Originally we planned to take the train from Prague for touring Dresden and then rent a car to see the castles near the city. Our group of 4 changed our plans and booked with Daytrip instead, which was a great option. Daytrip is fairly expensive because you are hiring a vehicle and driver for the day, but it’s door to door service between your hotels. You plan an itinerary in advance, but the route is completely flexible on the day you travel.
Hanging Man in Prague
Our morning started with a side trip in Prague to see the Hanging Man. The Hanging Man is a sculpture of Freud hanging from a vertical pole over a street in the old town. I thought it would be a joke and he would be hanging by his neck. Instead he was hanging by one hand trying to decide whether or not to let go as he faced cancer. From there we drove to Litomerice, which was an interesting town but our time would have been better spent on other sights on our route that day.
Elbe River, Konigstein Castle near Dresden
Touring Dresden – Konigstein Castle
By the time we reached our second stop, at Konigstein Castle, the sun had come out. So our views and pictures were amazing. The downside with using a transfer service like Daytrip is that you tend to under research the stops you will make that day. Daytrip is very clear that they provide a driver, but not a guide, so you still need to do some homework to have the best experience. Still, it’s kind of fun and exciting to quickly tour a place when you don’t know where to begin when you step out of the vehicle.
It turns out that the entrance to Konigstein Castle is a long distance uphill from the parking lot. So, the best option is to buy a return ticket on the small tram. Unfortunately that adds a lot of time to your visit, especially when your tram needs a battery boost on the way back. Once you get to the castle ticket booth, you can’t see anything unless you buy a ticket. Konigstein Castle is gigantic and the castle is on the top of a mountain. You can’t hope to see the castle or the Elbe River valley without buying an entrance ticket. An elevator ride is included in the entry fee.
Elbe River Views
The elevator up to Konigstein Castle was gigantic. Clearly they get a lot of visitors in the height of the season, but it was nearly empty for our visit. The moment you step off the elevator, you are on top of the castle wall with an extensive view of the surrounding fields. The pastoral view is stunning. The scene made me want to start searching for the Elbe River view right away. The castle walls cover a huge distance and the views are continuously fabulous. When we eventually got to the northeast corner of Konigstein Castle walls, the stunning sight of the Elbe River Valley came in to view. Although there are historical buildings to see as well, we spent all our time walking along the castle walls. I had no idea before I arrived that Konigstein Castle would be one of my favorite stops on our 2019 Europe Vacation.
Elbe River view from the Bastei near Dresden
Touring Dresden – the Bastei
After Konigstein Castle, we had fallen significantly behind on our schedule for the day, so we changed our plan and headed directly for the Bastei. I’d seen lots of pictures of the Bastei hillside fortification above the Elbe River, which is what led us to tour Dresden in the first place. Again the approach was time consuming, as we had to ride a bus from the parking lot and then walk quite a way to the viewpoints. We stopped for currywurst and potatoes on the way, which is a popular meal in this area of Germany.
The first viewpoint of the Elbe River is near the Panorama Restaurant. The view would be impressive if we hadn’t just been to Konigstein Castle. My friends were a bit disappointed, but I told them we still needed to find the Bastei Bridge, which is the top photo op for the Bastei. We followed the crowds a short distance downhill and soon reached the Bastei Bridge. The arches of the Bastei Bridge span the columns of rocks along the river edge. Between the columns you get great views of the Elbe River below. You can watch the boats cruising the Elbe and stopping at the village below.
Tim at the Bastei near Dresden
After crossing the Bastei Bridge, two of us paid the small fee into the Neurathen Castle ruins. Neurathen is really more of a trail of steel bridges and stairs through the rocks. The ruins are not very extensive. It was well worth the entrance fee to complete the circuit which finishes back at the main trail. From there we walked to one more popular viewing point over the Elbe River and then it was time to hike and bus back to our vehicle.
Touring Dresden – Pillnitz Castle
The last stop on our Daytrip from Prague to Dresden was a stop at Pillnitz Castle. By this point we were tired and hungry. We spend most of our time at restaurant on the river front and we bought a meal for our driver too.
NH Collection Dresden Altmarkt
Our Daytrip adventure ended with our driver dropping us at the NH Collection Dresden Altmarkt. I’d picked the NH Collection Dreden Altmarkt for our hotel because it’s right in the Dresden old town. The NH Collection Dreden Altmarkt was one of our favorite hotels on our 2019 Europe vacation. The hotel was modern, clean, comfortable and very reasonably priced.
Academy of Fine Arts, Touring Dresden
Touring Dresden – Altmarkt
The best part of touring Dresden is that you leave all the North American tourists behind for a local atmosphere. All the guests at our hotel spoke German. After Prague, the old town in Dresden felt pleasantly empty. The Altmarkt is best known for its Christmas Market, which is one of the most popular in Europe. We were lucky that the Altmarkt was the site of a weekend celebration that included traditional German music, draft beer, bratwurst and sauerkraut.
Touring Dresden – Old Town
The Old Town in Dresden is quite small. After dinner on our first night, we walked past most of the sites. We saw the Dresden Cathedral, Dresden Castle, the Church of our Lady, the Fürstenzug Murals and the Neumarkt. We watched the sun set from Brühl’s Terrace.
Church of Our Lady, Old Town, Dresden
Church of Our Lady Concert
The next morning started off with warm sunshine. We repeated our route through the old town from the night before, but we added on Brühlsche Gasse and the Albertinim Museum. Then we stumbled on a free Sunday morning concert at the Church of Our Lady. This Lutheran service included a complete symphony orchestra that played two classical pieces as part of the service. The conductor also led the congregation in singing a round. The circle design of the Church of Our Lady produced perfect acoustics. The service was entirely in German and we had a magnificent local experience.
Furstenzug Mural, Old Town, Dresden
After the Church of Our Lady concert, we visited the Dresden Cathedral. The Dresden Theatre has a dark & traditional style, which contrasts strongly with the bright, open, circular design of the Church of Our Lady. Next we walked past the Dresden Opera House and discovered the Zwinger Palace beside it.
The Zwinger Palace was amazingly large. The buildings enclosing the grounds include the Old Masters Picture Gallery, the Dresden Porcelain Collection, a clock tower and the Nymphenbad converted to a concert hall. You can tour the grounds and walk the walls for free. Don’t miss the Zwinger Palace when you visit Dresden.
Altmarkt Beer Gardens
We had lunch at the beer gardens at the Altmarkt that afternoon. We decided to skip out on the popular evening dinner cruises on the Elbe River and get ready to split up our group of 4. Our friends headed to Zurich in the morning while we headed out by train to Berlin. Dresden was a great place to regain faith in European vacations after surviving the throngs of tourists in Prague.