A view on the old town of Dresden.
♠ le max
City of the Arts
To the South East of Germany on the plains of the River Elbe, lies the elegant city of Dresden, otherwise known to many as the 'Florence of the Elbe'. An old city with lots of cultural landmarks, it saw most of its grand buildings built under the patronage of Augustus the Strong in the 18th century. Majorly damaged during WWII, Dresden's finest buildings have either had to be rebuilt, with those that made it through the bombings revealing noir facades, token to the city's belligerent past. It is precisely this mixture of modern buildings with war-torn areas that makes the city so appealing, reaching out to its future whilst holding on to its pertinent history.
Why should I choose Dresden for my year abroad?
Fine architecture shouts out from all corners of the city: make sure you visit Zwinger Palace to witness some classy art collections, as well as take in the sheer beauty of its Baroque style. The reconstructed church, Frauenkirche, is also a sight to behold. Neue Synagoge is quite remarkable too, so make sure you pencil it in. Kunsthaus Dresden is the city's contemporary art mecca, with some strong works from artists from around the globe.
You won't want to miss the numerous parks and gardens across the city, as they consist of Dresden's relaxing haunts for many on a quiet afternoon. Beer gardens are also close by, should the mood take you. Not to miss is the Großer Garden, with many locals and tourists taking a few minutes of respite in this green haven.
The Artists' Court is peculiar to this German city, with inner courtyards individually decorated, a few galleries and some coffee and cake, if it all got a little too much for you. In terms of events, this city has a few here and there, but by far the most reputable is the Christmas market — Striezelmarkt is one hell of a crowd-puller, starting as early as November. If mulled wine and gingerbread treats aren't really up your street, you could always take note of the Dixieland Festival. And before you smirk, or wonder whether American hillbillies are about to take over, rest assured — it's only one of the best jazz festivals in the world! Make sure you make room in your diary, as it's a one-of-a-kind event that stretches over the summer and gets the people of Dresden moving. Kubrick fans out there will be happy to hear that the city is host to the annual Filmnächte Festival, where the silver screen takes the lead and many concerts are set up specially. Popcorn + arthouse films + yards of ale = happy person!
If you'd like to appear a little more cultured, or you really are a fan, Dresden's Semperoper opera house is a must-see (and hear). Designed by the world renowned architect, Gottfried Semper, make sure you take the rentals for a wee show, to show off your well-read nature/adopted nature. The opera house is home to the Saxon State Orchestra, which is regarded as one of the best orchestras in the world, no less. Take a step into Neustadt where you'll find, weaved in-between the tightly knit rows of houses, an array of chic bars and cafes to be enjoyed (and not abused, we're cultured here, remember!).
The partygoers amongst you will carry on through to Louisenstrasse for some late-night pubs and host of clubs to suit all sorts of eclectic tastes. Not an obvious choice, but by no means less of a house of fun, you'll enjoy both the crazy world of the modern-living and the resonance of a shattered past in this revealing German city.