Dresden – Florence on the Elbe and State Capital

by | September 21, 2021

Dresden lies in a protected basin location on both sides of the Elbe. The city is the capital and cultural center of the new federal state of Saxony. Dresden has to share its position as an economic center with Leipzig. The city, known as “Florence on the Elbe” due to its remarkable cityscape until the end of the Second World War, was reduced to rubble and ashes in February 1945 by three British-American air raids. Numerous buildings, such as the Zwinger and the Semperoper, as well as entire ensembles were rebuilt. They attract numerous domestic and foreign visitors to Dresden.

The independent city of Dresden is the capital of Saxony. It is located on both sides of the Elbe in a protected basin position in the middle of an elongated Elbe valley widening.

Dresden has 523 700 residents. The city is the seat of the authorities and seat of the administrative district of Dresden, seat of the church leadership of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saxony and the bishop of the Catholic diocese of Dresden-Meißen. It has a technical university, colleges for music, church music, fine arts, technology and economics, a medical academy, an academy for artistic dance (“Palucca School”), an army officers’ school and other educational institutions. The numerous research institutes include the Max Planck Institutes for the Physics of Complex Systems, for Chemical Physics of Solids and for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, as well as the Fraunhofer Institutes and the Von Ardenne Institute for Applied Medical Research.

Dresden, the art metropolis, has important museums. Many visitors, including from abroad, are attracted by the picture galleries (“Old Masters” in the Semperbau am Zwinger, “New Masters”) of the sculpture collection, the coin cabinet in the Albertinum, the porcelain collection and the copper engraving cabinet. The Saxon State Library and the State and University Library have large holdings. The Semperoper, which was rebuilt after the destruction of the Second World War, is known beyond the national borders. Dresden has several theaters, the important Dresden Philharmonic, the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden and the Dresdner Kreuzchor. Every year the city hosts international music festivals and the Dixieland festival.

Along with Leipzig, Dresden is the most important economic center in Saxony and has a wide range of industries with two large companies in microelectronics, precision engineering, equipment and vehicle construction, optical industry and camera construction, as well as aircraft and special machine construction, energy and medical technology, pharmaceutical industry, printing and publishing as well as furniture construction. The city is an important traffic junction with the Elbe port and an international airport.

Florence on the Elbe

Dresden was up to the air attacks on 13 and 14.02.1945 as one of the most beautiful German cities and carried the nickname ” Florence on the Elbe “. The old town was largely a victim of these air raids. Many historical buildings have now been restored – even in GDR times – or are planned for reconstruction. However, destruction and new construction have completely changed the cityscape.

The former residential palacethe Wettiner forms the core of the old town on the left bank of the Elbe. It is a four-wing complex from the 16th century, which was later changed frequently. The restored baroque Catholic court church stands on the Schlossplatz. To the south of the castle is the likewise baroque Taschenbergpalais, which after the reconstruction (1992–1995) serves as a hotel. The Theaterplatz connects to the castle and court church to the west. The classicist Old Town Guard and the Semper Opera House, built according to a design by KF SCHINKEL, are located here. In the southwest is the kennel built by PÖPPELMANN for court festivals(1711–1728) the limitation. In 1847–1854, G. SEMPER added the picture gallery to the formerly open north-east side of the Zwinger. On the banks of the Elbe are the Brühlsche Terrasse with the art academy (today the University of Fine Arts), the Albertinum, the secondary school (1907) instead of the Brühl library and the state parliament building instead of the Palais Brühl.

The Frauenkirche, consecrated in 1734, was destroyed in 1945. The most important Protestant baroque church building was and is still a landmark of Dresden today. The ruin was preserved as a memorial for the victims of the air raid. Since 1994 the Frauenkirche has been rebuilt with the help of donations from all over the world and was ceremoniously consecrated on October 30, 2005.

A new synagogue and a Jewish community center are being built nearby on the banks of the Elbe. The Johanneum am Neumarkt, which was built as a stable courtyard between 1586 and 1591 and later changed, is connected to the castle by the long corridor that opens onto the courtyard with 22 arched arcades. The Great Garden, a baroque complex with a palace, adjoins the old town to the southeast.

After the fire of Altdresden in 1685, the new town became rebuilt on the right bank of the Elbe as a unified baroque town. Significant buildings are the Dreikönigskirche, the Japanese Palace, begun in 1715 as the “Dutch Palace”, and some baroque town houses. Remarkable buildings can also be found in the outskirts of Dresden. Down the Elbe lies the baroque castle Übigau, up the Elbe on the Loschwitzer heights the late classical castles Albrechtsburg and Villa Stockhausen as well as the medieval castle Eckberg, further upstream on the Elbe the castle and park complex Pillnitz. The “Blue Wonder” crosses between the districts of Blasewitz and Loschwitz ,a suspension truss bridge, built from 1891 to 1893, over the Elbe. In the district (since 1950) Hellerau in the north, the plan of a garden city was realized for the first time according to the development plan of 1907/08. Interesting new buildings include the Hotel Bellevue, including the baroque college building, the new state parliament building and the Ufa palace “Kristall” by Coop Himmelb (l) au.


The Slavic area on the Elbe came to the Wettin Margraves of Meissen before 1144, who had a castle built around 1150 on the site of the later palace. It was founded in 1206, and in 1216 the city of Dresden (Slavic Drezdzany) was first mentioned south of the castle (Magdeburg city law confirmed in 1299). The city fortifications included the castle and an older market settlement called Altdresden. In 1550 Altdresden, a former Sorbian village developed into a town, was incorporated on the right bank of the Elbe. As the residence of the Albertine line of the Wettins (1485-1918)Dresden developed into a world-famous cultural center. MORITZ VON SACHSEN turned the city into a Renaissance residence under AUGUST II, ​​the Strong, and AUGUST III. began a brisk construction activity. Until the Seven Years’ War in the middle of the 18th century, Dresden became a place of splendid court life. In 1839 the first German long-distance railway from Leipzig to Dresden was opened. From the middle of the 19th century onwards, the city was able to transform itself into a transport hub and industrial center.

On the night of February 13th and 14th 1945 became the 630 000 residents (1939)city ​​counting victims of three British-American air raids. The destruction of the old town is well known, the exact number of fatalities could never be determined, because during the bombing there were 500,000 Silesian refugees in Dresden in addition to the residents. In autumn 1989 the city was one of the scenes of the peaceful revolution in the GDR.

Dresden - Florence on the Elbe