake level has been reduced,
therefore not allowing for those perfect pictures. The process is estimated to
be completed in 2020.
Fun fact: the name Rakotz is derived from Sorbian and means “cancer”.
Liberec, Czech Republic
Being this close
to the Czech Republic, you can easily go on a day trip from Dresden. Liberec is the largest and most
important town of Northern Bohemia and there’s so much to admire here!
For starters, you
can go on hikes around the Ještěd, which is the highest point of the local
mountain range of the same name. On top there’s an iconic TV tower in a rather
It kind of resembles
those incense pyramids you get in the Ore Mountains
or the top of a rocket. There’s a ropeway going up the mountain to the tower.
Another mountain to hike around or do some serious skiing is Jizera.
competitive? Then you can try and take part in the Hundreds Competition. The
person who can climb the mountain 100 times and faster than everyone else wins.
All the participants will be given a badge and their names are engraved in a beer
mug. There’s also the option to compete for a badge for doing it 1000 or 5000
Besides this, Liberec
is also for non-hikers. The city center features pretty historic buildings,
like the City Hall, the tomb of the Liebig family or the lookout tower.
Oberlausitzer Heide- und Teichlandschaft
lovers, the biosphere
reserve of Oberlausitz (of which Bautzen and Gorlitz are a part) is a must.
Before you venture out into the heath and water landscape, stop by the
information center for maps and local tips. You can find it Wartha near Guttau and
it’s labeled the “Haus der 1000 Teiche“.
The UNESCO listed
reserve has been protected since 1994 and is central Europe’s largest interconnected
pond landscape. There are over 350 ponds!
Some rare species
that are under protection are the firebellied toad, barbastelle bat, Eurasian
otter and the grass Coleanthus subtilis.
Entry is free. Wild camping isn’t allowed.
But there are designated camping spots and local BnBs around.
For more historic
German architecture, visit the small town Muhlberg/Elbe. Like the Spreewald,
the town is located in the state of Brandenburg. The earliest discoveries from
archeological diggings date back to 600 BC, when it was a Slavic settlement.
Nowadays, you can
find quite the list of local monuments and historic buildings. For one, there’s
the Nunnery Marienstern from 1228. Since 2002 it’s been used by the order of
the Claretians. Next, there’s a priory from 1547, which has been turned into a museum.
The town also has a castle, called Schloss
Mühlberg. It’s not grand, rather a simple water castle but has been standing since
1272. Over the years, the castle has served various purposes. At one point, it
was a prison, school and youth club. Now, people have homes in there. A hotel
and restaurant are being planned.
Monument to the Battle of the Nations
The Monument to
the Battle of the Nations (Völkerschlachtdenkmal)
is actually still part of Leipzig but deserves its own mention for its sheer
It was erected to
commemorate the battle of 1813 that lead to a defeat of Napoleon at the hands
of Russian, Austrian, Prussian and Swedish troops. (Germans fought on both
That battle was
the largest battle of history until WWI happened. The cornerstone was laid 50
years later but construction didn’t start until the end of the century.
Now, the monument
is 91 meters tall and you can climb 500 stairs to get to the viewing platform.
If you’re too lazy or are unable to walk this, you can use the elevator that
allows you to get up to 57 meters.
Don’t just gaze at the monument from the
outside but step in, too. Here you’ll find a domed ceiling painted with horse
riders and statues guarding the pantheon, which represents Germans virtues that
were celebrated during the wars (bravery, faith, patriotism and martyrdom).
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