Dresden is my favourite city in Germany. I am very biased as I lived there for a year. During my time there I was lucky enough to explore much of the surrounding area and have compiled a list of the best day trips from Dresden.
Dresden is located in the Eastern county of Saxony which borders the Czech Republic and Poland. All of the day trips listed below are within a 200 km radius of the Saxon capital. See the list below to find magical castles, mystical forests, marvellous cities and majestic scenery all just a day trip away from Dresden.
Day trips under an hour from Dresden
The mesmerizingly beautiful floating castle in Moritzburg
Moritzburg is a floating castle, a mere 20-minute bus journey from Dresden’s Neustadt train station. Built by August the Strong as a hunting lodge the surrounding lake provides the most beautiful reflection of the castle. You can book a tour to see inside the castle and Peacock House. Alternatively, simply strolling around the grounds is equally as pleasant. There are lovely woodlands, many deer and numerous blue lakes. See if you can find Saxony’s only lighthouse!
Getting there: Bus 402 from Dresden Neustadt Train Station takes 20 mins
Enter a world of white gold in Meissen
The town of Meissen always appears on lists for suggested day trips from Dresden. It’s easy to see why as it is a stunning place with buckets of history and is just a twenty-minute train journey from Dresden’s Hauptbahnhof train station. I visited Meissen a few times whilst living in Dresden. Once I simply wandered around with my dad and we enjoyed a beer overlooking the Elbe. Another time I visited the World of Meissen with friends Sian and Flora. We entered into the world of white gold as we learnt about the fascinating history and process of creating European porcelain. Originally invented in dungeons beneath the old town of Dresden, August the Strong moved the production to the town of Meissen and thus created the brand that is now world-renowned. Spend the morning learning about porcelain and the afternoon wandering around the beautiful old town.
Getting there: Train to Meissen takes 20 minutes
Lose yourself amongst the vineyards of Radebeul
Radebeul is a very affluent area to the West of Dresden. Just a 15-minute train journey from the main train station and you will enter the lovely leafy suburbs. There are two things you must do when visiting Radebeul: walk through the vineyards and drink local wine. There are many walks to discover and it is fun to just try and make your own route. Head to the hills covered in vineyards and explore. Expect lovely views, old follies and few other people. After you have walked try some local Federweiss. It’s delicious. If your visit to Radebeul happens to fall in Autumn try and visit the wine festival! Pick a nice sunny day for a day trip of walks and wine.
Getting there: 15-minute train journey to Radebeul
The enchanting Sächsische Schweiz
Dresden is an incredibly lucky city to be so close to such a gorgeous national park. The Sächsische Schweiz boasts huge towers of stone, medieval stone bridges, scary caves, incredible hikes and breath-taking views. To visit Dresden without seeing this magical place would be tragic. You are spoilt for choice when decided which part of the national park to visit. The train stops at several stops through the national park and there are ferries to transport you across the river to the many hikes on the eastern side. Would you prefer to see the spectacular Basteii bridge, albeit amongst many other tourists or would you prefer a wilder hike up via ferreta stairs and enjoy the simple sounds of nature? Perhaps you would enjoy a some scrambling or hunting trolls in caves? Or you could unleash your inner artist as you follow the painter’s trail, the Malerweg, to see the views that captured the imaginations of romanticist artists. Whichever you choose you will not be disappointed.
Getting there: between 40 minutes and 60 depending on the part of the park you decide to visit and whether or not a ferry ride is involved.
Under 2 hours
Go to Germany’s Hollywood set in Görlizt Old Town
Görlitz is an incredible city on the Polish border. It is a truly beautiful place and has been used by several Hollywood producers as the backdrop for films. Films such as the Book Thief, Monuments Men & The Grand Budapest Hotel were filmed here. Görlitz escaped much of the damage that other German cities endured during WWII. There is also a mysterious donor who is renovating old buildings. The council tried to unearth the identity of this strange donor, but the odd benefactor said they would seize to fund projects if they continued their investigation. The council promptly stopped so I guess we will never know.
Getting there: depending on the train it takes between 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 40 minutes.
The capital of the Sobish people: Bautzen
Bautzen is the capital of the Sorbs. The Sorbish people are an ethnic minority group in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic with their own language and customs. Bautzen is a beautiful town just under an hour by train from Dresden. There are four distinctive towers dotted around the old town and they are all architecturally very different. Spend half a day exploring and soaking up the unique culture of the sorbs.
Getting there: the train takes around 50 minutes.
Discovering revolutionary Leipzig
90 minutes from Dresden is the city of Leipzig. There is much friendly rivalry between these two cities, cough, Dresden is the best. Leipzig is home to Bach, the Nickoli Church which started the revolution of 1989, a grotesque Soviet monument and lakes that used to be brown coal pits. There is so much to see in Leipzig without even mentioning the many museums. Leipzigers also see their city as the ‘new Berlin’. Definitely check out this cool city whilst you are in Saxony.
Getting there: the fast train takes an hour or the slow train takes 1 hour.
Cycle around Lake Senftenberg
Senftenberg is north of Dresden in the neighbouring county of Brandenburg. Whilst the town is pleasant enough the lake is the real attraction. One particularly nice way to enjoy this artificial body of water is by bike. There is a cycle path that runs for the entire 18km length of the shoreline. Take your friends and rent a bike by the harbour. Cycle around at a leisurely pace and don’t miss the spectacular lookout tower. This rather shaky metal tower provides excellent views across the woodland landscape and gives you an idea of the size of the lake. If you would prefer a less active visit, bring a picnic and sit on the new lakeside promenade and just enjoy the serenity of nature.
Getting there: the train to Senftenberg takes 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Another national park that is not far from Dresden is the Böhmische Schweiz, the Bohemian Switzerland, just across the border in the Czech Republic. You can catch the train to the border and use a ferry to enter the Czech Republic. From there it is just a short walk to Europe’s largest natural sandstone arch! The Pravcicka Brana or Prebitcsh Bruecke is incredible. It stands strong and proud in the mountains. See my blog post here to find out more about how to get there and what to see. The arch is marvellous to behold and stand beneath. You may even recognise it as it was used as a backdrop in the recent Narnia chronicles the lion, the witch and the wardrobe.
Getting there: train to Schöna takes 50 minutes then it is a short ferry across the Elbe and a half an hour walk to the natural arch.
Click here to read about my day trip hiking to Europe’s largest natural stonestone arch Pravcicka Brana
Walk in Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany in Zittau
Zittau is located close to the tri-point of Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. Zittau is another very pretty town on our list. Full of incredible architecture, each street has new sights to discover. Its town hall is influenced by Italian architecture. There are many beautiful churches dotted around the city. Zittau’s impressive medieval Salzhaus is one of the best surving examples in the country. See if you can find the pretty flower clock too. A short stroll out of the city will take you to where the Dreilaendereck, the three countries point. I just wish they had a bridge across the stream at the point of where the three countries meet! Still, its possible to walk between all three countries in one morning which is pretty cool.
Getting there: the train to Zittau takes 90 minutes
Over 2 hours
See the pink castle of Bad Muskau
Saxony’s only UNESCO world heritage site! Bad Muskau’s is a delightfully pink castle on the German / Polish border. It is a little bit harder to get to via public transport than most of Saxony’s other castles, but it is worth the effort. Rent a bike in Dresden & catch a train to Gorlitz. Change in Görlitz and get on a train to Weiβwasser. From there it is a short & pleasant cycle to Bad Muskau. The garden on the German side is supposed to imitate an English garden of a grand stately home. The park on the other side of the Oder river is in Poland and this is much wilder and more natural. Explore both sides and enjoy a morning at Bad Muskau. Afterwards, you can cycle to Kromlau (see below)
Getting there: Train to Weiβwasser takes 2 hours and 10 minutes (20-minute wait in Görlizt) then a 20-minute cycle to Bad Muskau
Admire the magical Rakotzbrücke in Kromlau
Many of us have seen photos of this iconic bridge but few actually visit the Rakotzbruecke in Saxony. One of the reasons for that is that Kromlau is a little off the beaten track but with the help of a bike you can cycle to the Rhododendron park and find the moon shaped bridge. Admire the reflection creating a perfect circle on the lake. Just please don’t stand on the bridge, let’s protect it for future generations to enjoy. The surrounding park is small and can be seen within an hour. It is best to combine a trip to the Rakotzbruecke with a visit to Görliz or Bad Muskau.
Getting there: the Train to Weiβwasser takes 2 hours and 10 minutes (including a 20-minute wait in Görlizt) then a 20-minute cycle to Kromlau’s Rhododendron park
Find aliens in Liberec
You may not have heard of the city of Liberec. Located in the North East of the Czech Republic, this relatively unknown city has several interesting sights from baroque architecture, a giant’s tea party as well as an alien space ship. Stroll into the town centre and be dazzled by its incredible town hall. Finished in 1891 this building resembles the iconic town hall in Vienna. Close by is an odd bus stop. The bus stop is under a shelter which appears to be a table upon which large items of food have been laid. It is a tea party for a couple of giants! They must have just left though as I did not spot any oversized creatures during my visit. My final weird and wonderful destination was Ještěd. I climbed into a cable car and ascended into the mist. Upon arrival, I was above the clouds and stood outside a giant metallic structure. It appeared out of this world and I believed it was a space ship for aliens. I later discovered that Ještěd Tower on the mountain peak is in fact a hotel, restaurant and TV tower. Liberec is a truly weird, wacky and wonderful day trip from Dresden.
Getting there: Train takes just over 2 hours.
Explore the beautiful Baroque city of Prague
The capital of the Czech Republic is a surprisingly easy day trip. Around two hours from Dresden by either train or bus, this beautiful Baroque city is a great place to stroll around. See the famous Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, John Lennon Wall, Jewish Quarter, Kafka’s house, astronomic clock… the list goes on! Also, enjoy a wonderful Czech beer before returning back to Germany.
Getting there: take the train or bus and it takes around 2 hours.
Visit Germany’s Hip Capital: Berlin
Germany’s capital city is actually further than the Czech capital, yet it is still just about doable as a day trip from Dresden. Plan your day wisely though as Berlin is huge and has so many things to do and see! If you want to see street art and relics of East Germany, spend your day doing that. Similarly, if you wish to learn more about the role Berlin played in WWII plan to do that on your day trip. I would argue that it is very hard to see Berlin in a day but if you are in Dresden and have just one day spare you can visit Berlin as a day trip.
Getting there: catch a fast train and it takes 1 hour and 45 minutes or the slower train takes 2 hours 50 minutes.