Restored from the Rubble: Dresden, Germany

Dresden was and is the capital of Saxony, now a state in eastern Germany. The town was completely leveled to the ground from WWII bombings. Since then, the royal residences and landmarks have been restored to their former fairy tale-like grandeur even if the constructions are not exactly as they were before. Today Dresden blends its strength both before and after the war with cultural landmarks and royal history.

Dresden was home to the royals of Saxony. Kings and electors resided in the Dresden Castle (Residenzschloss) for nearly 400 years. But even this immaculate piece of Dresden's elegance was not immune to the bombings of World War II. Reconstruction did not begin until well after the war ended. The audience hall that dated back to the reign of Elector Augustus the Strong 300 years ago is still being restored. The exterior reconstructions represent multiple time periods at once, which reflects the many changes that the castle underwent during its four centuries as a royal residence. Now, a visit to the castle includes an art museum that features art from the Middle Ages to the present day.

The Zwinger Palace offers a perfect example of the Baroque era of art and architecture. Augustus the Strong was invested in art and architecture for Dresden and wanted the Zwinger in 1709 as part of this. The area also includes museums featuring monumental scientific instruments and porcelain collections. The iconic Crown Gate entrance is a replica of Augustus the Strong's Polish royal crown in Baroque style.

Major religious buildings were destroyed during World War II as well. The Dresden Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) is a Protestant, specifically a Lutheran, church also in the Baroque style. Its reconstruction incorporated salvaged pieces of the original altar and walls. 60,000 people attended the cathedral's reopening celebration. Nearby is the largest church in Saxony: the Katholische Hofkirche, Dresden's historic Catholic Church. It served as the Church of the Royal Court of Saxony in the late 1700s. The cathedral was also the final resting place of kings and princes of Saxony from the Wettin family line, including Augustus the Strong.

Dresden's cultural landmarks are highlighted by the opera house, Semperoper in Theaterplatz. The house opened in 1841 and was reopened after World War II in 1985. What makes the opera house unique is that the marble in the building's interior is only painted to look like marble. The artists and architects behind its construction wanted to replicate operas of Italy for the Semperoper's visitors. The Semperoper is still in use for shows and ballets regularly.

Transportation tips: All of the landmarks mentioned above are within walking distance of each other in Dresden's historic Old Town area. However, tram systems operate throughout the town.


  • The Elbe River suns through Dresden. The banks of the river make up the Elbe Valley and have vast park areas for biking and boating trips.
  • Dresden's 20th century history can be explored at the Military History Museum.
  • The Grünes Gewölbe houses historic treasures and was also commissioned by Augustus the Strong in the Residenzschloss.
  • The Pillnitz Palace and Park outside of the city is another former residence of Saxony's royalty.

Dresden Castle and Catholic Church
Zwinger Palace and the Crown Gate
Dresden's Catholic Church
Inside the Opera House
The Elbe Valley River Banks
Frauenkirche before WWII
Frauenkirche after the WWII bombings
Frauenkirche today (Wikipedia image)