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Altmarkt is Dresden's oldest landmark. The beautiful Renaissance and Barock houses that surrounded this market years ago were diminished by a storm on the 13th and 14th of Februay 1945. In 1953, the Swiss government undertook the reconstruction of this historic area. Hence, the region acquired new boundaries, a number of restaurants and the popular Kreuzkirche. After the completion of the eastern and western side of Altmarkt, the northern and southern reformation commenced. Today prestigious events like the Philharmonie, the Dixilandfestival and a number of international music concerts take place in the area's Wilsdruffer street. Well-known Christmas markets like the Striezelmarkt try to imitate Altmarkt's layout and aura.
Former seat of the Saxon royal family, Residenzschloss Palace was built between the 12th-19th Centuries and exhibits a magnificent array of different architectural features from the Romantic, Renaissance, Baroque and neo-Renaissance eras. Heavily damaged during World War II, the palace was restored as a museum complex. Today, the castle houses five major museums; you will find ancient relics and a large collection of coins, drawings, photographs, paintings, prints, armor and more.
Although slightly inconspicuous from the outside, the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in the Semper wing of the Zwinger contains one of the world's greatest collections of art. Covering three floors, the gallery contains a host of 14th-18th Century paintings by masters such as Canaletto, Rubens, Dürer, Holbein and Rembrandt. But the highlight is clearly Raphael's Sistine Madonna portraying Mother and Child among the clouds, reproductions of which hang in hundreds of thousands of living rooms throughout the world. An inspiring collection!
Dresden's world-famous landmark and palace, Zwinger, was built between 1710-32 by architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann and sculptor Balthasar Permoser. The imposing complex, made up of a crown gate, long, winding galleries, a walled pavilion and carillon and French and German pavilions was originally designed as a venue for court festivities. In 1855, a Neo-Renaissance structure designed by Gottfried Semper was built on the north-eastern side. Today, the Semper Building contains, among other things, the Gallery of the Old Masters, with works by Dürer, Titian, Rubens and one of the most famous paintings in the world, the Sistine Madonna by Raphael. The breathtaking ensemble is completed by several royal tombstones, a pond and an idyllic park.
Semperoper, built in mid-19th century by Gottfried Semper, is one of Germany's finest examples of Dresden Baroque and Neo-Renaissance architecture. Destroyed twice by fire in 1869 and 1945, the building you see today is an exact replica of the original. In its long history since 1841, the likes of Richard Wagner, Elisabeth Rethberg, Marie Wittich, Richard Strauss and Herbert Blomstedt have performed here. In fact, it served as a stage for Germany's finest composers, conductors, singers and ballet dancers of the 19th and 20th Centuries to connect with a discerning audience. Today, the opera house's repertoire includes ballets, comic opera acts, and classical opera in both German and Italian languages. Even if you are not a fan of dance or music, the eclectic architecture of the opera house, blending various European styles, piques the interest of most people.
Dresden's famous porcelain mural on the exterior of Residenzschloss palace is a feast for the eyes. The frieze is 102 metres long and 7 metres high, making it the largest porcelain picture in the world. It was first painted in 1876, then transferred onto 25,000 pieces of Meißen porcelain in 1904-1907. Designed as a memorial to the Wettiner royal family, the mural depicts all the Saxon rulers between 1123-1904. Only the last Saxon king is missing; Friedrich August III. Souvenir sellers now ply their trade at the feet of Frederick the Mean, George the Bearded and Co. Free admission.
Built in 1726-43 by George Bähr, the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) is one of Germany's greatest architectural monuments. It became famous for hosting organ recitals given by J.W. Bach in the 1730's and went on to dominate the city skyline for over two centuries until being destroyed in the great air-raid of 1945. All the rubble was gathered up and kept in storage, although the church remained a ruin for some fifty years. Rebuilding began in 1990, with a projected completion by 2006. Free guided tours around the building site include a fascinating exhibition outlining the past, present and future of the church.
The Stadtmuseum (city museum) is situated in an historic 18th century country house and features a series of permanent and temporary exhibitions dealing with local history, art and culture. Visitors can travel through the different epochs of history and see how the city has developed over the centuries. The museum is particularly good for families, with a special exhibition about the fire brigade, a miniature railway and a wonderful Christmas show. The museum is linked to the Carl Maria von Weber Museum, Kraszewski Museum, Kügelgenhaus and Schillerhäuschen.
Just like the rest of the city centre, Dresden's busiest shopping street was reduced to rubble in the Second World War. Redesigned and rebuilt between 1965-1978, Prager Straße is no longer pretty, but with numerous shops, department stores, hotels and cinemas, life has well and truly returned to the street. Now entirely a pedestrian zone, Prager Straße is a living reminder of Socialist urban planning, although the gigantic statue of Lenin which stood at the southern end of the street was removed after German reunification.
Housed within the Jägerhof, the 400 hundred year old, Innere Neustadt building, the Museum of Saxon Folk Art and Puppet Theatre, also called, Museum für Volkskunst, boasts of one of the biggest puppettheater and folk art collections in the world. The museum chronicles the development of folk art in Saxony. Some items displayed are over 200 years old, used in historic fairs and events, highlighting the glorious history of Germany. There are also more recent, 19th-century artifacts that testify technological advances in traditional puppettheater. With more than 27,000 objects on display, Museum für Sächsische Volkskunst mit Puppentheatersammlung makes for an extremely interesting and insightful visit.
The Elbe Cycle Route that runs throughout Europe, stretches to almost 50 kilometers in Dresden. Overlooking the River Elbe on both sides, this part of Elbe Cycle Route, is locally called Elberadweg. With recently installed signposts all over, it is easy to cycle your way through this route. The unbroken eco-friendly route is often sought for photoshoots, owing to the wondrous panorama it offers. Starting Prague, the route finds a way to Downtown Dresden and then progresses to other cities like Meißen and Wittenberg.