Dresden: Modern technology and historic baroque

Everywhere you look, you can see evidence of Dresden’s eventful history. With its Baroque architecture and the Elbe flowing through the city, Dresden is absolutely beautiful. The city offers a world-famous panorama unlike any other. Prestigious universities and modern technology companies offer ideal conditions for studying.

by Janine Funke

Skyline with the Frauenkirche © Horschig/DAAD
Skyline with the Frauenkirche . © Horschig/DAAD

Facts & Figures

Monthly rent:
264 €
Go on a boat tour to the city of Meissen and discover its historic centre!

Welcome to Dresden

Dresden often goes by the nickname “Elb Florence”. When you cross the Elbe River from the new part of town into the historic city centre, you are sure to be impressed by the unique panorama. And it’s even more breath-taking at sunset. The Baroque-period buildings in the historic district look especially beautiful in the last rays of sunshine. Then you’ll know why Dresden was chosen as a royal seat in the 18th century and why it bears the nickname “Elb Florence”. The view of the Elbe and the city around is absolutely unique and famous throughout the world.

Dresden is the capital of the state of Saxony, located in eastern Germany. It has top-rate universities and a flourishing technology branch. Many large corporations, such as the chip manufacturers AMD and Infineon or the electronics company ZMD, have set up headquarters there. The city is also home to several suppliers to the automotive industry and the "Transparent Factory", a VW production facility with a spectacular design.

The baroque Old Town © DAAD
The baroque Old Town . © DAAD

The city of Dresden was almost completely destroyed in World War II. The Baroque buildings, which had once made the city world-famous, were only rebuilt 40 years later after German reunification in 1990. It is this eventful history which you see on every corner in the city today.

One of Dresden’s most beautiful landmarks, the reconstructed Frauenkirche, is located in the centre of town. After World War II, a few walls were all that was left of the church. Today, the blackened stones tell you which parts of the church were original. The church was made of light-coloured sandstone, but darkened over the years. For the inhabitants of Dresden, its reconstruction is a symbol of reconciliation and peace after the last world war.

Semperoper © DAAD
Semperoper . © DAAD

On the Theaterplatz you’ll find Dresden’s famous opera house, the Semperoper. Located next to it is the Zwinger with its large pleasure garden and many other small and large Baroque buildings. Several well-known museums are located here as well; you should definitely visit the “Old Masters Picture Gallery” and the “Green Vault”.

Around Christmastime, the world-famous Christmas market “Striezelmarkt” opens its doors. It’s your chance to try out one of Dresden’s celebrated specialties, the Dresden “Christstollen”, a traditional pastry served during Advent.

Living in Dresden

Dresden is divided by the Elbe into two halves – the new part of the city (Neustadt) and the historic district (Altstadt). Most students live in the Neustadt. This is where you’ll find popular bars and clubs. If you go to the "Scheune" or one of the numerous jazz bars, you’re guaranteed to bump into many other students from your university.

Dresden Neustadt © DAAD
Dresden Neustadt . © DAAD

The "Bunte Republik Neustadt" is a festival which takes place every summer. While musicians and artists perform, you can stroll through the flea markets and stands, and simply enjoy summer in Dresden.

My tip

You should definitely go on an Elbe boat tour and visit the city of Meissen. The historic centre of Meissen is small, but gorgeous. Taking a walk to the city castle, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Elbe and the surrounding vineyards.

There are numerous quaint restaurants and cocktail bars on Weisse Gasse in the Altstadt district. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a table outside where you can sit and enjoy the old-town atmosphere.

You can escape the hustle and bustle of the city by taking a walk on the “Brühlschen Terrasse“. You’re bound to encounter artists and musicians there, whom you can listen to and watch while gazing over the Elbe River. The Large Garden on the edge of downtown Dresden was designed as a Baroque garden and hasn’t lost any of its historic charm. You can easily spend an entire day relaxing in the meadows and woods.

You can enjoy the beauty of “Elb Florence” from the water by renting a boat or canoe. You can also go hiking in nearby Saxon Switzerland. The Czech Republic is not very far from Dresden and is definitely worth a visit.

You can also go on an excursion to the beautiful "Pillnitz Castle" located nearby. And at the Elbhangfest, which takes place in the summer among the vineyards, meadows and the Elbe, you will feel like you’re on vacation in the South Seas!

Interview with Sahil from India

Sahil Loomba is 21 years old, comes from India and is studying in the engineering department at the Max Planck Institute in Dresden for one semester.

Picture of Sahil from India © DAAD
Sahil from India . © DAAD

Why did you decide to come to Germany?

I think Germany is the best country in Europe in the areas of science, technology and engineering. I definitely wanted to do a semester abroad in Europe, and Germany was the best choice. On top of that, the German government offers excellent opportunities to international students.

What made you decide to study here in Dresden?

First of all, the fantastic programme. I could have gone to any German city, but the Max Planck Institute was very appealing. Now I love the city. Dresden is a wonderful place with great people. I also like the working culture here. The students are very nice and there are many active groups you can join. I spend lots of time in the Neustadt, and I really like the Altstadt a lot.

Is Dresden a good place to study in?

Definitely. Everyone is so friendly at the Max Planck Institute. They conduct numerous joint projects with the university and you quickly come in contact with other people. There’s a lot of interdisciplinary exchange which has helped me learn many new things quickly. I also like the fact that the people at the university and research institutes love what they do. They do research because they want to make new discoveries, yet they don’t work day and night. That’s what I love about Germany.

How did you prepare for your stay?

The first thing I did was learn German. I wanted to be able to communicate with people. The biggest problem I had was deciding what to take with me to Germany – my summer or my winter clothes. In the media, they always say Germany is really cold. Summer in Germany is what I would call winter at home. Compared with that, getting a visa was simple – that was very nice.

How important is it to speak German?

I don’t speak German very well because I just didn’t have enough time to learn it properly, but I think it’s necessary to understand the language to some degree. Although everyone at university speaks English, off campus, at the market, in the supermarket or at parties, people speak German and you’re quickly excluded if you don’t know the language. I also think Germans like it when you learn their language.

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