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Dresden

I previously posted a question about The Best of Eastern Europe tour and Krakow. We have not signed up, but will do so before the end of November in order to get the early discount. The tour begins in Prague, but we're thinking of flying into Germany and spending a few days in Dresden before taking the train to Prague where the tour begins. We have previously been to Prague.
My dilemma: I don't want to fly into Berlin even though it is the closest large city to Dresden because it just seems wrong to leave immediately for Dresden. We don't have time to do Berlin justice. So we'll "save" Berlin for another time.
We would be flying from the Northwest and it seems the most inexpensive flights are into Frankfurt, rather than Munich, but I don't know which city would be most convenient to take the train to Dresden. Or should we just fly to Dresden, since taking the train would make for a very long travel day. What's the best way to get to Dresden?
Also, is it better to stay in the old or new side of the river? Does anyone have any hotel recommendations?
Thanks for any input.

Posted by
1378 posts

Check the network maps of Deutsche Bahn for ICE (long-distance high-speed) trains and IC (regular long-distance) trains. You can see that Berlin has a direct IC connection. ICE trains to Dresden only via Leipzig or better Erfurt (also worth a night) which is approachable from Frankfurt and Munich. So also Leipzig airport would be an approach.

Do not plan connections too tight. Long-distance trains (both types) are only 73% on time plus 5 minutes or 89% on-time plus 15 minutes (official source).

Posted by
1424 posts

I flew into Frankfurt, but was visiting other cities in Germany (Erfurt) before I traveled to Dresden. Flying into Prague would be closer. Or you could get a connecting flight through London, for example, and then fly directly to Dresden.

In Dresden, I stayed on the old town side of the river at Motel One, which is steps from the Dresden ferris wheel (makes it easy to find your way back to your hotel) and about a 5 minute walk to Zwinger Palace. You really can't beat the location. The hotel is typical for a Motel One - nothing fancy, but functional. if you take a train from Dresden to Prague for the start of your tour, it's a 3 minute walk from the hotel to the tram stop that will take you to the train station.

Posted by
6543 posts

We too are going to Dresden in the Spring, and we're going through Berlin to get there. It's about 120 miles, and takes about 2 hrs. and 40 minutes by bus. Or, it's a 2 hr. train ride. But there appears to be many more buses going there than trains.
The Dresden Airport is very small for a city of 550,000 people, and they are not well served by European budget airlines. But Ryanair does fly there from London Stansted Airport.
We're going to arrive by train, spend 3 days and rent a car to get us to Krakow.

Posted by
13933 posts

Berlin is the nearest by far to Dresden. It's also closer (timewise) than Prague. Look at train schedules at bahn.com. It's 4-5 hours by train from Frankfurt or Munich.

It sounds like you intend to spend time in your arrival city before continuing to Dresden (otherwise, why would it matter which city you fly into?).

Posted by
16 posts

Either fly into Frankfurt and take a connecting flight to Dresden or fly into Berlin and take a train or bus (the latter more frequently, probably better choice - www.flixbus.de) to Dresden.

The Old Town side has the most famous attractions, the New Town side is quieter and IMO more charming/authentic (less touristy). It depends on your interests, I would say. Do you like strolling through interesting neighbourhoods, (window) shopping and popping into a cafe, bar, snack place, quirky shops/small artisan's shops, watch street art and don't mind a somewhat rough appearance, then the Outer New Town (Äußere Neustadt) northeast of Alberplatz is your thing. If famous (mostly art) museums, churches etc. are what you want, then the Old Town is your place to go. Since both are just separated by the river it doesn't really matter where you stay - it is a short walk across the bridge or tram ride from one to the other.

As for places to stay - five star Hotel Bülow Palais is excellent (a quiet, elegant part of the New Town). Has a gourmet restaurant, too. Nearby is the three star hotel Martha, charming and average priced.

In the old town I recommend the Steigenberger de Saxe right in the middle of everything, with view of famous Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). Modern with a historic touch, very good service. Hotel Suitess is another very good choice, but more historic (reconstructed) ambience. Pension am Zwinger is only a five to ten minutes walk from Zwinger, Opera house and Royal Palace and very nice, has reasonable rates.

Definitely do a paddle steamer trip from the old town to Pillnitz Palace. Sort of a city tour of the different kind - very beautiful scenery with castles, upscale residential areas spread over the hillsides.

Posted by
164 posts

MarkK: Thanks for the links for the Deutsche Bahn. Erfurt?...Hmm. I just looked up the city in the Rick Steves Germany guidebook. It does sound worthy of a stop, but with only 3 nights to relax/unwind before the Rick Steves Tour, I would want to spend that time in only one city, Dresden, unless you think our base should be Erfurt. I like the fact that it only has a population of 200,000 vs 500,000 in Dresden.
CWsocial: Getting a connecting flight to Dresden from a city outside Germany is another possibility.
I'll look into Motel One. We prefer to stay in a place where breakfast is included. I like the idea of having a visual to find our way back to the hotel.
Chani: We don't intend to spend any time in whatever arrival city we choose. Our destination is Dresden, as quickly as possible for a few days before taking the train to Prague.
ibrenn: Our interests: We like walking the streets, sightseeing the popular sights like churches and museums, eating at informal places (nothing fancy), and appreciating the cityscape and landscape. It also takes me a day to acclimate into the travel groove. So we're hoping for a more leisurely pace in Dresden.
Hotel Bülow Palais (five star?). Yikes. We usually do not stay in 5 star places, but I'll check it out. We're probably more the hotel Martha people....especially wearing our Rick Steves "uniforms," i.e. wash and wear clothes :).
I appreciate the recommendation for a paddle steamer. Thanks

Posted by
16 posts

You did not mention a price range so I thought I give you different options. Hotel Martha or Pension am Zwinger are very good, too.

Dresden has a more leisurely pace than you might expect from a half million pop. city. It is very much spread out - actually fourth place in Germany considering the ground. The large meadows by the river, even in the city centre, the many parks and tree-lined streets make it one of the greenest cities in Europe, too. Definitely a very good option for some leisure days after a long flight.

Another suggestion is to walk along the river (on the New Town side) from the park of Japanese Palace to Blue Wonder bridge in Loschwitz or vice versa. There are gardens along the way (like that one of the Westin Hotel Bellevue, the shrubs garden and rosarium shortly after the government building where the prime minister has his office), restaurants (in the rosarium, microbrewery Waldschlösschen, Lingnerschloss), the three castles above the river with parks and vineyards ...

A walk in Grosser Garten, Dresden's largest park in the city centre, is also relaxing. You can hop on a miniature railway, too - about 2 miles long loop in the park. Or rent a rowing boat. The Baroque palace in the centre sometimes has exhibits.

At the northwestern corner of Grosser Garten is Volkswagen's Transparent Factory. If you are interested, they offer tours with focus on e-mobility.

The Military History museum (north of the New Town) is huge and very interesting (architecture, too - Daniel Libeskind reconstructed the historic building.)

As mentioned previously, strolling through the New Town along the streets with quirky shops etc. is a good idea. Check out Pfund's Molkerei (historic dairy shop with porcelain tiles depicting the dairy business) www.pfunds.de and https://kunsthof-dresden.de/

The historic old town has all the famous sights, basically next door to each other. For museums see www.skd.museum
Not to miss churches are Frauenkirche and catholic cathedral (Hofkirche). Tour the opera house or, better, attend a performance. www.semperoper.de

Posted by
1378 posts

Erfurt is a good spot for day excursions with direct train connections.

  • Weimar
  • Bamberg
  • Gotha
  • Leipzig

Even Dresden and Berlin are less than 2 hours train ride away.

Posted by
16771 posts

I've been to both Erfurt and Dresden. The sights in Dresden are more time-consuming; the museums are excellent. If you chose Erfurt you'd have time for a trip outside town. Eisenach (Wartburg Castle) and Weimar (Buchenwald Concentration Camp) are within reach by public transportation but would be easiest with a car.

A plus for Erfurt is that it sustained little if any wartime damage. The historic center is lovely.

Posted by
30932 posts

Carol,

I found the easiest method was to fly into Frankfurt and then take a short (1 hour) connecting flight to Dresden. As Air Canada has a good network of Star Alliance partners, it was all done on one ticket. I didn't see my checked bag until arrival in Dresden.

I really enjoyed my stay at the Intercity Hotel, which is right across from the main station and has a Tram line only a few feet from the hotel. There's also a great pedestrian shopping / restaurant area within easy walking distance from the hotel. As I recall, it's called Prague Street.

Posted by
4685 posts

We happen to live near a United Airlines hub. When we want to go to a place like Cologne or Warsaw or Krakow, we put our destinations into the United site and select "include United Partners" or something like that. We in fact find Lufthansana transatlantic [code share] flights to be nicer than United transatlantic flights, but in either case, we will frequently be given the second segment [typically on Lufthansa] of the flight for something like $50. So please don't misunderstand the advice so far to involve independent purchase of bargain airline tickets from Frankfurt. You are better off with a real airline, and one that can (and must!) accommodate you if something bad happens on the day of your flights.

Because I like museums, I'd stay on that side of the river. Important sights on the new side, like the Military history museum, are a transit ride away, anyway. It's a big city. I liked Erfurt, but it does not have enough to do for the plan you sketched out. You should stay in Dresden. Even if you feel lazy, you can take the modern replica steamboat ride to Saxon Switzerland.

Posted by
16 posts

Good ideas, Tim.

I see you mention a "modern replica steamboat" - and think you said that a while ago in a post, too. There are no such boats. Either one of the two modern boats called "Salonschiff" or one of the 9 historic steamboats. No replicas at all.

Posted by
164 posts

ibrenn: I like your hotel recommendations. I usually have a price in mind for hotels, but price is often "trumped" by location, breakfast, and cleanliness. At the top of my list now is Steigenberger de Saxe...great location! Thanks for suggesting it.
Also, good to hear that Dresden has a more "leisurely pace" for a city of ½ million. I picked Dresden after learning and reading about its history during WWII, and hoping we could walk to most of the popular sights.
Although my husband and I are in our 70s, we are walkers, and your post is "spot on" for what we like to do. We often just like to wander and people watch and enjoy just being in a city. Right now I'm planning on staying in Dresden for 4 nights.
MarkK: You're really advocating for Erfurt. I'll keep it in mind for a day trip from Dresden, if we find that 3 days is too much time in Dresden. I guess you all have your "favorite" German city. When I asked a local expat German friend in my town for her favorite city, her answer was Stuttgart.
Ken and Tim: Thanks for airline/flight suggestions. Yes, we are United FF members, but right now the price to Dresden is "sky high" for the date we want. However, we will have help with our bookings. We have been doing 2 tours each year for our European travels. We do a Rick Steves Tour and a Road Scholar Tour. By doing that Road Scholar will book the flights for us...at a considerable savings, especially if we fly Delta. Right now I think I've figured out when to leave, but but I'm not sure of our return date.

Tim, we are leary of "code-share." We booked through United one year with a return on Lufthansa, hoping to upgrade to Premium Plus. We could NOT upgrade, even with all the codes, etc. We flew back in middle economy seats. Worst flight ever!
Tim: thanks for mentioning the Military history museum. My husband is retired military so that museum would be of interest to us.

Posted by
4685 posts

I don't try to upgrade except at the time of purchase. Unless you fly every week for business, you don't have a chance to upgrade at boarding these days. It's a futile hope.

A major reason to go to the Military museum in Dresden is the striking architecture of the addition by Daniel Liebeskind. But posters here have made the point that because of Germany's .. er .. history, this museum is effectively, a compressed museum of pan-European history. It's apparently a superb, inspiring collection, for viewing or formal research. We just "tasted" it. The metro goes quite near, so don't miss it.

We stayed at the soul-less modern Hilton, on Hilton points. But the location was great. It was a hike from our car rental return. Don't forget about Meissen. The river is lined with vineyards, but November may be too late for harvest festivals.

Posted by
164 posts

Tim, I looked at Hilton on TA when I saw its location, but didn’t it seem to include breakfast, one of my requirements.
Also, our trip is for August. I just need to commit to a Rick Steves Tour by the end of November.
I’ve bookmarked this post so i’ll remember all the suggested places to visit.

Posted by
2937 posts

Carol , look more closely , I stayed at The Hilton this past September for a week , and they serve a very good breakfast . I like business class hotels , and they don't disappoint . Another plus for me there , was the well equipped gym . I was able to do a one hour session early in the morning , before breakfast , essential for my cardiac health .

Posted by
164 posts

Steven: Was breakfast included in the daly rate? I did like the location of the Hilton. You actually work out on vacation? What dedication!
We go regularly to the Y at home, but never on vacation. Our "exercise" is walking; weight lifting is hefting our luggage from place to place :)

Posted by
2937 posts

Carol , look directly at the Hilton website . There will be options for both room only , as well as inclusive breakfast . Also , sign up with Hilton Honors program . There is no charge , and there are benefits for this program . My wife and I also do a great deal of walking , on our trips , as well as at home . We have a stationary bike and a treadmill in the basement , which is a great convenience in inclement weather . It is less dedication , than fear for me . The cardio exercise is a health necessity for me , and I will always book hotels that provide a facility , or at the least , find a hotel with a nearby gym .

Posted by
16 posts

The Military History museum is a must, indeed, for a retired military man. Be forewarned, though - my American friends (he a retired Army colonel, she an avid museum goer) spent almost a whole day there ;-)

Maybe you are also interested in the former Stasi headquarter in Dresden (East German secret service), turned into a memorial/museum: https://www.bautzner-strasse-dresden.de/ (English version available)

The Hilton has basically the same location as the Steigenberger, only that the latter has better views (and better service/nicer rooms.) However, American friends of mine stayed at the Hilton recently (because of 'points' or a 'reward program') and they were happy, too.

Posted by
4685 posts

Carol, as another noted, it's necessary to use the Hilton website to actually price the features of any Hilton stay. TA has its uses, but fine details and booking are not what I use it for. I also find that I have better control over my stay if I book "direct." Just for example, a third-party room may be cheaper because it's by the elevators. You have better leverage if you book yourself.

Posted by
164 posts

ibrenn: We are like your American friends, in that we spend a long time in a museum. We often linger longer than other people do in museums, cathedrals, and other sights. We appreciate being in a tour group, but we also relish our independence.
Tim: Yes, we always book direct. In fact, a lot of times I will email a hotel direct rather than use their website. However, I like to read reviews on TA, and also note the "walkable" factor as well as restaurants and sights.

Posted by
2937 posts

Just Re-reading some of the previous posts , ibrenn mentions Pfund' s Molkerei . Magnificent majolika tile work , and the place was used in the 2014 film " The Grand Budapest Hotel " , as the stand in for Mendl's patisserie where they produced the infamous , but elusive " Courtesan au Chocolat " On another note , since you are a museum lover , don't miss the Albertinum , a spectacular collection , it includes some of the fine work of the Jugendstil artist , Max Klinger , and Neue Sachlichkeit paintings by Otto Dix .

Posted by
164 posts

Steven: Thanks for your input and descriptions of places to visit in Dresden. We'll need to watch the Grand Budapest movie again. I don't remember all the beautiful backgrounds from the movie.

Posted by
12091 posts

I heartily agree with seeing Weimar if you're thinking about a day trip, have been there 3 times.

Another suggestion I have is to see Naumburg an der Saale. Like Weimar, it does take more than 2 hours,...well worth it.