Historical, monumental and haunted by its (somewhat) recent past, the ‘Florence of the North’ offers more culture to visitors than most capitals, let alone regional outposts. Whether your interests lie in fine art, contemporary dance, architecture or history, Dresden has something for everyone. Ideally, you’d take at least month to explore everything this beguiling jewel has to offer; but life is far from ideal and you’ll likely find yourself trying to cram in everything in under a week. To make sure you get the best of your brief stay, we’ve compiled a guide to the best in the ‘must see’, ‘off the beaten track’ and the downright obscure:
Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister
Dresden’s famed ‘old masters’ gallery is your one stop shop for everything grandiose and venerable. Packed to the rafters with works by Raphael, Vermeer and Correggio (among others), the collection spans centuries, continents and movements without ever seeming muddled. Those who like their paintings strictly non-abstract could do worse than spend an afternoon navigating this particular wing of the Semper Gallery, first opened to the public way back before German unification.
Galerie Neue Meister
The ‘new masters’ gallery is the ideal companion piece to a morning at the ‘old masters’. Located in the imposing Albertinum (rebuilt in 1953 after a WWII allied firebomb attack razed the city centre), its mere 300 paintings pack in some heavy hitters. Gaugin, Monet, Dix, Richter, Degas, Van Gogh; the list of modern icons dotted around its spacious rooms is endless. Considered one the most important galleries in Europe, the collection admirably manages to trace both local and world artistic movements from the 19th century to the present. Best of all, you don’t even need to leave your laptop to see it: the entire gallery and collection have been recreated in minute detail in Second Life, for anyone to explore.
From the contemporary to the blisteringly avant-garde, CYNETART is Dresden’s annual ‘computer art’ festival. Operating at the very forefront of what we understand as ‘art’, this unique gathering encompasses work as diverse as performance, dance, mixed-media installation and even forms of ‘clubbing’. Alternative, bizarre and deeply intellectual; this yearly one-off is a must for anyone who enjoys exploring work at the outer limits of conventional practice.
If avant-garde cyber art still isn’t enough, you can always time your visit to coincide with Ostrale, Dresden’s premier event for all art forms. Alongside traditional painting and video works you’ll encounter a cacophony of street art, light art, sound art, performance and the odd piece of genre-busting madness. The place to find up-and-coming artists before they get big, Ostrale also displays a rare community spirit unseen in larger cities. The result is a citywide explosion of sound and colour that will suck you in, challenge you and leave you breathless for more.
A monument both to the works of Romantic landscape painter Edward Leonhardi and his bombastic ego, this Elbe Valley gallery is situated inside an old converted watermill and is, frankly, almost as pleasing to look at as it is to venture inside. Nonetheless the permanent collection is suitably large, drawing on Leonhardi’s life and the influence of people such as Ludwig Richter. With large gardens to stroll around, all set within one of the only sites in the world to be de-listed from UNESCO’s ‘World Heritage’ collection (thanks to a bizarre decision to run a four-lane motorway through the valley), the Leonhardi is simply a joy to visit. Come for the collection, stay for the enticing surroundings; completely befitting a collection of Romantic landscapes.
If you’re visiting Dresden in the new year, check into the Swissotel Dresden luxury hotel, which sits in the centre of the old town, near to the Zwinger Palace.