We are going by train from Prague to Berlin on Dec. 13 and I am trying to decide if it is worth a 4-5 hour stop in Dresden on the way. I figure we could walk around the town, visit the Christmas market and possibly visit a museum. To do this would involve leaving earlier from Prauge and arriving later in Berlin then if we went direct. If we stop --please give suggestions for highlights. We enjoy walking around, some museum visiting (my husband more than me) shopping and generally enjoying the sights. We are already booked in Berlin so cannot do an overnight. (Also is the historic green vault open since the theft?) Thanks in advance.
The green vaults typically book up in advance online, so you have to go online yourself to make sure there is any availability. It's possible they stagger ticket releases to thwart resellers, so you should go online more than once. There are other good museums in Dresden. I wouldn't stop just for a Christmas Market, but I know those are of great interest to some travelers.
Only the Historic Green Vault requires timed tickets and that one is closed due to the robbery. (Probably won't reopen until you travel.) But you can visit the New Green Vault (which has the highlights of the pieces anyway) and the other museums in the Royal Palace (same ticket.) Other must see things are the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), Procession of Princes mural, catholic cathedral (Hofkirche), Zwinger and Semper Oper house e.g. And have a walk along Brühl's Terrace above the river. Inevitably you will see some Christmas markets - if you decide to walk to the old town then you'll come across the first one right away in Prager Straße, the pedestrian shopping zone. Little charm, but the stalls sell good stuff, too. Next one is Striezelmarkt, the oldest and largest, on Altmarkt square. Very beautiful. Right in front of Frauenkirche is the most charming (IMO) Advent market themed "about the year 1900". In the Renaissance style former jousting yard of the Royal Palace (behind mural Procession of Princes) is the medieval market, quite different and worth a short visit.
This should be doable within 4-5 hours, if you don't linger too long.
The current (ground floor only) "55 highlights" exhibit at the Zwinger Old Masters Gallery is perfect for anyone who likes their art museums in small doses, or is limited for time.
"Though the Semper Building will close during the autumn and winter time most of its exposition space, it will still be possible to see important works of art from the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery). These include Raphael's "Sistine Madonna" as well as Giorgione's "Sleeping Venus", Vermeer's "The Procuress" or Bellotto's famous panoramic view of Dresden."
If you like guided walking tours, DresdenWalks has a special Christmas walking tour running daily at noon in December for 12 EUR/person. I generally like walking tours to get a bit of local history and color. I thought they did a fine job, for instance, of telling about the parade of rulers mural - which might otherwise have been interesting, but not as meaningful.
The Rick Steves Germany guide book also has a self-guided walk of the Dresden highlights.
I think Dresden is definitely worth the stopover. I've been there twice, the first time as part of a stopover on the train trip that you are taking. The main sights are a short walk from the train station - the cathedrals are definitely worth going into, and the town squares are worth a visit. Look up the walking tour section from Rick Steves on the town and you'll see the sights that are worth your time. Plus take time to enjoy the sights and the Christmas festivities. You won't be disappointed.
If we stop --please give suggestions for highlights.
At this time of the year the Christmas markets are the highlight. The Striezelmarkt, Dresdens biggest, is one of Germanys oldest and most traditional Christmas markets. The region, especially the Ore mountains to the south, are Germanys Christmas country, and many traditions and products originate there. Highlight are probably the handmade wooden Christmas toys, which are made in the Ore mountains. You can buy them on every German Christmas market, but the selection in Dresden is bigger, and the products a bit cheaper. Another local Christmas product are Moravian stars, which are made in a village nearby. And what you should definitely try is the local gingerbread. It is handmade by 7 or 8 small gingerbread bakeries from a small local town nearby called Pulsnitz... since 1560 or so. Try the "Spitzen", which are the most popular product (always buy the most expensive version, which uses better chocolate).
If you arrive by train you cross 3 big Christmas markets on your way to the old town including the Striezelmarkt. Ignore the first one on the long straight sreet leading to the old town. The most atmospheric market is on the Neumarkt.