The capital of the eastern German state of Saxony, Dresden is renowned for its world class art museums and classic architecture – much of which has been reconstructed since the city was ravaged by air raids during the Second World War. Indeed, the legacy of Dresden’s war-torn history remains evident across the city today.
Despite these testaments to the past, modern-day Dresden has certainly managed to shrug off any lingering perception of it being an austere city. In fact, nowadays it positively pulsates with energy, with plenty of tourists coming here to enjoy its contemporary attractions each year. Among the great things to see and do in Dresden are numerous sites and activities to keep the kids happy. For anyone planning a family break in Dresden, here are 12 essentials for your itinerary.
Visit one of Germany’s oldest zoos
City zoos are a perennial favourite with vacationing families and Dresden is proud to be home to one of German’s best – not to mention most historic – zoos. Open since the mid-19th century, Dresden Zoo is today home to over 270 species of animal spanning almost the entire globe. Enduring highlights with kids include the zoo’s orangutans, penguins, and koalas
LOCATION Tiergartenstraße 1 HOURS Mon-Sun 8.30am-6.30pm
Explore a fascinating transport museum
Housed inside the prestigious 16th-century Johanneum building, The Dresden Transport Museum is a perennial favourite attraction among families visiting the city. Featuring an incredible collection of exhibits spanning pre-industrial eras through to the modern day, as well as severa interactive and experimental stations including the “Transport Garden” and the “Experiments Room”, the museum offers a fascinating insight into the evolution of transport in Dresden down the ages. Highlights include the legendary Saxon “Muldenthal” locomotive that dates back to 1861, a sedan chair from 1705, and a horse-drawn bus. As well as the land-based modes of transport on permanent display, there’s also a potted history of both navigation and aviation, including exhibits on hot air balloons and the supersonic airliner.
LOCATION Augustusstraße 1 HOURS Tues-Sun 10am-6pm Closed Mon
Immerse yourself in Saxon art
The early Germanic peoples of Old Saxony had a rich culture that was perhaps most evident in their artistic endeavours. Celebrating that tradition and heritage is the Saxon Folk Art Museum, which displays a huge assortment of items dating back to Saxon times, including wooden handicrafts, glass objects, metal forgings, pottery, lace, bobbin cloths, furniture traditional toys, and costumes. The museum also features a puppet theatre where visitors can peruse a variety of old fashioned puppetry paraphernalia.
LOCATION Köpckestraße 1 HOURS Tues-Sat 10am-6pm Closed Mon
Ride on a steam train manned by kids
A train helmed my children wouldn’t normally instil you with confidence, but a ride aboard the Dresdner Parkeisenbahn is nothing but delightful. Situated within the parameters of Großer Garten, a Baroque style park in central Dresden, the steam train is operated by kids in their spare time and on its charm-laden journey through the park will take you past renowned sites including Dresden Zoo, a 17th century palace and a pristine lake.
Enjoy a paddle steamer boat trip along the Elbe river
One of the major rivers of Central Europe, the River Elbe is a big attraction in Dresden, whether it’s for relaxed waterside walks or a trip on a historical paddle steamer. For kids, there’s no question which mode of transport they’d prefer – and it’s not the two-legged variety. The Saxon Steamship company operate the oldest and largest fleet of paddle steamers in the world, with a variety of tours available, ranging from one-hour excursions to longer city tours to full day tours that take you to Saxon Switzerland.
Step inside a magnificent palace complex
No visit to Dresden is complete without a visit to the city’s imperious Royal Palace, once the hub of power for the Saxon princes and kings and still one of the most important examples of Renaissance architecture in Germany. Comprising several different sites including the world famous Green Vault and Turkish Chamber, the vast palace complex tells almost 800 years of history and is a popular attraction with parents keen to teach their kids about Europe’s often turbulent and bloody past.
LOCATION Taschenberg 2 HOURS Weds-Mon 11am-5pm
Learn about the importance of hygiene
Hygiene isn’t the first word that springs to mind when you think of kids. So all the more reason to introduce them to the subject with a visit to The Hygiene Museum. Through the use of over 1,000 objects and interactive exhibits, the museum strives to inform, educate and entertain visitors by exploring matters of health, hygiene, body, mind, sex, and lifestyle. Highlights include a mirror maze, a sensory tunnel, and a sound and scent station featuring the irresistible opportunity to set off a loud fart noise.
LOCATION Lingnerpl. 1 HOURS Tues-Sun 10am-6pm Closed Mon
Watch a kid’s theatre show
At the heart of Dresden’s cultural life is the Theater Junge Generation, a children’s theatre academy that presents over 600 performances at three venues dotted across the city every year. As well as its popular productions, the academy also functions as a research laboratory and experimental workshop for children and young people interested in theatre. Shows take place at the Rundkino cinema, the summer stages in Dresden’s zoom, and the park Grosser Garten.
LOCATION Kraftwerk Mitte 1
Test your nerves on a suspension railway
Not one for the faint-hearted, The Dresden Suspension Bridge is worth braving if only for the fact that it is one of just two remaining suspension railways anywhere in Europe. Built in 1901 on the slopes of the River Elbe, the precariously hanging funicular monorail is certainly the most unique way to traverse the city and is popular with adults and kids alike thanks to the hair-raising panoramic views it affords from its 84-metre vantage point.
LOCATION Pillnitzer Landstraße 5 Avenue HOURS 14 Mon-Sun 9.30am-8pm
Step into the world of automobiles
They may not be able to drive them yet, but childrens’ fascination with automobiles remains undiminished. Owned by German car-making giants Volkswagen, The Transparent Factory transports (pun intended) visitors into the world of automobiles and electromobility through a range of audio and visual exhibits, as well as offering the chance to witness a real life car production assembly line in operation. The factory also runs tours especially designed for kids, with the price of admission including a gift and snack.
LOCATION Lennéstraße 1 HOURS Mon-Sat 9.30am-6.30pm Sun 9.30am-5pm
Attend a magical arts festival
Every summer, a picturesque area along the Elbe river, just a few kilometres outside of central Dresden, is transformed into a giant fairground and arts festival. Known as the Elbhangfest Festival, the event is centred around the area’s rich artistic history, with various artsy-themed activities taking place on hillsides and in village squares, parks, villas and meadows. A large parade kicks things off, followed by live music concerts, theatre, dance, recitals and special events for children. For those keen to learn more about the region, there are also guided tours and lectures.
Get your sweet tooth fix at a chocolate shop
Dresden is a great city for sightseeing, but, as all parents know, attempting to drag your kids around looking at old monuments isn’t always successful. One time-honoured persuasion technique is the promise of a sweet treat – and the best place to head in Dresden for such a reward is Camondas chocolate shop and museum. Located just behind the Residenzschloss palace, the shop sells a wide array of chocolatey goodies and for real chocolate connoisseurs there’s also an on-site museum dedicated to the magic cocoa bean.
LOCATION An der Frauenkirche 20 HOURS Mon-Sat 11am-7pm Sun 11am-6pm