198km (123 miles) S of Berlin
Dresden celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2006. Perhaps the most important celebratory event was the reopening of the famous domed Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), destroyed in the bombings of World War II. The Frauenkirche is a symbol of what Dresden once was—a city known as “Florence on the Elbe,” and renowned for its architecture and art treasures—and hopes to become again. Under the rule of Elector Augustus the Strong (1670–1733), the preeminent personality in the town’s history, Dresden flourished as one of the great cultural centers of Europe. But on the night of February 13, 1945, Allied firebombs destroyed three-quarters of Dresden’s Altstadt, the beautiful old core of the city. Historic buildings have since been rebuilt, but the work has taken decades and uninspired architecture from the Soviet GDR days still remains. After reunification in 1990, Dresden emerged as the top contender for tourists in the former East Germany. Dresden, the capital of Saxony, is an expensive city, top-heavy with upmarket luxury hotels and restaurants, which is another reason why you may want to visit as a day trip from Berlin rather than stay overnight.